An unusually warm day in October. A non-stop caravan of boats shuffling visitors from the marina on the mainland to the island dock. Blue skies and dirt roads. 350 people gathered on the lawn in front of the 1920s Mediterranean mansion. This is the Ossabaw Island Annual Pig Roast & Art Auction.
We began our Saturday adventure at the Delegal Marina at The Landings. After securing our nametags and boarding tickets we made our way to the end of the dock where Ossabaw Island staff member, Robin Gunn, greated us. In her friendly, yet firm, voice she directed those of us gathered on the dock. Our numbers were called and we made our way down to the skiff. This quick 15-20 minute boat ride to Ossabaw Island had us enjoying the sunshine and the occasional ocean spray from a wave. Had we taken the much larger pontoon boats operated by Bull River Cruises, it would have been a 30-40 minute leisurely ride. But the skiff is way more adventurous!
Landing at Ossabaw Island, we made our way down the palm lined causeway and found ourselves at the Boarding House. There we investigated the Smokehouse which is a tabby structure that used to house meats. (Ossabaw was a working farm/plantation for many years, after all.) We walked along the dirt road by the fence, past the restored Guest House, and over to one of the jewels of the island: three restored tabby slave cottages. These structures have a long history on the island and have seen many evolutions over the decades. Recent restoration projects, headed by the Ossabaw Island Foundation, have restored two of the tabby’s to their former lives. Tabby exteriors, wood plank doors, cedar shake roof, and wavy glass in the windows. Truly a glimpse back into time.
The weather was getting warmer and our stomachs were starting to growl, so we began the one mile walk over to the main house and site of the Pig Roast. Walking through a maritime forest that is so much in tact and yet also has the visible scars of mother nature (thanks Hurricane Matthew) beckons you to pause and experience the wildness of Ossabaw. Palm trees intertwined with the branches of a century old live oak, a new bridge over the creek that leads to a former rice field, fiddler crabs scurrying about underfoot, and the overwhelming silence. Ossabaw is 26,000 acres of barrier island that became Georgia’s first State Heritage Preserve. There’s a lot of room here to breathe and unwind.
Gradually, then suddenly the massive gates to the main homestead come into view. We’re almost there. Walking through these structures now covered in rust and decay makes you wonder what they looked like in their prime. The road opens up and we are welcomed on to the front lawn filled with live oaks, round tables, a massive spread provided by Epting Events, live music on the front slate patio, and the overwhelming feeling of being home. Ossabaw is one of our favorite places after all, and to be back at the annual Pig Roast is like coming to a family reunion. We decide on a table, make our way through the line, and settle in. We are here for the afternoon. BBQ pork, grits, corn salad, roasted apples, a simple salad, and of course bread pudding make for a delicious lunch.
With our bellies full we make our way inside to the art auction. Ossabaw welcomes visitors (through permission only) to the island each year. Those that come for artistic study are encouraged to donate a piece of work to the foundation to be used in the annual art auction. This one event is the Foundation’s only fundraiser each year. There are the artists you expect to see; works from Betsy Cain, David Kaminsky, and more. And then there are new artists showing their craft. Perhaps we’ll bid on the overnight stay on Ossabaw or the handmaid baskets. There’s a lovely ink drawing of Sandy West, island matriarch. From photographs to paintings to drawings and sculptures, you just never know what you’ll find at the auction.
We are summoned outside for the live auction. Daniel Epting, head caterer turned local Ossabaw auctioneer, heads up the bidding. There’s a weekend on Ossabaw with Crawfish (sort of a legendary spokesman for the island) up for bids, a Sea Island getaway, and one cannot overlook the driftwood pieces that have now become an expected yet fun auction piece. We’re all here for a good cause and the bidding goes well.
One last round through the entry and dining room of the main house to place any final bids and then the auction is closed. We’ve done well. Don was the successful high bidder on a piece by Betsy Cain. It will be another couple of hours before our boat leaves for the mainland which gives us ample time to explore. We find a spot on the lawn away from the main crowd. It’s a beautiful afternoon for a little nap under the live oaks. But first, the donkeys! Ossabaw is home to a small herd of Sicilian donkeys. They’re pretty used to people and we’ve unofficially named one of them Fatso. She’s rather rotund and easy to spot. We make our way over to them as they casually chomp on the grasses under the trees on the far side. If you walk up gently and quietly, they’ll even let you pet them!
After some time with our equine friends it’s back to the large shade trees for a little siesta. The island welcomes this laid back vibe and Elizabeth Dubose, head of the foundation, encourages guests to relax and truly experience the island.
The time has come. We hop in the back of the pickup, make our way back down the dirt road to the dock. We actually return to the mainland on the same skiff we came in on. We make our way through Ossabaw Sound and back to the marina. It’s been a good day. This island and everything that comes with it are truly magical. We hope everyone gets to experience the place that is Ossabaw. Until next time!