Harmony on High Street – Legacy Day 2017


1923 Model T was the oldest car in Legacy Day 2017 parade.

Now in its fourth year, Legacy Day in Chestertown has become one of the town’s signature events. Organized by the Historical Society of Kent County with numerous local sponsors, this year’s Legacy Day honored African-American teachers and celebrated Kent County’s African-American history and culture.

Soulfied Village provided the music.

Saturday night, August 19, the block of High Street facing Fountain Park was closed to traffic – and open to dancing to the sounds of Soulfied Village, a nine-member Centreville-based band, and to records spun by DJ Stansbury.

Across the street from the park, the Kent County Historical Society’s Bordley Center was open for visitors to view displays honoring the African-American teachers and educators in the county’s schools during the segregation era. The exhibit will remain open for several weeks.  The window display alone is worth stopping by for.  Some thirty of the teachers and family members featured in the exhibit were in attendance – some from as far away as Georgia.

Retired music teacher Mary Clark (in yellow) sways with the music.

Saturday’s events began with a genealogy workshop, led by Jeanette Sherbondy and Amanda Tuttle-Smith of the Historical Society, at Kent County Public Library. A  luncheon for the teachers took place at Janes United Methodist Church, followed by a public concert by the men’s choir of Janes Church.

The evening’s Legacy Day celebration began with a parade down High Street. Lauretta Freeman, the Legacy Day Grand Marshal, led the parade in a vintage Buick convertible. The remainder of the teachers, appropriately riding in a school bus, followed close behind. They dismounted to take their place of honor opposite the bandstand.

Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver greets Grand Marshal Lauretta Freeman. Alan Johnson driving.

Master of Ceremonies, the Reverand Ellsworth Tolliver

Tolliver, himself a former teacher, announced each teacher’s name and subject or grade taught.  And each name was received with applause and cheers from the audience, many of whom remembered these teachers from their own school days.

As the rest of the parade rolled by, Tolliver introduced the various entries – from classic cars to marching units to dancing groups – with wit and style. And then Soulfied Village took over and the evening’s festivities began in earnest.

A number of service organizations were on hand to provide food and drinks for the large crowd.  Offerings included barbecue ribs, fried fish, hot dogs and hamburgers. The Historical Society teamed up with the Garfield Center for beer and wine sales.The Garfield Center for the Arts and the Kent County Democrats each had a booth.

Other venders were set up in Fountain Park, interspersed with families picnicking and enjoying the seasonable weather. The Kent County Democrats had a voter registration booth, and artists Alan Johnson and Samuel Moore had a joint exhibit. Other venders offered toys, jewelry, clothing – even cupcakes.

As with previous Legacy Day celebrations, the atmosphere was congenial and celebratory, which, a week after Charlottesville, gives hope for the future.   There were no disturbances.  The crowd, estimated at over a thousand, was diverse in all aspects – all races, all ages – from infants to grandparents, from all walks of life, some in jeans and t-shirts, some dressed up, all having a good time, dancing, talking, eating, and just enjoying the evening.

The festivities continued till 10 p.m., when the band concluded its last set and packed up just before a brief shower moved in.

Legacy Day 2017 was sponsored by the Historical Society of Kent County, in partnership with the Hedgelawn Foundation, Garfield Center for the Arts, C. V. Starr Center, Kent County Arts Council, and Music in the Park, a program of the Town of Chestertown, along with a host of other contributors.  Now we look forward to Legacy Day 2018!

Photo Gallery below.  Photography by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

The school bus arrives carrying the teacher honorees, representatives, and family members.

The Parade

Buffalo Soldiers

Legacy Day 2017 – In the Park and on the Street

 Music All Evening

The twins go for a stroll.

Artists Alan Johnson and Samuel Moore display their work.

Dancin’ with Mom!



Special sun hat for cooking outside










Looking sharp!








