Chestertown Culinary Renaissance: Enter 98 Cannon Street with Joe Elliott


While opening dates remain far from confirmed, it is quite likely that over the next 18 months Chestertown will have four new restaurants in its historic district to call its own. After a few years of suffering the loss of several popular dining venues, including the beloved Brooks Tavern, Blue Heron, and the Lemon Leaf, a culinary renaissance is starting to take place.

The very first of this new wave will begin with the opening this spring of 98 Cannon Street, former home of the Fish Whistle and the Old Wharf restaurant, located at the town’s new marina.

As one might imagine, the Spy was beyond curious to this extraordinary explosion in culinary options. So much so that we tracked down the new owner 98 Cannon Street to understand what he and his team have planned for this iconic site on the banks of the Chester.

A financial advisor by profession, with a successful firm based in the Philadelphia area, Joe Elliott and his wife made the very deliberate decision to find a more rural environment for the couple and their three young daughters to gather on weekends. That’s what led him to Kent County a few years ago, but there was no desire to have any commercial interest in the town at all.

That started to change as Joe began to fall in love with his family’s new hometown. Going against a lifetime bias against owning businesses like restaurants, including his consistent advice to his clients to stay far away from these “opportunities,” Joe started to see a waterfront dining establishment as a personal challenge rather than a return on investment.

We caught up with Joe a few weeks ago at the Spy HQ to learn more.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. The new 98 Cannon Street design work is being done by M3 Architecture of Rock Hall

The Future of Independent Films in Chestertown: A Conversation with Alicia Kozma


Not so long ago, Chestertown faced a challenge of epic proportions. There had been no catastrophic fire, the Chester River Bridge had not collapsed, nor was this the aftermath of a one hundred year storm. No, the crisis at hand, which impacted almost every soul in Kent County, was that the community had not only lost its only movie theatre but there no indicators that it would be replaced anytime soon.

Fast forward a year or so, and all of that has changed now. To Kent County’s collective relief, the new Chesapeake Movies now offers five state of the art screens. The seats are filled, young parents are relieved that they don’t need to drive 4o minutes for kid matinees, and once again this college town can say they have this critical quality of life amenity.

But given that Chestertown is the home of Washington College, with a student, faculty and retirement community with a passion for independent film, how does the town fill this gap? The answer is starting to emerge in a terrific way.

With the establishment of the RiverArts Film Society, a core group of passionate film aficionados has begun making their mark with  monthly screenings of critically alamcined art house flicks. More importantly, the Film Society has forged a partnership with Washington College, and recently added Alicia Kozma, the College’s professor of Media Studies, to its volunteer oversight committee, and that is when things became really exciting for Chestertown.

It turns out that Alicia has done this before. While attending the University of Illinois for her Ph.D., she volunteered to help form the Champaign-Urbana Film Society in Urbana, now a beloved part of the town-gown film world there. And not missing a beat, she has already arranged with Chesapeake Movies to use one of their theaters for Film Society screenings.

The Spy was delighted Alicia agreed to a Spy interview on the subject of film in Chestertown and caught up with her at the Spy HQ on Queen Street last week.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the RiverArts Film Society please go here.








Spy Minute: RiverArts March Show


“I think of drawing as a dance and a dance is a drawing in space.”
Romanian artist, Geta Bratescu

The term drawing is applied to works that vary greatly in technique. It has been understood in different ways at different times and is difficult to define. During the Renaissance the term ‘disegno’ implied drawing both as a technique to be distinguished from coloring and also as the creative idea made visible in the preliminary sketch.

To accompany this exhibit, RiverArts will host a Creative Lives talk on Thursday, March 7, by A. T. Moffett, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance at Washington College. This event will include a brief dance performance by her students. A limited number of RiverArts member artists will be allowed to sketch at student rehearsals in the months prior to the event.

Open Reception/First Friday: March 1, 2019
Creative Lives Talk & Dance Presentation: Thursday, March 7, @ 6:00
Curator’s/Artists’ Talk: Thursday, March 14, @ 5:30

Video produced by David Hegland

Spy Poll Results: Almost 90% Approve LGBTQ Celebration in Chestertown


Typically, the Chestertown Spy allows at least a few days for our readers to respond to one of our audience surveys. It usually takes that long to secure a critical mass of replies, generally over 200, to make these polls meaningful to our readers.

But in the case of our most recent questions regarding the Chestertown Town Council’s split vote on permitting a LGBTQ celebration on public property in May, The Spy experienced such an unprecedented response, with over 930 readers completing the poll within the first twenty-four hours of being posted, we had more than enough to release these preliminary findings.

