article first appeared in Cat-Tales

The spirit of Southport has shone brightly with acts of kindness, generosity, creative alternatives, and moments of solidarity in this time of crisis.

When Life Gives you Lemons

by Judy Rubin
By Judy Rubin

The pandemic that began in March 2020 forced the town of Southport to close stores, restaurants and museums and cancel all social activities including the Fourth of July celebration. That was a huge blow, but the committee improvised by providing a virtual program that looked back at the history of this celebration.


Instead of lying down in defeat, this small, vibrant town made lemonade from lemons. Southport found the silver lining brought on by an invisible predator. Virtual programs replaced many annual events like car shows, boat shows and Halloween and winter holiday events.

The Southport community building was retrofitted to adhere to safety protocols for limited in-person attendance, and board meetings were live-streamed on multiple platforms to reach a broader audience. To keep in touch with the public, a communications department was created and used videography to engage the community.

Southport businesses needed a boost in summer sales, usually provided by tourists, so more lemons were squeezed. Stores were creative with takeout menus, sidewalk cafes and daily specials. Many used online web pages, email connections and online ordering capabilities to engage customers.

In May, the library in Southport offered curbside delivery for their customers. Online programs were also created, including a modified summer reading program for children.

The Southport Historical Society also made changes to help the community through this crisis. Virtual programming offered educational and entertaining presentations to help people stay connected to Southport. A special program reached across the pond to Southport, England, to exchange information between two towns that share the same name.

The Franklin Square Gallery shut down completely at the onset of the pandemic to protect its volunteer staff, many of them retirees. This meant lost income from fundraising events such as regional shows and workshops. Fortunately, the gallery received grants from North Carolina Cares for Arts. 


Visitors missed the high school art show, but the art of senior students appeared on large panels that decorated the exterior of the building. By June 1, the gallery reopened with shorter hours under pandemic guidelines.

The North Carolina Maritime Museum at Southport shut its doors on March 17, 2020, but its online programs grew exponentially. Live video presentations included the Lower Cape Fear’s regional history and stories and on demand programs mirrored the flow of the museum like an actual visit. An online summer camp was created for little mariner participants.

Before closing, the museum became a certified autism center, so the staff produced a myriad of activities that
included videos with captions and alternate ideas for crafts. When stories were read, the reader described the pictures that matched the words.

The museum reopened in September with restrictions on in-person programs. Its ship may have rocked and rolled last year, but its focus and programming dedication never faltered.

The St. James Service Club also stepped up to fill some of the gaps caused by the pandemic. With annual Christmas tours and events canceled, the club’s holiday raffle supported Southport businesses. People responded by purchasing $11,000 worth of gift certificates from local merchants to fill gift baskets.

The spirit of Southport has shone brightly with acts of kindness, generosity, creative alternatives and moments of solidarity in this time of crisis. Southport is a strong and resilient community and has learned, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Looking for a more relaxed way to enjoy the water? If so, head on down to the Private Beach Club on Oak Island.

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