Cool Outdoor Stuff with Andrew McCown – Winter on the Shore

Share

Editor’s note: It is with unusually great pleasure for the Spy to publish the latest installment of Cool Outdoor Stuff with Andrew McCown. After a rather lengthy sabbatical, the naturalist, musician, Chesapeake storyteller, and director of the Echo Hill Outdoor School, has once again returned to celebrate the natural world of our region and we, like his countless fans, could not be happier.

It seems particularly fitting that Andrew picks up the ongoing series by celebrating the remarkable natural wonders found locally even in the dead of winter.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about the Echo Hill Outdoor School, please go here.

 

A Visit to the African American Museum

Share

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

Share

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.

The Chester River Bridge

Share

We often cross the Chester River Bridge several times a day, appreciating the view of the river as we go but not really thinking much about the bridge itself.  Yet this bridge is a lifeline, a vital link connecting Chestertown and Kent County to Queen Anne’s County and the rest of Maryland.

The bridge’s importance came into focus not so long ago when The State Highway Administration (SHA) announced that the bridge would be closed for inspection, maintenance, and painting for four to six weeks in the summer of 2016.  In the summer?  Tourist season?  Unthinkable!

The proposal met with opposition from the entire local community, which cited the disruption to businesses, access to the hospital and other facets of local life. Traffic between Queen Anne’s and Kent counties would have been required to cross either at Crumpton or Millington, a rather long detour for many who live just across the bridge from Chestertown, who can often see Chestertown from their own yards .  What was normally a quick, five-minute drive from Kingstown to the grocery store in Chestertown would suddenly be a 30-minute, 15-mile drive down to Crumpton, across the bridge there, then back up to Chestertown.  Then reverse it for another 30-minute, 15-mile drive back home.  Given that choice, Chester Harbor residents and others on the QA side of the river might decide it was easier to drive 20 minutes to Centreville for groceries. Chestertown might never regain their business.

However, those who live on one side of the Chester River but work on the other would have no alternative.  They in their cars would have to schlep through Crumpton and over that bridge every day.  Both ways.

Emergency workers worried about quick access to the hospital for residents on the other side of the bridge.  Could heart attack or accident victims get there in time?  And what about fires?  Could firetrucks get to the scene in time?  The Chester River Bridge was not just scenic; it was essential.

Eventually, a task force of residents, business owners and government officials from both counties hammered out a plan requiring closure of the bridge only at night for the necessary work and in the fall after the summer season. The agreement left the bridge open for the town’s Harry Potter festival and Downrigging weekend, both of which bring significant numbers of tourists – and revenue! – to town.

The maintenance work and painting was completed in the fall of 2016, and the SHA gave the bridge a clean bill of health, stating that the paint was expected to last another 20 to 25 years. And in fact, the older bridge it replaced had lasted more than a century.  (Bayly La Palme, in a presentation at the Historical Society of Kent County in November last year, gave a fascinating overview of the Chester River crossings – of which the current bridge is the third. Copies of her article “The Old Chester River Bridge” are available from the Historical Society.)

But that completion of the maintenance just over a year ago didn’t end the controversies about the span. As long ago as the 1960s, residents proposed the need for a second bridge to take heavy truck traffic around rather than through Chestertown.  A second bridge would also serve as a backup, an alternate route whenever there might be problems or closures of the other bridge. With an estimated 17,000 vehicles crossing the bridge daily, the congestion on local streets can be considerable, especially on Rt 213 – Maple and Washington Avenues.  The SHA now prefers the word “boulevard” to “bypass” but the function is the same.  Many residents blame the vibration of heavy trucks for damage to historic homes along the main routes through town. The Kent County Commissioners have regularly included a second Chester River bridge in their annual list of infrastructure priorities presented to the state for some 25 years.

The SHA, between 2007 and 2010, conducted a study for a second bridge over the Chester River at Chestertown. In the process, it looked at several options for the location, including a bridge entering Chestertown at the foot of High Street – an idea instantly rejected by residents as making the existing problems even worse. The route eventually identified as best ran east of town, running from the vicinity of Chester Harbor on the QA side to a route behind the property currently owned by KRM and being used for the new Dixon Valve warehouse. It would have connected to route 213 in the vicinity of Worton road.

That proposal met with strong opposition from Chester Harbor residents, who objected to a major road and bridge being built in close proximity to their quiet residential subdivision. Perhaps more important, from SHA’s point of view, was the multimillion-dollar cost of such a project, especially as it was in one of the less populous areas of the state. And while a second bridge across the Chester is high on Kent County’s priority list, Queen Anne’s is much more interested in the heavily-traveled Route 50 corridor between the Bay Bridge and Ocean City.

Recently, a Spy reader raised the question of the bridge’s condition in an email, writing, ” I understand that the Chester River Bridge was built in 1929 and was presumably sized for vehicles at that time. I was again startled driving across it on Friday to see a large semi-trailer loaded with pallets coming the other way.  God only knows how much it weighed.  I looked to see if there are any weight limits on the Chester River sign and there are none.  I do not know about you but I find that surprising because I frequently see less essential bridges with size limits.  Why is there no size limit on the Chester River Bridge? Why can’t the large trucks simply be routed up 544 to 301 and then down?”

The Spy checked and discovered that, in fact, according to the SHA website, there is no weight limit for the bridge – or, for that matter, on the other two state-maintained bridges in Kent County, one in Georgetown and the other in Crumpton.

Given the age of the bridge, it seems rather surprising that there is no weight limit. The question arises, has the bridge gone beyond its normal life expectancy?  The SHA’s 2010 study rated the bridge as “functionally obsolete,” though it also found that the bridge is “NOT structurally deficient.”

The study found that “The bridge across the Chester River has an ADT [Average Daily Traffic] of approximately 17,000 vehicles per day with about 10% of the vehicles being trucks or buses. Most of the trucks are classified as light or medium. The light and medium trucks are 7.5% of the total traffic. The average daily traffic volumes along High Street range from 2,000 vehicles per day south of Cross St. to approximately 11,600 vehicles per day between MD 291 and MD 514.”
The study continued by forecasting that if no second bridge is built by 2030 “…traffic volumes are anticipated to increase to approximately 9,000 to 28,600 vehicles per day along MD 213 with the highest volumes being south of the MD 291 intersection. The traffic volume across the Chester River Bridge is expected to grow to approximately 26,000 vehicles per day [by 2030].”

The complete 2010 SHA study is online here.

It has also been suggested that improvements on Route 301 now underway in Delaware may lead to much of the truck traffic now using Route 213 shifting to that route, which could potentially eliminate the need for the “boulevard.”

But that is only a possibility. There are still many questions about the current bridge and the need/prospects for a second bridge.  What does the state’s pronouncement of the bridge being “functionally obsolete” mean in practical terms?

The last study was completed in 2010; is a new study in order?

Hopefully, the various issues concerning the current “functionally obsolete” but “NOT structurally deficient” Chester River bridge will continue to be explored.  However, the towns and counties affected can argue and lobby all they want, but  the decision will ultimately be made at the state level. The state is not averse to spending money on local infrastructure — the roundabout at the top of High Street in Chestertown is a recent example. But realistically, the financial constraints and a lack of agreement on a location mean that a second Chestertown bridge with accompanying bypass, no matter how much they are needed, are unlikely to be in the cards in the foreseeable future.

###

 

 

Community Garden Meeting Jan. 24

Share

Would you like to start a garden but don’t have the space to do it? A community garden just might be the answer to your dreams — and there’s one starting up near you!

The seed catalogues have been delivered. Memories of past weed and pest problems have faded. And even though we are in a deep freeze, it’s time to plan your garden! This year, Pam and John Vogel will open up their farm on Round Top Road for a community garden. Pam has been gardening for years and shares a lot of her produce with neighbors and at a local food bank. She is a believer in having a diverse selection of flowers and vegetables in order to attract many types of beneficial bugs and birds. Bird houses are all around their 15-acre property, and they even have a bat house on their barn. She also loves to seed save the heirloom varieties she grows. John grows hops, beans, peanuts, and tends their 6 bee hives.

Their vision is that area residents will have access to fertile and sunny ground to plant flowers and vegetables. John planted a cover crop of clover a large space and will till it in the early spring so Gardeners can start their early cool weather seeds by mid-March. Gardeners must be willing to use organic practices. There will be straw and composted manure available. A limited amount of tools will be available to share as well.

There will be a planning meeting on January 24th at 7 p.m. at 218 Round Top Road. A seed swap will happen on February 21st at 7 p.m. as well. You can get more information through Meetup.com under the Chestertown Organic Gardeners and Farmers. Or contact Pam by email at pam.vogel123@gmail.com

 

First Friday: Artists’ Gallery Spotlight on Linda Hall

Share

 

“Jug of Sunflowers”, watercolor by Linda Hall

On First Friday, The Artists’ Gallery would like to invite everyone to celebrate the new year with them!  Along with their well wishes, the partners of The Artists’ Gallery are offering a discount of 15% off each of their original works of art during the first two weeks of January.  The partners of the gallery are Bonnie Foster Howell, Sally Clark, Nancy R. Thomas, Barbara Zuehlke and Evie Baskin.  For more information about the partners and the work that they do, please see the gallery website.

In addition, The Artists’ Gallery will extend a discount of 15% on paintings by Linda Hall.  Based in Betterton, Linda Hall’s work in watercolor is well known on the Eastern Shore and beyond.  She has participated in numerous juried art shows, both nationally and internationally, winning over fifty awards.  Linda is a signature member of the Baltimore Watercolor Society, Pennsylvania Watercolor Society and the Northeast Watercolor society and an exhibitor with The Artists’ Gallery, and a member of River Arts and the Working Artists Forum in Easton.

A reception for the public will be held at The Artists’ Gallery on January 5, 2018, from 5-8 pm.  Located at 239 High Street in Chestertown, The Artists’ Gallery is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10-5 and on Sundays from 12:30 to 4:30.

“Getting Dinner”, watercolor Barbara Zuehlke

“Fringed Edge”, oil by Bonnie Howell

________

 

“Koi Fish Frolicking”, mixed media by Sally Clark

 

Country Road”, oil by Nancy R. Thomas

“Good Friends”, oil by Evie Baskin

Grants in Action: The Ladies of Nia and Women & Girls Fund Prepare Young Girls for Real World

Share

While the accomplishments of the BAAM program in Talbot County has become well known for its mentoring programs for young boys, it was comforting for the Spy to learn the other day that there was a Mid-Shore equivalent just for girls, thanks in part due to the sponsorship of the Women & Girls Fund.

Nine years ago, six young women took a “girls trip” to reunite with childhood friendships from Lockerman Middle School in Denton many years after they had graduated from college and had started professional careers. As Malica Dunnock, one of the ringleaders of the group recounted in her interview with Spy, every woman on that trip had an extraordinary sense of being blessed to find a way to higher education and all the promises that it brings to young people. And like many who have had good future like this, the ladies quickly moved on to talk about ways to help a new generation of girls have that same experience

That was when this special friendship circle formed of The Ladies of Nia, which borrows the African term for “purpose” in the organization’s title, which has been working with dozens of girls growing up in and around Denton to find a path forward to the same opportunities as the founders.

The Spy talked to both Malica and Alice Ryan, the founder of the Women & Girls Fund, about The Ladies of Nia, their young students, and their special partnership.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Women & Girls Fund or to help support its work please go here 

Unitarians Contemplate the Meaning of “Namaste”

Share

Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River, Church in Chestertown

On Sunday, Dec 31, 10 a.m., Dr. John Turner will give a sermon titled “Namaste” for the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River, 914 Gateway Dr., ChestertownJohn explains, “‘Namaste’ is the traditional greeting all over India. Although it really doesn’t translate into English, I prefer to think of it as saying, ‘The divine within me smiles upon the divine within you.’ I believe this fits the form of a blessing and that it can truly challenge how we think about others and about ourselves. And maybe give us a boost into the New Year.”
Religious exploration for youngsters and childcare for infants and toddlers will be available during the service. All are Welcome!

Brevities: Driving in Kent County Before the Solstice

Share

Photo by Spy Agent 7 — 00 Section

Shelley and I drove north the morning of the day before the shortest day. We rolled through Kent County, commenting on its agreeable flatness, and the winter crops turning the brown fields green. We watched the sunrise orange through the trees, flickering by as it developed its full size. It rose through a gap at the horizon and colored the rest of the heavily clouded sky with a pearl gray.

Shelley first noticed the dark lines low on the horizon. As we approached, it became clear it was thousands and thousands of geese in plumps of a couple hundred. As we got nearer, they appeared to be more overhead, and we could easily see the white bodies and black wing tips of snow geese in their asymmetric vees – none on the ground, all in the air.

The line of geese stretched for miles to the right and left, flickering randomly as the wings rose and fell. An occasional single goose or three or four of them were flying against the flow in search of friends or cousins.

We had to stop for a moment for road construction, and when we rolled the window down, we heard them honking in their hundreds, directly overhead, white against the low gray sky.

Then­ we and the geese went our way.

By Ed Minch