In September 1976, the state of North Carolina opened marine resources centers in three locations along its Atlantic Coast. In 1986, their names were changed to North Carolina Aquariums, and this year they are celebrating their 40th anniversary.
To mark the occasion, the North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher is inviting the public to join them on Saturday, Sept. 17, for special activities throughout the day.
“Saturday is really a celebration with the community, to reflect on all the accomplishments of the aquarium over the last 40 years,” said Public Relations Coordinator Robin Nalepa.
The day will start off at 9 a.m. with a beach sweep at neighboring Fort Fisher State Recreation Area. Gloves and bags to collect trash will be provided for volunteers, who are asked to bring their own bug spray, sunscreen and water bottles.
“Part of what we do is we educate people about our environment, and that includes keeping it clean,” Nalepa said. “The sweep is part of a bigger clean up initiative, but we decided we wanted to include it as part of our anniversary activities because it’s important to us.”
Back inside the aquarium, visitors will be able to enjoy a photographic retrospective that looks back at the 40 years of the attraction’s existence. The installation, made up of work collected from different photographers over the years, will be set up in the aquarium’s Spadefish Gallery until the end of the year.
Education stations and science labs will be set up for guests to interact with, according to Nalepa. A craft area will also be set up so visitors can make party favors to use during a parade through the aquarium that will start at 1:15 p.m. and end with a special cake cutting at 1:30 p.m.
Nalepa said the Fort Fisher Aquarium is excited to share the milestone and celebrate the last 40 years with both out of town guests as well as locals.
“We’re not just here as an attraction – we’re here as part of the community,” Nalepa said. “It’s been 40 years of connecting people with nature and animals, and we’re proud of that.”
The activities on aquarium grounds are free with regular aquarium admission. Tickets cost $12.95 for those ages 13 to 61, $11.95 for those 62 and older as well as military members, and $10.95 for children ages 3 to 12. Admission is free for children who are two years old or younger as well as for North Carolina Aquarium Society members.