A Visit to the African American Museum


National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. The building design was based on a traditional West African hat style.

Saturday, Feb. 17, 55 local residents traveled by bus to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, on a trip organized by Sumner Hall. It was a striking and memorable experience – a powerful reminder of the stark history of African Americans and of the enormous contributions they have made to our nation.

The bus pulled out of the parking lot in Chestertown a little after 8:30 a.m. The weather was good — cold but sunny with a blue sky– and we were at the museum in less than an hour and a half, arriving in Washington in plenty of time for our 11 a.m. appointment.  That gave the group  over five hours to explore the exhibits – and eat lunch – before the 4 p.m. return trip. While that may seem plenty of time, it was barely time to scratch the surface of this incredible rich institution.

The museum was packed – like all Smithsonian museums, admission is free, and the African American museum has been enormously popular ever since it opened not quite a year and a half ago in Sept, 2016. Going to the museum will give you a clear indication just how rich and complex the African-American contribution to our society has been. To draw on an area I happen to know a fair bit about, my first reaction in walking around the musical exhibit that occupies much of the top floor was astonishment at just how much the museum has packed in. Here’s Chuck Berry’s bright red Cadillac convertible, as well as one of his guitars; here’s footage of Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie playing “Hot House” on a 1952 TV show; here’s the gown Marian Anderson wore at her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial; here’s the Mothership that the funk bands Parliament and Funkadelic used in stage shows; here’s Leadbelly’s 12-string guitar; here’s a photo of Robert Johnson I didn’t know existed – and that’s just scratching the surface. The mind boggles!

Dizzy’s horn

Then I began to notice what wasn’t there – or at least what I didn’t find in the hour or so I walked through the musical exhibits. Was there anything about Lester Young or the Mills Brothers or James P. Johnson or Nina Simone – or did I miss it? And then I realized there just isn’t room for all that – they’d need a building bigger than the one they have, just dedicated to the music, and they’d still have to pick and choose to get in a representative sample of the subject matter – and there’d still be gaps in the coverage. That brought home even more powerfully the impact of black Americans on music. And if that’s true of one area, what does it say about the museum as a whole? The same has to be true of its coverage of writers, athletes, painters and sculptors, and all the other areas where African Americans have made an impact on our national culture. Ultimately, I came away even more impressed with what the museum has done.

That was especially true of the historical displays, which make up the bottom three floors of the museum, covering a range from the earliest days of slavery through the modern era. The exhibits present detailed, often intense, documentation of the African American experience in the New World – full of historical maps, documents, archaeological artifacts from Africa, Europe, and the Americas, with ample audio-visual material to put them all in context. An entire slave cabin from the Carolina coast sits in the middle of one floor; one of the Tuskegee Airmen’s planes hangs from the ceiling as you go up the ramps between floors; life-sized statues of historical figures are spread around the exhibit. Seeing it all in a single visit is literally impossible – even if you take in only the surface aspects. A good idea on your first visit – an opportunity we missed, but will probably take up next time we go – is to follow around one of the docents guiding tour groups. But again, to really appreciate it, you need to plan more than one visit. It’s well worth it.  There’s even a section on African Americans and the Chesapeake Bay with a display about the Eastern Shore of Maryland including black watermen and the seafood industry.

Upon our arrival at the museum, the group split up into smaller groups, each exploring on their own, at their own pace. A few who had been to the museum before were helpful with their recommendations of things to seek out. Many groups met up again around lunchtime in the museum cafe, where the menu features dishes from the various African American communities — catfish, fried chicken, grits, gumbo, the whole range of American soul food –an important aspect of the culture the museum documents. (Also note — outside food can’t be brought into the museum, so you might as well enjoy the cafe.)

Even in our five-hour visit, we saw far more than one article can possibly include (we plan to do several follow-up stories in the Spy to try to do the museum justice). But a few vignettes stuck out, A young man stood by the statue the  of the 1968 Black Power protest at the Mexico City Olympics, raising his fist in emulation; a group of Naval Academy cadets in uniform toured the museum, solemnly taking in the history; teenagers took in the exhibits, for once looking at something other than their cell phones. And at almost every turn people could be heard responding to what they were seeing.  It wasn’t a loud crowd. People were speaking quietly, respectfully.  And they were polite and considerate, moving aside for people, offering to take pictures for each other.  Neither was it a completely somber atmosphere.  The history exhibits were unflinching in their stark and honest portrayal of slavery, segregation, and oppression but they also showed how enslaved peoples managed to find love and joy in their lives, despite the constant hardships. The culture sections on music, arts, and sports literally had people dancing around, excited and laughing as they came across artists they remembered from their youth or saw some new, beautiful work of art.  Displays on African Americans in the military and as entrepreneurs were inspiring and enlightening.   A truly involving experience for everyone!

