For the Love of Music
The Peggy Hughes Summer Concert Series in Ocean Isle Beach is named for a resident who founded and spearheaded the town’s popular series for nearly 20 years.
As I enter the door of Peggy Hughes’ Ocean Isle Beach house, the first thing I notice is music playing, a mix of jazz and big band. “You really do love music, don’t you?” I ask. “Oh yes, I like jazz, classical, every kind of music there is. I love it all,” she replies.
As we settle in for the interview about her involvement with the concert series, Hughes says it all began when she visited Ocean Isle Beach in 1981 and fell in love with the area. That was the first of many visits she and her family made to the island over the next five years before deciding to buy a home here..
“We rented on a Labor Day weekend, and two of our children were with us,” Hughes says. “It rained so hard that the bottom step of our rental was underwater. It was up to our knees. So, we drove around and found a beach house to buy.”
The Hughes family and their family members and friends used the beach house often for vacations and summer retreats.
Hughes and her husband, Wendall, are originally from South Carolina. She taught English and social studies in her hometown of Woodruff, South Carolina, for 23 years until she retired in 1994.
She and Wendall made a permanent move to Ocean Isle Beach in 1998. That same year, Hughes became a board member of the Ocean Isle Property Owners Association (OIPOA).
“I was a new member of the board, and someone at the meeting asked if there were any new projects to be discussed. I raised my hand and asked if we had ever considered sponsoring concerts,” she says.
The room was quiet at first, almost as if everyone was a bit surprised. “And then Stuart Ingram, another board member, said, ‘I propose that we give Peggy money for one concert.’ And then it was my turn to be stunned,” Hughes says.
Ingram (the founder of Ingram Planetarium and Museum at Coastal Carolina) and the rest of the board voted to give Hughes $300 dollars for that first concert. She began organizing the event, which included finding a band, renting a portable stage and planning all the things that needed to happen to host a concert. She quickly realized that $300 dollars was not going to cover all the costs involved.
So, the OIPOA formed committees to raise funds and help with planning.
“The POA was the workhorse, they gave me the support I needed to make it all happen,” Hughes says.
With financial support from local Realtors, the first concert took place in the summer of 1999 and featured the Andrew Thielen Big Band.
Hughes was involved with planning the annual concert series for nearly 20 years. The Town of Ocean Isle Beach took over the Summer Concert Series in 2021. That year, Hughes was honored by the town for her years of service to the concert series. Ocean Isle Beach Mayor Debbie Smith made the presentation.
“We named the summer series after her because she was the driving force behind the concerts,” Smith says. “Mrs. Peggy is the type of person that makes OIB one of the unique small communities to live in with so many engaged, happy residents.”
The concerts are held at Town Center Park on the island.
The Town of Ocean Isle Beach has played a significant role in upgrading the location, which was originally a parking lot on Second Street next to the Museum of Coastal Carolina. It is now a beautiful park with an amphitheater, restrooms, a large grassy
area, a splash pad and a playground for children. The park is set for another expansion later this year.
“We were able to purchase the rest of the block,” Smith says. “We now own all the way to Causeway Drive. We are expanding to add two ziplines for the kids, a basketball half-court that can be converted to a pickleball court, covered picnic shelters and fitness equipment for adults. There will also be a 9/11 Memorial. It should all be completed in 2024.”
The free concerts are presented every Friday evening from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Some of the bands performing this year during the Peggy Hughes Summer Concert Series include The Entertainers, Gary Lowder and Smokin’ Hot, Continental Divide, the Blackwater Band and The Extraordinaires.
As I conclude my interview with Hughes and we wrap up our time together on that sunny afternoon, I ask one last question: “How do you plan to celebrate your birthday?” She laughs and says, “It’ll be something special, it’s a big one!” Hughes will be 90 years old in September.
Want to go?
2023 Peggy Hughes Summer Concert Series at Ocean Isle Beach – Fridays, May 26 to September 1, 6:30 to 8 pm at Town Center Park, Ocean Isle Beach
May 26 – The Tonez
June 2 – Uptown Easy Band
June 9 – The Magnificents
June 16 – Special Occasion Band
June 23 – Band of Oz
June 30 – Blackwater Band
July 7 – The Main Event Band
July 14 – The Entertainers
July 21 – Chocolate Chip & Company
July 28 – Too Much Sylvia
August 4- North Tower Band
August 11- Gary Lowder & Smokin’ Hot
August 18- Continental Divide
August 25- Cat 5 Band
September 1- The Extraordinaires