78 THE COASTAL BEND MAGAZINE • January/February 2018 TheCoastalBend.com Port Aransas Port Aransas grows closer as residents press on to rebuild. Hurricane Harvey dealt a massive blow to this resort town, but the people are proving to be the toughest community on the Texas Gulf Coast, and giving up was never an option. When fully half of your town’s structures are uninhabitable, and 85% have been dam- aged enough to call the insurance company, a full range of possibilities flood your mind about what to do now, what to do next, and what to do over the next year. The decision folks in Port A had to make, whether to stay or leave for good, or to leave for just a while, wholly depended on each person’s station in life and range of options. A few Port Aransans who were getting close to retirement age have chalked it up— they’ve taken the insurance money for their destroyed homes and businesses and headed to Mexico, or New Mexico for at least one well-known merchant. Some oth- ers have accepted that their houses are more than a year away from repair, and have relocated to Corpus Christi or San Antonio, at least for the time-being. Since more than half of the residential properties on Mustang Island are second homes or invest- ment properties, their owners were not directly affected. However, the overwhelming majority of mighty Marlins have fought, and suffered, to stay in their hometown, or get back as soon as they could, and stay full-in the ef- fort to rebuild. Even the white collars have worked harder, physically, than they ever have in their lives. While some people had a large enough nest egg before the storm to avoid financial duress, others whose businesses regularly generated $100,000 or more per month in revenue, were now, and are still, down to zero. Their employees have been laid off, their rents are unpaid, their vendors have lost another customer, and no one is there to buy anyway. The only business for much of Port A post-Harvey are in the demolition and building trades. Insurance appraisers are doing well, too. The previously unthinkable devastation that Hurricane Harvey brought to Port A has separated the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and the most devoted Port Aransans have risen to the top, and are leading the citizen effort to bring the town back. The Port A family has grown closer, and even the relative newcomers, the ones who are staying, are embedding their mark on the fabric of the community. Whooping Crane Festival makes for a great weekend in Port A Thursday February 22nd — Sunday February 25th One of the top bird watching destinations in the United States, according to the National Audobon Society, Port A’s annual festival celebrates the Coastal Bend’s most honored winter visitor, the Whooping Crane. World renowned crane expert, Dr. George Archibald, co-founder of the International Crane Foundation, will be one of the featured speakers, along with representatives from Operation Migration, Wood Buffalo National Park, the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, and more. Festival at- tendees will have the opportunity to take guided boat tours to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to view the world’s last naturally-occurring population of Whooping Cranes on their wintering grounds. Additional festival activities include birding and nature boat and bus tours, interactive workshops and seminars, a painting and wine tasting class, and a free nature-related trade show. WhoopingCraneFestival.com Chamber of Commerce posting lists of reopened businesses on website Lodging, restaurants, fishing tours opening weekly as town recovers. The mission of the small but dedicated staff of the Port Aransas Chamber of Commerce and Tour- ism Bureau is to let folks know that the town is open, and reopening more, every week since the storm. Lists of available lodging, open restaurants and dozens of other businesses are posted on the chamber’s website: PortAransas.org Irie’s Island Food was among the first Port A businesses to reopen.