Airplane flown by the famous Tuskegee pilots in World War II

We noted above that the museum is crowded. This is good, in that people are making an effort to learn about and understand this vital element of our history and culture. But it makes for a challenging experience at times. For some displays, standing in front of the exhibit long enough to absorb all the information felt awkward when there were lots of other people waiting to get a look. When that happened, we just walked ahead or dropped back to find an uncrowded exhibit. Be aware that there’s a lot of walking to see everything but there were also frequent benches where you could take a quick break as well as escalators and an elevator. You’ll definitely want to go back several times to really get all this museum has to offer. Several people on our tour had been before and still were eager to go this time and commented on how much they enjoyed a repeat visit, seeing things they hadn’t before. The next time we go, we’ll try for a week day, when crowds are likely to be a bit smaller.

The weather had been very good in the morning when we left, but snow and sleet had been  predicted and it showed up right on time for the trip home.   Joe, our Jor-Lin bus driver, was an excellent driver and guide.  The trip back took over two hours and we saw several cars in the ditch on 301 on this side of the Bay Bridge.  But we made it back to Sumner Hall without incident – thank you, Joe! – where most of us trooped inside to feast off a sumptuous spread of hors d’ouvres, desserts, and some fabulous chicken salad with  wine and other drinks on  hand.   All this in honor not of the bus trip but for the reception before author and Patrick Henry Fellow Will Haygood’s speech at 7 p.m., which some of the more indefatigable members of the bus trip stayed to attend. (More to come on Haygood in future Spy articles.)

All in all, it was a wonderful day at the museum.

Tickets for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, though free, must be ordered in advance — go to the museum’s website. The museum is sold out until June, so plan ahead — and try for a weekday, if you can, to reduce the crowd pressure. It’s well worth waiting for.

Photo Gallery by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

Chuck Berry’s Cadillac Eldorado – a favorite place to get your picture taken

The P-Funk Mothership AKA The Holy Mothership – a key feature of the stage act of the Funkadelic and Parliament bands’ concerts.

Statue of 1968 Olympic Protest

   Henry Highland Garnet – born in Kent County – escaped slave, civil rights activist, and first Black minister to preach in congress


















A Sad Farewell to Lemon Leaf Cafe


Lemon Leaf Cafe on High St. in Chestertown

There have been rumors for months that the Lemon Leaf Cafe and the adjoining co-owned JR’s PastTime Pub might close.  Those were confirmed today, Thursday, Feb 15, when owner and operator JR Alfree posted the following message on the cafe’s FaceBook page just a few minutes after 3:00 pm.

“Family and friends,

I’m so very sad to let you all know that after 8 years, the Lemon Leaf Cafe and JR’s Past-Time Pub in Chestertown, MD, will close our doors for the last time on Saturday, February 17.

Opening the restaurant was the greatest adventure of my life. Together with my team we won awards and accolades and served so many cups of cream of crab soup. I felt like we were the living room and dining room of Chestertown. We hosted many special events, community gatherings, and simple dinners for friends and family. People gathering for happy moments like weddings and sad moment like funerals would come to the Lemon Leaf and JR’s and feel at home. It has truly been the privilege of my life to serve the Chestertown community for many years and I am heartbroken that it has come to an end.

Unfortunately, the business ran into some challenges that despite our very best efforts, we could not overcome. We have a large historic building and it’s badly in need of major repairs. I hope in the future, someone will give the building the time and investment it needs so it will again serve the downtown Chestertown community.

Thank you to my wonderful managers Cathy, Jesse and Jeff, and to the entire staff for giving it all they had.

On behalf all of us at the Lemon Leaf and JR’s, let me say a final thank you to everyone who let us be a part of your lives.

Warmest wishes,

JR Alfree”

Visit the Lemon Leaf  facebook for more information or to leave a message.

Standing for Peace


Women in Black, a local chapter of an international women’s peace group who keep a weekly silent peace vigil in Chestertown

Noon, Friday at Chestertown’s Memorial Park — a group of women stand silent, holding signs: “Peace,” “No War,” “Give Peace a Chance.”

