Editors Note: The Yorktown Foundation was misidentified in the original story.
Business on upswing
A slow season usually comes with the tail end of summer for most tourist attractions, but business is still on the upswing for Patriots Point so far.
In the quarter from July to September, the naval and maritime museum earned about $207,000 more and saw 7,728 more visitors than it did during the same time last year.
Patriots Point is also paving the way for the Congressional Medal of Honor Museum planned to go on 7 acres of the state agency’s property.
On Friday, the Patriots Point Development Board approved a proposal to relocate the parking lots next to the College of Charleston Sports Complex so there’s enough room to build the Medal of Honor Museum.
Patriots Point has officially unleashed its new mascot, Scrappy, a giant dog that represents a gentler side of the aircraft carrier Yorktown’s history.
About 50 visitors and a class of squealing 4- to 5-year-olds from Gateway Academy Child Development Center met Scrappy on Friday during a surprise revelation aboard the carrier.
Scrappy represents a stray dog sailors brought onto the Yorktown in 1943 when it was docked in Pearl Harbor during World War II.
Aware that the captain wouldn’t approve a canine roaming on deck, sailors smuggled the dog on board in a trash can.
They named him Scrapper Shrapnel, “Scrappy” for short, and outfitted him with his own helmet and life vest.
“Scrappy became the beloved mascot of our 3,000-member crew for the rest of that year,” said Ray Chandler, chairman of Patriots Point Development Authority.
“This special member brought a special sense of normalcy to the crew, reminding them of their lives back home and easing the endless days of warfare and tension.”
Scrappy the mascot will appear at special events at Patriots Point and throughout the community.
The furry character is one of the many attractions Patriots Point will introduce as it carries out a three-year plan to draw in more visitors with interactive exhibits.
If successful, the plan will help the naval and maritime museum repay a $9.2 million state loan it borrowed in 2009 to repair the destroyer Laffey.
Now restored, the Laffey is the site of Patriots Point’s next big revelation.
An interactive exhibit of the warship’s gun mount will debut Monday amid a reunion of 26 members of the Laffey crew.
The gun mount has been a display on the old warship for some time, but the new installation offers deeper insight on the Laffey’s role in World War II.
During the virtual experience inside the gun mount, visitors will view a short film synced with flickering lights and vibrations under the floorboards. The narrated film takes viewers through a 1945 kamikaze attack on the ship that killed six crew members.
“Once you go through the new exhibit ... you’re going to have an emotional attachment to the men who served on the Laffey, and emotional attachments certainly come as an opportunity for us to engage our visitors many years down the road,” said Mac Burdette, executive director of Patriots Point.
“This is the prototype exhibit that will bring our ships to life at Patriots Point.”
The Tin Can Sailors, a national association of veterans who served on destroyers, helped fund the exhibit through a $10,000 grant.
Several Tin Can members plan to attend the exhibit’s debut Monday.
The three-year plan to update Patriots Point with interactive exhibits costs about $4 million.
The upgrades are expected to attract an extra 40,000 visitors and $1.2 million each year by 2016.
The Patriots Point Development Authority has pledged $2 million to the project. To raise the other half, the authority has charged Todd Cummins, president of the Yorktown Association, to head a non-profit organization for fundraising efforts. The Yorktown Foundation applied for nonprofit status in January and is awaiting a response from the state. In the meantime, Coastal Community Foundation is acting as its financial agent.
Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 or Follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail.