98 Cannon Riverside Grille Opens


Mayor Chris Cerino wields the scissors for the grand opening of the 98 Cannon Riverfront Grille, Saturday, as owner Joe Elliott (in sunglasses), family, and staff look on.  –  Photo by Jane Jewell

Appropriately, a cannon blast just after 11:00 am last Saturday, May 11, was the signal for Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino to cut the ribbon for the opening of 98 Cannon Riverfront Grille, the newly-renovated restaurant at the town’s marina. Formerly the Fish Whistle, and before that the Old Wharf, the restaurant offers Chestertown’s only waterfront dining experience.  The restaurant is located right on the Chester River at –no surprise– number 98 Cannon St.

Owner Joe Elliott, Elliott’s wife Kristin and their children, and the staff of the refurbished restaurant stood behind Cerino for the symbolic opening. Elliott, in brief remarks, thanked the town of Chestertown for its support. He said he moved his family here in 2012 and was inspired to invest in the restaurant after falling in love with the town. Elliott also thanked Matt Weir, who owns the physical property on which the restaurant sits, and Albert Nickerson for completing the renovations on the building in time for the opening.

After the ribbon-cutting, Elliott invited everyone to come on in! 98 Cannon, he said, is now open for business for lunch and dinner, 11 a.m. to midnight, 7 days a week.

The outside deck at 98 Cannon Riverfront Grille. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Inside the building, the changes were immediately apparent. The wall that formerly separated the bar from the dining area has been removed, leaving a larger, more spacious interior – and a two-sided bar. There are now booths on the inside wall of the main dining area, and a wide door opening onto the deck – which is being expanded along the downriver side of the building. And the entrance to the kitchen has been moved closer to the front desk.

A row of booths now lines the inside wall. – Photo by Jane Jewell

The menu has also received an update. A number of old favorites remain, including burgers and crab cakes, while new additions include brick oven pizzas, bistro steak frite, and Langenfelder Farm pork chops.  The kitchen, according to their FaceBook page, is headed by chef Chris Golder who has over 40 years experience creating fine dining.  There is an emphasis on casual yet upscale cuisine including oysters, Buffalo shrimp and even fish tacos featuring fresh, local, Chesapeake seafood and various farm to table favorites.

On Saturday, among the first customers was a family celebrating its senior member’s 100th birthday!  On Sunday there was a sumptuous and well-attended Mothers’ Day Brunch.  The menu also includes brunches for Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays.  Future plans also include Kayak and paddle board rentals.

The restaurant’s hours are 11 a.m. to midnight, 7 days a week.  The phone for reservations is 443-282-0055.  The FaceBook page is here.  A webpage is still under construction but already has some good information.  The restaurant is currently hiring more staff.  Anyone interested in a position may send info to jobs@98cannon.com.

Mid-Shore’s First-ever Pride Festival Draws Good Crowds


Part of the crowd at Pride in the Park May 4 – photo by Jim Bogden

Chestertown’s Fountain Park was packed on Saturday, May 4, for the first-ever Pride event celebrated on the Eastern Shore.

The “Pride in the Park” gathering, which featured speeches, music, and a variety of organizations and vendors, was part of a celebration that extended over the whole weekend and included events in Easton and Cambridge as well as Chestertown. Barbi Bedell, one of the organizers, said that Chestertown Councilman David Foster estimated the crowd at about 300. Welcome mats were placed at each corner of the park to convey the spirit of the occasion.

Volunteers and visitors at the PFLAG booth in Fountain Park Saturday — photo by Peter Heck

Claire Hanson, president of the Mid-Shore chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, opened the ceremonies, thanking the many volunteers and supporters for their work and energy before introducing Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino.

Cerino, noting that the participants were “making history” by participating in the first event of its kind on the Shore, expressed his full support. He noted that many of Chestertown’s leading citizens are gays or lesbians, recognizing their significant contributions to the town’s life and institutions. “Discrimination is never OK for any reason,” he said. He expressed a hope that the Pride celebration could become an annual event, boosting the local economy – and urged attendees to patronize the stores in town. Cerino later entertained the crowd with his guitar and original songs.

Heather Mizeur — photo by Peter Heck

The next speaker was Heather Mizeur, former Delegate and candidate for Governor and owner of a local farm, who described the gathering as “a love festival.” Expanding on that description, she said that pride requires love of one’s self, with the courage to be confident that we all are part of the divine creation. It also involves love of our choices, she said, adding that she was proud to be part of the community as one of a lesbian couple – “I married up,” she said of her partner, Debra. Finally, there is unconditional love – including love for members of the town council who opposed the Pride festival, and others “who struggle to love us.” Mizeur said she looks forward to an era “when there is no more coming out.” She thanked the attendees for showing pride and love, and expressed hope that everyone would have fun.

Drag queen Marti Cummings, a Kennedyville native now living in New York, recalled his grandmother talking about painting the statue in Fountain Park. He thanked the organizers for their support of inclusion and equality. He recalled being told “you’re a monster, you’re disgusting,” turning the remarks around by saying he could now be disgusting with his “family.” The truth is, we’re not disgusting. Look at the person next to you – that’s your family,” he said. Noting the high proportion of young people in the gathering, he said, “this is the future of our county.” He finished by urging the young to run for office, noting that he had recently filed his papers as a candidate for New York’s city council.