The group represents an international network for peace and justice, the Women in Black. They began holding their vigils at the intersection of High and Cross Streets on Feb. 2. On Feb. 9, the group numbered ten. While the vigil is predominantly silent, the members speak to and answer questions from anyone who engages them A number of cars honked their horns as they drove by the group. Also, the women in the group distributed cards bearing the word for “peace” in a number of languages, English, German, Japanese. The back of the cards reads, “Join us for a silent Vigil for peace. WIB an International Network for Peace and Justice. Help put an end to war and violence in our world. Womeninblack.org”

The website contains the following explanation of the group’s purpose: “Women in Black is a world-wide network of women committed to peace with justice and actively opposed to injustice, war, militarism and other forms of violence. As women experiencing these things in different ways in different regions of the world, we support each other’s movements. An important focus is challenging the militarist policies of our own governments. We are not an organisation, but a means of communicating and a formula for action.”

The movement originated in Jerusalem in 1988, when a group of women held a Friday vigil in response to violations of human rights they believed were being committed in Palestinian areas occupied by Israeli troops. Vigils were eventually held throughout Israel, and groups in other countries held vigils in sympathy. Each group was autonomous, without a common political agenda beyond a concern for human rights and opposition to war. Because the members wore black clothing during the vigils, the name “Women in Black” naturally became attached to the movement.

Women in Black – Silent Peace Vigil – each Friday at noon

The movement’s concerns spread beyond the Israeli/Palestinian conflict to other countries where peace and justice were perceived to be at risk. Women in Black became especially visible during the civil wars that tore apart former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Protesting violent nationalism and sectarian bloodshed, the women themselves often became the targets of attacks by fanatical nationalists. In a number of countries, the focus of the vigils has been violence against women.

In 2001, the international Women in Black movement was awarded the Millennium Peace Prize for Women given by the United Nations Development Fund for Women, and the groups in Serbia and Israel were nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The local group will be in Monument Plaza across from Fountain Park and Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Chestertown again this Friday at noon.  They plan to be there each Friday for the foreseeable future.

Come and join the Women in Black and Stand for Peace.

Women in Black – Silent Peace Vigil



Chester Gras — Party On!


Linda and Phil Dutton – founders and leading lights of Chester Gras.  Phil is also musician extraordinaire as he sings and plays keyboard with his band the Alligators.

Chester Gras, Chestertown’s celebration of Creole cookery and New Orleans style dance music, defied the elements  on Saturday to raise funds for needy Kent County kids.  Phil and Linda Dutton founded the festival five years ago and it has been sponsored by Peoples’ Bank right from the beginning.

Held on Saturday, Feb. 10, in a large heated tent on Spring Street outside the Peoples Bank entrance, Chester Gras drew a large crowd despite a steady downpour that caused a last-minute cancellation of the street parade. But not to worry – Phil Dutton and the Alligators got people’s feet moving with their hard-rocking music, and the party hardly missed a beat. In addition to Dutton on piano and keyboards, the Alligators are Pres Harding on electric guitar, Marc Dyckman on bass, and Ray Anthony on drums.

Kent County Marching Band – Chester Gras 2018

While the Alligators were on break, the Kent County Community Marching Band, undaunted by the cancellation of the parade, came into the tent and played several numbers appropriate for the occasion, including “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” A few other parade entrants also drove past the High Street reviewing stand before the rain drove everyone indoors.

The food lineup offered gumbo from ten local restaurants, plus red beans and rice from chef (and Peoples Bank President) Ralph Dowling’s kitchen as well as Mardi Gras-style king cake — all that along with hot dogs and Texas sausage for those with less adventurous taste buds. Peoples Bank personnel ladled out the gumbo, which came in a variety of flavors with chicken, shrimp, and spicy Andouille sausage. Food was provided by Lemon Leaf Cafe, Uncle Charlie’s Bistro, KB Market, Chester River Yacht and Country Club, Barbara’s on the Bay, The Kitchen, Chester River Sea Food, Fish Whistle, Luisa’s Cucina Italiana, Crazy Rick’s Food Truck, Kreuz Market and Little Village Bakery.

Good food – Cajun-style! – Chester Gras 2018

In addition to food and music, a costume contest was open to attendees who dressed for the occasion. Leslie Sea of WCTR radio served as announcer, and winners were chosen on the basis of audience applause. About a dozen children and a handful of adults — and one stylish puppy! — took part in the contest.

Best costumes – Stephanie and Dorian – kids division  – Chester Gras 2018

A photo booth was set up near the bandstand, with Rich Newberry snapping pictures of the attendees. A table of masks and hats was available so guests could put on their best Mardi Gras look for the pictures. Lisa Newberry, Rich’s wife, helped attendees with their costume choices. Later in the afternoon, Rich and Lisa recruited volunteers to move the booth away from the edge of the tent, where running rainwater was encroaching.

