Dangerous conditions have lifeguards on high alert during “Beat the Heat” Sprint Triathlon

Dangerous conditions have lifeguards on high alert during “Beat the Heat” Sprint Triathlon

Journal entry: Nov. 10, 2013 – Daytona Beach, FL

An hour before sunrise the sound from the parking lot was of an angry ocean – waves crashing, wind screaming – mother nature roaring its displeasure at the coming of the sun.

Karla was here to compete in her first sprint triathlon and the kids and I were here to cheer her on.

As the competitors gathered their gear, sand whipped across the parking lot, stinging the right side of my neck and biting my cheek.

A rumbling sound drew my attention to the beach. Somewhere close, still hidden behind a veil of darkness, lurked the churning ocean. I caught a shimmer of moonlight dancing atop an enormous white-capped wave.

When I think of that morning I think of that wave, at the peak of its power, cresting above a sand bar before racing out of view and smashing onto the beach. The violent crash still brings a shudder of fear as I think, “How are they going to swim in these conditions?”

The more experienced racers had gathered in small groups and were talking in hushed, excited voices. “It looks bad,” they agreed.

We mulled about as race organizers gathered away from the water’s edge, debating whether they should cancel the 400 meter swim and alter the race. Then in then end, it was decided that the event would continue and those who wanted too test their mettle could race.

The athletes were happy. This was a sanctioned event with prize money for the winners. A season-long points race hung in the balance.

Sunrise was spectacular, its deep hue’s of orange and pink and purple filling the sky. Then the whistle blew and the athletes ran into the sea.

And by all accounts the struggle during the swim was intense and personal and the fight with the waves and the current was very real.

The dangerous conditions had lifeguards on high alert, as they patrolled in well rehearsed unison, guiding weaker swimmers and encircling the pack until the last athlete was safely back to shore.

32 participants, including Karla, received notice: 
INCOMPLETE COURSE DUE TO SWIM PORTION HAVING TO BE HALTED 
BY DIRECTION OF BEACH PATROL
201 Karla        Katon              1:54:33 1:01:03    2:41   40:06

Despite having been halted during their swim, all emerged victorious. Maybe not in numbers, but in self-discovery, as each had pushed themselves to the limit.

After catching her breathe from her swim, Karla gave the girls a quick hug and hurried into the transition area to gather her bike and continue her race.

For me the bike and run events were almost an afterthought, as the race was won the moment everyone emerged safely from the sea.

Official Race Results

Photographs by Chris Katon

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“Welcome Home!” – Training Employees About The Walt Disney World Culture

“Welcome Home!” – Training Employees About The Walt Disney World Culture

 

“During my training workshops about creating a Hospitality Culture I always always share my Walt Disney World Story to illustrate how engaged customer experiences result in Raving Fans.” – Chris Katon, Dine Write Hospitality

 

I’m going

When the kids were young we made it our tradition to take a yearly vacation to Walt Disney World.

For two years in a row we had stayed inside the resort at Port Orleans and were afforded the royal treatment. About a month before leaving on our now third annual family vacation, that a friend-of-a-friend offered us his condo in Orlando.

“It’s a great place, located about 10 minutes outside the gate,” he said. “It’ll save you a bunch of money that you can spend on the kids.”

And so for about a month I was a hero. My CPA wife was excited about all the money we would be saving. I was simply exhausted after a long season and was looking forward to margarita’s by the pool.

The five hour drive from our home in Bluffton, SC was spent singing songs and eating snacks and playing the license plate game.

A busy tourist season had just a month earlier smashed headlong into the 2008 Banking Crisis and the start of the Recession. That, on top of the stress from her most recent Quarter Close had been weighing heavily on Karla.

We arrived at the condo in Orlando ready to relax.

I was still holding an armload of suitcases when chaos ensued.

“There is a bug in the sink,” squeeled Amanda. “This bed looks slept in,” said Karla. “I’m not moving,” said Sarah.

