Thousands come out to celebrate the sea at Coast Day 2009

The promise of seafood, lectures, ship tours, kids' activities, and a perfectly sunny fall day drew near record crowds to the University of Delaware's Hugh R. Sharp Campus for Coast Day. The event, sponsored by UD's College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE) and the Delaware Sea Grant College Program, was held Sunday, Oct. 4.

“It was really a delight to walk around and see how engaged people were in learning about the work we do and how much fun they were having as they made fish prints, watched a chemical magic show, tonged for oysters, listened to fish sounds, looked through microscopes, learned about electric cars, and on and on,” said Nancy Targett, CEOE dean and Delaware Sea Grant director.

A 33-year tradition, Coast Day lets visitors learn more about the state's ocean and coastal resources as well as the work of CEOE researchers, Delaware Sea Grant, and their many partners. Additional activities visitors lined up for included touring UD's research vessel Hugh R. Sharp, seeing how to start their own home composting system, and learning all about the University's new airship.

At the event's kick-off ceremony, UD President Patrick Harker highlighted many of the University's efforts to be a true sustainability leader, a greener university, and an international resource for environmental research technology, education, and policy. Many of those projects were highlighted at Coast Day, he said.

“There are all sorts of lectures and exhibits going on today so you can see exactly what's happening, exactly how we're putting our research into practice,” he said. “Coast Day is a lot more than just educational ... It's about having fun with those ideas and having fun seeing how we can make a difference through all of our collective efforts.”

At the ceremony, Targett, along with Harker, Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O'Mara, and Lewes Mayor Jim Ford congratulated the winners of two Coast Day contests for Delaware school kids. Both contests centered on this year's Coast Day theme: “Climate Change and Our Coast.”

The 2009 Fifth-Grade Essay Contest Winner was Sam Schubert, a student in Marilyn Vallejo's class at St. Ann School in Wilmington, Del. Schubert wrote about the effects of sea-level rise and some steps people can take to mitigate it, including switching to energy-saving light bulbs.

The winners of the new High School Video Contest were a group of students from Caesar Rodney High School in Camden, Del. The video “Recycle Now!” was submitted by students Zachary Dailey, Tyler Stokes, Zachary Johnson, Colin Kent, Alexia Ratajack, Ryan Norfleet, and John Bubniak under the direction of teacher Paris Crockett.

Throughout the day, crowds of hungry visitors swarmed the seafood competitions for a chance to taste contestants' creations. “Pan Grilled Crab Cakes with Roasted Shallots” by Raymond Williams of Bear, Del., took first prize in the Crab Cake Cook-Off. Williams, who took third place in 2008, said he enjoys the competition for the camaraderie with other people who enjoy cooking as much as he does.

The annual Chowder Challenge face-off set a record with more than 1,300 visitors voting for their favorite soup after a 2-ounce taste test. Once the votes were tallied, the First State Chefs Association took first prize over the Delmarva Chefs and Cooks Association.

A host of other events helped visitors make connections with the ocean and coast. Over at the ever-popular touch tanks, people felt and learned about dogfish sharks, horseshoe crabs, and other marine creatures. Another exhibit across campus asked kids to draw their ideas for helping confront climate change and showed them how to make their own rain gauges.

Several lectures on topics such as autonomous underwater vehicles attracted dozens of children and adults. Guest speaker Deacon Ritterbush's lecture on beachcombing drew a standing-room only crowd that eagerly listened to tips on scouring the sand for treasures. Audience members were fascinated to see and touch her finds from the region's beaches, which included a scallop shell from the Miocene Era that's about 17 million years old as well as centuries-old glass from shipwrecks.

At that lecture were longtime Coast Day attendees and beachcombers Fran and Ralph Bowers of Felton, Pa.

“We're big beachcombers and we still learned a lot,” Ralph said. The couple, who attended Coast Day with their grown son, said they enjoy the event for its boat show as well as the opportunity to better understand marine creatures such as horseshoe crabs. “We keep learning stuff all the time,” he said.

For more information about Coast Day, which will take place next year on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2010, visit the Web site, or call (302) 831-8083.


Also previously posted by CEOE, October 2009

For questions and information, contact DGS at, 302-831-2833