Bill Blake, auctioneer, Chester Gras 2018

A live auction, conducted by veteran auctioneer Bill Blake, offered half a dozen items: a pair of Orioles tickets; a half day fishing trip for a party of four; a custom-made 8′ by 10′ indoor rug; a goose hunt for a party of four; an original oil painting by Dan Kessler; and a weekend of pet sitting by Mary Simmons. All told, the live auction brought in more than $1,400 for the cause. A silent auction featured a variety of items donated by local merchants and organizations. Prizes included a backyard bird feeder, a ukulele, a basket of wine, artwork, and much more.

Proceeds of the festival went to the Kent County Community Food Pantry’s backpack program, in conjunction with the Local Management Board. The program provides backpacks carrying weekend meals for local students in need of nutritional support. Almost 50 percent of students in the public schools qualify for the program, according to the food pantry. Anyone wishing to donate can send a check, payable to Local Management Board of Kent County, to The Peoples Bank, P. O. Box 210, Chestertown, MD 21620. Donations are tax-deductible.

Phil Dutton and the Alligators rocked the tent! Phil Dutton on keyboard, Pres Harding on guitar, Marc Dyckman on base, (Not in picture Ray Anthony on drums) – Chester Gras 2018

The festival continued Saturday evening with a sold-out dance party in the Mainstay in Rock Hall, featuring the Dixie Power Trio playing New Orleans style jazz, zydeco and rhythm-and-blues stylings. Masks were available for guests to get in the Mardi Gras mood. As with the Chestertown event, proceeds were donated to the backpack program.

Sound reinforcement was provided by Kabam Entertainment group.

Photo gallery by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

William Brown, Sr.; holding William Brown, Jr. with Maleah and Naruyah Brown in front at Chester Gras 2018

Lisa Newberry helped out at the photo booth at Chester Gras 2018

A selection of hats, masks, boas and other accessories were available by the Photo Booth at Chester Gras 2018

Photo booth sponsors – Chester Gras 2018

A basket of wine was a popular item in the Silent Auction – Chester Gras 2018

Chester Gras 2018

Patti Maynot Dowling – Chester Gras 2018










Chester Gras 2018

Rev. Jim Van de Wal getting in the Chester Gras spirit! –
Chester Gras 2018










The “Krew” at Kreuz Market included Brittany Rue, Jennifer Teat, Kathy Barnhart, Tanya Brilz, & Lisa Jefferson – Chester Gras 2018

Heidi Manning and Brandy Clark of Luisa’s Cucina Italiana restaurant

Chester Gras 2018

All net proceeds went to buy food and backpacks for kids in Kent County – Chester Gras 2018











Oops by George Merrill


There was an incident years ago, when my son was ten. I handled a situation with him poorly in a way that I have been not been able to completely forgive myself. When I think of it, I feel the sharp pain of remorse. He was needy and confused then and as we had recently moved, was trying to figure out his relationship with two of his new friends. When I look back, I can see that I didn’t get it – all the more ironic since I am a clergyman and psychotherapist. I treated his concerns casually. Rather than taking the matter more seriously and encouraging him to talk about it I didn’t hear what he was trying to tell me. It was a lost opportunity. Simply put, I blew it.

He has not forgotten it nor have I. Time and a frank discussion years later have alleviated much of the pain of that time for both of us. And even though I know that blaming myself is not helpful either for him or for myself, when I think about it I’ll still instinctively castigate myself for not getting it right.

I’ve often wondered why it is so difficult even though I may know God will forgive me, and for the most part my son has, that I find it so difficult to forgive myself. It’s as if I hold myself to impossible standards of perfection. I should never make mistakes. I’m supposed to get it right all the time. Even as I write that sentence it sounds absurd. As I think about it, there’s a perverse pride in such thinking. Taken to its logical conclusion, I’m actually saying I’m perfect, or if not, I should be.

Getting it wrong, making mistakes of all kinds is so fundamental to the human experience that rites of forgiveness have been central to religious practices for centuries. For Catholics, there is the sacrament of confession and in Judaism, the observance of Yom Kippur. Both rites help penitents to own their failings, express their contrition with others, and to put things right with self, with God and our fellow man. Each of these rites has an implied assumption; not only am I never going to get it right every time, but my efforts are probably better spent in managing my mistakes with a combination of contrition and a gentle spirit.