A quick look around and the bathroom was filthy, there were cobwebs on the windowsill and the sheets looked slept in. I’m not going to lie, we were completely grossed out. Amanda wouldn’t sit on the toilet. Sarah started crying.

“Grab your bags, we’re outta here,” I said. Karla looked at me sideways, knowing I was winging it and didn’t have a plan.

But I did, my plan was simple: We would throw ourselves at the mercy of the staff at Walt Disney World and trust that they would take care of us.

Karla was not impressed. She thought it would be too expensive to stay inside the resort and I didn’t think we could afford not to. I arrived at the front gate and met John from Arkansas.

“How ya’ll doin’ this fine day,” he said.

“Well, actually…” And so it was that I gushed our story of a family vacation gone wrong and shared our plight. I held my breathe for a minute waiting to learn how our fate would unfold.

He simply said, “Welcome Home!”

Welcome home? – Karla was stunned. Heck, I was stunned.

But John from Arkansas was as sincere as could be. He asked for my name and reached forward and shook my hand. “Ya’ll just drive up ahead about a mile to Registration, my friends will be waiting to take good care of you.”

I gave a silent fist pump,”I knew I could count on Disney,” I said.

The Assistant Reservation Manager spotted me with eye contact from across a crowded room and met us 10 feet from the door. Extending her hand and smiling warmly Emily from Texas said, “We’re so excited to have you back at Walt Disney World. Please follow me and we’ll take great care of you.”

That bottomless pit feeling of ruining your family vacation by trying to save you a few bucks was quickly fading into distant memory. And then Emily from Texas turned our experience from Good to Great and transformed me into a Raving Fan.

“I’m pulling up your reservation history on the computer and I see that you enjoyed your last stay at Port Orleans Riverside, is that correct?”

“Yes, that’s true,” Karla said. “We tried the French Quarter our first year, but I think Riverside has more activities for the kids.”

“It’s settled then,” Emily from Texas said. “I’m upgrading you to a suite in the same location for the same price that you paid last year.”

Neither Karla or I could believe it.

I’d thought we were going to be begging for a room. Karla thought that they would see we were desperate and charge us through the roof. Instead we were getting upgraded for the same price as we paid last year? Seriously?

That my friends, is Raving Fan Hospitality!

I have learned first hand about that warm, peaceful feeling when a complete stranger goes above and beyond to ensure that my average guest experience is elevated into Return of Guest Service.

“Welcome Home,” such a simple, warm, genuine, feel good response and the #1 reason that I’ll never consider staying off property at Walt Disney World again.

The Sound of Gullah Culture

The Sound of Gullah Culture

 

“THE SOUND OF GULLAH CULTURE”

WRITTEN BY CHRIS KATON | PHOTOGRAPH BY ROB KAUFMAN

Published HILTON HEAD MONTHLY MAGAZINE | 29 JANUARY 2014

As a musician and active member of the Hilton Head Island Gullah community, Lavon Stevens has always been fascinated by local history.

“Not to take anything away from New Orleans, but I’m reading a book right now that makes a strong case that jazz music was actually started in Charleston,” Stevens said. “The impact that Charleston had in the world of jazz is one of those things that has gotten lost in time.”

According to the Charleston Jazz Initiative, a multi-year research project that documents the African American jazz tradition in Charleston and its movement throughout the U.S. and Europe from the late 19th century through today, the beginnings of jazz music on the southeastern coast of the United States was centered here.

“As the story goes, enslaved Africans infused the culture with African style and substance, creating American culture,” Stevens said. “As happened in many other places, black music on the southeastern coast manifested itself through spirituals and fi eld holler songs.”

When Europeans settled Carolina more than 300 years ago its capital, Charleston, was the crown jewel of the British Empire before the American Revolution, and it was the North American cradle of the African slave trade.

