Labor Day traditions continue for 75 years in Kill Devil Hills

Published 7:36 am Sunday, September 19, 2021

For 75 years, Labor Day has been celebrated at Edenton Colony in Kill Devil Hills.

The celebration continues today with a wonderfully joyous parade, a patriotic pause, naming of queens, remembering those who have passed on and beach time with games and skits.

This Labor Day celebration story is a remarkable one of long-time family gatherings welcoming others into the fun.

As told by Beth O’Leary, who lives in Edenton Colony, the story starts with three sisters and a friend and spouses. The group longed for a place to escape the hot summers of Edenton and play bridge. The group rented a cottage in Nags Head during World War II.

Then, the group decided to purchase land and build their own adjacent summer cottages.

A tract of land was purchased in 1945 and subdivided into six lots. The lot numbers were placed in a hat and families drew lot numbers.

Four houses were built in 1946 for about $5,000 each. Those houses have been raised up.

The four original houses remain in the families.

The sisters’ maiden names were Pruden: Catherine Pruden Campen and her husband Izzy, Emma Pruden Bond and her husband Winks, and Ruth Pruden Byrum and her husband Albert. The fourth couple was Dr. Roland Vaughan and his wife Ruth. O’Leary is found in the Bond house.

The Labor Day festivities started in 1946. Labor Day signaled the end of the summer season. The four families gathered to close up the cottages. Refrigerators and liquor cabinets were cleaned out and all the food and drink were used for a feast.

In 1950, the Brothers family from Suffolk, Va. built a cottage just to the north of Edenton Colony. Reg and Lucy Brothers and their family joined the Labor Day celebration.

Still later, another family joined the colony. One of the original six cottages was purchased by Rusty and Dottie Rutan and Raymond and Carolyn Bryant and delivered the beachfront area for beachy fun during celebrations.

These historic family names bring the cast to modern day celebrations.

On Sunday, Sept. 5, 2021, Hudson, 1½ years, represented the fifth generation of his family to participate in the Labor Day parade and festivities. He was seated in a patriotically decorated wagon and ready with a pan and potato masher to make noise. Many parade participants marched down the Beach Road banging pots and pans.

At some point during its 75 years, men started dressing in women’s gowns. That tradition continued in 2021. Others were outfitted in patriotic attire or costumes. Shouts of “Happy Labor Day” rang out as the parade participants stopped traffic to cross the Beach Road twice.

A walk on the beach led to a gathering. The Pledge of Allegiance was recited. “God Bless America” was sung.

People who had passed away were memorized. This year, the crowd saluted long-time cottage owners Tom Brothers and Edenton Colony’s “Mayor” Bill Bond, who had died since last Labor Day. Others who have passed over the years were also remembered.

Four Queens, rather than a King and Queen, were “crowned.” Saluted were Jewel Bond, Dottie Rutan, Martha Vaughan and Betsy Brothers.

Special t-shirts for the 75th celebration were designed by the Rutan clan and after the gathering, folks retired to change clothes for the beach games, added in the 1970 by the Brothers, and skits added in the 1980s by Nick and Virginia Hufford from Martinsville, Va. The Huffords rented the original Campen cottage for years.

In 2021, the games were hula hoop pass, three legged race, egg toss and a bubble blowing contest. Skits presented were “First Date,” where the couple had a few too many pairs of hands, from the Bohens, “Christopher Columbo” from the Brothers Cottage, and “Flops” from the Bond Cottage, where the band sang “these flops are made for walking” to the tune of “Boots.”

This year, cottages in Edenton Colony were decorated in red, white and blue. The United States and North Carolina flags were flying though the Rutan cottage displayed a West Virginia flag, too.

Last year, under COVID-19 protocols, no feast was held and the Sunday parade only featured the Rutan clan, while other families watched from decks.

Again, this year, an alteration was made for the Saturday gathering, but the parade and beach fun celebrated 75 years of friends and families gathering for Labor Day.

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