Cast Set for Church Hill Theatre’s “Biloxi Blues”

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Fresh recruits on their bunks in Church Hill Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues. Clockwise from the top left: Robbie Spray, Jeff Rank, Troy Strootman, Morgan Jung, Timothy Daly, Anthony Daly.

Director Michael Whitehill has announced the cast for Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues, the lead off production in Church Hill Theatre’s 2018 season. The Tony Award winning play is set at boot camp in Biloxi, Mississippi during World War II. Loosely autobiographical, the comedy pits the cruel and caustic Sgt. Toomey against the draftees, especially the sensitive Arnold Epstein. His friend Eugene Morris Jerome channels Simon’s own memories of military service as a fledgling author. This classic coming-of-age tale includes danger, sex, love, prejudice, bravery and some pretty salty army talk.

Arnold Epstein will be played by Robbie Spray and Eugene Morris Jerome by Troy Strootman. Other draftees are Anthony Daly as Roy Selridge, Timothy Daly as Joseph Wykowski, Morgan Jung as Don Carney, and Jeff Rank as James Hennesey. John Haas takes the role of their nemesis, Sgt. Merwin J. Toomey. Kendall Irene Davis is the sweet Daisy Hannigan and Christine Kinlock is the not-so-sweet Rowena. Scarlett Chappell completes the cast, playing a USO dancer.

Whitehill, one of Church Hill Theatre’s most experienced directors, most recently directed the thought-provoking Doubt: A Parable.  His production team for Biloxi Blues includes Sylvia Maloney, Laura Crabtree, Steve Atkinson, Katie Sardo, Douglas Kaufmann and Brian Draper.

Biloxi Bues will open at Church Hill Theatre on January 19, 2018, and run through February 4, with weekend performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.  Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for members, and $10 for students, with special prices for groups of ten or more. CHT offers two for the price of one tickets on opening night, Friday, January 19, to those who reserve by phone. Reservations can be made by calling the box office at 410-556-6003 or online here.

 

Cerino Looks Back at First Term

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Mayor Chris Cerino gives a retrospective of his first term in office

At the final council meeting of his first term as Mayor of Chestertown, Chris Cerino took a look back at the four years since he took office. It was a remarkable reminder of just how much has happened in just a short span of time.

Gilchrest Rail Trail in Chestertown

At the top of the list were the capital projects the town has taken on, whether on its own or partnering with county and state governments, many of them enhancements to the town’s recreational facilities. The list included extension of the Gilchrest Rail Trail from Lynchburg Street to the top of High Street near Radcliffe Creek, where it connects to Gateway Park, also completed during Cerino’s term. Upgrades to the Kent County Middle School playground, done in conjunction with the school district with state Parks and Playgrounds funding, included a new track and fitness stations and repairs to the basketball and tennis courts. In Fountain Park, sidewalks were widened and a new pathway was created from the High Street side to the fountain; benches were replaced and the turf was resodded. The Ajax basketball court was repaved and playground equipment and benches were added.

Installation of Broad Reach sculpture in Wilmer Park. Photo by Jane Jewell

In Wilmer Park, the new Broad Reach sculpture was installed, initiating the town’s new public art program; also, the brick sidewalk on Queen Street was extended from the vicinity of Sumner Hall to Wilmer Park. Washington Park was upgraded by installing the benches removed in the Fountain Park renovation; there are also grant applications for additional work to upgrade the neighborhood park. And the parking area at Margo Bailey Park was expanded, improving access to the popular dog park as well as the other facilities in the park.

The town moved its police department to a larger, more modern facility at 601 High Street, closing the old police station on Cross Street and eventually selling it to Sultana Educational Foundation. A large solar field was installed at the wastewater plant, providing significant savings in the town’s power bills. The bridge on East Queen Street by Horsey Lane was also repaired, and speed bumps were installed on Calvert Street to slow traffic near Garnet Elementary School. And the holiday lights in the downtown area were upgraded, along with a renovation of Santa’s house, thanks to Yerkes Construction and Washington College’s Habitat for Humanity group.

Progress on the marketing and economic development front began with an upgrade of the town’s website, producing a more user-friendly and visitor-oriented tool for publicizing the town and its events. Cerino also cited several forums where the town heard the concerns of the business community. Designation of the Arts & Entertainment District and appointment of Kay MacIntosh as the district manager were also important steps in giving the town a fresh look, along with the revival of the Main Street Program under MacIntosh. The town also worked with Kent County and the state of Maryland to create an enterprise zone, which has already realized benefits in the form of the KRM development at the north end of town.

