DCA Plans Changes in “Crazy Days,” First Friday

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Jennifer Laucik Baker, president of the Downtown Chestertown Association, tells the town council about plans for the annual sidewalk sale.    

The Downtown Chestertown Association has decided its annual “Crazy Days” sidewalk sale needs a new look. The answer – add wine and music!

At the July 2 meeting of the Mayor and Council, Jennifer Laucik Baker, president of the DCA, said this year’s sidewalk sale will feature several regional wineries and a distillery offering their wares on Friday evening, July 27. She requested a waiver of the town’s open container ordinance for Friday evening. In addition to the wineries, the evening will feature four or five local music groups performing at various locations throughout the downtown shopping district between 5 and 9 p.m. The name of the event will also be changed from “Crazy Days” to “Chestertown Sidewalk Sale.”

Baker said the idea was to make the annual sidewalk sale, scheduled for July 27 and 28, “a more vibrant event” in hopes of bringing more people into the community. “The event needs to evolve a bit,” she said, and to reflect the changing demographics of the business community. The addition of music and wine tasting should offer “more experiential-based opportunities in addition to retail opportunities during the event itself,” she said, with multiple events to engage a younger crowd. The evening will end at Bad Alfred’s Distillery with events to bring attendees inside.

The DCA also requested that Park Row be closed to traffic for part of the afternoon and evening Friday. An ice cream vendor, some food trucks and live music would be on the block. Baker said there are three new businesses on Park Row, and the idea was to attract attendees to that section of the town, which is separated from the rest of the shopping district by Fountain Park. Other music will be near Figg’s Ordinary, the former J.R.’s bar, and Skippy’s – again, with the intention of drawing people to parts of the shopping district they might not normally visit.

The event will continue on Saturday, but without the vineyards and with no street closing. Baker said there would be some live music Saturday.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll recommended that the council approve the permits, describing the event as “First Friday on steroids.” The council approved the permit without dissent.

Baker also said the DCA is working in conjunction with the Kent County Arts Council and the Arts and Entertainment District to make a few changes in the First Friday format in coming months. She said the goal was to foster “a more arts-based event,” increasing live music and arts. She said First Fridays are already an important occasion for the town’s various galleries and arts-oriented businesses. “The next big First Friday we’re planning is September, which will be ‘Welcome back WAC’ for the Washington College crowd,” she said. The DCA is partnering with the college for events coordinated with orientation for new students, with the goal of making it an annual September experience.

Chestertown Mayor and Council — from left, Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver, Mayor Chris Cerino, Town Manager Bill Ingersoll, Councilwoman Linda Kuiper and Councilman David Foster     

Ingersoll told the council that residents of the Haacke Drive neighborhood have requested traffic calming along the street, in the form of two speed humps. Ingersoll said he thought the best locations for the humps would be near the intersection of Morgnec Road, near Magnolia Hall, and near the actual residential project which borders on Scheeler Road. He said the town has had “varying success” with speed bumps in town, citing the ones in front of the two schools as the most successful. In other neighborhoods, “they come and go,” he said. The broader humps cost $2,000 to $3,000, compared to the “more abrupt” speed bumps seen elsewhere, which cost $700 to $800, he said.

Ingersoll said he had spoken to Cerino about the issue of putting in the humps on a road that leads to the KRM business park now under construction at the north end of Haacke. He said a fair amount of traffic to the park would be using Haacke. He said he thought the town needs to talk to the builder before committing to the humps, but his recommendation would be to install them.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper said there had been accidents at the four-way stop at the corner of Haacke and Scheeler. She said she hoped the four-way stop would not be taken out.

Ingersoll said he thought there would eventually be a light at that intersection, but until then the four-way stop is “an absolute necessity.” He said the density of zoning in the area meant that Haacke Drive would be “a little more traveled” than other town streets.

Cerrino said that the neighborhood had done everything the town asked for as far as gathering signatures on petitions and contacting the council. He said expected that the developer of the business campus “isn’t going to like it,” but that the residents of the neighborhood have a legitimate safety concern.

The council voted to authorize the bumps pending consultation with the neighborhood and the developer of the business campus.

