Friday, September 22, 2006

Someone is snoring and I don’t know who!

Have you ever woken up in a foreign place? The bed doesn’t feel quite right, the sheets are definitely not yours. You are not really sure of your surroundings so you slowly look around to get your bearings.

That was me last Saturday morning. When I finally wiped the sleep from eyes and remembered where I was, I smiled. I was at the Penn Center on St. Helena Island. My mission: a leadership retreat.

An ordinary Saturday morning would not see me waking at 7:00 a.m. to don my sweats and sneaks in preparation for a 3-hour outdoor “ropes course” experience. But this week was different. Together with my seventeen Leadership Hilton Head Island-Bluffton classmates I enjoyed a two-day journey of leadership and fellowship.

Started by the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce in 1985, the Leadership program was designed to “cultivate leadership resources within the community by giving participants the opportunity to study and experience the Hilton Head Island, Bluffton, Okatie and Daufuskie Island communities their history, government, economy, human services and culture.”

Our two-day retreat began on Friday afternoon. We all met at the Chamber Offices for the hour ride to The Penn Center. I made the mistake of sitting in the middle of the bus, and spent too much time turned around in my seat chatting. I was never so happy to reach solid ground … another few miles and my introduction to my classmates would not have been pretty (it would have been chunky – that was gross, I apologize).

Anyway, once at The Penn Center we had an hour to explore on our own. If you have never made the trek to this historical landmark you need to; it is the site of one of the country's first schools for freed slaves and one of the most significant African American historical and cultural institutions in existence today. “It sits at the heart of Gullah culture, on the 50 acres of the historical campus of Penn School. Designated a National Historic Landmark in 1974, it is a part of the Penn School Historic District which is comprised of nineteen buildings related to and used by Penn School--Brick Church, Darrah Hall, one of the oldest buildings on St. Helena Island, old burial grounds, Gantt Cottage where Martin Luther King Jr. lodged, a Nature Trail, Chowan Creek, acres of pines, native flora and fauna.”

Touring the Penn Center was a humbling experience and one I won’t soon forget.

After the tour, we re-grouped and participated in workshops on business ethics, leadership, management and Robert’s Rules of Order, working well into the night.

As I mentioned, Saturday morning we rose early ready to endure three hours in the woods – as a group we tackled tasks that tested our minds and our bodies. I think it is safe to say that we learned a lot about each other through that experience. It was exhilarating to participate and even more interesting to sit on the periphery and just watch the class in action.

My class of eighteen is as diverse as they come, but that is the beauty of the program. I’ll spend a year with my classmates meeting monthly for scheduled programs and based on the fun we had at the retreat I imagine that I will be seeing them all beyond the program requirements.

It is only appropriate that I give credit to the amazing group who will share this journey with me: Kim Abbott, USCB South Campus; Doug Barry, Hilton Head Orchestra; Maria Bell, Coastal Gastroenterology and Core Business Strategies; Barbara Conway, Hilton Head Regional Medical Center; Archer Crose, Coastal Mortgage Company of SC; Amanda English, Hilton Head Plantation POA; Michael Ethridge, Wood + Partners; Karen Golden, Dunes Marketing Group; Nicole Guy, Low Country Adventures; Andrew Jablonecki, SOS Marketing; Carolyn Kraus, Atlantic Community Bank; Trip LaCoste, First Citizens Bank; Angela Mullis, Charter I Realty & Marketing; Allyson Reaves, Community Foundation of the Lowcountry; Huntley Tarleton, Bank of America; Donnie Jo Thibault, Beach First National Bank and André White, Main Street Realty/Wallstar Development Co.

And to Laura Wolf, Special Events and Projects Manager for the Chamber, who will be our fearless leader for the next year.

Suffice it to say, the program is the perfect introduction for a newcomer. There is a one-year residency requirement and an application and interview process, but the results are beyond rewarding. For more information on Leadership Hilton Head Island-Bluffton call 843.341.8377.

P.S. A requirement of the program is a year-long Class Project. Stay tuned for more details as I am sure I will be rallying y’all for support of our initiative.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Lowcountry Living, I love it so ...