Visitors enjoying the Harry Potter Festival

Cerino also listed the new events that have been created to draw visitors to town. Among them were Chester Gras, sponsored by Peoples Bank; Legacy Day, sponsored by the Historical Society; the Harry Potter or HP Festival; the Young Professionals’ Brew Fest; and the Winterfest, which this year morphed into Dickens of a Christmas.

There were two major annexations, including the northeast plot where the KRM development is taking place and the site of the wastewater plant.

The town’s relationship with the hospital was a central issue throughout the term. Issues included an agreement over the oil contamination under the hospital property, under which the hospital agreed to cover the town for any damage caused by possible leakage of the oil into the town’s water supply. Also, the Save the Hospital Group worked hard to counteract reported plans by the University of Maryland Medical System to close or downsize the local hospital; ultimately, Cerino said, efforts by the town and the citizen groups led to the creation of the state’s Rural Health Care Workgroup.

The Chestertown Marina during Downrigging weekend 2017. Drone photo courtesy of ShoreStudio, by Sam Shoge

A major focus of the town’s efforts went into upgrading the town-owned marina, including replacement of bulkheads and piers, raising the level of the parking lot, replacement of the existing marina center with a new building, and an agreement to allow expansion of the Fish Whistle restaurant, which shares the waterfront with the marina.

Washington College also went through a significant period of growth during Cerino’s first term, with a new dormitory building and a new academic center on Washington Avenue. Ground has also been broken for a new boathouse and an environmental center on the college’s riverfront campus.

Cerino also noted the closing of a number of businesses, including Stam’s Drugstore and Chestertown Pharmacy, Paul’s Shoe Store, the Blue Heron restaurant, Radio Shack, Rose’s, and the Washington College Sandbox. But a number of new businesses have sprung up to replace them, including Redner’s, Tractor Supply, the Verizon store, the 7-Eleven, Bad Alfred’s and many more.

Cerino thanked the council members for working together to deal with the large load of work. “It was an honor and a privilege to work with you guys on it,” he said. “Here’s to another four years.”

Council members Liz Gross and Sam Shoge, both attending their final meeting, expressed their thanks to the town staff for making their work on the council go smoothly. Both said they were surprised by the diversity of issues and by how much they learned about the workings of the town during their time in office.

 

“Miracle on 34th Street” a Holiday Treat

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“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.   Jim Landskroener, director and Mr. Bloomingdale, David Ryan as Kris Kringle, Allan Price as Mr. Macy.      Photo by Jeff Weber

“Miracle on 34th Street,” one of the classic films for the Christmas season, has been adapted as the Garfield Center’s annual holiday offering. Directed by Jim Landskroener, the play assembles a large cast to present this heart-warming story of how Santa can imbue even the most cynical among us with the true spirit of Christmas.

The 1947 movie on which the play is based won three academy awards, including “Best Original Story” by Valentine Davies and “Best Supporting Actor,” Edmund Gwynn, who plays Kris Kringle. And it was chosen in 2005 to become part of the Library of Congress National Film Registry as a “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” film.

“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.        Photo by Jane Jewell

The plot is the story of an elderly man who takes a job as a department store Santa Claus at Macy’s in New York City. But Kris Kringle, as he introduces himself, is not content to steer the children who come to see him toward the most profitable merchandise, as his supervisor instructs him. Rather, he does his best to see that they get what they really want — even if it means sending them to another store that carries the item at a lower price than Macy’s. This, of course, goes down very poorly with his supervisors, who warn him, and when he won’t cooperate, fire him.

But meanwhile, the owner of the store, learns that Macy’s is getting unusually favorable publicity because of the new Santa. He expresses his approval, leading the supervisors to reverse course and rehire him. But Kringle has aroused the enmity of Miss Sawyer, the store’s psychologist, who files a complaint that he has attacked her and tries to get him committed to an asylum. At this point, the play shifts to a courtroom scene, where Kringle is on trial for his mental competency. His attorney, Fred Gayley, decides to base his defense on the proposition that Kringle really is Santa Claus.