Also, Ingersoll requested the council to authorize Mayor Chris Cerino to sign any papers relevant to a federal grant application that could result in the town receiving several million dollars for street repairs. The deadline for the application is July 19. Ingersoll said the grant will be very competitive, but he hopes the town could get $2 million to $2.5 million to repair the streets that have deteriorated the most. The grants, which focus on rural transportation, fall under the American Recovery Act. “This is a tremendous opportunity; it’ll take some work, but I believe it’s worth it,” he said. “We have to try to grab this ring while we can.”

The council approved the appointment of Dinah Hicks and Harold Somerville to the town Recreation Commission, pending completion of background checks.

Kuiper, in her ward report, called attention to the Kent County Historical Society, located in the Bordley Building at the corner of High and Cross Streets. She said the society is dedicated to preserving and commemorating the history and heritage of the county, with exhibits, lectures, and a research collection. She said it should not be confused, as some residents do, with the town’s Historic District Commission, which rules on building and construction in the historic district. She said that the Historical Society gets many phone calls from residents assuming it is responsible for enforcing the historic district regulations, and she wanted to clarify the difference between the two bodies.

At the end of the meeting, Cerino announced that the town hall bocce team had finished in second place in the town bocce tournament, losing the final match 17-13 after leading by as many as five points. He proudly displayed the trophy, promising a stronger finish in the future.

Mayor Chris Cerino displays the trophy for the town hall team’s second-place finish in the town bocce league.    

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Letters to Editor

  1. J. Michael Kramer says:

    Wine and spirits are fine but what would really make sense is local craft beer. While Kent County does not have its own craft brewery as yet there are several in Queen Anne’s (Bull and Goat in Centerville and Patriot Acres in Sudlersville.

    • Hi, Michael – we’ve invited our regional breweries. There are a few competing events that weekend and not all local producers were available. We’ve also invited all of our local food trucks, including: Papa Smurf, Crazy Ricks, and Smoke Rattle and Roll. They are unavailable to participate due to a regional food truck rally and one pulled out for a private event. Bull and Goat is on tap at Bad Alfred’s Distillery and Al is open during the entire event. Please swing in for a taste (and one of his great pizzas) if you get a chance!

  2. Patricia Ervin says:

    I worked many fun/hot/rainy “Crazy Days”. Sad to see the name change to something so simple and non-unique. I thought the name was a pretty fun way to bring people downtown town. Seems like the move toward alcohol enticement makes it less a family friendly event which is disappointing. I’m all for change but is this one in the right direction?

    • Mike Sipala says:

      Patty I could not have said it better myself.

    • Hi, Patricia – This is an incredibly family friendly event. Every year retailers hear the same feedback from adults over 40 – “it’s not the same Crazy Days as it was in the past.” When you put a lot of hard work, time, effort, and money into something that people tell you isn’t what they want – you change. So we’re changing – because we have different businesses than the ones that existed before people started purchasing everyday needs online, driving to the big box stores, and the evolution of downtown retail (shift from everyday goods to specialty retail). We’re switching up the format to adapt to community feedback. We’re still offering the great sales, but we’re also offering free family entertainment (cornhole, face painters, & live music), and a nighttime shopping experience (think of it like an enhanced First Friday).

      Retailers and business owners adapt to community demand. We’re in the business of giving people the goods and experiences they want and demand. When we hear feedback from our guests we listen – because our livelihood depend on it. We encourage guests to tell stores and restaurants what they’re looking for. What they want to find in our businesses. What events or activities you would like to see in town. Help us focus our efforts and we’ll give you something great. We’re not mind readers – we’re small business owners who work very hard. Which is why we’ve added the Friday night event. Adults under 40 are telling us that there is not enough activities for young families. We have multiple business owners under the age of 40 (myself included) – and we’re in a good position to help solve that problem. It’s not about turning it into a boozy night about town – it’s about being inclusive so that a person who wants to enjoy a glass of wine while their kid plays cornhole is able to do so.

      We’ve added a Friday night event as part of the weekend to help enhance the nightlife offerings here in town as well as create an event that better caters to our younger families. During the Friday night event we’re offering family friendly activities such as a free cornhole tournament alongside live music performances and Kent County’s own, Lockbriar Ice Cream and Walker Family Fried food truck. We’re currently working on a few additional food and beverage options for the evening. On Friday night only we will have our local/regional vineyards participating so that we can both cross promote our regional grape growers and wineries while also offering adults an opportunity to sample or purchase their products.

      Wishing you the best,
      Jenn Laucik Baker, Downtown Chestertown Association

      Owner, Chester River Wine & Cheese Co. and Welcome Home

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