Flop Goes a Nude Fest

County bans clothing-optional, and naturists steer clear

Rob Ullman

Nude Fest – Feature

Visitors to Virginia’s Colonial capital may get a chuckle out of one of Williamsburg Area Transport’s bus routes: the Tan Line. But in the summer of 1985, a tan line was the last thing certain outdoors enthusiasts at Assateague had on their minds. Hopes were high for National Nude Weekend, planned for the isolated northernmost strip of the Virginia portion of the island, home to an unofficial clothing-optional beach that the clothed had pretty much ignored for decades. But it was the ’80s, after all, and the summer before, Accomack County’s board of supervisors had passed a no-nudity ordinance to nip this Assateague asininity in the bud. Nude Weekend was the test case, and under the “watchful eye of deputies” the event petered out. As the Associated Press reported, “There was no Nude Olympics, no Bare Bottom Ball, no theater-in-the-buff.” There was a pitiful showing of skinny-dippers and a handful of topless sunbathers, only about 150 people in all.

This was a far cry from the early 1980s, before the ordinance was enacted. When Playboy revealed Assateague’s secret enclave, hundreds of birthday-suited men, women and children could be seen on the beach—not the exposure the county wanted. To protest, 2,000 folks signed petitions, and, said the AP article, of 700 people attending a public hearing on the ordinance, only four were against it. After the law was passed, offenders risked a year in jail or a fine as high as $1,000, and, in the altogether, more than 50 naturists were arrested that year. Small wonder that they stayed away from the ’85 fete.

The National Capital Naturists eventually challenged the legality of the ordinance: Because the beach was federal property, it belonged to bare-naked ladies and gents as much as to the dressed. But the group abandoned its suit in light of a Supreme Court decision on a nude dancing case in Indiana, says Turner Stokes, 82, the group’s former president. Naturists are now focused on the designation of a clothing-optional beach on the Maryland side of Assateague. According to Turner, there is no county ordinance there, which simplifies the legalities, and he thinks the Maryland legislature will be “pretty calm and collected” when mulling the idea of a nude beach.

If you want less baggage on your next Virginia vacation, there are skin-friendly campgrounds and groups aplenty. Among them: the Bare Buns Family Nudist Club, White Tail Park, and even a branch of the national Christian Nudist Convocation. But in Assateague, make sure you’ve got it covered.

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