After the speeches, the Front Porch Orchestra from Easton provided musical entertainment, opening with the disco anthem, “I’m Coming Out.”

Drag queen Marti Cummings  — photo by Peter Heck

In addition to Cummings, three drag queens from New York were present in Fountain Park. They and three Broadway performers gave a show at Washington College that evening, sponsored by the college’s EROS chapter. Bedell said the event drew a full crowd.

Other events over the weekend included “Paint with Pride” Thursday evening at Kiln Born Creations in Easton, which drew 40 participant; a comedy show, “Call from the GAZE,” by the Graveyard Goonz, Friday evening, which filled the Eastern Shore Conservation Center in Easton; and a Drag Brunch Sunday afternoon in Cambridge. All ticketed events were sold out, said Bedell.

Among the organizations with booths at the festival were the National Music Festival, the Unitarian Universalists of the Chester River, YMCA Camp Tockwogh, PFLAG, Trans Healthcon Maryland, the Harford County Health Department, Kent-Queen Anne’s Indivisible, the Maryland LGBT Chamber of Commerce, MidShore Behavioral Health, Free State Justice, and For All Seasons.

Paint with Pride participants in Easton, Friday night –photo by Jazmine Gibson

Bedell expressed special thanks to all the committee members, including Hanson, Jim Bogden, Lynn Brennan (who organized the Drag Brunch), Tori Pack and Jazmin Gibson (who organized Paint with Pride and the comedy show – and who were married the following weekend), Michele Drostin, who organized a Pride presence at the Easton Multicultural Festival Saturday morning; and about 20 others who helped make the weekend a success.

The festival went off smoothly without disturbances or protests, Bedell said. Plans are already underway for a second Pride festival next year.

The crowd enjoys the music at Pride in the Park — photo by Jim Bogden

PFLAG President Claire Hansen opens Pride in the Park — photo by Peter Heck


Tori Pack and Lynn Brennan at the comedy night ticket table — photo by Jazmine Gibson







Chris Cerino, mayor of Chestertown, entertains — photo by Jim Bogden 





The Front Porch Orchestra of Easton plays at Pride in the Park — photo by Peter Heck

Social Action Committee Invites Chestertown Council to “Undoing Racism” Workshops


Annie Squire Southworth of Students Talking About Racism addresses the Chestertown Council, as other members of S.T.A.R. and the Social Action Committee listen

Members of the Kent County Social Action Committee for Racial Justice and of S.T.A.R. – Students Talking About Race – came to the Chestertown Council meeting May 6. After explaining their mission, they invited council members to take part in a workshop on undoing racism, being presented in September.

Ileana Lindstrom, of the Political Action and Education affinity groups, gave a brief summary of the Social Action Committee’s origins and mission. Formed in 2017, the SAC was the offshoot of Undoing Racism workshops given in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties – an experience Lindstrom described as creating a “life-changing” awareness of the place of racism in society. She said the workshops defined racism as the combination of race-based prejudice and institutional power.

Ileana Lindstrom of the Kent County Social Action Committee for Racial Justice

Members of the SAC are committed to taking action, such as analyzing data, tracking the records of elected officials and holding them accountable for their decisions, and offering the organization as ally an and resource to institutions in the community, Lindstrom said. The group “was born to end the oppression of persons of color in Kent County,” beginning with a focus on the political, educational, and criminal justice systems. The groups are also focused on bringing an awareness of the contributions of persons of color to the county’s festivals and other public celebrations.

Lindstrom noted that the SAC recognizes the significant responsibilities that the mayor and council members hold, citing the clause of the town charter that states their mission of protecting and serving the town’s residents and visitors. “We also recognize that you cannot be expected to fulfill these responsibilities alone, individually, or as a sitting mayor and town council,” she said, noting that racism can be traced back to the first interactions of Europeans and Native Americans, along with the long history of slavery, with the first recorded arrival of enslaved Africans in Virginia 400 years ago this August. Observing the difficulty of fighting such a long-established and deeply embedded institution, she said, “We can be effective in dismantling racism in Chestertown and throughout Kent County when we work together with that as our goal.”

Announcing that the People’s Institute of Survival and Beyond will be conducting an Undoing Racism workshop in Kent County Sept. 20-22, she asked for a show of hands of council members willing to participate. Mayor Chris Cerino said he was willing, but that he may have a conflict on those dates. Councilman Marty Stetson said he could not commit to the date so far in advance. Stetson later wrote in an email to the council, which he copied to the press, “My failure to say I was willing to attend had nothing to do with the group or subject but with the fact that I was sure I would not attend. I just didn’t want to say I would attend when I knew I would not be willing to give up another evening.” He added, “It would have been easy for me to raise my hand and just not show up – but dishonest.”

Following up, Lindstrom asked council members if they would receive the Social Action Committee as “a skilled and knowledgeable ally and resource.” All members agreed, though Councilwoman Linda Kuiper asked for examples of “blantant, visible racism that exists in Chestertown.” She said she serves everybody in her ward, regardless of political affiliation or color of skin.