Legacy Day: Honoring Our History and Our Teachers



From 1966 Tiger Yearbook – From L-R, Top Row (across the two pages) Miss R. Johnson (English), Mrs. B. Jones (Reading), Mr. L. Moore (Instrumental Music), Mrs. M. Niskey (Mathematics, English), Second Row Miss M. Jordan (Grade 3), Miss J. Macklin (Business Education), Mrs. C. Potts (Grade 1), Miss G. Powell (Physical Education, Health) Third Row Miss C. Malloy (French), Mrs. M. McNair ( Science), Mrs. F. Rideout (Special Education), Miss B. Robinson (Business Education, English)

August 18 and 19, the Historical Society of Kent County presents its fourth annual Legacy Day celebration of “Community, History and Culture.”

This year’s celebration recognizes the role of African American education and teachers in Kent County before the schools were integrated in 1967. As part of the celebration, members of the Historical Society contacted as many of the former teachers as they could, compiling a fascinating narrative of the history of Kent County Education more than 50 years ago. The results of their research were the foundation for the Historical Society’s “History Happy Hour” on August 4, and are summarized in an article by Bill Leary, available at the Historical Society’s Bordley Center at the corner of High and Cross streets in Chestertown.  Come by and pick one up during Legacy Day.

Eloise Johnson – Maryland State Teacher of the Year in 1974

The article goes well back into the early days of African American schools in the county, which were established in 1872, in response to a state law passed earlier that year. There were originally five schools for black children; however, as Leary notes, the black community had established a number of private schools before that date. By 1930, there were 22 schools for black students, many of them one- or two-room schools without plumbing or electricity. In 1916, the original Garnet Elementary School opened on College Avenue in Chestertown, across from Bethel A.M.E. Church. It became Garnet High School in 1923.  In 1950, a new building was constructed across the street,  next to Bethel Church, and was Kent County’s only African American high school until 1967, when all schools were integrated.  Garnet then became an integrated elementary school while both black and white students attended Chestertown High School.

Legendary Garnet principal Elmer T. Hawkins set the tone for education in the black community. Hawkins, a graduate of Morgan State College, served as Garnet’s principal for 41 of the 44 years that the building served as the high school for Kent County’s African-American students.  After integration in 1967, he served as the principal of the integrated Chestertown Middle School until his death in 1973.

Leary’s article drew on interviews from a number of retired teachers and their students and families to give a detailed picture of the place of the schools in the black community during the segregation era. Many of those teachers have agreed to return, several from as far away as Georgia, to take part in this year’s Legacy Day commemoration, which will include a reception honoring their contributions at Sumner Hall at 7 p.m. Friday, August 18.

Lauretta Freeman – 2017 Legacy Day Grand Marshall

The teachers will also ride in the Legacy Day parade at 5 p.m. Saturday, traveling a route from the Dixon Valve parking lot to Fountain Park, where the main celebration, including a concert and street dance, will take place. One of the teachers, Lauretta Freeman, grand marshal of the parade, is quoted widely in Leary’s article.

Master of Ceremonies for Legacy Day is Rev. Ellsworth Tolliver. Live music will be provided by Soulfied Village, with local band members Devone “Tweety” Comegys and Courtney McCloria Parson. Soulfied Village features songs of the Motown Era. T music begins at 6 p.m. and there will be a DJ during band breaks to ensure continuous music. Dancing in the streets is encouraged! Or bring a lawn chair and sit back and enjoy the festivities. High Street will be closed off between Cross and Spring Streets, and there will be vendors offering food and drinks, including a beer truck sponsored by the Historical Society.

There will be two additional Legacy Day activities earlier Saturday. A genealogy workshop at Kent County Public Library at 10 a.m. will give anyone interested in tracing family history the tools for doing their own research. The workshop will be conducted by Jeanette Sherbondy and Amanda Tuttle-Smith of the Historical Society. The workshop, like all Legacy Day activities, is free and open to all.


