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Family Traditions Contest

Coming together with family and friends at the beach can create special memories as you reconnect with each other. For our annual Family Traditions contest, we would like to hear about your favorite adventure or excursion on the Crystal Coast. Share your family traditions about a special place, a new discovery or your favorite memories.

2021 Family Traditions Contest

We invite all Emerald Isle Realty guests to enter. First place prize is a free one-week vacation on Emerald Isle during our Islander or Sports season!

Submission Format Rules:

  • Tell us your story in an essay format, either printed or in a Word document.
  • Scrapbooks, calendars or other special items are welcome.
  • High-res photos can be emailed. Limit of 10 MB total per email submission.
  • Video entries can be a maximum of 2 minutes in length and cannot have music. The preferred files are .avi and .mov, however, all submissions will be accepted.
  • Include the date of your vacation and the name of your vacation rental property.

Submissions can be emailed to SummerFun@EIRealty.com: 

Deadline is September 1, 2021. By submitting your stories to Emerald Isle Realty’s Family Traditions contest, you acknowledge and agree that text, photos, videos and all other related material may be used at our discretion including, but not limited to, advertising purposes by Emerald Isle Realty.

2020 Family Traditions Contest Winner

CHRISTMAS JOY IN JULY

Wonderful, exciting, nurturing, loving, and bonding experiences is how I would describe the last 22 year relationship with Emerald Isle Realty and the Island.

The past twenty-two years of my father and mother deciding that their gift to us would be one week a year at Emerald Island has changed our family in a most positive and nurturing way. I could really write a book about our experiences, but will keep it short and hopefully capture the essence of what our time at the beach has done for our family. For a little background, my father is a retired Marine. My mother and saint is the daughter of a retired Marine and mother to two Marines and one grandson who is a Marine. She also is the mother of an Educator and Athletic Director (Best in North Carolina and 6 times state football champion) and a Principal of a middle school who just happens to be the best principal this year in Moore County, North Carolina!  I write this in the hope of capturing how important this week in July has become in bringing the entire family together in one spot that is guaranteed each and every year due to their love and understanding of the importance of family.

The time we have shared has seen many changes in our family. New children have been brought into the world and have been met for the first time by the open arms of Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and of course Maw Maw and Paw Paw!! Throughout their coming lives, they are met by the same open arms each and every year!! Over time this has enabled the eleven grandchildren to grow together and bond over the years into an inseparable group of adults now. They look forward to coming to the beach every year and sharing the past year’s up and downs of college and life. Over these wonderful years, we have seen engineers, a future doctor, a social worker, a Marine, and communication specialist grown. We are in the process of seeing our first Ivy League Yale attendee, four LSU Tigers, two Auburn Tigers, one Gamecock, and one Western Carolina Wildcat making their way through life. We have added a wonderful new member to the family through marriage and another very soon. We have gotten to know significant others and the love and friendship of all those who visit. The Island is where our family renews our love for the next year and solidifies the dreams of what is to come for our family.

The Island has also provided refuge thanks to my mother and father. As Marines, we tend to deploy quite a bit. It is during these deployments that my family and my brothers family have been able to find a bit of peace and much needed help (more so when the children were smaller) and support of family. My children were mentored by the best human beings on earth. They were loved and have remained emotionally strong in no small part to that ever so important week at the beach. I can unmistakably attribute my wife’s (the beach being her favorite week) regained sanity, while I was deployed to conflict, to the Island and my loving family.

Over the years, things have changed in all our lives. Things will continue to change, but those changes will always be discovered, captured, and shared together during our “Beach Week” every year. It has been a place of magic and will remain a place of magic. My mother and father have given my brothers and sister the greatest gift. They have given us the gift of the importance of family and shown us the beauty of making family bonds possible. Maw Maw and Paw Paw Christmas have demonstrated that taking a moment together in time produces a lifetime of love, support, and genuine concern amongst the entire family!!!!!

Thank you Emerald Island Realty for working with us every year and making our special week possible over the last 22 years. Looks like over the next 22 years, you will be finding a few houses close together so we can continue what Maw Maw and Paw Paw started as we are growing in size every year!!!!