Lindstrom said the students’ presentation that would follow would point to some instances of racism they had experienced. Also, she said, participation in the Undoing Racism workshop would help clarify some of the issues. And she said that members of the Social Action Committee were willing to meet one-on-one with council members to help them understand the issues facing people of color in the community.

Finally, Lindstrom asked council members if they were willing to take part in the SAC’s regular meetings, which are the second and third Tuesdays of the month in Sumner Hall. All said they would be willing, with Councilman David Foster adding that he had already attended meetings.

Paul Tue introduces members of Students Talking About Race at the May 6 Council meeting

Lindstrom then introduced Paul Tue, who with Barbie Glenn was a co-founder of S.T.A.R. Tue briefly outlined S.T.A.R.’s program. Tue then introduced three student S.T.A.R. members who addressed the council.

Riley Glenn summarized the group’s accomplishments since its founding a little over a year ago, beginning with “encouraging uncomfortable conversations,” forming partnerships and taking action to address inequities. The group spoke at and helped organize the March for Our Lives in Chestertown, assisted the Social Action Committee in interviewing candidates in the 2016 local elections, and attended a number of events addressing the issue of racism in the community. She said the students had come to understand that racism has “shaped all of us, and none of us are exempt from its forces.”

Tykee Bryant was the second of the students to speak. He said he sees racism on a daily basis in the school and the community. Black students are punished more harshly for identical offenses. He said he hears racial slurs and comments from fellow students and teachers. Also, Latino students are told not to speak Spanish, even though others are praised for knowing a foreign language when they do so.

The third student to speak was Annie Squire Southworth, who spoke to misconceptions regarding racism. She listed as examples of racism housing discrimination, inequities in pay, mortgage lending, and rates of policing and incarceration in minority communities. “If you refuse to acknowledge that racism is a problem in Kent County, that is racism,” she said. “We are all responsible for ending racism.” She ended by extending her invitation to local leaders to join S.T.A.R. in combatting racism, and to attend the Undoing Racism workshops this fall.

Kuiper asked if the students received training in multicultural competency and diversity as part of their mission. Southworth said that their anti-racism training encompasses all of those issues.

In closing, Lindstrom thanked the council for the opportunity to introduce the Social Action Committee and S.T.A.R. to the council and to explain their programs.

At the conclusion of the meeting, several members of the Social Action Committee spoke from the audience to reinforce the group’s appeal to council members to take positive steps to address racism in the community and to attend the workshops.

Where The Wild Things Are — Spy Review by Peter Heck


The Wild Things sleep in a comfy pile.  –  Photo by Bee Betley

Where the Wild Things Are, based on the iconic children’s picture book, packed the Garfield Center for the Arts last weekend with excited children and proud parents.

Directed by Bee Betley, the play follows a young boy, Max, who gets into trouble for being “out of control” after disrupting his family home while wearing his wolf costume. That night, Max is magically transported to a strange jungle where the Wild Things live – large, furry monsters with claws and horns. After they initially threaten to eat Max, the young boy frightens them, and they accept him as their king – a new experience for them. They celebrate with a “wild rumpus,” but as the night wears on, they begin to become unhappy with Max’s reign.

All the monsters engage in a “wild rumpus” with their new King Max. – Photo by Jane Jewell

The book, published in 1963, featured the author’s own illustrations — which he later said were based on caricatures of his aunts and uncles drawn when he was a young boy. It was recognized almost at once as a classic, being voted the prestigious Caldecott Medal as best children’s picture book of the year. And it has retained its appeal; in 2012 it was voted the best children’s picture book of all times by readers of School Library Journal. It has been adapted several times to other media, including an animated short film in 1973, an opera in 1980, and it was even parodied in an episode of “The Simpsons.”

Betley, whose previous directing credits at the Garfield include last year’s The Little Prince, said in her director’s note that she has always wanted to direct Wild Things. She notes how Max’s awareness of his identity develops as he tries to balance his authority as king of the Wild Things with the desire to please everyone and yet be in charge and get to do whatever he wants. And as Max quickly learns, the job is impossible.

Max in a pensive mood  –  Photo by Bee Betley

The role of Max is key to the entire play, and Lydia Sensenig, acting in her first play, filled the role energetically, running around the stage, sometimes shrieking in frustration when Max can’t get the attention of his mother and sister. She effectively varies her tone, expressions, and body language in harmony with the character’s moods. An excellent job for a young actor, especially one who hasn’t previously been on stage.

John Mann as Carol, the wildest of the Wild Things – Photo by Bee Betley

John Mann, most recently seen in the GCA’s production of Mister Roberts, takes the role of Carol, one of the most powerful Wild Things. Max puts him in charge of building a fort, but Carol throws a tantrum when KW, another Wild Thing, wants to bring two owls she has befriended to the fort. Mann does a good job of showing Carol’s energy and quick changes of mood, projecting a sense of danger that echoes Max’s own anger.

Max in his wolf costume talks with KW and the two owls, Bob and Terry. – Photo by Jane Jewell

KW is played by Georgia Rickloff, who has been a frequent performer in local theater since she played Tiny Tim in the GCA’s Christmas Carol in 2008. Her character, a loner who is often at odds with Carol, is in many ways the most sympathetic toward Max of all the monsters. Rickloff conveys KW’s softer side while at the same time remaining a convincing denizen of the monster realm.

