July 22 Music in the Park Canceled Due to Weather

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The Saturday, July 22 Music in the Park Concert, featuring the Swing City big band, has been canceled due to weather. The group is too large to fit easily into Emmanuel Church, the alternate venue in case of rain.

If possible, the concert will be rescheduled.

The next Music in the Park concert will be Annapolis Bluegrass, Saturday, August 5, 7:00-8:30 pm.

Chainsaw Art at the Kent County Fair

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Josh Miller is a Kent County boy.  Born and raised.  He grew up in Chestertown, attended Kent County High School and graduated from there in 1999.  Then he began his wandering. First, he went to Nashville, Tennessee, to an automotive painting school.  He had always had an artistic side. That led to a career in building and custom-painting motorcycles.  Did I mention that he also had a mechanical side?  A very good one, too. Well, one thing led to another and pretty soon he was custom-painting drones for the military.  They loved his work.  In fact, they loved it so much that one of them was chosen to be hung in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum where you can go see it any day.

This weekend, Josh Miller is wandering back to his old stomping grounds.  You can see him in action at the Kent County Fair this weekend, where he will be demonstrating the latest turn in his artistic and mechanical career – chainsaw art – specifically chainsaw wood sculptures.  Josh will be on-site all three days of the fair.  Several of his sculptures will be included in the Saturday evening auction.  Don’t miss your chance to own your own chainsaw sculpture!

For the past two years, Miller has been on the Eastern Shore, living in Felton, Delaware, with his wife and two daughters. Before then the family was in Shrewsbury, Pennsylvania.  It was there that Miller was first inspired to turn his chainsaw into an artist’s tool.  He had to cut down a tree and thought why not have some fun, turn this into art.  Thus was born Josh Miller’s chainsaw sculpture career.  He’s been making and selling chainsaw sculptures ever since.

Miller’s subjects range from the sacred to the profane, the ridiculous to the sublime, with an emphasis on nature.  His bears are especially popular.  His birds are beautifully detailed.  His humor is home-spun and pun-full, some visual puns, some verbal.  To see more, be sure to stop by his FaceBook page.  After you’ve been to the fair, of course.

Chainsaw sculpture by Kent County native Josh Miller.

 

Rifle-stand with boots. Every cowboy needs one!

Carving a bear

Three-person “butt bench” – we didn’t ask who the model was.

Horse bench – on display this weekend at the Kent County Fair

 

 

 

Music & Magic – A Vibrant Weekend in Chestertown!

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The Honey Dewdrops, Kagey Parrish & Laura Wortman, sang songs of America and played clawhammer banjo, mandolin, and guitar, Thursday, June 22, 2017.

What a weekend in Chestertown!  It started Thursday night.  At 6:30 pm, Washington College’s free Riverfront Concert series kicked off with folk music by The Honey Dewdrops.  It was a lovely evening – a little hot but with a breeze off the river.   The concerts take place beside the Chester River at the foot of  High Street, on the lawn behind the Custom House, home of Washington College’s  Starr Center for the American Experience.  Just shy of a hundred people were there, sitting on the grass, leaning against the trees, or relaxing in the folding canvas chairs they brought with them.  There were quite a few kids dancing on the lawn.  You could watch the river flow gently by.  The only glitch was the humidity causing the PA system to short out.  After a couple of tries, the performers invited everyone to come up closer and then they played unamplified.  That actually made the concert feel more intimate.  Wortman’s voice rang clear on both originals and well-known folk songs.   There are two more in the Riverfront Concerts.

Listeners relax in lawn chairs for the Starr Center concert

The schooner Martha White made a scenic background for the Custom House concert.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the Riverfront Concert was just the beginning of the music and magic.  On Friday, June 23, you had your choice of indoor theater or outdoor theater. At the Garfield Center for the Arts on High Street, it was opening night for Short Attention Span Theatre , in which eight short plays, each about ten minutes long, were performed. The idea is that if you don’t like one, if this play loses your attention, well, the next one will be along in under ten minutes!