I characterize my routine mistakes simply as ‘oops.’ These are the annoying glitches that insinuate themselves into daily life; the lost key, the grocery bag left at the market, missing receipts, forgetting to lock the door, stepping in dog doo and the like. I shrug, get irritated, mutter under my breath and feel relieved that no one else has noticed. After making the appropriate corrections, I go about my business as usual. To make case in point when I wrote about stepping in dog manure, I wrote it first as ‘dog dew.’ My wife said I was mistaken, that it was ‘dog doo’ that I stepped in. For a moment, I wasn’t sure I had it right and I felt slightly intimidated. I googled it. In fact, I had stepped in both.

Strangely, inadvertent mistakes (the one’s committed in total innocence, with not a hint of guile and even with good intentions) can go badly and cause pain to others as well as to one’s self.

Not getting it right can be a mortifying experience. People often remark that when they suddenly realize they’ve really gotten it wrong they wish they had died on the spot or that the ground would have opened up and swallowed them. That’s one powerful emotion.

Kathryn Schulz, in her thoughtful book, Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error, tells a story of a mortifying incident suffered by a journalist friend of hers. He was a seasoned writer on environmental issues and attended a lecture by a prominent environmentalist.

She made a brilliant presentation although pessimistic in content. He noticed how although her prognostications for the future of the planet were grim, that she was also pregnant. In his write up he commented that she was pregnant indicating that what he saw was her affirmation of life despite the gloomy picture she painted of the future. His article was published, made first page news and was widely circulated. Great, except the presenter wasn’t pregnant. Forty years later and he was quoted as saying “Truth is, I’m still mortified when I talk about it.” It turned out the woman was gracious about it but the journalist could never quite forgive himself for an innocent mistake, kindly disposed as it was.

I suspect that deep down many of us are aware of our failings, but try hard to disown them because we ourselves are not easy with them. The result can be that we’re intimidated by people who come across to us as on top of their game, competent, all together. It’s as if their togetherness were a judgement on us. The word ‘loser’ that has become such a popular insult today I guess underscores the contemporary obsession that in order to be of any account, you have to always get it and be winners no matter what.

Regarding mistakes, a look at how scientists behave may be instructive for getting along with our mistakes more skillfully. Many scientific researchers will routinely publish results making them accessible to other scientists knowing full well that what they’ve put out there may be flawed. That’s part of the strategy. If flaws can be identified so much the better. In the long haul, they’ll stand better chances of getting their project right.

So, since we are never always going to get it all right, what do we do? Ask for help if our mistakes have been harmful to ourselves or others, if we can. If not, accept, shrug, forgive, and keep a sense of humor.

Remember, to air is human, to forgive, divine.


Columnist George Merrill is an Episcopal Church priest and pastoral psychotherapist.  A writer and photographer, he’s authored two books on spirituality: Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart and The Bay of the Mother of God: A Yankee Discovers the Chesapeake Bay. He is a native New Yorker, previously directing counseling services in Hartford, Connecticut, and in Baltimore. George’s essays, some award winning, have appeared in regional magazines and are broadcast twice monthly on Delmarva Public Radio.

Dressing for Success by Nancy Mugele


Have I told you that I am a member of the newly formed Talbots Advisory Council? Talbots – the women’s clothing retailer – not Talbot – the Eastern Shore county. Don’t tell Jim, but I was recently asked to be a member based upon my shopping history over too many years to count. In my role I get to preview catalogs and offer my opinions on the clothing, models, seasonal colors and layouts of the pages. After each month’s assignment, I am entered into a drawing to win a very generous Talbots gift card. And, while I really want to win a gift card, I am greatly enjoying the “advising” piece. Makes me feel like I am in my 20s again.

Some of you may know that I began my career in advertising in NYC. It was exactly like Mad Men, although it was the early 1980s — sophisticated clothes, two-martini long lunches, work hours that began at 10 a.m. but lasted well into the night, and two clients in Baltimore. My first account was Domino Sugar and that gave me a taste (pun intended) of what Baltimore had to offer. I had my first steamed crabs at O’Brycki’s, went to an Army-Navy football game at Memorial Stadium, ate my way through Little Italy, and was hooked. My second Baltimore client was Noxell Corporation and I moved to Hunt Valley to work there in 1987. I met Jim on an Amtrak train on a very snowy night 31 years ago last week, as I traveled to Baltimore to interview, but that is another story.

Women in the workplace had become the norm during the 80s; yet, we still needed to work hard to establish equality in our professional lives. Power dressing was one way to achieve it. It was “highly recommended” to me by my intense female boss that I wear heels and tailored suits (complete with shoulder pads) to work. She wore this uniform, religiously, every single day. (She did give me my first Hermès scarf though, so I cannot say anything negative about her.)  I chose Talbots clothing early in my career for affordability, and the classic and timeless looks that became the foundation of my professional wardrobe. Of course, I was also trying to communicate a certain seriousness with my clothing to combat my youthfulness. Thankfully, tailored suits were never a requirement in the school cultures I have most recently worked in, but, Talbots is still my go-to for three essential elements — skirts, coats and dresses.