Brother and sister Aaron Sensenig and Lydia Sensinig as Alexander, a Wild Thing, and Max – Photo by Bee Betley

The other Wild Things are not as extreme in their emotions and actions as Carol, though each has their moments. Douglas, a Wild Thing with powerful arms who is something of a peace-keeper, is well played by Mike Heffron. Phebe Wood, a student at Gunston School, takes the role of Judith. Judith frequently argues with Carol and acts out when she doesn’t get her way.  She can be loud and sometimes sarcastic but she, too, can show an unsure and insecure side, which may be why the more mild-mannered Wild Thing Ira, played by Zac Ryan,  is her boyfriend.  The two are “in love,” the other Wild Things tell Max.  Aaron Sensenig (Lydia’s brother) plays Alexander, the youngest and smallest of the Wild Things.  Paul Camberdella has two roles, as one of Max’s teachers and as a bull who lurks on the fringes of the Wild Things.  The bull provides nice comic relief as he doesn’t speak but occasionally snorts or makes other funny noises.  All do a good job in conveying a “family” who alternately laugh and play together, then sulk, argue, or run away.   

Sarah Lyle, also acting in her first play, takes the role of Max’s mom. She shows the mother’s conflicting roles as she tries to give both Max and his sister the support and understanding that they each need while still dealing with her own problems of balancing a job and motherhood.  Izzie Southworth is very believable as Max’s older sister, Claire. Claire is annoyed by her little brother who demands attention while she is on the phone or with her friends. 

Max tries to get his mother’s attention while she is on an important phone call. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Alden Swanson and Zuzu Kusmider do a good job as the other children in Max’s life, at school, and as KW’s owl friends.  The owls are especially funny as they answer questions and give advice, speaking at length in totally unintelligible chirps, squeaks, and squawks.

The very atmospheric music for the play was composed and performed on guitar by the director’s brother Seth Betley, who did a good job of matching the on-stage action with the mood of the music.

The set and costumes for the show, designed and constructed by Bee Betley, were imaginative and a lot of fun. The costumes went a long way toward giving the Wild Things – and Max – their distinctive characters. And the set’s open structure was visually effective while allowing the single setting to serve multiple purposes. The lighting, designed by Nic Carter, was a delightful display of chromatic virtuosity.  The stage was washed with a full spectrum of colors; switching from bright orange to soft blue to pale violet,  following the action and changing moods of the play. 

This is a play about identity, family, friendship, and growing up.  The Wild Things reflect the wild emotions we all feel – the anger, the jealousy, the insecurity, the need for acceptance, for attention, for love.  All the things that make us human.

KW (in back) with Judith and Ira, the two lovers (seated) and Douglas of the mighty arms. – Photo by Bee Betley

Only two quibbles about this otherwise excellent production: the high number of minor scene changes, accompanied by blackouts, did slow the pace of the play somewhat.  And occasionally, the dialogue was hard to understand – several other attendees we spoke to had the same observation.  However, these did not detract from the overall enjoyment of the performance.

Where the Wild Things Are was a stimulating challenge for both cast and crew, and they definitely rose to the occasion.  The performance we saw had a good number of younger audience members – all of whom seemed to enjoy the show as much as the adults. And once again, the performances were a reminder of the wealth of talent in the local community — a fact it is too easy to take for granted.

The production was one weekend only.

Ira, Judith, and Max – Photo by Bee Betley

At school, they learn that the sun will die someday far in the future. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Curtain Call for “Where the Wild Things Are” – Photo by Jane Jewell

The Wild Things huddle with Max to make plans. – Photo by Jane Jewell

Max and his mother in a tender moment – Photo by Jane Jewell


Environmental Committee Reports to Council


Darren Tilghman of the Chestertown Environmental Committee

The Chestertown council, at its April 15 meeting, heard an update from the town’s Environmental Committee. Several committee members helped deliver the report, which covered a wide range of activities. Committee member David Sobers handed the agenda to the council and introduced several members for specific sections of the report.

Chester Riverkeeper Tim Trumbauer

Tim Trumbauer, the Chester Riverkeeper, reported on activities in the town’s Third Ward, including plans to renovate Louisa Carpenter Park in the Washington Park neighborhood. He said Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver, in whose ward the park is located, had been working with the committee on the project. Trumbauer said the town had issued a Request for Proposals and accepted a bid from David A. Bramble to perform the renovations. He said the contractor had agreed to meet with Tolliver at the park to update him on the project and to address any concerns.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said he believed there was a storm drain at the park buried under more recent construction. He asked if Trumbauer had any information on that. Trumbauer said he had heard there might be such a drain from some 30 years ago, but that it was apparently no longer working. He said the main issue with the park right now was that the contractor had agreed to a specific scope of services, which the committee would talk to them about to see whether it could include working on the drainage. He said there was also a rain garden installed a number of years ago that received water draining from the road, but it was no longer functional.

Also, Trumbauer said that Tolliver had agreed to help the committee find a representative of the Third Ward, so the committee has representatives from each of the town’s four wards. Finally, he said, the committee has adopted membership rules to put itself on a more formal basis than heretofore.