While Short Attention Span was just opening it’s three-week run indoors at the Garfield, over at Wilmer Park, Shore Shakespeare was celebrating the end of their triumphant tour of the Eastern Shore with a magical production of  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, full of fairies, enchantments, love triangles, and noble passions.  The weather cooperated beautifully with nearly 200 in attendance at each of the weekend’s performances, Friday and Sunday.  The tour took A Midsummer Night’s Dream to six locations on the Eastern Shore, finishing up this past weekend with two free performances at Wilmer Park in Chestertown.

Puck (Avra Sullivan) enchants Bottom the weaver (Patrick Fee) in Shore Shakespeare’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  Another fairy (Jane Terebey) watches from behind a tree in the magical woods near Athens.

On Saturday, there was a ribbon-cutting for the re-naming of the neighborhood park in the Washington Park area of Chestertown.  Formerly just referred to as “Washington Park” – which would make it redundantly “Washington Park” Park – it is now officially the “Louise D. Carpenter Park”. Councilman Sam Shoge was on hand to help cut the ribbon along with community members who had worked hard to upgrade the facilities.  There is a basketball court, new benches, and a large swing and climbing set. In its own way, it was a magical moment for community members who helped bring it about.

Council members Sam Shoge, Liz Gross, and Marty Stetson join Washington Park residents and members of the town Recreation Commission for the ribbon-cutting at newly-named Louisa D. Carpenter Park

Children swinging and climbing on playground equipment in refurbished and renamed Louisa D. Carpenter Park in the Washington Park neighborhood of Chestertown.

Later on Saturday morning, the Fort Delaware Coronet Band, dressed in authentic Civil War uniforms, joined the Kent County Community Marching Band and local re-enactors in a short parade, followed by a ceremony recognizing the veterans of America’s Civil War.  Thomas Hayman, who organized the event, laid flowers at the 1917 Civil War Monument and the more recent 1999 monument to the USCT, United States Colored Troops from Kent County.  Then the Fort Delaware band played songs from the Civil War Era on period instruments.  Nearby was a “living history” exhibit with uniforms, guns, items for camping and cooking, and other items, all originals or authentic reproductions from the era.

The Fort Delaware Cornet Band played music of the Civil War Era on period instruments

 

The Kent County Community Marching Band plays “Maryland, My Maryland” before the wreath-laying at the Civil War monuments.

 

Civil War re-enactors stand at attention as three wreaths are laid at the monuments honoring those who fought in that conflict.

If that wasn’t enough music for you, not to worry.  At 7 p.m., the inaugural concert for the 2017 summer season of Music in the Park started with The Andovers Trio presenting “A Half Century of Hits.”  It was a lively evening of good old rock-n-roll plus a few country tunes!

John Barrett and Aaron Maloney of the Andovers Trio played for Music in the Park on Saturday evening.

 

Juanita Wieczoreck gives a heart-felt eulogy for Rosa the cat in the “Hey, Wait a Minute” series of one-minute plays.

The Short Attention Span Theater 10-minute play festival at the Garfield is a perennial favorite with local theater-goers, with plays “just long enough.”  And if your attention span is even shorter, why the one-minute plays in the lobby of the Garfield might be just your thing!  Hey, Wait a Minute was a set of five “One-Minute” plays in the lobby for the audience to enjoy while waiting for the doors to open for the main attraction. Short Attention Span Theatre has two more weekends, Friday and Saturday evenings with 3:00 pm matinees on Sunday.

Yes, the weekend in Chestertown, Thursday through Sunday, June 22-25, was a wondrous one – full or music and magic for everyone.

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The Andovers Play “Half a Century of Hits” at Chestertown’s Music in the Park, Saturday, June 24

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The Andovers Trio – John Barrett, Aaron Maloney, & Ken Hudson

The “Music in the Park” concert series kicks off this coming Saturday evening in Fountain Park in downtown Chestertown when the Andovers will present “Half a Century of Hits”.  The concert begins at 7 p.m. and will last approximately an hour and a half.