Elementary and high school teachers from 1953/54 school year. Garnet High School Principal Elmer T. Hawkins on right end of the first row

Saturday afternoon, at Janes United Methodist Church, on the corner of Cross and Cannon streets, there will be a concert by the Men’s Choir of Janes Church, honoring the African American teachers in song. The concert is from 1 to 3 p.m.

During the Legacy Day activities, the Bordley Center – on High Street at the intersection with Cross Street – will be open for visitors to view the displays created by the Historical Society. There will also be a silent auction with proceeds benefitting the Historical Society’s Legacy Day fund.

In just four years, Legacy Day has become one of Chestertown’s most popular events, attracting visitors – many of whom are returning home to honor their community’s history and culture – from the entire region. Add on the chance to dance away a summer night to live music, and you’ve got a sure-fire way to enjoy an evening.




Friends & Family Camp this Weekend at Pecometh, July 28-30


Have you ever wished that you could come to camp and have the same fun as the children? Have you longed to come to Camp Pecometh and experience the same fun you had as a child? Friends & Family Camp is the opportunity for everyone to experience the fun of camp in a weekend no matter how young or young-at-heart.  This year “Friends and Family Camp” will be held Friday to Sunday, July 28-30.

Enjoy time in the Chester River kayaking or splashing around on our Splashdown equipment.  Relax with a s’more by the campfire or work on that long awaited scrapbook. Choose to tent camp or stay in either our traditional cabins or hotel-style lodges. Experience the fun, fellowship, and festivities of a weekend at camp! (Parents are responsible for their own children at all times throughout the weekend)

Friends & Family Camp is run by the Camp Pecometh Staff Alumni Association.

Click here for photos from this year’s friends and family camp!

*All rates include two nights accommodation, all program activities, and meals from Friday dinner through Sunday lunch. 

Camp Site (Tent or RV Camping) 
Adults (each) $95
Children Ages 6-11 (per child for the 1st and 2nd child) $79
Additional Children Ages 6-11 (per child) $50
Children Under 5 Years Old FREE
Rustic Cabins
Adults (each) $109
Children Ages 6-11 (per child for the 1st and 2nd child) $95
Additional Children Ages 6-11 (per child) $50
Children Under 5 Years Old FREE
Hotel Style Rooms in the Riverview Retreat Center 
Adults (each) $199
Children Ages 6-11 (per child for the 1st and 2nd child) $99
Additional Children Ages 6-11 (per child) $50
Children Under 5 Years Old FREE

First Friday: History Happy Hour at the Bordley Building


Elmer T. Hawkins

The Historical Society of Kent County will hold the latest installment of their History Happy Hour Lectures at 4 p.m. on Friday, August 4. Join us at the Bordley Building as  we discuss African American Teachers in Kent County presented by Airlee Johnson, Bill Leary, Susan Kenyon and George Shivers, members of the Community History Committee of the Historical Society of Kent County. They will present the results of their recent research into the experiences of African American teachers in Kent County prior to integration.  Interviews with retired teachers and relatives of deceased teachers reveal that they were well prepared, shared a special sense of mission to educate black children to be competitive with their white contemporaries, and were understandably proud of the work they did.

A related new exhibit at the Bordley Center presents the results of interviews with teachers and close relatives, including their recollections of the legendary principal of Garnet, Elmer T. Hawkins, and their comparative assessment of segregated and integrated schools.  It also includes an annotated map of Kent County showing the locations of over 30 African American schools in the 1920s. Information from school board records illustrates the growth of segregated public schools from their beginnings in 1872 to the consolidation of schools in the 1940s. Short biographies of 32 teachers also can be viewed at the Bordley History Center at 301 High St. in Chestertown.

The former Afridan American schoolhouse in Worton Point

Chestertown Tea Party: British Routed – Colonists Win Again!