At the same time, there’s a warm love story running parallel to the Kris Kringle plot, with Fred Gayley trying to win over his neighbor Doris Walker, the Macy’s supervisor who hired Kringle. Fred has decided to let Kringle use his spare bedroom, so he sees a good deal of Doris after work hours. A disillusioned young divorcee, Doris is raising her daughter Susan not to believe in fairy tales or Santa Claus. But when Fred takes Susan to see Kris, her skepticism begins to waver. Eventually, the barriers begin to break down…

 

Kris Kringle is taken to BelleView and must now prove that he isn’t crazy – because he really is Santa! Photo by Jane Jewell

 

It’s a wonderful Christmas fantasy, with a nice love story woven into the plot, and a full quota of interesting characters. Director Jim Landskroener said before the Saturday performance that the script, written in the 1990s by Valentine Davies, was revised somewhat freely for the Garfield version, smoothing out some of the dialogue to feel more natural. Adapting a film script to live theater is always tricky; many things easily done on film are out of reach for even the most ambitious theatrical production, but Landskroener and crew have done a good job of making the story work on stage.

David Ryan as Kris Kringle     Photo by Jeff Weber

David Ryan is a delight as Kris Kringle, radiating warmth and good will. Ryan, pastor of Chestertown’s two Methodist churches, has become a valuable addition to the local theater scene, appearing at both the Garfield (“Mr. Roberts”) and Church Hill  (“You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”)

Natalie Lane plays Doris Walker, the Macy’s manager who initially hires Kringle. She does a nice job showing the character’s transition from distrust of emotions and skepticism about Santa to acceptance. A member of the Kent County Library staff, she previously appeared in “My Fair Lady.”

Izzie Southworth, making her acting debut here, plays Doris’s daughter Susan, who learns to trust her imagination under Kris’s prompting. She makes the character’s different moods come across clearly — well done.

Zac Ryan, whose previous GCA credits include “Mr. Roberts” and Short Attention Span Theater, plays Fred Gayley, a young lawyer who is in love with Susan. He believes in Kris almost from the beginning, and does his best to make sure the old fellow isn’t mistreated either by Macy’s management or by the legal system. A good job in a prominent part.

“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.   Susie and Santa. Photo by Jane Jewell

Diane Landskroener, one of the most versatile actors in local theater, is wonderful as Sawyer, deploying an appropriately grating New York accent and using body language to create the character. She’s hilarious!

“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.  Mrs. Sawyer accuses Santa of attacking her as Doris looks on, startled.    Photo by Jane Jewell

Gil Rambach is convincing as Judge Harper, whose sense of justice is tempered by the need to get reelected.  June Hall takes the role of Halloran, the judge’s campaign manager, who is appalled that he is sitting on a case that could require him to rule against Santa. And Mike Heffron does a nice job as Mara, the prosecuting attorney who discovers that he’s got a tougher case on his hands than he thought. And James Diggs is well cast as Dr. Pierce, who knows Kris from the hospital he’s lived in for a number of years.

The Macy’s elves — played by Ben Anthony, Thomas Martinez, Ellie Morton and Shane Saunders — double as stagehands and carry much of the comic energy of the scenes they appear in. They are especially funny when they give a dead-pan demonstration of the history of elvish “pranks,” culminating in the ever popular pie-in-the-face.  Young audience members should especially enjoy these slapstick bits, while older theater-goers will be amused by their interplay with the Macy’s management as the elves try to defend Santa.

Mr. Macy and the staff envision the fabulous profits that will incur due to the great publicity and good will that their Santa is bringing to the store. “Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.       Photo by Jane Jewell

The play’s pace is sometimes a little slow, largely because of the number of scene changes. This, of course, is one of the complications of translating something from film — where such changes can appear instantly and almost effortlessly — to the stage, where things have to be physically moved into place in view of the audience. Using the elves as stagehands is a clever solution, adding a bit of fun as the elves scamper and romp while they reset the stage for the next scene.  The lively Christmas music also adds to the holiday atmosphere.

The Garfield’s “Miracle on 34th Street” is a nice addition to a holiday season that has already hit high notes locally with the “Dickens of a Christmas” festival. It has the right mix of sentiment and comedy, delivered by a strong cast. Young theater-goers should find it engaging, and older audience members who know the movie are likely to find it a fresh re-interpretation of the story. Don’t miss it!

The show runs through Dec. 17. Friday and Saturday shows begin at 8 p.m, and Sunday matinees begin at 3 p.m. Tickets are $20 general admission, $15 for military and.seniors 65+, and $10 for students.

Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the box office at 410-810- 2060.