A group of Bluffton’s concerned citizens have joined together for the second year to present the Bluffton Arts & Seafood Festival. I am honored to be a part of the committee this year as the event is a natural for Bluffton, a town whose allure includes a diverse mix of artisans and the best shrimp and oysters on the East Coast.

Last year, the festival was on a crisp Saturday, one of Bluffton’s first fall days. Well, fall as I know it - sweaters, jeans, and a chill in the air as the sun goes down. I gathered with a group of friends at the Oyster Company in the late afternoon and watched the sun set - casting a spectacular red/orange light that danced across the May River.

I remember it like it was yesterday, that day I created a memory. There were oys

ter shells beneath my feet, the scent of the river and marsh in the air, and a cold beer in my hand. The hum of the crowd barely broke my reverie as I was so content in my surroundings. That memory is my answer to a question that I am asked often, “Why did you choose Bluffton as your home?” That one day delivered all that I have sought in a new hometown.

According to festival organizer, Dan Wood, “Festivals are like magnets, they attract the young and old, rich and poor, locals and transplants, all to celebrate their community.” I couldn’t have said it better. (Well maybe, but Dan deserves the credit for this one!)

The success of last year’s event moved the committee to expand the event to a full weekend this year, scheduled for Friday, October 27- Sunday, October 29. On Friday evening, you are invited to a V.I.P. reception – “Pop an Oyster with Champagne” at the Bluffton Oyster Company. Tickets are $100.

A full day of activities is planned for Saturday including: a 5K morning run through Historic Bluffton (I convinced Joe this morning that we should give it a go, hopefully paramedics will be on site); environmental exhibits; kayak and boat tours; and food, art and music showcases on Calhoun Street. A fireworks finale will accompany the sunset. A blessing of the fleet will round out Sunday.

The Festival was created last year in response to the citizens of Bluffton who have expressed a great passion for protecting and maintaining the pristine quality of the May River and the historic Bluffton Oyster Company. The event creators tell me, “As Bluffton continues to grow it is paramount that we continue to introduce our citizens, old and new, to these precious Bluffton gems. A portion of the proceeds raised through the event are earmarked for the protection of the May River, and to assist in establishing a Bluffton Oyster Company Public Park for the enjoyment of generations to come.”

Support for the event from the community has been strong - Bluffton Today (shameless plug), Coastal Carolina Medical Center and Hilton Head Regional Medical Center have all committed to major sponsorships – but we still need your help. Sponsorships ranging from $50 - $10,000 are available and a great way for local businesses to spread their word and support a great cause.

For further details on V.I.P. tickets and sponsorship, and the full schedule of events visit or call 843.815.6278.

The mission of the Arts & Seafood Festival is to help further a sense of community in Bluffton; and to increase tourism, which will benefit residents, local merchants and artists alike. You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who disagrees.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She disagrees with those who think NJ is the armpit of the country, but will agree with anyone who says that the South Carolina Lowcountry is paradise. She can be reached at

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Puppy Love

Puppy Love

While trolling the blogosphere last week in search of a column idea, I came across the following:

“I know this is going to pi$$ a lot of people off, but I don't really care at this point.

First off let me say that I love dogs. Since I was three there has never been a time where I haven't had a dog. Now cats on the other hand are useless in my opinion, but that's just my opinion. I totally respect people who love cats.

Now that I said that, it's really freaky how several people on this blog go on and on about dogs.

People, get a life. A dog is not a child, baby or a replacement husband in your sad marriage. A dog is a dog.”

It is no secret that Blufftonians love their dogs. Non-dog people just don’t understand our affinity for our beloved pups. To them, I say…

Think about the couple who wants nothing more than to have a child.

They have tried unsuccessfully for five years.

They have explored every medical option available.

The woman has undergone numerous procedures and surgeries.

The man watches helplessly as his wife cries each time there is another failure, another loss. He sheds silent tears as he tries to be strong for her.

Together they have watched their friends and siblings start families.

Together they endure Mother’s Day and Father’s Day knowing that they would be honored on these days, if only they hadn’t lost so much.

