Family Paints boat every year for kids’ birthdays

By Lorne Chambers | Editor

With some murals painting a negative light on the Folly Boat in recent months, it’s refreshing to hear about one Lowcountry family whose tradition epitomizes the spirit of Folly and this beloved Folly landmark.

“We held my daughter Betty’s 1st birthday party on Folly Beach. The boat seems like the unofficial ‘Welcome to Folly’ sign so my friend and I painted it to welcome family and friends coming in from out of town,” recalls James Island resident Lindsey Henderson. “After painting it that first year we decided it was definitely a tradition we wanted to keep.” Since that day back in 2010, the Hendersons have also added another member to the family. Four-year-old Louis also gets a special Folly Boat mural every year for his birthday.

So every year, twice a year now, Lindsey and her husband Tab pack their car with painting supplies and head out to paint the boat with birthday wishes for Betty and Louis. In January, when Louis turns 5, the couple will have painted the boat a dozen times in honor of their children’s birthdays. Henderson says she has also painted it on a handful of other occasions.

“I hope to paint it soon for our little preschool where I work,” she says. “I’ve also painted it as a tribute for my dear friend, Laura. She is the one who helped me paint it for Betty the first time and she passed away two years ago. So that boat painting was really special for me.”

For many like Henderson, who don’t actually live on the island, Folly remains a special place. “My kids also recently got very involved with the sea turtles and protecting our ocean. We love to see the sea turtle releases on Folly put on by the SC Aquarium and we try to participate in as many beach sweeps as we can,” she says. “We want to keep Folly Beach beautiful because it’s such a happy place for us.”

And, yes, part of that happiness is because of the Folly Boat and the memories her and her families have made there. For them the Folly Boat is more than just an old rusty hull. So Henderson was disheartened last month when bickering about what was being painted on the boat caused some rumblings that the boat should be removed.

“That would be an unfortunate circumstance. It wouldn’t dampen Folly’s spirit,” says Henderson, who guesstimated that about 95 percent of the time the boat is painted with a positive and loving light. “The boat has historically been a place of well wishes. The boat is painted over so quickly that derogatory paintings don’t last long. It seems silly to me to remove such a free spirit landmark because a few people are angry about life and choose to express their anger with a boat painting.”

When painting the Folly Boat, Henderson hopes people will, at the very least, be respectful to the marsh the boat sits in and be respectful to each other. She even offers her own tips and guidelines for boat painting etiquette (see sidebar).

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