“You can’t put Santa on trial!~” says Halloran, Judge Harper’s campaign manager.
“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.        Photo by Jane Jewell

Lawyer Mara, Clerk Finley, & Judge Harper
“Miracle on 34th Street” at the Garfield Center, Dec 1 – 17, 2017.        Photo by Jane Jewell

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Casino Night Raises $12,000 for Health Foundation

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Community physician Michael Peimer, MD (right), and his wife, Fran, were among the guests at Casino Night.

UM Chester River Health Foundation’s “Shoot for the Stars” Casino Night fundraiser, held November 18 at the Garfield Center for the Arts, netted $12,000 in proceeds to benefit the patients served by University of Maryland Shore Medical Center at Chestertown.

“It was a very enjoyable and successful evening made possible by the support of many volunteers and the generous donations of our friends in the community,” said Maryann Ruehrmund, executive director of the Foundation.

Music was provided by Phil Dutton and the Alligators, who entertained guests with a variety of lively music from or about Louisiana and New Orleans. A host of celebrity “croupiers” — including hospital staff, community business leaders, and government officials — kept the action going at the tables so that guests had the opportunity to win prizes as well as keep themselves entertained.

At the close of the evening, guests cashed in their chips. Ken Noble was the high roller for the evening, earning 403,000 in chips, and was awarded a 55” Samsung UHD TV. Other prize winners included the following: Mel Rapelyea, MD, won $500 in the 50/50 raffle; Dan and Donna Saunders won the long weekend in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of Washington; Charles Lerner won the $100 Chesapeake Inn gift certificate; and Christopher Parry, MD won the 20-bottle Divine Wine Basket.

Stu Seitz, director of UM Shore Nursing and Rehabilitation Center at Chestertown and master of ceremonies for “Shoot for the Stars,” said the event is an important fundraiser for the Foundation, as well as for people in the community who appreciate the hospital’s reputation for quality care. “We are really grateful for the time, effort and dollars that so many people contributed to this fun and worthwhile occasion,” said Seitz. “The proceeds will help us fund priority needs that enhance our hospital and the care it provides for our patients.”

Sandy Bjork, Chester River Health Foundation Board member, Carl Gallegos, UM CRHF Board Chair, Linda Burleson and Lisa Milton.

 

Delightful Debut for “Dickens of a Christmas”

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Kay MacIntosh (in hat) joins a group of ladies in period costume on High Street, Saturday.

Chalk up Chestertown’s first “Dickens of a Christmas” festival as a success. With warm weather, good crowds, and enjoyable events, the new event has to be considered the best new thing on Chestertown’s calendar since the Harry Potter festival came to town.

The fun began Friday night on the 300 block of High Street, which was closed to traffic to allow fire pits to be set up for roasting marshmallows or hot dogs. A series of readers told seasonal stories, and the Kent School Carolers provided musical selections. In keeping with the First Friday tradition, shops, restaurants and galleries were open, as was the Historical Society, many of them adopting seasonally-appropriate themes. Chestertown Councilman Marty Stetson said he had never seen so many shoppers on a First Friday.

The Pyroxotic Fire Dance troupe in action

A special highlight was a dazzling performance by the Pyroxotic Fire Dancers from Washington, D.C., who twirled batons, torches and other fiery items as part of an acrobatic dance performance. Free carriage rides through the historic district were also available, and many attendees took advantage of that opportunity.

Saturday, the festival moved to the 200 block of High Street, with vendors lining the street on both sides and a tent for musical performances at the corner of Lawyer’s Row. Musical groups including Tom McHugh and the Chester River Beggars, Bells of the Bay, the Washington College Brass Ensemble, Dovetail and Jigs and Reels played seasonal offerings. There were also a number of strolling performers, and the Kent County High School Jazz band offered a set of Christmas tunes on the corner of Cross and Cannon.

Dovetail — Nevin Dawson, viola, Jodie Littleton, vocals, Pres Harding, guitar

The Kent School carolers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first floor of the KRM building, the former PNC Bank, was transformed into the Dickens Welcome Center and Main Street Millinery Shoppe. Costumed volunteers offered programs and information for the festival, while a selection of Victorian hats for both ladies and gentlemen was available. Also available were tickets for the historical house tours, organized by Main Street Chesgtertown, that were taking place the same day, which drew sell-out attendance.

Morgana Alba of Circus Siren Entertainment dressed as a walking Christmas Tree.  Festival-goers could decorate the tree with ornaments by making a donation to the Community Food Pantry.

