THROUGHOUT 2016, ALL North Carolina State Parks are observing the 100-year anniversary of the establishment of the state park system … but the premier celebration in the state will occur at Fort Macon State Park, April 22-24.
Fort Macon State Park was the second state park in the North Carolina system, coming online in 1924. The state bought it for $1 from the federal government. Only Mount Mitchell State Park has “more seniority” in the state park system; it became North Carolina’s first state park in 1916 – 100 years ago.
According to Fort Macon State Park Supt. Randy Newman, the schedule of centennial festivities is fairly firm, but local residents and second home owners should link to www.ncparks.gov for periodic updates. The 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing Band from Cherry Point will be the opening act – performing a patriotic concert in the park at 5:30 p.m. Friday, April 22.
“We will also be dedicating the new cannons that are presently being installed at the fort,” Newman said. “When the project is completed, we will probably have the only functioning seacoast cannon battery in the United States.”
The fun continues Saturday, April 23, with a full day of programs, living history demonstrations and activities. Civil War reenactors will present the “Siege, Attack and Capture” of Fort Macon from 11am-noon and again from 4-5pm. The reenactment will occur again Sunday, April 24, from 2-3pm.
Fort Macon State Park will be the beneficiary of approximately $130,000 in state funding, Newman said, if North Carolina voters approve the $2 billion Connect NC Bond referendum that is on the ballot at the March 15 Primary Election. The Carteret County Board of Commissioners and the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce are urging voters to approve the referendum.
Newman said Fort Macon State Park will use its share of the bond money to acquire and install an original 10-inch columbiad cannon at the fort.
“This is the largest cannon that was used at Fort Macon during the Civil War era,” he said. “It is being salvaged from a shipwreck off South Carolina.”
More precisely, the wreck lies off Cape Romain near McClellanville, SC.
“Better bone up on your Fort Macon history,” Newman advises.
It took about eight years to build Fort Macon, which was completed in 1834 to protect Beaufort Inlet from British invasion. The unique configuration is a lopsided pentagon made of brick. Its gunpowder magazines were located in the angles under the stairways by design, to provide extra protection.
Surrounding the citadel is a sunken area, technically known as the “ditch.” It could be turned into a moat by flooding it with sea water at high tide from a nearby canal.
How Fort Macon became a significant Civil War battle site is another story for another time … like next month. Just remember the Confederate soldiers singing this ditty to the tune of “Dixie” – “If Lincoln wants to save his bacon, he’ll keep away from Old Fort Macon.”
A worthwhile organization to belong to is Friends of Fort Macon, a nonprofit organization that promotes park activities, arranges the summer concert series and provides volunteers to serve as park tour guides. Children can earn the “Future Ranger” badge. Go to www.friendsoffortmacon.com to learn more.
Mike Wagoner, President
Carteret County Chamber of Commerce