Reviewing Talbots spring catalog pages for content, style, color and fashion reminds me of my days working on Cover Girl cosmetics at Noxell. I worked on lipsticks and nail polishes and was responsible for selecting seasonal shades and promotional vehicles. I once named an entire fall collection of lips, nails, blushers and eyeshadows after fabrics — Plum Wool being one of my favorite colors that season. I also remember well the retouching of the print ads and display units. Changing model’s eye color, whitening and closing gaps in teeth, and thinning noses are some of the things I ordered on photographs of seemingly beautiful models. While I am not proud of this today, given my work to help students understand media literacy and to think critically about images they see, altering photos and images remains an integral part of the fashion and cosmetic world even today. While advertisers still need to do a better job in this area, I applaud companies like Talbots and Dove for using real people and models who better represent all women and men in their marketing efforts.

I am pretty sure Talbots has invited many, many diverse people to be on their advisory council, but that does not bother me at all. I still consider it an honor and am crossing my fingers I win this month’s gift card!

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown and a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s.

Council Members Weigh In on Bay Bridge


Chestertown Councilmen Marty Stetson and Ellsworth Tolliver

At the Chestertown Council, meeting Feb. 5, several council members commented on the possibility of a new Bay Bridge coming through Kent County.  Councilman Marty Stetson said he had attended a meeting at the Chestertown Firehouse at which members of the Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance presented information on the project and encouraged residents to oppose it.

Observing that the meeting was “packed,” Stetson noted that nobody in the audience had expressed support for a Kent County bridge. He said the meeting organizers had suggested three ways for residents to express their opposition to the project – writing to the Maryland Transit Authority, putting up a yard sign, and telling friends and neighbors about it – and that he had done all three. He said that during his time as a Maryland State Police trooper, he had seen an increase in crime on Kent Island, which he attributed to the bridge.

Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver said he had attended a Super Bowl party at Bethel AME Church, where several attendees had asked him about the possibility of a bridge. “People see growth and economic development as a plus,” Tolliver said. “A lot of people seem to support it in Ward 3,” he said. “Some see it as the future of Kent County.” Tolliver, who was also present at the firehouse meeting, said he hadn’t made up his mind about the bridge.

Councilman David Foster said that residents curious about the bridge project who were unable to attend the firehouse meeting would have a chance to see Elizabeth Watson, who was one of the presenters at that meeting, at an upcoming meeting of the Community Breakfast Group, which meets Thursday mornings at the Holiday Inn in Chestertown. Foster said he had moved to Chestertown to escape urban congestion. “But I think people need to weigh the pros and cons and not just dismiss it,” he said. He said opponents of a bridge need to find ways of providing other economic opportunities for the community.

Also at the meeting, the council approved a letter of support for the LaMotte Company’s application for Enterprise Zone benefits in connection with a new building the chemical company is undertaking. The 9,000 square foot building would be for the production of a new water testing product. Kay MacIntosh, the town’s economic development coordinator, said the company expected to hire at least 15 new employees to work on the new product. She explained the Enterprise Zone benefits, which include a 10-year tax credit for new construction and a $1,000 hiring credit for each new employee, a figure that rises to $6,000 if the employee is from an economically disadvantaged group.

Kay MacIntosh (left) and Jamie Williams explain benefits of the Enterprise Zone at the Chestertown Council meeting, Feb. 5

Jamie Wiliams, economic development coordinator for Kent County, said that LaMotte has already added 35 new employees as a result of the new product.

The council unanimously approved the letter of support, which Mayor Chris Cerino read into the record.

At the end of the meeting, Jeffrey Carroll of the Fish Whistle restaurant told the council about a fishing tournament he is planning for this summer, with substantial cash prizes to the winners. He said he hoped to have 100 boats taking part. He asked what permits he would need to get from the town to put on the tournament, which would have its headquarters at the restaurant and adjacent town-owned marina.

“How much money will I win with my 15-pound rockfish?” asked Mayor Chris Cerino. Carroll said he hoped the top prize would be $10,000, assuming there were enough entries. He said he was talking to an underwriter about the possibility of an even larger prize if any of the participants catches a state record fish. The contest would be open only to rockfish and catfish, and prizes would be awarded on the basis of weight.

Cerino said Carroll should meet with Town Manager Bill Ingersoll to work out details. Ingersoll and Town Clerk Jen Mulligan were absent from the meeting on account of illness. Discussion of several items of business, including the possible sale of a town-owned property on Calvert Street, was postponed until the next meeting to allow Ingersoll to provide detailed information.