Local restaurants offered a variety of taste delights, from a ploughman’s lunch at Chester River Wine and Cheese to meat pies and gin punch at Bad Alfred’s and pan-seared quail at Lemon Leaf Cafe. There was also plenty of food available from vendors on the 200 block of High, including raw Orchard Point oysters, scones, fish & chips, and a high tea at the Hynson-Ringgold house. For those with a sweet tooth, People’s Bank tranformed its lobby into a Victorian Sweet Shop, with a display of hand-made gingerbread houses and a barrel of jelly beans!

Riding a “penny-farthing” bike by Stam Hall

A fireplace in the “People’s Sweet Shoppe”

For those of a literary bent, the Bookplate presented two talks on the story that started it all, Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”

The weekend concluded Sunday morning with the “Run Like the Dickens” 5K race and the “Dickens Dash” for young runners.

Kay MacIntosh of Main Street Chestertown, which organized the event, said she couldn’t be more pleased with the initial event in what promoters hope will become an annual event. She said the restaurants and shops all did very well, and while she said there are no real attendance figures, she thought the First Friday turnout may have been “a record-breaker.” The community “put on a good show,” she said, getting into the spirit of the event and striking up conversations with the out-of-town visitors. While there were inevitably a few behind-the scenes glitches, “we learned a lot for next year,” she said.

It looks as if Chestertown has a good start on another great holiday tradition!

Cerino, Landgraf Give Waterfront Updates

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The winded boat ramp and new floating dock at the Chestertown marina

At a meeting of the Greater Chestertown Initiative, Nov. 29, Mayor Chris Cerino and Washington College President Kurt Landgraf gave updates of plans for Chestertown’s waterfront.

Cerino’s talk was largely a recapitulation of a report he gave the town council at its Nov. 20 meeting. The mayor emphasized the reasons for the town’s purchase of the marina several years ago, including the need to preserve access to the river for residents and the town’s ability to get grant funds unavailable to a private owner. The potential of a fully-updated marina to enhance the town’s economic development has been a key reason for the work, the said.

Cerino showed photos of the work already done, primarily the bulkheads, walkways and boat ramp on the downriver side

The new floating dock awaits installation

of the marina. The boat ramp has been widened to about twice its original size, while the bulkheads and walkways have been raised roughly two feet above their previous level. A floating dock – just delivered on Monday – and six finger piers will be installed over the next few months.

 

Also, an old boat shed on the property has been demolished and the foundation for a new marina store and interpretive center has been laid. The interpretive center was originally planned to be a two-story building, but it has been downsized to one story in view of higher-than-expected costs.  The town has grant funds totaling roughly half the $1 million the project is expected to cost. Cerino said the town would be happy to accept private donations to complete the building. The existing marina store will be demolished and an open plaza created in its place.

The next phase involves refurbishing the river-side bulkheads and replacing two of the docks currently in place with one longer dock. The basin will also be dredged to a depth of six feet to allow larger boats to use the slips closer to shore. The Cannon Street dock, where schooner Sultana usually berths, will remain in place but be extended farther into the river.

Foundation of the new marina store and interpretive center

The final phase of the work will involve filling in the parking lot, shared with the Fish Whistle restaurant, and raising the level about two feet to inhibit flooding which has become a chronic problem on the site. This will also require replacing water and sewer connections to the restaurant. Cerino said the owners of the restaurant are on-board with the project, and the town expects to work closely with them in scheduling the work to minimize disruption of the restaurant’s business.

Landgraf began by observing that the town and college have had a relationship since 1782, when the college was founded. He said the two are at their best when they work together – and their waterfront projects are one of the best examples.

Washington College is a member of the Centennial Conference, he said, and that sets a high bar for its athletic facilities. The old boathouse was an embarrassment to the college and the town, but its replacement will be “world class,” he said, with a LEED platinum environmental rating. The Chester River rowing club will continue to be welcome to use the college’s facilities, he said.

Still on the horizon is the new environmental studies center, to be build on college-owned land between the boathouse and the armory. Landgraf said ground-breaking for the new building will take place after the boathouse is completed.

Also to be determined is the long-range fate of the armory, which Landgraf characterized as “an eyesore” but also “an

Washington College President Kurt Landgra

underutilized resource.” He said the college is looking at a number of ideas for putting it to use, including the possibilities of a B&B or hotel. A barrier to any major changes in the building is its status as a national historic site.