The Andovers are a classic cover band, playing the hits from the 1950s to the 1990s, with occasional forays into other decades.  The trio consists of Aaron Maloney on vocals and keyboard,  Ken Hudson on drums and vocals, and John Barrett on guitar.  The band knows a wide variety of styles and can play the top hits from multiple genres, including classic rock and popular country songs.   Maloney said that the Andovers also play in several different configurations, sometimes adding a bass player or other instrument.  It depends on the occasion, he said.  They play weddings, parties, and festivals

A typical song list for the Andovers may include songs such as “American Girl,” “Brown Eyed Girl,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Billy Jean,” “500 Miles,” “Friends in Low Places,” “Sweet Caroline,” “Free Falling,” “Boot Scoot Boogie,” Frank Sinatra songs, and more.

Maloney grew up in Delaware but now lives in Galena where he runs Andover Recording Studio. Maloney and Hayden Chance co-founded Andover Media in Galena, a full-service recording studio, about four years ago. Maloney is now sole owner and operator.  Last year, the studio moved into a new building with expanded facilities. The studio also offers lessons in voice and several musical instruments taught by Maloney and other instructors.  They also offer songwriting and music theory classes.

Barrett has taught drums for over 15 years — in fact, he taught Maloney. Both Hudson and Barrett work for Music and Arts in Middletown, where Barrett was a manager for a while.

Their big teaching project is Camp Rock, which debuted last year. A five-day music workshop for teens ages 14 to 18, the camp brings in a variety of instructors in various instruments, singing, songwriting, sound reinforcement, and live performance. The instructors bring their own real-world musical experience to give the students a valuable overview of creating and performing music in a fun and creative environment. Campers write and record a song, then set up the stage and sound equipment for a final showcase performance.  For information, visit the Andover Media website.

All Music in the Park performances are free.  Bring lawn chairs or something to sit on.  There are a limited number of folding chairs and benches available provided by the town.  Rain location is Emmanuel Church at 101 N. Cross St., across from the park.

Butch Clark is the technical director of Music in the Park, with the assistance of Jack Brosious and Nehemiah Williams.  Jane Jewell is the program director. Music in the Park is sponsored by the town of Chestertown with support from the Kent County Arts Council and community contributors. To help make these free programs possible, send donations payable to the Town of Chestertown and designated for Music in the Park, to Chestertown Town Hall, 118 N. Cross St., Chestertown, MD 21620.

All are invited to join us for Music in the Park this Saturday, June 24,  from 7:00 -8:30 pm in Fountain Park in downtown Chestertown, MD

Heron Point: The 2017 OlympiActs!

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The Olympics, we know, come every four years.  But at Heron Point, the Olympics come every year!  On Thursday morning, June 8, buses began arriving early with the senior athletes from five other communities. Heron Point was the host for the 2017 OlympiActs, sponsored this year by BB&T.

The five traveling teams were from Lima Estates, Granite Farms Estates, Cokesbury Village, Country House, and Manor House.  With Heron Point, that made six teams competing for the gold!  There were eight sports plus one “brain game” for a total of nine events.

Wearing their “crab hats” with their clackers at the ready, Heron Point residents wait for the results at the closing ceremonies.

Spirits were high!  Many people carried clackers or pom poms.  Every athlete wore an OlympiActs t-shirt in their team colors. Heron Point’s shirts were blue while staff wore black t-shirts.  Lima Estates even had a lion mascot to cheer for its team!

The sports  (with Heron Point competitors) :

Walking Relay Race (John Henderson & Nancy Henderson),

Wii bowling              (Cole Taylor)

Bocce                          (Jack Stenger & Tom Blum)

Billiards                      (Tom Fisher)

Anything Goes in the Pool (swimming)        (Kent Kerbel & Bill Mohan)

Trivia                            (Mary Jane Mitchell & Sandy Durfee)

Corn Hole                    (Ed Tinucci  & Wendy Johnson)

Table Shuffleboard     (Pam Fisher)

Golf Putting                  (Bill Trakat)

The Walking Relay had a beautiful setting. Participants race-walked out and back Heron Point’s long dock.  It’s a wonder that the contestants didn’t get distracted by the beautiful views of the Chester River. There’s even a shady gazebo with benches to further tempt them.  But the relay teams were focused.

