Mike Parker: ‘Wings Over the Neuse’ seeking sponsors

Mike Parker: ‘Wings Over the Neuse’ seeking sponsors

On Friday, Sept. 13, the 11th annual “Wings Over the Neuse” fundraiser is set to take place. This year, the Neuse Foundation board members are hoping for clearer and cooler skies, as well as no hurricanes.

The progress the foundation has made in enhancing the experience of the CSS Neuse II over the past few years is nothing short of amazing. When I first began to serve on the foundation’s board in 2012, we had dreams of what we would like to do to help us interpret the history of the vessel and the gunboat’s place in naval history.

In 2014, the foundation initiated the Honorary Crew Member program. In the brochure developed for that year, we listed five specific goals:

  1. Outfit the 6.4-inch Brooke Rifle, complete with block and tackle and the cannon tools

  2. Purchase replicas of Brooke Rifle projectiles

  3. Manufacture replicas of coal bags and powder bags

  4. Acquire a period cook stove similar to the one on the original CSS Ram Neuse or acquire a replica stove

  5. And white wash the gunboat’s interior in a manner similar to the original

We are in the process of completing Goal 1. We have completed Goal 2 and Goal 3. An Eagle Scout white-washed the casemate of the boat to accomplish Goal 5. We are still trying to acquire a cook stove like the original that stands on display at the CSS Neuse Civil War Interpretative Center.

In addition, we have replaced the original dock, which was deteriorating, with composite wood that should last for decades. We have done repairs and maintenance on the Neuse II itself, including a new seal coating.

Since we replaced the battleship gray seal coating with the darker charcoal gray, the summer heat has made working in the afternoons on the Neuse II nearly unbearable. The foundation is in the process of installing enough air conditioning to take the edge off the relentless heat our docents and visitors experience.

All foundation board members and the docents freely donate their time and energy. Other than grants through the Tourism Development Authority, the Neuse Foundation has provided the CSS Neuse II at no cost to the taxpayers. As of July 13, a total of 3,200 visitors have boarded the Neuse II this year alone.

Let me furnish an example. On July 9, I met John, who lives in Kansas, at the Neuse II for a private showing. John was on a self-directed tour of boats from the Civil War era. Before arriving at the CSS Neuse II, he had made stops at the USS Monitor replica in Newport News, Va., as well as the CSS Albemarle in Plymouth, NC.

The CSS Neuse II was the best, he said, because he could actually enter the vessel and walk the gun deck and go below. He walked the outside deck of the Monitor but could not go inside. The CSS Albemarle in Plymouth is a 3/8th replica of the CSS Ram Neuse’s sister ship. Advantage: The Albemarle is on the water. Disadvantage: No one can board the Albemarle.

John spent an hour and a half on the Neuse II. He took photos. He asked tons of questions. His enthusiasm never flagged. When he finally tore himself away and headed toward his motorcycle, he thanked me again and again for letting him come aboard.

Your financial support makes experiences like the one John enjoyed the norm for visitors to the Neuse II.

Of course, everything I have described – all the accomplishments and achievements – require money. We have utility bills, insurance costs, and expenses for repairs and maintenance. Upgrading interpretative and interactive elements takes money.

“Wings Over the Neuse” provides the financial life blood for our foundation. The generosity of this community sustains the Neuse II and makes this distinctive experience possible.

The time has come for the foundation to appeal to our community: The Neuse Foundation needs your support. We offer three sponsor levels: Silver for a donation of at least $100; Gold for a sponsorship of at least $250; Platinum for a gift of at least $500. The benefits of sponsorship are detailed on a flyer some of you will receive in the next few days.

If you have never been a sponsor, contact me. I will make sure you get the information. My email is mparker16@gmail.com.

Thank you in advance for your financial assistance.

Mike Parker, a member of the Neuse Foundation board of directors, is a columnist for Neuse News. You can reach him at mparker16@gmail.com

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