Respectfully Submitted,

James Christmas

(Soon to be retired on 1 Sept 2020 after 30 years)

Past Family Traditions Contest Winners

2019 Family Traditions Winner

Emerald Isle is the Best Place to Meet!

What was happening 25 years ago? The year was 1993. Jurassic Park was the summer blockbuster, we all ‘Got Milk,’ and our family had its first reunion at Emerald Isle beach. This was special because when we were little (my 3 siblings and myself), our parents took us to Nags Head several times. Then, we moved to Missouri and it was too far. Two decades go by, my sister moves to North Carolina, and my parents decide to rent a house on Emerald Isle for a family reunion. There were 9 of us that first year (the original 6, one in-law and two babies). We rented one house and had an amazing week. For the next 20 years, this one week was the highlight of our year. Then our family grew from 9 to 19, and we needed two houses. Then we needed two weeks – you just can’t get a good visit in with that many people in just one week! So, the last five years we have had the joy of two weeks at the beach. At some point during these years, the balance of adult and children shifted. The first year it was 7 adults and 2 children. In about 2007, we had 10 children under the age of 10. Those were years of non-stop activity, joy, and memory-making. This year, our family was at 24 people. Wow! We actually needed three houses — and a flannel board — to figure out who was sleeping where!

About 10 years ago, the girl cousins began producing a performance each year, planning short skits or songs from musicals. This year, these cousins, now in high school, offered an opportunity for the “audience” to share memories of the last 25 years at EI. Everyone shared. Every time someone shared, it reminded someone else of something. Memories included observing the release of baby sea turtles, ladies’ day outings, burying kids in the sand, crabbing, deep sea fishing, shelling, and on and on. Emerald Isle has been such an important part of our family history. These weeks have kept me close with my siblings and enabled the cousins to become best friends. It is the thing each one of us looks forward to all year long, and we feel blessed to have continued this tradition for 25 years. In thanksgiving to my dad, whom we call Papa and my mom, whom we all call Grammy, my sister and I wrote this adaptation of the classic Clement C. Moore poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas.”

Twas the First Day of Vacation

2018 Family Traditions Winner

The Pampered Wives of Emerald Isle

The Booth and Marsico families’ (Ronnie, Robin, Roy and Joy) yearly journey from the mountains of southwest Virginia to Emerald Isle started in 2009. We previously vacationed at a fast-paced, overpopulated destination that just was not what we were looking for in our search for a slow lane vacation.

We had heard stories of a quiet place on an island just off the North Carolina shore. Could this be the place we longed for? The decision was made to make this magical place our next vacation destination. We made contact with Emerald Isle Realty as suggested by a friend. They helped us choose a house that was just right for our first stay on the island. This first taste of the amazing shoreline had us hooked! We could not wait for the next summer to spin around!

We start making plans at the beginning of October for the following July. We have visited every week in July for many years. To be clear—this is just not any week at the beach—this is the girl’s week at the beach. The boys come along to make it happen.

A typical day begins with an early morning bike ride. Back at the house, the boys are setting up the beach camp to include tents, chairs, towels, books, sunscreen, cooler, etc. Around 9:00 am, once the camp is complete, they are hard at work getting breakfast ready. We are talking a real breakfast, not fast food – eggs, bacon, potatoes, toast, coffee and juice. We don’t fool around when it comes to the most important meal of the day! After breakfast, it is time to get the girls all covered up with just the right amount of sunscreen. Finally, it’s time to hit the beach, or as the boys would say, “finally, they are gone!” On the beach the sunbathing begins as books are read, waves are rode and naps are taken every day for six glorious days!

 

What are the boys doing? Well, as stated, this is the girl’s week. Sometime mid-day lunch is served on the beach complete with fresh sandwiches and ice-cold sweet tea. As a mid-afternoon treat, there may be an ice cream break or some other sweet surprise. Again, served on the beach! Then more books, waves and naps.

By late afternoon, the day is done and the girls head back to the house for a fabulous evening meal—yes, prepared by the boys! They can actually cook when they put their minds to it. There has been meatloaf, grilled burgers, pasta, tacos, salads, and much more—the menu is carefully planned months in advanced; recipes are gathered and tested to make sure they will be a hit! The grocery list for the entire week is meticulously made before the trip begins and ordered on-line for pickup at a local grocery store on day one. Upon arrival at our “summer home,” the menu is posted on the refrigerator at the beginning to our fabulous week!