Each community could send two participants per sport, although in some of the events, some communities fielded only one athlete.  The chosen athletes had already gone though various competitions and try-outs in their home communities.

The spirit of fun was obvious throughout the day.  Everyone commented on how much this event brought back happy memories of Field Day from their school days.  This was the second year that Heron Point has participated and Executive Director Garret Falcone said that it was already one of his favorite days. The participants, he said, were laughing and joking but became very serious when it was their turn to compete.  They take it seriously, he said, then laughed and added,  “It’s cut-throat out there!”

Heron Point has a new 6-hole course for golf putting.  The course was installed just a few weeks before the OlympiActs.  They already had a pool, Bocce field, and a billiards room.

OlumpiAct medals await the winning competitors.

The day began with opening ceremonies where the Olympic “flame” was lit.  (It was a clever mini-fan concealed in a base that blew wind onto the gold paper “flame”, making it flutter.  The day ended with a traditional awards presentations.  Medals on blue ribbons – just like the Olympics! – were hung around each winner’s neck.  Falcone was pleased that every community had a winner in at least one of the nine events.

Brian Donathan Communications Manager), Garret Falcone Executive Director of Heron Point), Kim

Heron Point opened in 1991 and, since 2010, has been an affiliate of Acts Retirement-Life Communities, headquartered in Philadelphia. Acts-Retirement-Life communities  is the world’s largest not-for-profit organization of residential continuing care organizations.  It runs 22 senior communities in eight states with over 9000 residents.

More pictures of participants, teams and medal winners below.

With old-fashioned courtesy and good sportsmanship, contestants shake hands after a round of corn hole.

Corn Hole Competitors

 

 

 

 

 

 

Competing on the New Putting Green

Wii Bowling

 

 

Local photographers were on hand to capture the action.

Medal Winners of the 2017 OlympiActs!

Winners in the Bocce event. Heron Point residents, Jack Stenger and Tom Blum (in blue on right) took first place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

National Music Festival – A Musical Feast! – Photo Gallery

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It’s here again!  The National Music Festival has begun its seventh season here in Chestertown, bringing a garden of musical delights for young and old.   Sunday evening saw the opening concert with the Fiddlesticks Orchestra joining the Chester River Youth Chorale to show what they had learned this past year.  The Brass Band added to the fanfare.  Now there are two weeks of concerts and free rehearsals to attend.

On Monday evening, there was the traditional community, meet-&-greet potluck at Dave Keating’s K&L garage.  This potluck, to me, is symbolic of how Chestertown and Kent County has responded to the National Music Festival.  They love it.  Individuals, businesses, organizations, churches – so many have volunteered, helped as cooks, drivers, hosts, provided concert venues, offered discounts, etc.  Sacred Heart Catholic Church made special floral decorations for their doors to welcome the musicians for the concerts held in the church on June 8 & 9.  The hospitality committee ran fundraisers before the festival and are providing beverages and snacks for rehearsals during the festival.

Emmanuel Episcopal Church is opening its parish hall every day and a band of volunteers come into the church kitchen and prepare free lunches for the apprentices.

Redner’s grocery store has given multiple cases of water and many restaurants offered discounts.

On Saturday, June 10, musicians will be on hand at the Farmers’ Market in Chestertown.

We’ll be posting pictures here as the festival goes along and adding names.  So come back again or send us your favorite photos from the festival and we’ll post as many as we can.

For more information and schedule of free and ticketed events, see National Music Festival website.

Apprentices in the Arts Administration program make the wheels run smoothly. They keep track of all the details that make up a music festival – from tickets to transportation to setting up the stage.

Apprentices Maria Rusu (viola & Arts Administration – from Romania) & Kelly Harper (Arts Administration – from New York)

Michael Sawzin, NMF Youth Director, with Caitlin Patton, NMF Executive Director, celebrating the beginning of the festival at Decker Theater on Washington College campus.

Conductor and Artistic Director of the NMF, Richard Rosenberg, conducted the world premiere of Rosenberg’s edition of “Transfigured Night” by Schonberg.  First violin on left.