Tea Party Festival weekend is over – and Chestertown’s signature event was a smash hit. The weather was cool, and the main events — the Colonial Parade, the Re-enactment, and Sunday’s Raft Race – went off without a hitch. Several observers said the crowd was the largest they’d seen in several years. The parade started right on time at 10:00 am. There were lots of tents, tables, and booths set up by craftspeople as well as local organizations.  The food vendors appeared to be doing good business, with long but steadily moving lines. Asbury Methodist Church’s food tent was one of the more popular vendors with ribs barbecued on the spot in a fantastic smoker that looked like an old-fashioned steam locomotive.  The Kent Marching Band food tent may have had the best prices with hot dogs for $3.00 and hamburgers for $4.00.  The predicted rain managed to hold off until just minutes after the British were routed and the last chest of tea was tossed into the Chester River!

Colonial troops fire off a volley during the Tea Party re-enactment

The parade winners were: Riding and Walking Unit: First, Maryland Rough Riders; Second, Chestertown Ukulele Club. Marching Band: First, Largo; Second, Kent County High School; Third, Queen Anne’s County High School. Marching Unit: First, First Delaware Regiment; Second, Maryland Loyalist Battalion; Third, Chesapeake Independent Blues. Float: First, Kent School; Second, Girl Scouts. Mayor’s Cup: His Majesty’s Marines. Also, after the parade, the Edna Ross award was presented to Dick Goodall of Dixon Valve and Coupling for his many contributions to the community, including participation in Character Counts and the founding of Kent Forward.

Liz Gross, parade judge, Dick Goodall – 2017 winner of Edna Ross Award, Sabine Harvey, chair of Tea Party

Grand Marshall Tom Yeager and his wife Jeanne in their Colonial finest.

Girl Scout Troop 330’s float won 2nd place.

The Sunday Raft Race drew an enthusiastic crowd and a typically quirky set of entries. The Congressional Award, for the best bribe, went to the Kent School Ospreys. The Junior Cup went to Critter Gitter. The Flop Award, for most impressive failure, went to Trotline Bling, which sank before reaching the first turn. Raiders of Wilmer Park, whose raft was topped by a giant fedora, took the Van Gogh Award for artistic creativity. The Da Vinci Award, for the most unorthodox form of locomotion, was given to Bottle Water World. The Fabulous Flotsam Award, for raft more likely to cause a spectacle than win the race, went hands-down to Cooler Crew, whose raft was literally a bunch of coolers tied together. And the Tea Cup, for the best synthesis of creativity, engineering, and speed, went to The Ever-Rafting Gobstopper, which crossed the finish line well before its competitors. Judging the race were David Quinn, Leslie Raimond, Lanny Parks, Ford Schumann, Isabel Hardesty and Chris Cerino. The skies opened up on Sunday, just as the raft contestants were finishing – luckily, they were already good and wet, and the spectators took shelter in the college’s Hynson Pavilion.

Kent School -Best Float –  Each student had colonial attire.  At the judges’ stand, they all got off the float and recited the Declaration of Independence – from memory!.

Centreville Middle School Band

The Chestertown Ukulele Club put on a lively performance from their parade float. They won Second Prize in Riding and Walking Units.

Kent County High School won 2nd place in the Marching Band category.

Kent County Football float – The Spartans

Owls on display at the Scales and Tales exhibit by Maryland State Parks stare down the Spy photographer. Signs said “Don’t touch — animals may bite.”

Children play on the stage outside the Kent County Courthouse, Saturday in Tea Party’s Colonial Village.

Town Crier Steve Mumford & Bonnie Clark. Bonnie noted that women in colonial days wore tricorn hats, too, and often decorated them with flowers or other trimmings.

Many organizations were on hand with information. The Maryland State Police were in front of the Imperial Hotel in a booth flanked by two cruisers.

                                                                  The Dover English Country Dancers


Colonial militia marches to the river to protect colonists as they dump British tea.

A loyalist cautions against rash action during the re-enactment.