Landgraf then turned to several other subjects the community has asked him about. The most common question, he said, was why the college bought the Blue Heron restaurant, which is slated to become the “Eastern Shore food lab.” In fact, the college did not buy the building; the buyer was Larry Culp, who sits on the board of visitors and governors, and who will be leasing the property to the college for the food lab. And because the owner is a private individual, the property will remain on the tax rolls.  He gave a brief description of the kind of work Prof. William Schindler is doing to explore unconventional food sources, such as insects.

Other subjects Landgraf touched on were the college’s efforts to improve education in the county, including a reinvigoration of Kent Forward and the expansion of the college’s dual enrollment program, in which high school students take college courses for credit. He said better schools will make the community more attractive to prospective faculty members at the college. He praised Dr. Karen Couch, the county superintendent of education, for her openness to working with the college to improve the quality of the school system.

He also mentioned the college’s $10,000 donation to the Chestertown Volunteer Fire Company, which he noted responded to a serious fire on college property a couple of years ago. “I want the college to be part of the community,” he said, including a stronger commitment to the United Fund of Kent County. Landgraf said he had increased the number of contributors from the college from four to 75, with contributions totaling $20,000. And he praised the efforts of the Save Our Hospital group.

The floor was then open to questions. One of the first, directed to Cerino, was about how the closure of the Blue Heron and the rumored closure of other restaurants would affect the town’s dependence on tourist business. Cerino said the town government has limited resources as far as recruiting new businesses, which he finds “a bit frustrating.” He said the Main Street Chestertown program, which has taken on economic revitalization efforts, may be able to have more impact.

Gallery owner Carla Massoni said one difficulty is the condition of many downtown properties, which need renovation but must stay within historic district guidelines. She said the Main Street program was trying to find ways to address the problem.

Landgraf said the college dining halls are open to the general public, and offer “really good” food. He said he eats there every day.

Another audience member asked whether the marina parking lot would be repaved with pervious material. Cerino said the town wanted to do so, but the cost was prohibitive. He said there would be pervious areas to manage stormwater runoff as well as several green areas.

Linda Dutton asked whether the marina work could be a vehicle to employ low-income local residents. Cerino said the work was subject to a bidding process, and that the contractors would make the ultimate decisions on employment. Dutton said the town might include such a requirement in its bid specs.

Landgraf was asked why the college doesn’t have a presence in the downtown shopping district, where college-related clothing or souvenirs are generally absent. He said the college has a contract with Barnes & Noble, which runs its bookstore. He said he thought it was a good idea to have a college presence in town, and that discussions with the bookstore could explore ways to achieve that goal.

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Farewell to Colchester Farm CSA

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A sample of Colchester Farm produce from the CFCSA website

Colchester Farm CSA has ended operations after 15 years of serving Kent County residents locally grown produce. The community supported farm, located near Galena, provided vegetables, herbs, flowers and fruits to some 200 shareholders as well as to customers at the Chestertown and Lewes, Delaware farmers markets.

In a letter to shareholders Sept. 17, Colchester board president Marcia Landskroener wrote, “A ‘perfect storm’ of circumstances has compelled the board of directors of Colchester Farm CSA to dissolve the organization at the end of this year.” She said the two key issues were a decision by farm manager Theresa Mycek to pursue other opportunities and a decision by the new farm owner to move his family to the farm.

Theresa Mycek

Landskroener’s letter praised Mycek’s “sheer will and determination” for making Colchester a success despite the hard work and vicissitudes of running an organic farm. She was ”the face of Colchester Farm, staffing our stand at the Chestertown Farmers’ Market with a ready smile and encouragement to try that unusual vegetable.” Landskroener wrote.

Owen McCoy, manager of the Chestertown farmers market, said he heard the property had changed hands about five years ago. The new owner had been willing to allow Colchester to continue farming its portion of the larger property, about 15 acres, but the agreement was on a year-to-year basis. Finally, this year, the owner decided to move his family to one of the buildings on the property, contributing to the termination of the agreement.

As the farm’s website states, Colchester Farm CSA began some 15 years ago, when Charlotte Staelin, who then owned Colchester Farm, and Andy Andrews of the American Farmland Trust spoke casually about how a community supported agriculture project would be great for Kent County. Without much planning, they asked some 29 friends or relatives, to contribute $100 each in return for pesticide-free vegetables, giving them a share of what came up every week all summer long. Colchester Farm Community Supported Agriculture was set up on a 10-acre plot carved out of the larger Colchester Farm.