Donald Small, of the Washington College Center for Environment and Society, reported on plans to address compacting issues in the soil at Fountain Park. He said he had exchanged emails with farmers market manager Sabine Harvey to let her know that the Environmental Committee is available to help with suggestions, brainstorming or grant writing. Small said that Harvey is also working with the Chestertown Garden Club, which maintains plantings in the park. He said he hoped the team would have more information in the near future.

Carl Gallegos of the Chestertown Environmental Committee’s tree group

Carl Gallegos, representing the Environmental Committee’s tree group, reported on plans to work with the College’s GIS Center to update its images of the town’s tree cover, determining what percentage of the town is currently covered. He said this would be a step toward assessing where trees need to be planted to reach the committee’s recommended level of 40% tree coverage within the town. He said the committee’s plan was to plant trees of at least 2-inch diameter, doing so over the winter to maximize their chance of survival.

Darren Tilghman gave an update on the town’s project of installing a riverfront walkway downriver from Wilmer Park, through lands now owned by Washington College. She said the main requirement for the project to move forward was “a champion inside the college,” which Greg Farley agreed to take on. She said Farley met with college officials and had reached verbal agreement to move forward with the trail, in partnership with the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy. “For the Environmental Committee, that is really important. It’s an access issue; we want people not to have to own riverfront property in order to be able to enjoy this river,” she said. She said it was also an economic development issue.

Mayor Chris Cerino asked to what extent the college was on board with the rail trail, for example, whether it was committed to giving the town an easement for a trail. He noted that the college is in the process of selling off excess property, potentially including the armory, so it would be a good idea to get the agreement in place before that property is sold. Tilghman said Farley was working on that end of the project, but she didn’t know whether there had been any specific commitments on the college’s end.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the decision on an easement needed to go before the college’s Board of Visitors and Governors. He said the town had offered as a model an easement given for use of the ground in front of the Custom House for a riverfront walkway between High and Cannon streets. He said the town didn’t expect to get a lot of money from the college, but that it hoped the college would put its planners to work on carving out pathways for the proposed trails, based on the work of the town’s planning commission at the time the college’s new waterfront buildings were approved. He said the next step ought to be a meeting of the committee, the town officials, and the college to work out details.

Tolliver also asked Tilghman for an update on the garden club project at Garnet School. She said the Garnet Good Seeds Garden project is “very close to fully funded,” with a community launch event tentatively planned for May. She said there had been an “amazing” outpouring of support from community businesses, and that work would begin in the summer.

Councilman Marty Stetson asked whether there was a problem with constructing a walking trail over wetlands along the river. Ingersoll said the decision had been made not to extend the trail along Radcliffe Creek, but to end it at the old sewer plant just past the armory. He said the expense of constructing a trail through wetlands was more an issue than any environmental questions.

Tilghman said her group also looked into playgrounds and parks, as a way to get people outside. She said she had worked to activate a group of residents to work toward a grant to raise funds for playgrounds, including one at Garnet Elementary School. She said she was also working toward possibly extending the town’s rail trail.

Also, Tilghman said, the committee had learned that Chestertown is certified as a “Keep America Beautiful” town. She said that if the town can track how much trash is cleaned up from the rail trail, it would help the town keep its certification. Finally, she said the committee would have a presence at the town’s Earth Day festival, April 20, and would be distributing sustainability tip sheets to give residents specific ways to contribute to improving the environment.

Joe Bohle, leader of Cub Scout Pack 253

Also at the meeting, Joe Bohle, leader of Cub Scout Pack #253, asked the council’s permission for his pack to adopt a section of the Gilchrest Rail Trail as a cleanup project. The section chosen is the one running from High Street to the Morgnec Road bypass, through the Washington College campus, and the scouts would perform the cleanups on a Saturday, roughly every three months. Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said the town would supply trash bags for the cleanup, and would pick up the filled bags.

In his regular report, Ingersoll also outlined the schedule for the town’s budget discussions, which he would begin with a “very preliminary” meeting April 23. Worship sessions would take place on May 7 and 14, with the budget resolution to be formally introduced at the May 20 council meetings. “As usual, the budget looks like it’s going to be challenging,” he said. He noted that the town was approaching the county commissioners for a tax differential or a rebate to offset town residents’ taxes for services for which the county bills them but which are provided by the town, such police protection, water and sewer, planning and zoning, and so forth. Cerino said he thought the commissioners were more likely to offer a tax differential, which would benefit property owners in town but would not add anything directly to the town’s budget.

Marina Has New Manager, New Name


Samantha Branham, the new manager at the Port of Chestertown Municipal Marina – photo by Peter Heck

The Chestertown marina has a new manager – and a new name.

Samantha Branham began working at the town-owned marina April 15. A Centreville native who attended Queen Anne’s County High School, she has lived in Chestertown for about 10 years. She said she has worked in the hospitality industry since about 2011, with previous experience at the Great Oak and Tolchester marinas. She heard of the opening for a marina manager from Mayor Chris Cerino and decided to “become part of the changing waterfront. I’d like to see it thrive – it has a lot of potential,” she said Tuesday morning, in her new office on the Water Street side of the marina property.