British officer tries to argue with those obstinate colonists. Surely they can see that the army is there to protect them! And taxes support the army!

The Brits fired three rounds then fled back to their ship.

Chestertown rebels row to the British ship Geddes to toss the tea.

Tossing the Tea!

Crowds await the start of the Tea Party raft race Sunday, in Wilmer Park.

                                       The rafts line up for the race.

The Ever-Rafting Gobstopper was built around an innovative paddle wheel powered by six Oompa Loompas. They paddled their way to victory, being first to the finish line by a healthy margin.

Raiders of Wilmer Park, whose raft was topped by a giant fedora, took the Van Gogh Award for artistic creativity. They were in a photo finish with the Procrastinator for second across the finish line.

The Procrastinator was made out of two inflatable swimming pools and one air mattress.

The Chestertown Tea Party is held annually on the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend in Chestertown, on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The Raft Race starts from on Sunday from the town’s riverside Wilmer Park.  For more information visit official Chestertown Tea Party website.  Hope to see you next year!


























































































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


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

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

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

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

Lockbriar Farms ice cream was very popular!

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

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

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

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

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

Chestertown Spy Forum on Town-Gown Future


Last Tuesday, the Chestertown Spy sponsored a public forum with Washington College President Sheila Bair and Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino. The purpose of the event was to have a meaningful conversation with the community about the future of both the town and the school as they adjust to the rather complicated and challenging times of the 21st century.

With the help of the Washington College digital media services, we are able to present the whole meeting in its entirety for our readers benefit.

This video is approximately one hour in length. Please rewind to the beginning to see the entire program. 

United Way Celebrates Volunteers at Heron Point


Bottom row L-R: Bonnie Keating, David Keating, Bobbie Chase, Nancy Montague, Betsy McCown, Jennifer Kafka Smith, Judy Kneller, John Leek, Charlotte Hawes, Ginny Barker Second Row L-R: Jane Jewell, Charlotte Potts, Denise Tontarski, Meredith Rellick Third Row: Ed Silver (UWKC Board), Jennifer Tosten, Tamara Kim, Ken Young Top Row: Lee Irish, Chuck Shorley, Ralph Dowling, Andy Andrews, and Comm. Bill Short

April 6, 2017 was the Annual Meeting and Volunteer Recognition Breakfast of the United Way of Kent County held at Heron Point in Chestertown. A delicious buffet breakfast was served in Heron Point’s newly refurbished dining facility with nearly ninety people in attendance. As attendees enjoyed their coffee, a short business meeting was held before Volunteers of United Way Member Agencies from all over Kent County were honored.

President Carol Droge welcomed guests, and spoke about successes of United Way in the past year. She mentioned the update of the areas of impact: Education, Health, and Financial Stability. Ms. Droge stated that this year’s campaign, United Way of Kent’s 60th, was at 83% of its goal of $210,000. She mentioned the upcoming Guest Chef Fundraiser Dinner to be held at the Lemon Leaf Café on April 11.

Treasurer Alison Libshitz introduced the first Annual Report of United Way of Kent County. Everyone present received a copy.

Bottom Row L-R: Chip Williams (VP), Patti Dowling, Mary Fisher, Lauren Gibson Second Row: Beth Everett (ED), Alison Libshitz (T), Carol Droge Third Row: Barbara Foster, Glenn Wilson (P), Katie Warrington Top Row: Bill MacIntosh, Bob Greenwald Missing: Sarah Feyerherm, Marilyn Parks (S), Ed Silver

Directors and Officers were elected. For the coming year, officers will be: Glenn Wilson, President; Chip Williams, Vice President; Marilyn Parks, Secretary, and Alison Libshitz, Treasurer. Directors elected for a three year term are Patti Dowling, Carol Droge, Mary Fisher, Lauren Gibson, Bill MacIntosh, and Ed Silver.

