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If you were on Bald Head Island on May 17 and were near East Beach around moonrise, you may have heard me and about 100 other people howling at the moon.
See, the Maritime Market and Café’s new owners, the Pope family, have been throwing a monthly Howl at the Moon party. They bring a pot of chili, soup, chowder or stew to share and guests bring appetizers. Then you just hang out, eat great food, socialize and watch the sun go down and the moon come up. And when the moon rises, everyone howls like a wolf.
The Howl at the Moon parties have been a big hit with island residents and visitors (and adventure bloggers) alike. In January they held the first one, drawing 42 people out on a cold evening with only 12 hours’ notice. Word got around and in February 100 people showed up. In March it grew again to 150 and April, which had fantastic weather and a full island, saw more than 350 people on the beach, eating soup and howling at the moon.I arrived at Beach Access 39 about an hour before sunset to find Claude Pope, his son-in-law Chef Greg and a few of the kitchen brigade setting up tables and heating huge vats of delicious smelling soup. They’d spent the morning making two fantastic soups – corn chowder and cioppino, an Italian seafood stew.They ladled out bowls of soup and as soon as the steam and aroma hit the air, the line was 15 people deep. I went with the cioppino first, enticed by the mussels peeking over the top of the bowl. Now I’m a fool for mussels and having them in a stew like this is one of my favorite ways to enjoy them. But it wasn’t just mussels, it was shrimp, fish, roasted tomatoes, crab and a rich broth that had just a hint of spice and tied everything together. After one bit I decided it was my favorite.
As soon as I finished my cioppino I got back in line for the corn chowder. I’ll admit it, I was kind of piggish, but both soups looked too good to pass up. The corn, potatoes and bacon in a sweet, velvety, creamy liquid came together to make this chowder something great. But now I had a dilemma, because now this was my favorite.
By the time I finished my second bowl of chowder, the sun, close to setting, ducked behind a bank of clouds. All eyes turned toward the east. There, another bank of clouds far off on the horizon meant that our view of the moon’s true rise would be blocked, but we’d see it a few minutes later as it climbed above the clouds.
We waited. People were taking pictures, enjoying their wine and watching a kite surfer show off on the waves in the lengthening shadows. Our group of 100 began to fracture, forming into small clumps – ten friends, a multi-generational family, residents, couples, trios, and quartets – and as it grew darker, our anticipation rose.Then, finally, a glow to the east, the moon was on its way up.
And that’s when it started. First one or two people in the back by the dunes began to howl, low and long. Then a few more joined in. Deep voices, high voices, fair and gravely voices all began to howl. A few dogs joined in, sending a collective chuckle through the group. Then, the moon broke free of the clouds and the howls intensified. Some folks started clapping and cheering, I just howled. It felt right; somehow primal and playful all at once.
The next full moon is Wednesday, June 15. If I were you, I wouldn’t miss the next Howl at the Moon party. I know this much – if Chef Greg is bringing soup that good out to a beach party, I can’t wait to see what lunch at the Market is like.
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