Branham said she is looking forward to meeting those who have supported the marina and the many boat owners, visitors, and residents who will be coming through in months to come. She said she’s especially looking forward to those new to the area, some of whom will undoubtedly be attracted by word of the renovations and updates to the marina. She pointed out the broad view of the river from her office window, which overlooks the entire marina. “I love the Eastern Shore,” she said. “It’s an honor to live and work somewhere that people retire to, take their vacations in, and fall in love with.” And she’ll be spending much of her spare time out on the river in her own kayak.

Councilman Marty Stetson spoke enthusiastically about visiting Branham in her office on her first day on the job and being greeted warmly. “I think she’ll be great,” he said.

The new marina office and store, also home to ShoreRivers’ Chestertown office — photo by Peter Heck

The marina has undergone extensive upgrades in the past year, with new docks and bulkheads, and a new marina office and store. The docks have been extended 70 feet, adding a number of new deep-water slips. The boat basin has been dredged, eliminating a decade or more of built-up silting. And two of the three docks are now floating docks, making it more convenient for boaters to get on and off their craft, whatever the tide level. Only the Cannon Street dock, where schooner Sultana regularly berths, is at the higher level. Kees de Mooy, the town’s zoning administrator, said that many of the slips at the marina have already been reserved for the town’s major festivals, including Jazz Festival, Downrigging, and the Chestertown Tea Party.

The grade of the marina parking lot has been raised by as much as two feet in order to reduce the frequent flooding that occurred during high tides or rainstorms. And the site of the old marina store has been cleared to create a small plaza that can be used for concerts or other events. Renovations are also taking place at the boat launch, with new floating docks to be installed once the ramp is finished.

The 98 Cannon Riverfront Grill, with one of the marina’s new floating docks in the foreground – photo by Peter Heck

Changes are also coming in the former Fish Whistle restaurant, now named the 98 Cannon Riverfront Grill. Closed for renovations after a recent change in ownership, the restaurant is currently aiming for a May 11 opening. Among the expected renovations are an increased outdoor seating area extending along the south end of the building, including a crab deck. Workers were preparing the foundation for the new deck Tuesday morning when the Spy visited the marina.

Also, the Chestertown council, at its April 15 meeting, voted 3 to 2 to rename the town-owned facility “Port of Chestertown Municipal Marina.” Stetson introduced the proposal for renaming, arguing that the new name would recognize the historic status of Chestertown as a port, dating back to Colonial times, and would help turn around negative associations with the marina from before recent renovations. Stetson said the name should be officially changed before the boating season begins to allow for publicity to get underway. Councilmen David Foster and Ellsworth Tolliver supported the proposal.

The opposing votes were cast by Councilwoman Linda Kuiper and Cerino, who described himself as “moderately opposed.” Kuiper said that most people will probably continue to use the old name and that word of mouth will bring people in as they learn of the recent renovations and improvements. “I just like ‘Chestertown Marina,’” she said.

Looking at the recent changes, it’s a good bet a lot of people will like the marina – whatever the name.

Look for a report on the rest of the Chestertown Council meeting in a forthcoming Spy article.


Washington Rarities on Display at Miller Library


Physician’s scales used by Washington’s personal doctor

Washington College’s Miller Library is hosting a special exhibit of items related to George Washington this weekend. The exhibit, in the Sophie Kerr rare books room on the library’s second floor, is a special feature for Admitted Students day, Saturday, April 13. However, the general public may get a special preview of the exhibit on Thursday, April 11, 1 to 3 p.m. and Friday, April 12, from 11 a.m. 1 p.m.

The exhibit has drawn rare books and other items from the college’s archives to give a historic portrait of the college’s long relationship with its benefactor and namesake. Anyone interested in Colonial history, and its resonance through the two centuries since Washington’s death, should make it a point to visit this exhibit.

Jennifer Nesbitt, the administrative assistant at Miller Library, gave your Spy reporter a tour of the exhibits, pointing out items of particular interest. While many of the objects are special, perhaps the prize of the collection is a set of physician’s scales used by Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick, who attended Washington on his deathbed. They were donated to the college by Dick’s great-grandson, James Alfred Pearce Crisfield.

Another unique item is Alexander Hamilton’s personal copy of Washington’s A Message from the President of the United States to Congress, with Hamilton’s handwritten signature on the title page.

Alexander Hamilton’s copy of a published address by Washington

But these items just scratch the surface of the exhibit, which includes not only rare and historic books, but a Victorian needlework portrait of Washington, copied from the Gilbert Stuart portrait, and a bust of Washington made from Confederate paper money after the Civil War. And there is a commemorative linen handkerchief from 1806, with quotations from Washington’s farewell speech. Commemorative handkerchiefs were popular after American Independence, on account of British colonial policies that forbade colonists from manufacturing cloth items. This policy was designed to support British manufacturers at the expense of the colonies, so after the American Revolution, locally produced cloth became an important industry and symbol of political and economic independence. Handkerchiefs like this one were made and sold as souvenirs and keepsakes.

A Victorian needlework copy of the Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington

Nesbitt said the college plans to bring out other items from its special collections for public viewing on a regular basis. It’s a good reminder just how special the college’s collections are, and what a great resource they are for the Chestertown community.