The Business Partner of the year, The Peoples Bank, was introduced and presented with a plaque noting their service to the community in the past year. Mr. Ralph Dowling, President and CEO, accepted the plaque and said that community service is an important function of a community bank like Peoples Bank.

Next, volunteers from 24 Kent County Member Agencies were introduced and given a stadium blanket with the United Way 60th Anniversary logo on it and a certificate from Governor Larry Hogan thanking them for their service.

Volunteers recognized were: American Red Cross, Lisa Sewell; Big Brothers Big Sisters, Nancy Gray; Boy Scouts, Ken Young; Camp Fairlee/Easterseals, Bill Short; Character Counts, Rebecca Pitre; Community Food Pantry, Judy Kneller; Community Mediation Upper Shore, Andy Andrews; Echo Hill Outdoor School, Sally Harding; For All Seasons, Ginny Barker; Fiddlesticks! Youth Orchestra, Jane Jewell; Girl Scouts, Tamara Kim; Good Neighbor Fund, Bobbie Chase; Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, Jennifer Tosten; Kent Association of Riding Therapy, Kirsten Forney; Kent County Community Assistance Fund, Charlotte Potts; Kent County Medical Adult Day Care Foundation, Pets on Wheels; Kent Forward, Gina Jachimowicz; Mid-Shore Council on Family Violence, Meredith Rellick; Playmakers Camp at the Garfield Center, Jennifer Kafka Smith; Rebuilding Together, John Leek; Rock hall Yacht Club Sailing School Scholarship Program, Denise Tontarski; St. Martin’s Ministries, Charlotte Hawes; Samaritan Group, Inc., Bonnie and David Keating; and United Needs and Abilities, Chuck Shorley.

Townsend Memorial Medical Clinic did not name a Volunteer this year.

Incoming President Glenn Wilson congratulated all the honorees. He spoke about the goals of United Way for the coming year, chiefly, to do a comprehensive Community Needs Assessment for Kent County. Mr. Wilson also recognized Josh Petersen, President and CEO of 211 Maryland, Inc. and noted United Way’s intention to work with 211 to expand Member Agencies’ availability to the community. He recognized outgoing President Droge’s contributions to United Way and Kent County and presented her with a Distinguished Service Award.

For more information about United Way of Kent County, its mission, and volunteering opportunities, call 410-778-3195 or email unitedwaykc@verizon.net.

Spy Moments: The Only Thing Missing was Hoofbeats


Horse lovers from throughout Kent County and beyond gathered at the home of Dave Turner and Ran Crawford on the first Sunday afternoon of April to share a common interest and a common intent.

It was the first meeting in 2017 of the Chestertown Horsemen’s Club, an organization begun by Turner and Crawford. While the sun shone down outside, laughter and greetings floated up to the high ceilings of the North Water Street house as old friends and newcomers met over drinks and delectable finger foods. They had come to talk horses and to hear guest speaker Susan Harding discuss the long-term needs of equine sports in America.

Susan Harding, at right, talks horses with Elizabeth Watson and others at the Chestertown Horsemen’s Club

Harding, of Bethesda, Md., is the former president of Equine Land Conservation Resource (ELCR), a national organization devoted to the protection and conservation of land for the horse and horse-related activities. She’s also the retired vice president and group publishing director of Source Interlink Media’s Equine Network, publisher of the magazines EQUUS, Horse & Rider, Practical Horseman and Dressage Today, as well as websites and books.

After an hour of jovial mixing, the gathering was called to order by Turner, who began by introducing the club itself. With some care, he noted that its name held no gender implication, but rather was a reference to the “Chestertown horsemen” who backed the imported English Thoroughbred mare Selima in her victory against a horse from Virginia in one of the first and most important Colonial-era races.

That explanation began a round-robin of introductions, during which it became clear that, in addition to curious neighbors, enthusiasts of nearly every horse sport were present, from new to old.

To murmurs of support, jokes and outright laughter, the comments flowed: “I’m a fox hunter” … “I teach” … “I drive” … “ I try to keep legislation in our corner as much as possible” … “I love everything horses.”