Charleston is only one of a handful of places in the Western Hemisphere where Africa inter-acted with Europe in a seminal way to produce New World culture. Records indicate that as many as 40 percent of all slaves in the United States made their way through Charleston.

At Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston recently freed slaves played music in the streets. It is staggering how many American jazz greats received their start in the state.

Famous son, Dizzy Gillespie, was born in Cheraw, S.C., and is heralded as one of the greatest pioneers of modern jazz. He is recognized as one of the country’s greatest trumpeters and bandleaders, and South Carolina’s most celebrated jazz musician.

Gillespie was a self-taught trumpeter who emerged in the 1940s as a pioneer of bebop. His most memorable gigs were with Cab Calloway’s band from 1939—1941 before the outset of World War II. Gillespie famously worked with Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Charlie Parker, among others.

Other famous South Carolina jazz artists include Charleston’s first lady of jazz, Ann Caldwell, Freddy Jenkins, Blood Ulmer, Speedy Jones and Lucky Thompson.

“History was lost and wasn’t very well documented,” Stevens said. “Recently people have started to embrace the history and how rich it is. One thing I’ve always hoped for is that people would embrace and share our history.”

Much of Gullah musical history can be traced to the settlement of Mitchelville off Beach City Road, where songs in native island churches mirrored popular music of the day.

The popular Negro spiritual “Kumbahyah” was first recorded and documented at First African Baptist Church, the oldest native congregation on Hilton Head Island.

“A lot of the songs people sung in church were about not giving up hope and are songs about actual freedom and spiritual freedom,” Stevens said. “One line goes, ‘some day I will be free.’ It’s a song about hope as well as about despair.”

Many of the earliest Gullah songs can be traced to call and response, when a leader would call out and the remainder of the congregation would respond with the refrain.

The popular Negro spiritual “Kumbahyah” was first recorded and documented at First African Baptist Church, the oldest native congregation on Hilton Head Island.

Although their origins are not well documented, popular songs of the day included “Michael Rowed a Boat a Shore”, “I Want to be Ready”, “Walk Together Children” and “Traveling Shoes”.

“It’s important to remember that many of the songs had a double meaning and were meant as a way to communicate between the oppressed people,” Stevens said.

First recorded in St. Helena, down the coast from Charleston, are field hollers, changes, work songs, and the blues. The 20th-century brought ragtime and jazz, which is still thought of by many as the highest form of American art.

From enslaved African drummers, to black drummers attached to white militias, to military bands, to community brass bands — the music became Charleston jazz.

Ragtime, a composed musical form that is highly syncopated and a kind of blend of European and African American music, is considered a precursor to jazz, was prominent from the 1890s to the 1920s.

The democratic principles of African culture are found in jazz. Everybody has a chance to say something, to solo, to play by him or herself while everyone else listens as they wait their turn.

“Jazz is diverse and inclusive. It’s an experiment and will always be a work in progress,” Stevens said.

Observing Charlestonions inspired the wildly popular dance “The Charleston” and Jenkins musicians dancing movements called Geechee, a term applied to South Carolina Gullahs.

There was a point when the slave masters had to stop the slaves from singing because they were known to be communicating through their singing. Many years later it was learned that coded messages such as covert resistance meetings were being shared.

As and example, an early Gullah lyric of Down by the River, was sung to let the community know there was to be a meeting at the river later that night or a mention of Harriet Tubman may mean that a special guest was making their way through the area.

“Field holler songs, expressed raw emotion, often resentment, downtrodden, despair,” Stevens said. “This is where we get what we know now as the blues.”

Back in the early days the instruments were very primitive. “You started with your voice and your hands,” he said Drums or conga’s were probably the earliest local instrument. “I have no doubt in my mind that if it happened here, it happened all over the country,” he said.

“The minute you hear those drums you start bobbin and weaving and doing whatever your going to do.”

