Why in the name of the Chesapeake Bay oyster would anyone choose to burn their own socks? Head to Eastport to see for yourself at the Annapolis Oyster Roast & Sock Burning on Saturday, March 23, 2019, noon to 4 pm.
The annual event is held around the time of the Spring Equinox on the sandy beach at the Annapolis Maritime Museum on Back Creek. As spring sunshine warms the salty crowd, pungent socks hang stiffly on the dune barrier fence awaiting their destiny in a driftwood campfire.
Cold drinks are poured, oysters are roasted, feet are bared, and a who’s-who of public dignitaries congratulates the crowd on the arrival of spring and the all-apparent Eastport love of life. Witty ditties and tongue-in-cheek folk songs waft across the water during the Annapolis Oyster Roast, courtesy of The Eastport Oyster Boys, those musical performers who place the highest premium on three necessities for a fulfilled life – “good hat, good dog, good boat.”
Eastport is Unique
Aw yes, Eastport…There’s just something about this purposely quirky, often odd, chockablock community that sprouted from farmland in the last century on the once isolated Horn Point, the point of land that lies between Back Creek and Spa Creek (aka the “Gulf of Eastport”). Just across the Spa Creek bridge from historic downtown Annapolis, Eastport is part of the City of Annapolis, but it claims a personality all its own.
Back in 1998 when the Spa Creek bridge had to be closed for repair, Eastport pretended to “secede” from Annapolis and declared itself to be “The Maritime Republic of Eastport.” Their motto: We like it this way. Today, the MRE continues to operate as a registered nonprofit, doing good works while having fun celebrating the eclectic Eastport neighborhood and its maritime heritage.
Even in its present-day reimagining – with its hot real estate, sailboat marinas, high-end seafood restaurants, and plentiful maritime office space – the Eastport peninsula is real, with real watermen’s histories and real boatyard traditions. If you know Eastport, you know that burning your socks at the Spring Equinox is not at all a peculiar thing to do here.
The First Burning of the Socks
Way back in 1978 or so, a now oddly famous boatyard worker and sailor named Bob Turner was fed up with winter and the solid ice it brought to the Chesapeake Bay. Ready for summer, he chose the Spring Equinox to call his fellow workers together to burn their worn-out socks in a bonfire on the beach. No self-respecting sailor would wear socks with his deck shoes anyway.
Here’s a peek of last year’s Annapolis Oyster Roast & Sock Burning:
Forty plus years on, the tradition endures in Eastport and at boatyards, marinas, and yacht clubs all across the country. Here in Annapolis, the Eastport Yacht Club also carries on its own annual sock burning event to be held at 4 pm on Wednesday, March 20.
What Better Excuse than the Spring Equinox
This year, the Spring Equinox, the astronomical first day of spring, begins at 5:58 pm EDT on March 20th. That’s when the sun is directly over the equator in the course of the Earth’s revolution around the sun. Because of the Earth’s tilt on its axis, there are two times each year, spring and fall, when the Earth’s orbit causes the sun to line up with Earth’s equator resulting in a night and day of more or less equal lengths.
Skip to the following Saturday this year, March 23rd, for the event at the Annapolis Maritime Museum. Along with the musical and pyro entertainment, there will be an oyster shucking contest, electric boat tours of Back Creek, and other fun activities and special exhibits about oysters and maritime heritage.
As the socks ignite, you’ll be treated to a recitation of the poem “Ode to Equinox,” written by the museum’s former executive director, Jeff Holland, along with words of wisdom from state and local elected officials. And then there are the refreshments of the Annapolis Oyster Roast & Sock Burning – raw and roasted oysters, food trucks delicacies, and craft and signature drinks.
General admission tickets are just $25 per person in advance and $30 at the door. However, due to the popularity of Oyster Roast, tickets will likely be sold out well before the event and will not be sold at the door this year once they’re gone. Kids 12 and under, as always, are free. For more information, be sure to visit The Annapolis Oyster Roast & Sock Burning page on the Annapolis Maritime Museum’s website.
The Annapolis Maritime Museum (723 Second Street) occupies the former McNasby Seafood building, the last operational seafood packing house in Annapolis. Most of Eastport’s original oystermen and crabbers have moved on, but their maritime traditions are honored here.
Study up here at SpinSheet Magazine’s sailor’s take on Sock Burning Etiquette
Now, let’s go burn some socks!
All images courtesy of the Annapolis Maritime Museum
Video courtesy of MH Media Strategies via Annapolis Maritime Museum