The results should be more than reaffirming to Chestertown’s growing gay population that they are welcomed here. Not only did nearly 90% of responses show approval for the Town’s decision, 70% indicated that Councilmembers Stetson and Tolliver votes against the motion demonstrated signs of bigotry. It is also noteworthy that close to 60% identified themselves as residents of Chestertown.



Spy Survey: Do You Support Chestertown’s Decision to Permit a Gay Pride Celebration?


Chestertown residents were caught off guard last week when the Chestertown Town Council barely approved a measure that would permit a gay pride celebration to take place in Fountain Park in May. The typically progressive college town community was surprised to learn that two out of five council members (Ellsworth Tolliver and Marty Stetson) had voted against issuing the special event permit after expressing concerns over the impact the event might have on children or the “showcasing” of their lifestyle.

The Spy was as surprised as much of the community to hear of this kind of divide and thought it would be beneficial to get a sample of what Chestertown and the region feel about these events.

Please participate with our three question Spy poll on the subject.

Create your own user feedback survey

Spy Minute: RiverArts February Show Makes It Real


In our most recent Spy Minute: Anne Highfield-Clark, the curator of the RiverArts Gallery show in February entitled “Variations on a Theme (Still Life and Portraiture)” shares a few thoughts with us on highlights the show.

Her goal is to show that the magic of still life can show one a new way of looking at the ordinary objects around us. Once they are placed into a specific arrangement and then captured in paint, ink, pastel, or any other medium – these objects take on a whole new meaning. In portraiture, the intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.

Video produced by David Hegland

RiverArts 315 High Street, Chestertown
January 30 – February 24

Opening Reception
Friday, February 1, 5:00 – 8 pm

Curator & Artists’ Talk
Thursday, February 7, 5:30 – 7 pm

Mid-Shore Arts: Composer and Singer Barbara Parker on Being the New Kid on the Block


It is hard to think of another community where such a shockingly large number of people who live here can name at least five of the most outstanding female vocalists in the area. Remarkably different in their gifts and generous in their support, these professional artists have set a high bar for any newcomer.

That is what visual artist and writer Barbara Parker realized when she decided to take her love of words and combine them with music around 2005. That may seem like a long time ago, but in her Spy chat, she still feels she is still just catching up to these masters who she has admired since arriving in Kent County in 1982.

Collaborating with pianist Joe Holt, another great Kent County master, Barbara has started to perfect her performance style. Using a repertoire of her compositions which were developed with Joe’s arrangements, the twosome has steadily grown a following on the Mid-Shore. Many of whom will no doubt be there when the twosome headline a reception and concert at the Brampton Inn on January 19.

In her Spy interview, she talks about her love of lyrics and music, the awe she has the local talent this small rural community has to offer, and how grateful she has been for their influence and guidance.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. Additional video generously provided by Steve Payne.  Tickets and information about the Brampton Inn concert can be found here.


Remembering Judy Kohl


As reported by the Chestertown Spy a few days ago, local Kent County philanthropist and arts leader Judy Kohl passed away at the age of 79 on December 4th. Through the Hedgelawn Foundation, Judy, and her family, have given generously to the region’s nonprofit organizations and schools, leaving a extraordinary legacy in helping our treasured arts and cultural institutions.

In response to public interest, the Spy is sharing two video interviews with Judy Kohl as she talks about her life and steadfast commitment to education, music, and art in Kent County.

The Chestertown Marina: Mayor Cerino Sees the Finish Line of the Long, Hard Slog


It is almost too painful to recall the many twists and turns of the Chestertown Marina project since the town purchased the property in 2012.  The setbacks, the economic recession, the second-guessing, the mixed signals from Annapolis, and the inevitable last minute surprises over the last six years would give anyone a serious about heartburn. And no one could possibly feel more of that indigestion issue that Chestertown’s mayor, Chris Cerino.

Even before the town took the unprecedented step to purchase the marina, Cerino had been tracking it. Heading up the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as serving as the Sultana Education Foundation’s director of education, Chris was well aware of its opportunities and challenges well before he decided to make the marina his number one priority when he ran for mayor in 2014.

And for the last four years, he’s seen first hand how complex and frustrating a project like this can be for a small town. But it has also allowed him to join other leaders in town for a modest victory lap as the real fruit of their labor is now being very tangibly being seen on Chester River waterfront.

The Spy talked to Mayor Cerino last week in the new Marina Interpretive Center to talk about this long journey and the almost unlimited potential it has released as this three hundred year old community reclaims in historic ties to river and offered a future door for economic development.

This video is approximately eight minutes in length. For more information about the Chestertown Marina or to make a contribution to its final phase of funding, please go here


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