Council Hears Reports on Meter Bags, Car Show, Police Recruit

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At the Chestertown Council meeting, July 15, Kay MacIntosh of Main Street Chestertown showed council members samples of bags to be placed on parking meters for streets that need to be closed for special events.

Kay MacIntosh

MacIntosh said the bags would be an “easier and more positive” way to inform the public of street closings, not just saying “you can’t park here,” but turning it into “don’t park here because there’s a great event coming.”

The bags would take a burden off the police department, which currently posts paper signs on trees, utility poles, or other fixtures for the purpose. Those signs can be damaged by rain or wind, which requires that they be replaced. The weatherproof bags, designed by Barbara Slocum, are made of bluish-purple canvas,  and they would have a slot with a clear plastic window for insertion of a paper sign specific to the event. The signs would be placed in the bags at police headquarters before they were deployed. The bags can also be used for the Saturday Farmers Market, where they would stay up full-time, MacIntosh said. 

A $2,464 grant from the Maryland State Arts Council will pay for almost all of the bags, MacIntosh said. The Tea Party Festival is the only regular event that would require placing bags on all the downtown meters, which are primarily on High and Cross Streets and Park Row. If the cost exceeds the grant amount, she said, the balance can be covered from donated funds visitors put in the parking meters.

MacIntosh said she would consult with the town police before placing a final order for the bags.

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll asked MacIntosh about plans for a classic car show to be held downtown in September.

MacIntosh said the organizers had not yet received permits for the event, but she believed they had filed the application. The show is scheduled for Sept. 14, at 2 p.m., after the Farmers Market closes. Cars would be exhibited on High Street next to Fountain Park, and on Park Row and Memorial Plaza. There would be a couple of food trucks, and beer and wine vendors. Half a dozen especially interesting cars would be displayed in the park itself, she said. She said the organizers would take special care to avoid damaging the grass in the park.

Councilwoman Linda Kuiper expressed concern about giving Farmers Market vendors enough time to break down their displays and leave the park before the cars need to set up. Barbara Slocum, one of the organizers, said she had been at Farmers Market and timed the vendors as they left. The park was “almost empty” by 12:40, she said, leaving enough time for everyone if setup for the car show begins at 1 p.m. and the show itself at 2.

Ingersoll said the possibility of damage to the park grass should be minimal. He also said it should be put in the context of a plan by the Chestertown Garden Club to aerate and reseed the park later in September. He joked that “the biggest rain of the season” would probably fall on Sept. 13, making the park too muddy to show cars there.

Chestertown Police Chief Ardian Baker

After Chief Adrian Baker presented the monthly police report for June, Ingersoll asked if there was any update on the “purloined” police recruit who completed training under Chestertown auspices and then resigned to take a job with another Shore town.

Baker said the police department had received a personal check from the recruit reimbursing the town for his salary. The department also expects a check from the town with which he is now working for the cost of training, Baker said. He said the other recruit hired at the same time is “doing great,” with field training expected to be completed by August. He said he would bring the new officer in to introduce him to the council at the next meeting.

Councilman David Foster, in his ward report, asked if the town was considering kayak and bike rentals in the marina.

Ingersoll said there had been some discussion of the idea. He said said that any rentals would need to be “non-commercial,” so as not to expose the town to tax liability for the property. Also, he said, there is currently dredging being done at the marina, which makes it less safe for kayakers to launch there. The two kayak launches at the marina were not getting a great deal of use, he said.

Ingersoll also said there is an issue with slip fees for visiting boaters who want to eat at the 98 Cannon restaurant. He said the restaurant only maintains two slips. “We’re working out details,” he said.

Councilman Marty Stetson reported that playground equipment in Margo Bailey Park was recently vandalized. He said the equipment is underused, and its location makes it an easy target for mischief. “It’s a question if it’s the right place for it,” he said. Stetson also reported that the town street crew had pruned and trimmed about 100 trees in the park. “It’s really beautiful,” he said.