Festival String Orchestra on Tuesday evening, 6th of June, 2017, just after “Transfigured Night”.

Flute and percussion mentors, Wed evening concert 7th of June 2017

Clarinet mentor, Wed evening concert 7th of June 2017

Wed evening concert 7th of June 2017

Wed evening concert 7th of June 2017

Wed evening concert 7th of June 2017

Wed evening concert 7th of June 2017

Wed evening concert 7th of June 2017

Close up of the floral “logo” on the doors of Sacred Heart Church on High Street.

The doors of Sacred Heart Church on High Street with the NMF logo in flowers!

Caitlin Patton, Executive Director of the NMF with her mother, Bonnie Keating, who, like her daughter, is also a talented singer.

 

 

 

Caitlin & Richard – Wed 7 June 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caitlin & Richard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something for Everyone at Chestertown’s First Friday – Photo Gallery

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A number of years ago, Chestertown started a First Friday tradition. Local businesses and organizations stay open two or three hours later on the first Friday of each month, usually until 7 or 8 pm.  The tradition has blossomed into a wonderful evening of music, wine and cheese and other snacks at local shops, open galleries, and special displays, lectures, and dramatic presentations.  This past First Friday, June 2, featured a talk on the history of ice cream at the Historical Society, a showcase of musical talent at Bill Drazga’s Music Life store, the display of a beautifully restored log canoe originally built on Tilghman Island in 1894, an exhibition opening at RiverArts, and a pair of One Minute Plays at the Garfield.  All in all, a vivid reminder of what makes Chestertown so wonderful.  And the weather was perfect – temps in the low 70s with a light breeze!

The Mary Julia Hall log canoe was on display in front of the Bordley Center on High Street. The owner is looking for crew. Any volunteers?

 

Hull of the Mary Julia Hall before restoration.

Detail of restored log canoe Mary Julia Hall with Emmanuel Church in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chris Jones, Sam Scalzo, and Frank Gerber play “All of Me” at the Music Life Showcase of Talent.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talent Showcase at Music Life – First Friday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reception at RiverArts for the opening of an exhibit titled “The Journey”.

 

Artist Sihnja An Whitely

RiverArts’ new exhibit has a wonderful display of members’ interpretation of the theme “The Journey”.  The main room has pieces in multiple mediums – from digital art to watercolors to oils. The second room is devoted to a retrospective of artist Sihnja An Whiteley, who has been painting and teaching in Chestertown since 1985.

Sihnja An Whiteley grew up and attended college in Korea where she earned her Batchelor’s and Master’s degrees in European history.  She also studied painting and calligraphy while in Korea. After moving to America, she studied art history and studio arts at Washington College.

Her heart has always been in the arts.  According to the notice on her exhibit at RiverArts, “her paintings are a synthesis of East and West; discipline of the East; freedom and individuality of the West.”

For some time now, the Historical Society of Kent County has held a well-attended series of First Friday talks and presentations.  This month the society had a double feature!  The windows of the Bordley Center on High Street had a display on boats of the river and the bay.  On the street just outside the building was a 52 foot-long restored log canoe, the Mary Julia Hall.  Built in 1894, it has been beautifully restored by Jim of Kent County.  It is now sea-worthy and Jim will enthusiastically show you pictures of it under sail.  It is for sale, Jim says, at the right price.  But now he is looking for crew.  The canoe can carry at least ten, he said.

Bayly Ellen Janson-La Palme shares her research on the history ice cream in Chestertown.

While people admired the boat outside, inside the Bordley Center, Bayly Ellen Janson-La Palme spoke on the history of ice cream in Chestertown.  Making ice cream, she said, was a relatively simple process.  But it was hard work.  You had to crank a handle continuously and your arms would get tired quickly.  So people naturally liked to go out for their ice cream where someone else worked that handle. Over time, the process became mechanized and ice cream plants opened where gallons were made and shipped to stores and restaurants. Thus making ice cream changed from from a labor-intensive enterprise done in the home or on-site at a restaurant  to a capital-intensive one in a factory setting.