A Taste of Gullah Culture

A Taste of Gullah Culture

 

“A TASTE OF GULLAH CULTURE”
BY CHRIS KATON | PHOTO BY ROB KAUFMAN

Published HILTON HEAD MONTHLY | 29 JANUARY 2014

 

World famous Lowcountry cuisine consists of everything fresh and local
In the Gullah culture, storytellers have the important function of reciting and remembering genealogy and historical information for their village.

These islanders, former slaves from the West African coastal countries of Senegal and Sierra Leone, have inhabited the Sea Islands for generations, and their unique traditions remain largely intact. Equally important to local culture are the recipes they preserved.

“Growing up Gullah means that you learn to make do with what you’ve got,” said chef David Young, owner of Roastfish & Cornbread restaurant on Hilton Head Island.
Young is a locally famous island ambassador and institution to Gullah cooking. He invited us into his kitchen to experience the flavors of the Lowcountry.

On the morning of our visit a delivery from a local farmer brings a bounty of fresh vegetables including collard greens, celery, parsnip, onions and carrots. Minutes later, the fish truck arrives. Today’s fresh catch is red fish and Young is all smiles.

“Traditional Gullah cooking is very vegetarian based, with lots of fresh vegetables, fish and shellfish Anything that’s local,” he said. “We were raised to live off the land, so we planted our vegetables and fished our waters and caught our shrimp and did the best we could with what we had.”

On the day of our visit, Young featured shrimp and grits with sides of collard greens, sweet potato cornbread and red rice that looked, smelled and tasted like a slice of heaven.

Other house favorites include heirloom tomato salad, roasted portabella mushrooms and shrimp gumbo, which includes local shrimp, diced peppers and stewed okra. Native treats include fruit cobbler, homemade meringues and sweet potato cheesecake pie.

Gullah-style grits are a staple in Young’s kitchen as a quick, easy and versatile side dish. In his recipe, Young uses four cups of water, half cup of butter, one cup of stone ground grits, half teaspoon of black pepper and half teaspoon of garlic.

The new Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s is located at 840 William Hilton Parkway in the Atrium Building on Hilton Head Island. Scott Rhodan is an outland Gullah, raised in Ridgeland. Her late father Nathaniel Scott was a skilled farmer. Her mother Earline is a master chef, perfecting recipes handed down from generation to generation. Scott-Rhodan uses those same recipies in her popular restaurant today.

“I often serve them Gullah-style with sautéed shrimp and onions, fresh tomato’s and basil,” Young said. “I also like to pair them with gumbo, bean dishes and fresh vegetables.”

Young is locally famous for his veganstyle Lowcountry red rice, which he serves with collard greens and ovenroasted fish “Slow roasting is a gentle cooking method that guarantees the fish remains moist and tender,” Young said.

He said the most versatile ingredient in his kitchen is homemade vegetable stock. He recommends simmering a hearty mixture of carrots, parsnips, leeks, onion, celery, mushroom, garlic and assorted herbs. The user-friendly stock is then added to flavor vegetarian style soups, stews, bean dishes and rice.

“My goal is to cook it real slow, so that I draw all of the flavor out of the vegetables,” he said.

Hilton Head Island native Elnora Aiken is chairperson of the 18th Annual “Taste of Gullah” to be held from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 1 at the Arts Center.

Aiken’s favorite local dish is Conch Stew, with includes meat from the shellfish cooked with a ham hock and served over white rice. Some people serve the dish with a side of fresh collard greens.

“Either way you serve it, it tastes real good,” she said.

Visitors to the event should try her family recipe for Hoppin’ John, which is served with red field peas and rice. “It’s red in the package and after it’s combined with the rice some people put in a hog jowl or ham neck bone combined all in one pot,” she said.

Other local favorites to be featured are shrimp and okra gumbo, fried chicken, shrimp and grits, oysters and grits and stewed crab. “For us it’s a breakfast meal or dinner meal, depending on your mood,” she said.