The next Mayor and Council meeting will be held Tuesday, Feb. 20, because the Presidents Day holiday falls on Monday.

Chestertown Marina: Full Speed Ahead!


The first roof truss swings over into position on the new Chestertown Marina store and interpretive center.

Have you looked at the Chestertown Marina lately?

There’s a lot of activity going on, and it promises to make the town-owned marina a far more attractive — and functional — facility than it has been for a number of years. The new marina store and interpretive center is taking shape along the Front Street side of the marina, with roof beams and siding installed in just the last few days. Along the riverfront, the old marina building has been demolished, and the former fuel pier has been removed. On Tuesday, workers from High Tide Marine Construction of Ocean City were removing the last pilings from the old dock to prepare the marina basin for dredging.

Worker nails cross bars onto trusses during Chestertown Marina construction

The new marina store, originally planned as a two-story building, was redesigned as a single-story building when bids for its construction came in at $1.9 million, nearly double the town’s budget. The low bidder, Yerkes Construction, agreed to take on the project and renegotiated the contract at a price of about $1 million less than the original bid. Mayor Chris Cerino said at a council meeting in November that the town had about $480,000 on hand for the marina building. He said plans were to complete the foundation and shell and raise some $500.000 to finish the project. The store replaces an older building which was purchased and moved to Iowa by a Kent County resident who owns farmland in the midwestern state.

The upgrade to the marina, which the town purchased in 2012 for just over $2 million, is being funded almost entirely by state and federal grants. The town council decided to purchase the property to avoid its being acquired by private owners who could convert it to condominiums and restrict public access to the river. The property had come on the market because the previous owner was facing financial difficulties following the Great Recession of 2008.

One of the reasons the town decided to move ahead with building the shell of the marina store is that the issuers of the grants are reluctant to extend more funds until the town has used up the funds it has already received. So getting the building started is a necessary step to getting the funds to complete it, Cerino said.

Cinder blocks on the site of the demolished marina office.

Workers from High Tide Marine Construction remove debris after old dock and pilings are removed – Chestertown Marina construction










At the Feb. 5 town council meeting, Councilman Marty Stetson said he was impressed by the new store building. He said the one-story design was better in scale with the existing buildings in the area. He also said he was pleased that the town was saving $ 1 million on the project.

Removal of the old marina store creates an open space that can be used for concerts or other public events. The space will be named “Grassymeade Plaza” in honor of  Michael Lawrence of Grassymeade Farm near Comegys’ Bight on Quaker Neck, who donated $100,000 toward the marina upgrades. Also, some $200,000 the town received from Washington College as part of the agreement by which the college obtained the Chestertown Armory, was used to repair the bulkheads.

Removal of the old fuel pier is a preliminary to dredging the basin to a depth a six feet, which will allow larger boats to use the slips along it. The basin has silted up over the years to a depth of no more than two feet in some areas. The ability to dock larger boats in one of the keys to making the marina more attractive to visitors and bringing more tourist trade into Chestertown. Also, the replacement pier will extend an additional 75 feet into the river, compensating for the fact that the current three piers will be replaced by two and providing deeper slips for large boats. The Cannon Street pier, where schooner Sultana and the Echo Hill boats regularly dock, is also scheduled for extension.

The Fish Whistle restaurant is next door to the Chestertown Marina. The two share the parking lot.

Fish Whistle

In addition to the work currently under way, the town plans to replace bulkheads and walkways along the river side of the property, and to raise the level of the parking lot some two feet to mitigate flooding of the property during high tides and storms. That project will also benefit the Fish Whistle restaurant, which shares the parking lot with the town. The Fish Whistle has announced plans to extend its waterfront porch, including installing a new crab deck, in conjunction with the marina work — adding another attraction for both locals and out-of-town visitors.

Already completed are an upgrade to the boat ramp — now doubled in width — and replacement of the walkways and bulkheads on the downriver side of the marina. The boat basin on the south side of the marina was also dredged early in 2017. New floating finger piers are to be installed along that side of the marina, as well.

Much of the current work is expected to be completed or the start of this year’s boating season.

Photo Gallery – Photography by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

Chestertown Marina construction – removing old pier and pilings

Chestertown Marina construction – old pilings from piers

Chestertown Marina construction equipment – with waterfront condos in background

Workers from High Tide Marine Construction remove debris after old dock and pilings are removed – Chestertown Marina construction

The new interpretive center under construction – Chestertown Marina

Over to its place on the roof – Chestertown Marina construction

Up goes the roof truss – Chestertown Marina construction

Down comes the truss into place on the roof of the new marina building – Chestertown Marina construction











Kenny Award Honors Landskroeners!