The first recorded ice cream saloon in Chestertown was started in 1846 by Philip Jones, an African-American who owned an oyster restaurant on Queen Street.  Ladies were served in a separate room from the men.  In the twentieth century, the Gill brothers ran an ice cream plant from 1920 to 1953.  Their ice cream was sold in stores from Cecil County to Delaware. Until the late 1940s, you could even get home-delivery.  In addition to their factory, the Gil Brothers soda and ice cream parlor  – in what is now Play It Again Sam’s – was a fixture for teens and families during the hot summers.

The Historical Society has published a booklet by Janson-La Palme titled “Ice Cream versus Hot Weather: Ice Cream Sales and Manufacturing in Chestertown”, available at the Bordley Center for a suggested donation of $5.00.

The Sensation of the Season! Chocolate ice cream bars made by Gill Brothers of Chestertown. They were in business from 1920-1953.

Topping the evening off, was a preview of “Hey, Wait a Minute” at the Garfield Center for the Arts.  “Hey, Wait a Minute” is a series of five short “one-minute” plays.  (Well, some of them do come in at two or three minutes.) These mini-plays will run before each showing of the “Short Attention Span Theatre” over three weekends, June 23 – July 9.  On this First Friday, you could get a peek at two of the plays,  The entire series of five will be played in the theater lobby while audience members wait for the show to start.

Zac Ryan and Severin Schut in “One-Minute” play “When in Rome” –
part of the “Hey, Wait a Minute!” series at the Garfield.
Photo by Jeff Weber, courtesy Garfield Center

Nivek Johnson was celebrating his recent graduation from Salisbury University with a degree in communications.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Memorial Day Weekend at Sumner Hall

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Memorial Day will be observed in Chestertown at noon on Monday, May 29, in Monument Park across from Fountain Park and Emmanuel Church.  Members of Sumner Hall G.A.R. Post #25 will honor the fallen veterans of all wars in a brief wreath-laying ceremony.  All are invited to attend.

Memorial Day has a long tradition.  It began in the aftermath of the American Civil War just over 150 years ago.  Then it was called Decoration Day and people would decorate the graves and memorials of their loved ones who had died in the Civil War. The tradition grew quickly and by 1868 – just three years after the war ended, May 30 was declared an official day of commemoration.  May 30 was chosen because it was not the anniversary of any specific battle of the war and because flowers would be in bloom everywhere by that late date in spring.  On May 5, 1868, General John Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.), wrote in General Order No. 11 ““The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land.”

Early Decoration Day Poster

On that first official Memorial Day, General James A. Garfield, who would later become the 20th president of the United States, spoke at the ceremonies in Arlington National Cemetary where approximately 5,000 people decorated the graves of over 20,000 soldiers – both Confederate and Union.  General Ulysses S. Grant, soon to be President, and his wife Julia presided over the ceremony from the porch of Arlington House.  Arlington House was the former home of Mary Custis and her husband, Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The irony and poignancy of that were not lost on anyone there that day.

After all the speeches were finished, the large crowd, singing and praying, began to circulate through the cemetery, placing flowers on each soldier’s grave.  Among them were many veterans of the war, members of the G.A.R., along with children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home.

Putting flowers and other decorations on graves, especially military graves, was a long-standing practice. But the tradition of Decoration Day for the American Civil War – or the War of Rebellion as it was more frequently called then – may have started in Charleston, SC, in 1865.  The war had just ended.  The slaves were free.  A small group of former slaves, out of gratitude to the army that had freed them, decided to give a more dignified and proper burial to the over two hundred Union soldiers buried in a mass grave in Charleston.  These were the soldiers who had died as prisoners of war in the local Confederate prison camp.

The freedmen worked for two weeks to dig up and then re-inter the bodies in individual plots in tidy rows.  They chose a peaceful spot, cleaned and landscaped it, built a ten-foot tall wooden fence around it and an arched entryway.  On the arch, it read “Martyrs to the Race Course.”  This was a bit of a serious pun as the prison had been built on a racetrack. A dedication ceremony took place on May 1, 1865, with over 10,000 people, mostly former slaves, in attendance.  About 3000 Black school children were there along with many Union troops,  ministers, and missionaries.  The event was reported in many national newspapers at the time, including the New York Tribune.