Stewed crab and grits include the meat of crab, fried with bacon, then layered with gravy. “Today some people put green peppers in it, but back in the day it was only onion, salt and pepper,” she said.

We discussed the importance of oysters on local culture.

“My mother made a living out of opening oysters at the Oyster House,” Ms. Aiken said. “I remember the men would go out and pick the oysters and the ladies would be back in the oyster house opening them up, then we’d go home and make oysters and grits.”

Her mother’s recipe was fried oysters and rice with onions, bell pepper, celery and seasoning. A traditional Gullah dessert is bread pudding.

“As time passed on people used different flavors but traditionally we used peaches and sugar and real cream and butter,” she said.

Across the island, visitors and residents alike can enjoy homemade oldfashioned pound cakes including “Plucker up Lemon Delight” and “Butter Pecan — Coconut” courtesy of Dye’s Gullah Fixin’s.

“My father was a skilled farmer who was rich in something that money could not buy — the cultural heritage that was passed along from generation to generation,” said chef Dye Scott-Rhodan. “One of the skills he mastered was farming the fields My mom added perfection by preparing the dishes with recipes she got from her mother and grandmother and their mothers. That was passed to my sisters and I.”

Popular menu items include the shrimp burger, crab cakes, whole fried catfish and Lowcountry Boil of shrimp, seasoned with onion, peppers, country sausage, taters and special seasoning. A favorite dish is Grandma’s Pork Chop, served fried or soaked in whiskey sautéed onions with homemade butter sugarcane sauce.

Chef Dye Scott-Rhodan is proud of the rich tradition of the Gullah culture and is doing her best to keep the flavors of the Lowcountry alive. With recipes passed down through generations, she uses only the freshest ingredients from the land and sea.

Local restaurant hosts benefit for Napa earthquake relief

Bluffton, SC – They’ll be popping corks on some good juice in Bluffton tomorrow night when Hogshead Kitchen and Wine Bar hosts a farm and sea-to-table wine and food pairing dinner with Cakebread Vineyards.

The famed winery is one of the many Bay Area vintners affected when a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck just six miles southwest of Napa California’s famed wine country on August 24, 2014.

It was the strongest earthquake to strike the Bay Area in 25 years and has caused an estimated $x in damages to the Napa community.

Executive Chef/ Owner John Pashek is locally known for creating twists on contemporary Southern cuisine. Here’s a sneak peek at his casual, yet upscale pairings menu written special for tomorrow nights event:

Reception: 2013 Sauvignon Blanc (Napa) paired with Crispy May River Oyster with Lavendar Honey, “Sugar Beet” Tuna Tartare with Bruleed Pineapple

2012 Chardonnay (Napa) paired with Grilled Lobster Tail with Orange & Chili Marmalade and Gorgonzola Beignets;

2012 Pinot Noir (Two Creeks Vineyards, Anderson Valley) paired with Crispy Pork Belly with Buttered Turnips, Greens, Roasted Pistachios and Blueberry Gastrique;

2010 Dancing Bear Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon (Howell Mountain) paired with coffee-crusted New York Strip Loin with Buttered Leeks, Truffled Mushroom Risotto and Bing Cherry Demi Glace;

2012 Zinfandel (Red Hills) Warm Fudge Brownie with Double Chocolate Ice Cream and White Chocolate-pecan Caramel.

Cape Cod Outdoors – Skydiving

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“Skydive Cape Cod has been voted one of the top three skydiving locations in the United States and is the only drop zone in New England that jumps over the beach.

On a clear day clients experience views from one end of Cape Cod to the other; from Falmouth to Provincetown, and Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket to the Boston skyline.”

Read my story here

Published: CAPE COD OUTDOORS The Enterprise • July 2013

“There is Magic in Old Town” – at 10th Annual Historic Bluffton Art and Seafood Festival

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10th Annual Historic Bluffton Art & Seafood Festival (Photo by Chris Katon)

Bluffton, SC – I spent the better part of Sunday immersing myself in the sites and sounds of the 10th Annual Bluffton Art and Seafood Festival and one things for certain, this once sleepy artist community is exploding with energy.