The operation grew more rapidly than expected, and by 2006 Colchester Farm CSA had a full Board of Directors and began accepting tax-deductible donations for its educational work. Also in that year, Theresa Mycek took over the management of CFCSA from Andy Andrews; and the farm built an unheated greenhouse, to extend its growing season.

With its non-profit status, CFCSA was also able to secure small grants from both the Maryland Environmental Trust and the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority, one for designing educational materials and one for collecting and printing oral histories of Colchester Farm and its surrounding neighbors in Georgetown. The last several years, CFCSA operated with a staff of one full-time year-round manager and four seasonal interns.

Landskroener, in her letter to sponsors, said the farm would donate its remaining assets to Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, “This non-profit organization is a wonderful resource for young farmers just starting out, providing education, networking, and advocacy to help build a sustainable Chesapeake foodshed,” she wrote. Also, Colchester donated proceeds of its final Oktoberfest, held at the end of September, to the Victory Garden at Chestertown Middle School, Kent County High School’s Culinary Arts Program, and the Sassafras Environmental Education Program.

 

 

 

 

4-H’ers Conduct 18th Annual Toy Drive

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The Kent County 4-H Toy Drive Planning Committee in Fountain Park, Saturday (L to R): Rachel Jones, Stephen Quinn, Cassie Plummer, Paul Myers, Dylan Hill and Megan Moore. 

After winning first prize for their float in the Chestertown Christmas Parade, the 4-H Toy Drive Planning Committee also manned a booth in Fountain Park from 9 a.m. to noon. They will be there again this Saturday at the same time, collecting toys and monetary donations. Please bring new, unwrapped toys and gifts for children age newborn through 18 years old. 4-H requests that toy donations do not portray or encourage violence.

Monetary donations are accepted at the University of Maryland Extension office, 709 Morgnec Road, Chestertown. Checks should be made out to Kent County EAC, with “4-H Toy Drive” in the memo line. The drive continues through Dec. 15.

Kent County 4-H’ers with their winning float in the Chestertown Christmas Parade

The 4-H’ers are partnering with the Chestertown Lions Club, Kent County Public Schools, and Kent County Social Services to collect gifts to include in the Lions’ annual Christmas Basket program. Last year, the 4-H Toy Drive collected $1904.66. Combining that with funds left over from 2015, they purchased toys and gifts for some 400 children in the county.

In addition to the Fountain Park booth, there are drop-off sites in Galena, Kennedyville, Millington, Rock Hall and Worton. Call the 4-H office at 410-778-1661 or click here for more information.

In Memoriam — Frank Bonass

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Frank and Betty Bonass behind the bar at O’Connor’s

Frank Bonass of Kennedyville. owner of O’Connor’s Irish Pub, died Nov. 27 after a battle with cancer.

Bonass was a native of Dublin, Ireland, where he and his wife Betty owned several stores before moving to the U.S. in 1990, originally settling in Ardmore, Pa. After several other business ventures, they opened their first restaurant, Dublin Dock, in Betterton in 1997, featuring traditional Irish food, which Frank enjoyed preparing. Four years later, they opened a pub in Chestertown, naming it O’Connor’s after Betty’s maiden name.

O’Connor’s became a popular bar and restaurant, with a menu featuring fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, Frank’s corned beef and cabbage as well as Maryland-baed items such as their award-winning crab bisque – and what many called the best pint of Guinness in the region. The restaurant’s cream of crab soup was again judged the best in the county this year in the Chestertown Rotary Club’s “Soup and Sip” competition.

Frank and Betty Bonass of O’Connor’s Pub – winners of Best Cream of Crab Soup 2017

St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated in style, with a countdown clock on the wall recording the days, hours and minutes til the next celebration. O’Connor’s was also a strong supporter of Democratic candidates, hosting fundraisers for former Gov. Martin O’Malley (donating Guiness) and election night parties for the Kent County Democrats. He and his son Frankie also did an annual coat drive for the needy – they were working on it together before he went into the hospital. The restaurant was also active in the Chestertown Bloomsday Festival, a celebration of Irish writer James Joyce’s Ulysses. The bar was popular with both locals and Washington College students.

Bonass is remembered as a kind, generous man who enjoyed long conversations with his customers, many of whom have posted their memories on Facebook.

When information on services is available we will provide an update..

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