From an 1881 issue of Harper’s Weekly of a “History Lesson on Decoration Day”

During the immediate post-war period, similar Decoration Day ceremonies were held in many places, leading in later years to competing claims for being the “first” Memorial Day although few used that term.  How much these other Decoration Days were inspired by or influenced by the slightly earlier Charleston one and its newspaper coverage is unknown. However, Decorations Days quickly became important and widespread, including in many African-American communities.

 

On May 5, 1866, the village of Waterloo, NY, held such a ceremony.  The town was draped in black mourning and flags flew at half-mast.  A band played solemn marches as a large parade of veterans, dignitaries, and local residents walked to the three local cemeteries to decorate the graves of soldiers.  A year later, on May 5, 1867, it was all repeated, making Waterloo’s Decoration Day an “annual” event.  The next year, the town moved the date to May 30 in accordance with General Logan’s order.

Boalsburg, PA, claims to have started annual decoration of Civil War veterans graves as early as October of 1864, more than six months before the Charleston racetrack commemoration.  However, Boalsburg’s claim to the title is based on only three women visiting the local graveyard to place flowers on the graves of soldiers who were family members.

Carbondale, IL, has plaques in two cemeteries stating those sites to be the first.  Both Columbus, GA, and Columbus, MS, claim that their celebration was the first.

In Columbus, Georgia, a ladies’ social and charitable society changed its name and focus from the Soldiers’ Aid Society to the Ladies’ Memorial Association (LMA). A letter to the editor of the local newspaper in March 1866 invited other ladies to join them in decorating the graves of Confederate soldiers.  Soon there were Ladies’ Memorial Associations all over the southern states.  Members were mostly wealthy white women.  The North was not far, if any, behind in starting their own Decoration Days, but many in the South were resentful of northern states “stealing” their cemetery decorating idea. Others in the South disagreed, feeling that the decorating of lost loved ones’ graves gave North and South a common grief and was healing to the nation. Originally, the LMA called theirs “Memorial Day” but then soon changed it to “Confederate Memorial Day.”

Grant and Lee on Decoration Day Poster

Most Decoration Day participants, especially as time went by, did decorate all soldiers’ graves, Union or Confederate.  Columbus, MI, was the final resting place for many soldiers from the bloody battle of Shiloh.  Trainloads of corpses, both Yankee and Johnny Reb, were brought to this small town for burial.  Newspapers carried the touching story of four ladies who, in April 1866, went to put flowers on their Confederate dead but then, feeling sorry for the far-away wives and daughters of the Union dead, decided to leave flowers on their graves, too.  This inspired the famous poem “The Blue and The Gray” by Frances Miles Finch, published in the Atlantic Monthly a year later.

Overall, there are at least two dozen towns that claim the first Memorial Day took place there – all were in the first few years following the Civil War.  In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a bill passed unanimously by the House and Senate recognizing Waterloo, NY, as the birthplace of Memorial Day.  More recent historical studies have found Waterloo’s and most other town’s claims to be dubious if not flatly false.  The May 1865 Charleston Race Course commemoration does appear to be the earliest documented in contemporaneous sources.  However, it was a one-time event and the practice of decorating soldiers’ graves was such a common practice even before the war that it is difficult to say which particular Decoration Day – if any – was the original from which all the others sprang. In addition, most whites of that era would not have wanted to admit that an African-American commemoration was earlier than or had inspired their town’s event.  Considering its widespread newspaper coverage and May 1865 date, the Charleston event undoubtedly helped spread the idea of having a formal decoration day.

In 1873, New York became the first state to make May 30 its official state Decoration Day.  All of the Northern states had followed suit by 1890 but most of the southern states chose a different day.  This separation continued until after World War I when Memorial Day was changed to a day to remember any American who died in service in any war, not just the Civil War.

In 1968 Congress passed the National Holiday Act which placed Memorial Day on the last Monday in May, thus providing Americans with a three-day holiday weekend.