“There is magic in Old Town,” said Bluffton resident Ed McCullough. “Great things are happening here.”

We were talking about two renovation projects that he’s involved in, along with the exploding growth of the Bluffton Promenade.

McCullough, who is founder of the Bluffton Farmers Market, couldn’t be happier about the positive vibe of the day.

Both sides of Calhoun Street were lined with 100 vendor booths of artists from across the South East showcasing beautiful paintings, photography and other original art.

Two dozen local restaurants including Red Fish, Mulberry Street Trattoria and Joe Loves Lobster Rolls were on-hand to cater the event.

Bluffton Middle School Junior Naturalists manned touch tanks with Taco the Turtle, horseshoe crabs and fiddler crabs to share information about Low Country marine life.

Collage Illusion is an award-winning technique of collage art on glass by artist Carl Crawford of Columbia, SC. Crawford uses a mixed media style to create an illusion of an oil painting. The technique has earned him numerous national awards, including Most Creative for the 2011 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

On the Water with Jason DuBose, Director of the Outfitters Center at Oldfield Plantation

On the Water with Jason DuBose, Director of the Outfitters Center at Oldfield Plantation

Okatie, SC – Visitors from land arrive here through a canopy of moss covered oaks, past fields of grazing horses to a period era filling station and general store. On the back side of the property is the waterfront office of Jason DuBose, certified River Pro and Charter Boat Captain who is Director of the Outfitters Center at Oldfield Plantation.

“I’m lucky in that I get to spend most of my day on the water as a guide for our owners and their friends,” DuBose said. “Oldfield has a real active charter fishing program, so on any given day I could be anywhere from casting for Red Fish in the flats to trolling for Wahoo or Tuna in the Gulf Stream.”

On property, ponds are stocked with Bass, Brim and Catfish to keep the anglers happy.

“Oldfield is host site for the only Orvis Fly Fishing School in the state,” he said. The program is coordinated at Bay Street Outfitters in Beaufort, where staff members have trained to become Orvis certified instructors.

According to DuBose, a special arrangement with Turkey Hill Plantation in Ridgeland offers owners and guest’s access to 18,000 acres of outdoor adventures including “a sporting clays course, private shooting instruction and some of the best quail hunting in the state.”

“Being a private community most of our amenities are geared towards our residents and their guests, but we do offer monthly nature seminars with guest speakers that are open to the public,” Mr. DuBose said.

Other outdoor activities at Oldfield include the popular golf course, tennis instruction and equestrian center, where trail rides, instruction and summer camps are managed by Equestrian Director Jude Dontje.

For more, read “The Great Outdoors” in the November issue of Hilton Head Monthly Magazine.

The farm on the hill where blueberries grow

The farm on the hill where blueberries grow

Moravian Falls, NC – In the mountains of North Carolina there is a farm on a hill where blueberries grow. The Brushy Mountain Berry Farm is a u-pick ‘em treasure trove of farm fresh blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and seasonal produce.

Plump, juicy, and sweet, with vibrant color ranging from deep purple-blue to blue-black and highlighted by a silvery sheen called a bloom, blueberries are one of nature’s greatest treasures.

The farm is located just off Route 16 in the northwest corner of the state and is home to brothers Austin and Cody Brodfuhrer, best friends who share a passion for sustainable farming.

“Cody and I share a passion for environmental sustainability and for as long as I can remember we shared the dream of owning a farm,” Austin said.

A small store on property features products from local merchants, including a blueberry facial scrub, jams, jellies, seasonal produce and assorted canned goods.

Visitors are treated to a spectacular view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, which run from the southwest to the northeast and dominate the western and northern horizons.

For more visit http://www.brushymountainberryfarm.com/