And then, there are the days when they come from work and without fail there is someone waiting at the door for them. He is always happy to see them. He protects them. He shares in their excitement when they have good news. And, he climbs on their lap and rests his head on their shoulder when they are down. He is one of their best friends. He is their dog.

For some folks, their dog is just like another member of the family. He is loved, he is honored, and he is needed.

I love going to “Wines Etc.” and “Liquors Too” in the Publix plaza, where you are greeted at the door by one of the owner’s five pups – all named for South Carolina and Georgia towns.

It tickles me to see dogs at the bow of their master’s boat heading down the May River; or in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck, head out the window, slobber flying in the wind.

I commend the people in our community who fight for “doggie rights.”

Kudos to Karen Wilkins, who fosters as many dogs as she can fit on her farm. She nurses them to health, and she spends her weekends at Pet Smart hoping to find homes for her brood. She does this as a volunteer and deserves our continued thanks.

Congratulations to the new Palmetto Animal League (formerly Bluffton Humane Association), President Amy Moberly and the many volunteers (and generous donors) behind the scenes who have launched a fundraising effort to build a shelter in Hardeeville, to house our less fortunate furry friends. Support them at their October 14 “Treat Fest” - more details are available at

As I drove home from work a few nights ago, I saw a dead dog on the side of the road and I cried. I cried for the dog. I cried for his owner who will miss him dearly. I cried for the poor soul who hit him and left him on the side of the road. I cried for the joy my dog brings me, in the face of my loss. Yes, that couple I write about includes me.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. Don’t give her any sh$$ about this column, ok? You can reach her at

Sunday, September 03, 2006

We Live in a Fantasy World

Well, I have the 11th draft pick in my fantasy football league, which I have come to learn, means that I will have the 11th best running back. Now, I really don’t follow football, but it was the brainchild of Joe that if we join a fantasy league together, we will watch the games together, and I won’t be able to complain about our satellite television bill, which includes the football package. A smart man, indeed!

So, our league draft is scheduled for tomorrow, which means I have a few hours left to print out some cheat sheets. As I watch the emails fly between my league mates – four from Bluffton and eight from New Jersey – I am amazed by the amount of time that is being dedicated to this endeavor. There is nothing “real” about this (hence the name fantasy) but the need to “win” this “fake” league abounds. And, that got me thinking.

Wouldn’t it be fun if we could apply the fantasy sports model to other things?

In fantasy politics we would be able to pick our own candidates and see them through the election. My fantasy politics league would be the Beaufort County Council. I would draft a challenger for the District 4 (Bluffton) seat to run in the November elections as a write-in candidate. The Republican candidate, Wm. Weston Newton, is moving from District 3 (Hilton Head) and looking to fill the spot vacated by Peter Lamb earlier this year. He is running unopposed.

We have so many people in Bluffton with great ideas and strong voices. While it is too late to file to be officially on the ballot, in this day and age of electronic media, a write-in candidate could run a virtual
campaign and see success. Is anyone game?

Think about it Bluffton, only 265 voters turned out last November for our election (and only 280 votes were cast in 2004). So, theoretically, if we err on the cautious side, a candidate would only need approximately 150 votes to win the County Council seat. It isn’t a far fetched idea.

As I have previously disclaimed, I am politically challenged. However, for me this is about choices. Our system allows us the opportunity to make choices on Election Day. Why don't we take advantage of this right we enjoy and do something about it? Just a thought.

On a lighter note …

In my fantasy television world, “Celebrity Duets” would not be a show and Joan Rivers would not be allowed to host another awards show – how is it that after thirty years at it, she still doesn’t know who the
stars are?

In fantasy happy hour land, beers at Pepper’s Porch are $1 each and $3 pitcher. In reality, the prices have gone up. My trek there last Friday night ended up costing $1.50 per beer and $5 per pitcher. Still a deal in my book but wow, how quickly things change.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. This column is in no way intended to insight any riots. If you are interested in the idea of a write-in candidate for Beaufort County Council, contact Courtney via email at