No one knows when Decoration Day was first celebrated in Chestertown and Kent County, but it was almost certainly within a few years of the war’s end.  More than 400 African-American soldiers from Kent County served in the U.S.C.T. (United States Colored Troops) during the Civil War.   In 1882 twenty-five of those soldiers formed the Charles A. Sumner Post #25 of the Grand Army of the Republic. Today, the G.A.R. Post # 25 in Chestertown is one of only two African-American G.A.R. buildings left standing in the United States.  And it is the only one that has been restored and is once again a vital part of the community with regular exhibits and events.  Located at 206 S. Queen St., the building is both a museum and a performance space.  Built in 1908,  it was saved from demolition by several community groups, restored, and reopened in 2014.  At noon on Monday, May 29, Memorial Day, Sumner Hall will hold a Fallen Veterans ceremony in Memorial Park in downtown Chestertown.  All are invited.’

 

 

Sumner Hall 206 S. Queen St. Chestertown, MD. 21620
Open House: May 26, 4:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Exhibition: The Black Labor Experience in Kent County and
Stories of Kent County African American Veterans of the Civil War
May 26: 4:00 pm – 9:00 pm
May 27: 9:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Choppin’ at the Shop by Marlon Saunders & Friends:
Video of the May 18th Live Performance
May 26: 5:00 pm & 7:00 pm and
May 27: 10:00 am, 1:00 pm and 5:00 pm
Fallen Veterans Ceremony
May 29th: 12:00 pm 
Following the example of the Founders of G.A.R. Post # 25, Sumner Hall Stakeholders and Board Members will honor the service of all fallen veterans by placing wreaths in Memorial Park in Chestertown.  There will be a short ceremony at noon.

Chestertown’s “Taste of the Town” Celebrates 10th Anniversary

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Taste of the Town celebrated its 10th anniversary on May 7.  From noon to 3:00 pm, Fountain Park was filled with guests enjoying samples from 18 local vendors.  There were food and drinks from an even dozen restaurants plus four wineries and one brewery.  This is the first year that the vineyards and brewery participated – a welcome addition to a popular Chestertown tradition.

Co-chairs Tara Holste and Andy Goddard did a great job organizing the event.  About 250 people from all over the region filled the tent in Fountain Park.   The tent even had a large sunlight section in its roof. Attendees voted for their favorites in three categories:

Attendees voted for their favorites in three categories: Most Creative – Best Use of Local Ingredients – Most Flavorful.  Ballots are currently being tabulated.  So stay tuned for the results of these People’s Choice awards.

The Whistle Stop Winery was one of five wineries at the event.  Also present were the Clovelly Vineyards, Crow Vineyard & Winery, Dove Valley Winery, and Olney Winery.  Beer lovers got to sample the wares from the Bull and Goat Brewery.

Lockbriar Farms ice cream was very popular!

Fish Whistle – Jeff Carroll and one of his cooks prepare Clovelly Beef Sliders.

Participating restaurants were Barbara’s On the Bay, Chester River Yacht & Country Club, Evergrain Bakery, Figg’s Ordinary, Fish Whistle, The Kitchen at the Imperial, Lemon Leaf Cafe, Little Village Bakery, Lockbriar Farms, Luisa’s Cucina Italiana, O’Connor’s Irish Pub and Procollino’s Italian Eatery. Serving wines were Clovelly Vineyards, Crow Vineyard & Winery, Dove Valley Winery, Olney Winery and Whistle Stop Winery. Beer drinkers could sample the products of Bull & Goat Brewery.

Figg’s Ordinary serves gluten-free goodies – flatbread with assorted toppings.

There were over 20 raffle prizes that covered a wide range of items, including gift certificates to many restaurants and local stores, two tickets to any Garfield Center for the Arts production, a hanging basket from Unity Church Hill Nursery, and a jar of goodies from Gabriel’s of Chestertown.

Taste of the Town is presented by the Downtown Chestertown Association with the help of many volunteers and generous sponsors.  Tech support was provided by Butch Clark. For more information see Taste of Chestertown,   Downtown Chestertown Association (DCA),  Chestertown.com