The boys gather the beach camp and all the paraphernalia that goes with it from the beach. It is rinsed off and readied for the next day. The towels are collected and run through the laundry so they will be fresh and ready to go the next morning.

By now, you are probably feeling sad for the boy’s—there seems to be nothing for them but chores! Not so! Between all of their beach responsibilities, they manage to pawn shop/thrift store hop for miles and miles and miles. It is amazing what can be bought at a pawn shop.

Most evenings are spent at the beach house. They are filled with evening walks through the neighborhood, dominos, DVDs and ball games. Occasionally we will venture out to one of the island’s local restaurants, but it is so relaxing for us to just stay still and enjoy the quiet neighborhoods and the sounds of the ocean.

We have been friends since we were children playing in the sandbox in the back yard. As we grew into adulthood, it became harder and harder to make time for the simple things of childhood. So now, if for just one week, we continue our childhood friendship by playing in your “sandbox,” each year as unique as the one before and the next one to come. We have made a “beach bottle” and a memory book each year to capture the fun times we have had. At the end of each week, it is back to the real world; but for one magical week sometime in July, the girls are pampered beyond imagination. The boys will have about 51 weeks of pampering to follow, and then…girls week spins back around!

All of this would not be as stress-free and smooth if not for the dedication of the Emerald Isle Realty family; they are our vacation partner. When we arrive on the island they are the first faces we make contact with and are always eager to help us get to the beach as quickly as possible.

2017 Family Traditions Winner

2017 Family TraditionsFor the last 22 years, I told everyone that my favorite place is in North Carolina. Not the Outer Banks that most people go to, but a special place a little more south and tucked away. This place has the most beautiful, clean and peaceful beaches that are never crowded and always welcoming. Many times, the water is so warm and calm like a bathtub, which makes it easy to float and relax – leaving reality and its demands behind. This place is Emerald Isle, a hidden gem so full of precious memories for all that visit.

When I was 12 my grandparents (and life-long cheerleaders) decided to leave New Jersey and retire here at the beach. I cried when they moved 12 hours away, as I hated to lose them. Visiting most all spring breaks and summers quickly became a tradition. At the beach, we learned to collect seashells to make Christmas ornaments and jewelry boxes. We learned to hunt ghost crabs by flashlight. We learned to ride waves and bury each other in the sand. We learned to slow down and enjoy the beauty in each other and all around us.

2017 Family TraditionsAs the years passed, I always made time to visit my grandparents. It was my escape. So many memories fill the roads, beaches, shops, and walkways. I shared my first kiss and summer loves here. I brought friends and had family reunions. Many years later, my husband and I now bring our boys to Emerald Isle. At age 4 and 6, they have visited more times than they are old. The tradition is contagious and is now passed down to them, as it is now their favorite place too! We play mini-golf, ride the race cars, cruise on jet-skis and play games at the pool. We kayak and paddle board in the sound while looking for nature’s beautiful creatures all around. We learn about North Carolina’s precious landscapes and animals at the aquarium. We soak up the sun, swim, and play along the beach. We take naps while listening to the waves crash with the refreshing ocean breeze. We feast on pig pickin’s with hushpuppies and sweet tea. We cheer on fishermen with their latest catch at the piers. Emerald Isle is our paradise, a precious time capsule of memories.

While I thought I was just vacationing and filling up on the sunshine, I now realized that I was learning life lessons that would carry me through the years. I learned to enjoy the beauty all around us while reflecting and enjoying this life. I learned to be present and disconnect from distractions and rushed schedules. I learned how to play golf and make spaghetti sauce with my Grandpa. I learned how to cut french green beans, how to really listen to someone, and how to give and value unconditional love from my Mom-mom. And that is why Emerald Isle will always be full of love.

2017 Family TraditionsThis is my story, but the stories are infinite as four generations of our family now gather here. Our whole family not only visits throughout the year but gathers for Smetana-Rama Family Reunions every other year. Just last month we had 40 of us at the beach together. All of us have made and cherished our own precious memories throughout the years. My Aunt could tell a story about how her wedding was almost canceled due to Hurricane Fran, but how the whole family fought to make it down anyway. The beach houses in Emerald Isle are our gathering spot where we come from Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Tennessee. Our week together is full of swimming, shopping, nightly meals, and games. We sing karaoke, go on neighborhood scavenger hunts, and really take the time to enjoy each other.