“I took up riding after 20 years of not riding,” said one.

“I haven’t been on a horse in years, but I have two daughters who love to ride and my foxhunter niece is here so I thought it would be okay to come,” said another.

“I took my first lesson at 50,” said another, to applause.

“I can’t say I’m the better half,” said one wife, speaking after her husband. “He takes care of the animals and keeps them healthy for us, so he’s the better half — I have one horse; he has 10,” to laughter.

Among the farms and organizations represented were the Kent Association of Riding Therapy, Airy Hill Stables, Kent Veterinary Center and Glasgow Farm, Comegys Creek Farm, Grassymeade Farm, Selcouth Sporthorses, and the Kent Conservation Preservation Alliance.

When it was her turn to speak, Harding began by saying how much she’d already enjoyed herself.

“It’s been wonderful to talk to you all and to hear you all,” she said. “It reminds me of why I love the horse industry. It’s really a special place and very special people.”

Though she’s no longer involved day-to-day with the horse world, Harding explained, she has chosen to focus on three endeavors that can make a difference in its future.

One is equine land conservation. Another is the International Museum of the Horse at the Kentucky Horse Park. The third is her participation on the board of the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association

As she explained each, Harding outlined her concerns: the need to build up the population of people who know about horses and enjoy horse sports as spectators; the need to provide entry- and mid-level opportunities at reasonable cost for those who want to pursue horse sports; and the need to provide adequate open space to support those people, their sports and their horses.  

Starting with that last, Harding said she has watched horse activities get pushed out, time and again, by development. As that happens, the horse lovers who remain lose the backing of those who live around them.

“We’re limiting the number of people who have easy access to horses,” said Harding. “The fewer people who have access to horses, the fewer people who care about horses, the harder it’s going to be for those folks who do care. Because we won’t have people behind us to help support us, on zoning boards, in communities where we’ve always assumed horses will always be.”

She has seen the progression, she said. People move into a beautiful area because it’s beautiful, and, once there, discover they don’t like living around the horses and the farm activity that maintains that beauty. The complaints begin.

“It’s so important for horse people to know each other and to work together,” she said, so that they can help one another maintain the horse economy.

Finding ways to introduce people to horses is important, too, Harding pointed out. The International Museum of the Horse, she said, “apart from being a wonderful place, is someplace where people who are not familiar with horses get first exposed. … And there again, people who may never own a horse, who may never even ride a horse — they learn to appreciate a horse.”

By contrast, Harding’s participation in the U.S. Hunter Jumper Association put her in contact with the top level of a “very serious professional sports organization.”

“But it’s been very interesting,” she said, “because they have a wonderful network of local affiliates who really are doing a fantastic job of attracting kids into the sport.”

At the top levels, Harding noted, people are doing very well. However, she continued, “We’ve totally lost the bottom of the sport.” The recent recession, she estimates, led to the death of roughly three million horses. People were giving horses away because they couldn’t afford to feed them, and, in some regions of the country, just turning them loose. There’s a need to rebuild, Harding said.

“A lot of the discipline organizations are realizing that they need to support the lower end of the market, because that’s where people come into the sport, and that’s really where the majority of the people are going to enjoy horses.”

In the discussion that followed, Royce Herman of Centreville, the only director of the Maryland Horse Council on the Eastern Shore, pointed out how important it is that the local horse industry introduce itself to the local economic development commission. Dr. Judy Tubman of Kent Veterinary Center urged everyone to become involved and stay in touch with local planning and zoning boards, and to support the horse council and its work in Annapolis on behalf of the industry. And Harding emphasized the need to encourage audiences to attend horse sporting events. “You need the support of the other people in your community, not just the horse people.”

At 5:45, Turner interrupted the discussion. It had run longer than hoped. By any measure, the first quarterly meeting of the Chestertown Horsemen’s Club was a successful affair.