A commemorative handkerchief from 1806 with quotes from Washingtons Farewell Address

All photos from George Washington Exhibit, unless otherwise noted, are by Peter Heck.


Sumner Hall Concert to Recreate Sound of Lester Young Trio


Saxophonist Jason Blythe of the University of Delaware jazz ensemble

The Sumner Hall concert series, African American Legacy and Heritage, continues April 13 with a trio led by tenor saxophonist Jason Blythe. A University of Delaware student, Blythe caught the attention of Tom McHugh, the concert series’ organizer, in a performance at the Mainstay. For the Sumner Hall series, McHugh invited Blythe to recreate the sound of the great Lester Young’s 1946 recordings with a trio including Nat “King” Cole and Buddy Rich.

Blythe was born and raised in Camden, Delaware. In an email April 4, he said that his mother and sister were flutists, and a late cousin played the saxophone in the band in middle school. When his aunt and uncle gave him a Yamaha alto saxophone to learn for school, he said, “I didn’t really think much of it, you know? I didn’t think that that instrument could turn into a future for me. Eventually, I started playing in the jazz band at my middle school. My first real influence was the great Michael Brecker, who absolutely blew my mind every time I heard a recording of him—and still does!” Blythe started playing tenor saxophone in his sophomore year of high school and is now the leader of the sax section of the UD jazz ensemble.

At the university, Blythe is studying with Todd Groves, whom he describes as “extremely experienced, and just scary good at any woodwind instrument you hand him.” As for the music of Lester Young, he said, “I had not really listened to much Lester Young before I heard about this opportunity from Tom McHugh a few months ago,” though he had listened to musicians such as Stan Getz and Greg Fishman whose playing is rooted in Young’s style. He said that listening to the trio album with Cole and Rich “has been a treat for me—I have a much greater appreciation for his playing now. I’m excited to share the music of Lester Young with you!”

The Jason Blythe trio — drummer Isaiah Keith, Blythe, and pianist Tom Palmer

Of his bandmates for the concert, Blythe said, “I’ve known (drummer) Isaiah Keith since I started playing at UD. I’m very glad to know Isaiah, both as a person and as a player. He is without a doubt the most insane drummer I’ve had the pleasure of playing with, and while I find myself trying to keep up with his intellect in an improvised setting, I also know that he’s reliable, keeps the groove, and swings in every context.”

Multi-instrumentalist Tom Palmer, the pianist for the date, is the leader of the UD jazz ensemble and an Assistant Professor of Music. Blythe said, “Every time I hear him play drums, I can’t help but bounce my leg. He knows just what to do and when to do it. He plays piano with just as much taste and appropriateness as his work on drums. I’m very excited to have the opportunity to pay homage to the Lester Young Trio with him.” 

Billie Holiday and Lester Young – “Lady Day” and “Pres”

Lester Young (1909-1959) was one of the true giants of jazz, a pioneer whose work inspired the creators of modern jazz in the 1940s and after. A member of the original Count Basie band in the 1930s, he developed a light-footed, supple approach to the tenor saxophone in contrast to the then-dominant full-bodied style of Coleman Hawkins. In the process, he founded a school that continues to this day – notable “disciples” include saxophonists Stan Getz, Zoot Simms, Dexter Gordon, and Gerry Mulligan, but his influence extends to the entire “cool jazz” movement of the 1950s and beyond. While Young was a consummate big band soloist, much of his best work was done with small groups – notably the pickup combos, usually led by Teddy Wilson, that backed Billie Holiday’s early recordings. Young and Holiday remained close for the rest of their too-short lives; he gave her the nickname, “Lady Day,” and she returned the favor by dubbing him “Pres” – short for “President” (of saxophone players).

Pres’s personal life was marked by tragedy. Drafted into the army in 1944, he was not allowed to play his instrument but instead was assigned to regular basic training. His independent attitude made him a target for racist sergeants. He was charged with marijuana possession and court-martialed, spending a traumatic year in detention before a dishonorable discharge. For much of his post-war career, he scuffled to find gigs, while other players imitating his style were far more successful. A sense of his last years can be gathered from the movie “Round Midnight,” in which Dexter Gordon plays an expatriate jazz musician modeled in part on Young.

Despite it all, Pres’s music remained at the highest level. He played on many memorable recordings, notably in the mid-40s with the trio including Cole and Rich to which Blythe’s concert will pay tribute. He was a regular with Norman Granz’s “Jazz at the Philharmonic” concerts, trading solos with such giants as Charlie Parker, Roy Eldridge, Coleman Hawkins, and Oscar Peterson, and he played several reunion concerts with Basie, including the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957. That same year, he made a last appearance with Lady Day on a TV show, “The Sound of Jazz,” playing a touching solo on “Fine and Mellow.” (Check it out on YouTube — and watch Holiday’s reaction as Pres plays.) But almost anything he recorded will reward listening – his unique sense of melody and his consummate swing were unfailing.

Jason Blythe’s recreation of Young’s famous trio offers a fascinating look at the continuing influence of one of the greatest musicians in jazz history on a younger generation that is setting out on its own jazz journey. You can come along for the ride at the Sumner Hall concert, 7 p.m. Saturday, April 13; tickets are $20. Reservations can be made on the Sumner Hall website. No-one who enjoys classic jazz should miss this one!