Unfortunately, life also is full of its hardships too. My stepmom and grandfather were both hospitalized this summer. My grandfather, who is one of the strongest, smartest, and caring men I know, cannot read due to a stroke this year. He continually practices his letters and frustrates at his deteriorating health. He is always smiling and most happy watching all his kids, grandkids and great-grandkids loving and being together at the beach house. In July, right before our planned family reunion, my stepmom passed at age 51. My dad, siblings, and the whole family were devastated. But we came to the beach. We came to heal, to be with each other, and to soak up the love. We came to make memories and carry on the tradition of being at our favorite place together. No matter what life throws at us, the beach is always there waiting, listening, and giving us peace of mind. I am forever grateful for this vacation spot for it has molded me into the woman, wife, mother, sister, teacher, and friend I am today. It will always be our most precious and cherished tradition!

Congratulations to our 2017 Family Traditions Contest winner we always love seeing and hearing about our guest’s traditions and sharing them. If you have made a tradition of visiting Emerald Isle over the years, we want to hear about it. We invite all Emerald Isle Realty guests to enter for a chance to win a free one-week vacation to Emerald Isle during our Islander or Sports season! Submit your story here, the deadline is September 1st, 2018.

2016 Family Traditions Winner

The Rives Family Reunion: A Tradition

My family has a habit; a nearly 60-year-old one. We can’t stop it and there seems to be no cure.  Honestly, none of us want to stop. Some folks might call it an “addiction,” but we call it a “Family Tradition”; Webster’s Dictionary calls it “something that is handed down one generation to another.”  We always do it at the beach.

Currently 5 generations are involved and everyone that hears about what we do is surprised, shocked even. Some folks think we’re crazy; others think it’s a phenomenon. Lots of people simply don’t believe it. We’re getting ready to do it again next summer, in July 2017 for the 22nd time in 57 years.

It all started in the early 1950s quite by accident. A North Carolina Mother, Florence Rives, who happened to be my Grandmother, wanted to see her son.  He lived in Arizona and barely got home once a year. He had fought in WWII on the North African and Italian fronts and had been one of the lucky ones to return home. She wished he were nearer. My grandfather, Arthur Rives, died in 1944, while my Uncle A.R. (Alston Ramsey) Rives was still fighting on the frontlines.

The remaining 7 of the 9 children she’d birthed in the modest Lee County home that she shared with my grandfather were much closer by; 5 girls and 3 boys living, 1ne small son buried as a child.

In the hot piedmont summer of 1954, one of her daughters, my Aunt Julia, suggested to their mother (my grandmother) that perhaps whoever was able could gather at the North Carolina coast for a nice long week at the beach and share a cottage. That way my grandmother could see her beloved son A.R. and any siblings that could make it could spend time with their beloved brother. Cousins could get to know cousins and a long easy week of calm breathtaking beauty at the North Carolina coast would provide a perfect backdrop for luxurious, nourishing visits.

Well it would take 6 years to make the first gathering happen; plans got interrupted by the nearly total devastation of Hurricane Hazel in October of ’54 and the ever busier lives of the siblings with growing families and careers.  But at long last in the summer of 1960, a single, simple and very crowded cottage held 7 adults and 7 children;14 of 35 Rives descendants of my Grandparents; and that included my strong and beautiful Grandmother, Florence.

The following summer of 1961 all 35 Rives’ (my grandmother, all 8 of her children, their spouses and 20 little ones, including me) gathered for a week-long reunion, happily crowded into 3 old-fashioned cottages side-by-side on the North Carolina coast. Our incredible tradition was born!

Fast forward with me to right now….to 2016. Currently, nearly 200 descendants of my grandparents, Florence and Arthur Rives, are putting holds and deposits on approximately 25 cottages, condos, duplexes and houses at the Crystal Coasts’ Emerald Isle.  During the week of July 22-29, 2017,“Rives” flags bearing our family’s Coat of Arms will be flying high from each of the cottages filled with our people (our cottage rentals are too many now to be side by side.)