Everyone loves a winner — and Kent County’s arts community proved it Friday night, as they gathered at the Garfield Center to applaud and show their love to Jim and Diane Landskroener, winners of the 2017 Kenny Award.

The Kenny Award, created by the Hedgelawn Foundation and the Kent County Arts Council in 2006, recognizes leadership and contributions to the arts in Kent County. This year’s recipients have been appearing onstage in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties for 30-plus years, as well as directing, teaching, designing — pretty much everything to do with theater in their community.

John Schratwieser, Executive Director of the Arts Council, served as Master of Ceremonies. And he was at his prime as he introduced guests, told anectdotes about Jim and Diane, and generally got the crowd in the mood.  He opened by relating how he, former KCAC Director Leslie Raimond, and Judy Kohl of the Hedgelawn Foundation developed the Kenny Awards to honor those in the community who “help us live better, happier and healthier” through their work in the arts.

John Schratwieser, Master of Ceremonies, yes he was!

The Chestertown Ukulele Club opened the entertainment portion of the evening with two lively songs, including “Better Together.” Melissa McGlynn followed with a humorous skit from Parallel Lives, in which she portrayed a peasant farm wife doing a tampon commercial. Then, in what Schratwieser said was a key element of any awards ceremony, the crowd was treated to a video message from Jen Friedman, in which she portrayed a space alien trying to explain “goosebumps.” And Schratwieser, with Stephanie King on piano, sang Stephen Sondheim’s “Being Alive,” from the musical Company.

The ceremonies then moved to a recreation of the old TV show, “This Is Your Life,” with Kate Schroeder Moskowitz and a series of guests recalling the Landskroeners’ impact on the local arts community. They promised that, unlike the original “This is Your Life,” people such as your elementary school teacher would not jump out from behind the stage to relate every detail of your life.  Instead, they came from the audience, with wonderful tales of how much Jim and Diane had meant to them over the years.

“I can’t recall a time there wasn’t a Landskroener in my life,” Moskowitz said. The reminiscences began with a production of “Alice in Wonderland” at the 1976 Tea Party festival, went through Jim and Diane performing at Washington College and their participation in innumerable theater groups — most notably Actors Community Theater, created in collaboration with Leslie and Vince Raimond, and the Garfield Center, of which Jim currently serves as Chairman of the Board.

Kate Schroeder Moskowitz rememebrs it all!

Joining Schroeder onstage were Leslie Raimond, Bonnie Hill, Kate Bennett, and Steve Mumford, along with McGlynn — and, of course, the guests of honor. The group spun tales of theatrical productions including Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, directed by Hill, for which Butch Clark recreated his Worton store onstage. Raimond showed an amazing slide show of the Landskroeners — and others — in scenes from shows over the years. Mumford recalled meeting Diane during dance classes at Washington College. And the Landskroeners added their own memories of plays and actors from years past.

Melissa McGlynn, Steve Mumford, Jim Landskroener, Diane Landskroener, Leslie Raimond, Kate Bennett, Kate Schroeder Moskowitz, Bonnie Hill

Finally, Judy Kohl of Hedgelawn Foundaiton joined Raimond and Schratwieser to present the award, a sculpture by local artist Merilee Schumann. The award ceremony was followed by champagne and sweets in the theater lobby.

Judy Kohl, Leslie Raimond, Diane Landskroener (holding the Kenny), Jim Landskroener

The Landskroeners join an elite group of Kenny Award winners, including Senator Barbara Mikulski, Leslie and Vince Raimond, Carla Massoni, Tom McHugh, Andy Goddard, Butch Clark, Judy and Ben Kohl, Keith Wharton, RiverArts, Lester Barrett Jr., The Chestertown Jazz Festival, Mel Rapelyea, Marc Castelli, John Wilson, Lani Seikaly, and Pam Ortiz, Robert Earl Price and the cast of Red Devil Moon.

Photo Gallery Photography by Jane Jewell


Butch Clark, Leslie Raimond, both previous year Kenny winners

Melissa McGlynn performing sketch from “Parallel Lives”

Melissa McGlynn performing sketch from “Parallel Lives”






Ukulele Club

Ukulele Club




















Julie Lawrence displays the Garfield’s “Golden Ticket” raffle to win a theater weekend in Philadelphia

Melissa McGlynn, Jim Landskroener, Karen Smith

Carol Neimand, Lolli Sherry