Council Supports Enterprise Zone Tax Credits for Downtown Renovations


The Chestertown council at its April 1 meeting

The Chestertown council, at its meeting April 1, approved resolutions in support of Enterprise Zone tax credits for three businesses in town.

New or expanding businesses in the Enterprise Zone, which covers the town’s main business and commercial areas, are eligible for several kinds of tax credits. Businesses hiring new qualifying employees can apply for an income tax credit of $1,000 for each new employee and $6,000, phased over three years, for each new economically disadvantaged employee. Businesses renovating or upgrading properties within the zone are eligible for credits against increases in county property tax based on the assessed value of improvements to the properties. The tax credits are administered by the Maryland Department of Commerce.

Front view of Stam’s, being renovated as an ice cream parlor and luncheonette.

Kit-Team LLC is performing renovations to the former Stam drugstore and the restaurant/bar most recently operating as Lemon Leaf Grill and J.R.’s Past Time Pub. Both properties are undergoing extensive work. The former drugstore is being prepared to open as a luncheonette and ice cream parlor, with a target opening in the fall of this year. As part of the restoration, the owners plan to restore the original storefront façade. Inside, there will be a teaching kitchen and a community gathering place on the first floor, and an office space for a non-profit and an apartment on the second floor. The renovations are expected to cost some $3 million; the luncheonette plans to create at least one full-time job and four to six part-time jobs, while the non-profit would create two to three jobs, at least one of which would be full-time.

At the restaurant site, the renovations are expected to cost about $5 million, spread over four adjacent buildings. A 70-seat restaurant is planned for 337 High St., the former Lemon Leaf site; the building will also include a new kitchen on the first floor, and private dining areas, a pub, and banquet facilities on the upper floor. At 337 ½ High St., plans are for an independently-owned bar and restaurant with outdoor seating in the rear. A small storefront, offering rare and high-end distilled spirits, is slated for 339 High St., while 341 High St. is to be converted into three or more apartments. The applicants estimate that the four buildings will generate some 37 new jobs, as well as increasing tourist traffic and other economic activity. Kit-Team LLC is applying for property tax credits for the capital improvements.

The council voted unanimously to support the tax credit applications. Mayor Chris Cerino described the two Kit-Team projects as “a godsend” to the downtown business area, praising the investors for their “altruistic” commitment to the future of the town.

The former J.R.’s Pub is being renovated — this view from the rear shows the current progress.

The council also approved a resolution in support of applications by KRM Development Corporation and KRM Construction Company, which have offices in the former bank building at 205 High St. The KRM companies are working to create the new Chestertown Business Park on Route 213 behind the Washington Square shopping center, among other projects. These companies are applying for income tax credits, stating that they both plan to create at least one new job in the upcoming year.

Also at the meeting, the council approved event permits for the Tea Party Festival and for Downrigging Weekend. Sabine Harvey, chairwoman of the Tea Party committee, said the festival over Memorial Day weekend would be “the same as always,” with a few minor tweaks. The Saturday street fair will close at 4 p.m. instead of 5 p.m. as previously, to give the town’s street crew an earlier start for cleanup. Harvey said she had already met with the town crew and the police department, and everything is on course for the festival. 

Drew McMullen of Sultana Education Foundation gives the Chestertown Council an update on Downrigging Weekend

Drew McMullen of Sultana Education Foundation gave the presentation for Downrigging, which takes place at the end of October. He said the recent renovations to the town marina would have a major impact on the festival, allowing it to present almost all its events at the marina and on the foot of Cannon Street. Among the changes would be a “festival village” on the site of the former marina store, on the downriver side of the 98 Cannon St. restaurant, the former Fish Whistle. This village will feature live music and food vendors, with music playing until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights. The festival does not plan to use the foot of High Street, as in former years, but McMullen asked that the town not schedule any other events for that area, or for Wilmer Park, so those areas will be available for parking for festival attendees. Also, he asked that Front Street south of Cannon be closed to non-local traffic. There will be a fireworks display either Friday or Saturday night from Wilmer Park. The park will be closed the afternoon of the display to allow the fireworks to be set up safely.

The council also heard an update on the Chestertown bocce league, scheduled to begin its season in Wilmer Park April 16. Frank Hurst, the league president, said that last year’s league enrolled some 325 players. With three new teams signed up for the upcoming season, the league could have 350 players this year, he said. The league has $8,574 cash on hand, from which it will pay for maintenance of the turf in the park. He asked the town to ask any festivals or other events using the park not to run trucks onto the grass, so as to minimize the need for repairs. The bocce league also has a new website, which will offer updated schedules, scores and standings. The council approved a waiver of the open container law for the bocce season.

Cerino asked the council members for their opinions on a proposal to rename the marina “the Port of Chestertown,” as suggested by Councilman Marty Stetson. Cerino said the renovations in the town-owned facility have come a long way, and a new name might help the town to erase negative connotations around the marina from before the upgrades. Town Manager Bill Ingersoll said many people will continue to use the old name, whatever the town decides. After some discussion, Cerino decided to wait for the return of Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver, who was absent for this meeting, to make a decision on the renaming.

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