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Atalaya readies 3-in-1 festival

Things came in threes for the couple who founded Brookgreen Gardens.

Archer Milton Huntington and Anna Vaughn Hyatt Huntington were each born on March 10, in 1870 and 1876, respectively. They were married March 10, 1923.

The annual "Atalaya: 3-in-1 Day," scheduled for Thursday at their former home in Huntington Beach State Park between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, celebrates that trio of dates in remembrance of the park's namesakes.

Free audio tours will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and guests can view artists' works on display and talk with interpretive guides. At 3:45 p.m., everyone will gather for the drawing for an Atalaya painting by Danny McLaughlin, as well as cake and a champagne toast.

Archer Huntington's study and Anna Huntington's indoor studio also will be set up with displays highlighting the careers and passions each pursued.

Joan Crow, president of the Friends of Huntington Beach State Park, beneficiary of the event, fielded questions about this annual rite of spring at the park. She said she looked up background notes with help from Elizabeth Moses, interpretive park ranger, and by reading "The Remarkable Huntingtons," a book by Mary Mitchell and Albert Goodrich. (The book is available at the camp store at Huntington Beach and at Brookgreen Gardens' Keepsakes shop.)

Crow also said the macaw that will be on hand will not be a bird lost from the migratory path over the park.

"The Huntingtons also had a macaw they brought to Atalaya with them," Crow said.

During Wildlife and History Day last year at the park, a macaw drew crowds, so bringing that guest back for 3-in-1 Day represents another way to honor the Huntingtons and Atalaya history, Crow said.

"People would really like to be up close and personal with that bird," she said.

Question | How did this celebration become an annual tradition, and how has this fundraiser for friends of Huntington Beach State Park grown since its inception?

Answer | The reference to 3-in-1 Day came from Anna's diaries. They called every March 10 their "3-in-1 Day." The celebration started out rather small and by reservation only so that participants could enjoy a special tour of the house. The format has been changed this year, so there will be no limit to the number we can accommodate.

Q. | What do records show about how the Huntingtons decided on their joint birthdays to also marry?

A. | In this way, in the future, they could have three celebrations in one.

Q. | How does raising awareness about the Huntingtons benefit Brookgreen Gardens and Atalaya as critical landmarks in the Lowcountry culture?

A. | It is important to the history and culture of the Lowcountry to know how the Huntingtons influenced the area, especially during the Great Depression. They provided much-needed employment, and people learned skills that could be used throughout their lifetimes. This is a house where an internationally renowned artist lived and worked. Visitors often think Atalaya was a fort or a prison, and the story of its true design and value need to be told for future generations to appreciate its uniqueness.

Q. | Since the premiere of the Atalaya audio tours last summer, what new history has unfolded for the public in exploring the house, whether for a first-time or a repeat visit?

A. | The audio tour provides another level of interpretation. One can actually hear Anna's voice describing life at Atalaya as well as a historian giving detailed descriptions of the house.

Q. | What makes Atalaya's design so unique?

A. | The Moorish-style architecture of Atalaya holds interest in a variety of ways. Some people are interested in the "why" behind the weeping mortar. Some are interested in the fact there was always electricity and indoor plumbing. Others are just in awe of the total structure. As a note of special interest, this year, the basement areas have been cleaned and they will be open for viewing by the public for the very first time.

Q. | How many members make up the Friends of Huntington Beach State Park, and what other services do these volunteers provide to help make every visitor's experience in the park memorable and educational?

A. | Friends numbers about 200 volunteers. In addition to Atalaya tours, we provide assistance to the park in these areas: alligator program guides, Atalaya preservation maintenance, the Atalaya visitors center, beach monitoring/walking, beach /trail maintenance, helping man the education center, school programs, watering monitoring, landscaping and assisting at front gate.

Q. | Why would the Huntingtons have been so daffy over a Scottish deerhound winning the 2011 Westminster Dog Show last month, the first time for that breed?

A. | Anna knew regular outdoor exercise was important to her health, and the very large Scottish deerhounds would force her to do just that. Therefore, the dogs enjoyed a special place in the lives of their owners, and the Huntingtons' kennels were known for breeding champions.

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If you go

What | Annual “Atalaya: 3-in-1 Day”

Benefitting | Friends of Huntington Beach State Park

When | 2-4 p.m. ThursdayMarch 10 (Park open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.)

Where | Huntington Beach State Park, U.S. 17 between Murrells Inlet and Litchfield Beach, across from Brookgreen Gardens

How much | $5 ages 16 and older, in addition to park admission: $5 ages 16 and older, $3.25 S.C. seniors, $3 ages 6-15

More info | 237-2162 or www.huntingtonbeachstatepark.com or e-mail friendshbsp@gmail.com (More park details at 237-4440 or http://southcarolinaparks.com.

Also | Atalaya audio tours, usually $4, are free on this day only on a first-come, first-served basis

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