So you might be wondering how it is that our family has “re-unioned” 21 times in the last 56 years and are planning our 22nd of those reunions for 2017? As our family grew (exponentially it seems) our summer beach reunions moved from yearly to every two years, and then in 1972 became triennial, every 3 years. Counting the upcoming July 2017 reunion, we will have met 16 times in the last 45 years (1972 – 2017) and 6 times in the 10 years before that (1960–1970).

And you can bet I’ll be back there in 2017. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I have a lifetime of profound memories etched in my soul, years of having the privilege to know…to really know my family, my cousins, my aunts and uncles….to hear the stories…to witness and be a part of the rich history of the Rives family.

I usually don’t tell my age, but I was 5 years old at my first “Rives Family Reunion” in 1961 and I’ve only missed one since. (That little girl hugging her knee sitting on the railing in the picture with my Grandmother and all of her beautiful daughters is me.)

My Grandmother died when I was 10; I’ve had the honor over the years at our reunions of sitting on the beach for hours and telling the younger ones who their Great Grandmother Florence was and telling stories about their great uncles and aunts. I also get to share about their Great Aunts, Julia, now 96, and Sarah Lynn, now 88; the last 2 remaining of the original 8 siblings.  We’ve discussed at length the difference between a 2nd cousin twice removed, a 3rd cousin by marriage, and whether some of the people who come to the reunion are actually our cousins at all. (Actually I don’t really understand that last part but we’ve all spent many an hour at the Rives Family Reunions talking about it.)

I’ve welcomed countless babies, new brides, grooms and boyfriends, stood fast with family through tragedy and triumph, honored the lives of the family members who have gone on; won and lost many a Rives Family Olympic event, and danced ‘till the early morning hours on Cousins’ Night Out.  At the 1987 reunion, I baby sat for a sweet little cousin who is now married and pregnant with her first child. She will be bringing a precious new Rives to the reunion in 2017, a new great-grandchild for my Aunt Julia. And my mother, Sarah Lynn, also welcomed a new great-granddaughter (a great niece for me) on August 21,  2016. What a profound privilege to be a part of this family that gathers on the coast every three years and loves on one another.

Though I could fill more volumes than the Harry Potter books with the stories of our adventurous weeks together at the beach, I’ll “cut to the chase.” In July 2017 if you happen to be on Emerald Isle, North Carolina you’ll see my “Rives Family” flag flying proudly from Emerald Isle Realty’s cottage, “Buena Vista.” And if by chance, while on a stroll down the beach you run into an unusually large group of folks in and around multiple umbrellas and beach tents, sporting matching “Rives” t-shirts with “#RivesRule” koozies in hand…..or you see a great big tug of war going on with 25 kids and adults on either side…….by all means, jump right in…..introduce yourself…..become a part of our Rives Family tradition.

2015 Family Traditions Winner

Just imagine the sea breeze stirring your hair and the waves lapping at your feet and you’re halfway there. As we have every year for over thirty years, this is the image in our minds as we make the trek to Emerald Isle. But this year I kept thinking: Emerald Isle gives me so much…peace of mind, precious time spent with my loved ones, and a sense of well being that only the beach can capture. What do I take back with me each year?

Of course I take a few seashells, nice tan and usually a few more pounds. But what is it about the beach that makes me thirst for more? I decided that I receive a type of wisdom every time I go. I call it beach wisdom.

That is what the beach does. It gives us a chance to hear the truths of our own heart’s whisper and to slow our careening inner pace to something that more closely matches the rhythms of the tides. Our lives slow down for a few days and take on a more peaceful pace, like the tides ebbing in and the tides ebbing out.

The beach also reminds us of the playfulness of childhood and even makes us childlike again. That inner child comes alive as we play with our children in the sand or the surf. A streak of joy that resides in us comes alive in the brilliant sunshine.

A trip to the beach has the power to restore us to ourselves, to even our keels, to lighten our hearts…at the very least, to put a little color in our cheeks. Our daily lives go at breakneck speed with work, family and everyday life. At the beach we tend to grasp the days less tightly, to let life flow more easily, like the warm sand sifting through our fingers. We begin to realize the things that make us so uptight and gnash our teeth are not that important at all, in the grand scheme of things.