Public Service Commission Can Overrule Local Government, Court Says

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The Maryland Court of Appeals reaffirmed on Tuesday that the Maryland Public Service Commission is the final arbiter on the location and approval of solar projects larger than two megawatts—and can preempt local jurisdictions after giving “due consideration” to local zoning ordinances and comprehensive plans.

The ruling cites the historical “intent” of the Maryland General Assembly in passing public utilities law as well as recent amendments enacted in 2017 that reinforced the PSC’s  “decision-making” authority.

The court affirmed that it has always upheld the broad powers of the PSC given to it in statute by the legislature “to execute its principal duty of assuring adequate electrical service statewide.”

And while the court recognized local government as a partner in the decision process, “the ultimate decision-maker is the PSC, not the local government or local zoning board.”

The court did, however, note the PSC’s obligation to consider local land use laws when approving applications for solar projects that require a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity.

Local zoning laws are “nevertheless a statutory factor requiring due consideration by the PSC in rendering its ultimate decision,” the ruling said.

The recent court ruling comes from a case in Washington County where local residents fought Perennial Solar, LLC ‘s application in late 2015 for a variance to build an 86-acre solar farm near the village of Cearfoss.

The Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals approved the application, ruling that the project conformed to the comprehensive plan.  Residents soon petitioned the Washington County Circuit Court to kill the project because it would blight the rural landscape.

But Perennial filed a motion challenging the jurisdiction of the circuit court on the grounds that state law gave the PSC final authority under the state’s Public Utilities Article, passed by the Maryland General Assembly, to approve the placement of solar energy generating systems. The circuit court agreed.

The Washington County Commissioners and a group of citizens appealed to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, which sided with the circuit court in affirming the state’s preemptive authority.

The Washington Commissioners brought the case to Maryland Court of Appeals in late 2018 on the grounds that the General Assembly had “prescribed a role for local government” through local planning and zoning that was not preempted by the PSC.

But the appeals court sided with Perennial, citing case law, the 2017 amendments to public utilities article, and bills that failed in the General Assembly to allow for greater local control.

“Our holding that the General Assembly’s intent to preempt local comprehensive planning and zoning on matters related to the ultimate siting and construction of generating stations is bolstered by the recent amendments to the statute, as well as our consideration of the proposed bills, which were rejected,” the court said.

“If the General Assembly intended to change the existing law, it certainly had the opportunity to do so,” the court said.

The recent ruling received a cool response from Queen Anne’s Conservation Association Executive Director Jay Falstad, who highlighted the PCS’s obligation to local jurisdictions in the ruling.

“Given everything we’ve heard about the great importance of allowing land-use decisions to be made by the Counties rather than by the State, we’re somewhat surprised that the Court of Appeals has ruled unanimously that it’s the State, not the Counties, that will decide where in a County any big solar project is to be located,” Falstad wrote in an email to the Spy. ”But the Court is very careful to emphasize many times over that the PSC is legally required to listen to the County’s views and to give “due consideration” to how the County treats solar projects in its comprehensive plan and zoning regulations.  So, as an environmental organization that strongly supports solar projects when they are built in the right places, we at QACA will go on working at both levels, state and local, for good decision-making about solar in Queen Anne’s County and its neighbors.”

Though disappointed with the ruling, the Kent Conservation Alliance, through its attorney Chris Drummond, said the PSC over the past few years has actually been more proactive in working with local communities on renewable energy projects.

“The Kent and Queen Anne’s County Commissioners are surely disappointed with the Court of Appeals decision,” Drummond wrote in an email to the Spy. “However, the attitude among state agencies regarding local land use and zoning concerns seems to have changed in the past few years. Now, the state agencies that provide information and recommendations to the Public Service Commission actively seek local input and include those concerns in reports to the PSC. Recently, solar applications have been approved by the PSC with conditions that require compliance with local site plan and landscaping requirements. We will work to make sure that the state agencies continue to take local concerns and land use regulations seriously.”

Drummond filed an amicus brief in support of the Washington County Commissioners.

Maryland Association of Counties said the decision was a disappointment but said the organization would “continue to advocate for a county voice in the decision-making process” and that the 2017 legislation did not sideline local governments in the approval process.

“The court’s decision reiterated important parts of state law that require the Commission to give due consideration to the position of a local government on an energy generation projects,” said Les Knapp, chief policy counsel for MACo in an email to the Spy.

But the attorney representing the Washington County citizens group, William Wantz, was not as optimistic and said Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore would soon feel the encroachment of solar farms.

“The availability of farmland at reasonable cost will periodically result in a disproportionate concentration of solar farms displacing agriculture in Western Maryland and the Eastern Shore, where rural land prices are cheap.”

 

Chestertown Music in the Park: “Music from Musicals” Concert to be Held in Sumner Hall, Sat. July 20

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Tred Avon players in 2018 in the cast of “Little Shop of Horrors” Top Row: Ricky Vitanovec, Rachel Elaina, Beth Anne Langrell, Erinne Lewis, Bill Gross, Mike Sousa, Shelby Swann – Middle Row: Ed Langrell  – Bottom Row: Kathy Jones, Sarah Anthony, Matthew Keeler. 

The Tred Avon Players will present an evening of music from Broadway musicals at Chestertown’s next Music in the Park concert. Directed by Marcia Gilliam, this talented group of local singers and actors will bring the magic of Broadway to the stage in Sumner Hall this Saturday, July 20.  The music begins at 7:00 pm and will last approximately 90 minutes. Admission is free and open to the public.

The concert will be indoors due to the extreme heat expected this weekend – in the 90s on Saturday evening with “feels-like” temperatures of over 100. Sumner Hall will be air-conditioned. There is also a lovely little museum there that visitors can enjoy before the concert or during the intermission.  Sumner Hall is located at 206 S. Queen St. in downtown Chestertown.

The concert will feature songs from famous composers such as Irving Berlin, George M. Cohan, Cole Porter, and Stephen Sondheim.  There will also be tunes from more contemporary composers such as Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), and Stephen Schwartz (Wicked).

There will be solos, duets, and trios along with full ensemble numbers. Among the musicals included are It Shoulda Been You, Once Upon This Island, Tick Tick Boom, The Apple Tree, Waitress, A Little Night Music, and Little Shop of Horrors.

Accompanying the singers will be noted pianist Ellen Grunden. Chorus members include Marcia Gilliam, Kathy Jones, Beth Anne Langrell, Ed Langrell, Shelby Swann, and Mike Sousa.

If you’ve enjoyed the classic Broadway musicals as performed at the Church Hill Theatre or in Oxford by the Tred Avon Players, then don’t miss this chance to walk down Broadway again! There will be old favorites as well as some new songs from shows currently on Broadway. And of course, some to sing along with! Please join us at 7:00 pm on Saturday, July 20, at Sumner Hall.

Sumner Hall is located at 206 South Queen St. in Chestertown. It has wheelchair access and an elevator. Seating capacity is limited to 75, so you might want to arrive a little early in order to be sure of getting a seat.

Marcia Gilliam, director and member of Tred Avon Players

Built around 1908, Sumner Hall is one of only two remaining Grand Army of the Republic lodges built by and for African-American soldiers who fought for the Union in the American Civil War. Sumner Hall has been completely restored and modernized and currently serves as a small museum and community center with a full calendar of events, including other concerts. According to their website at http://garpost25.org/, Sumner Hall’s mission is “to preserve Sumner Hall as a place of remembrance, to promote an understanding of the African American experience within the context of American history and culture, to honor the contributions of African American veterans, to promote the pursuit of liberty for all, and to advocate for social justice.”

Music in the Park is a free summer concert series sponsored by the Town of Chestertown with support from The Kent County Arts Council & Community Contributors. To help make these programs possible, please send donations payable to the Town of Chestertown with “Music in the Park” in the notes field of the check. Mail to Chestertown Town Hall, 118 N. Cross Street, Chestertown, MD 21620.

The next bands in the concert series will be Swing City on Saturday, Aug. 3 and Quiet Fire on Legacy Day, Aug. 17.

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Bay Crossing Study Stalled? by Janet Christensen-Lewis

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Spring ended with the solstice on June 21, but the promised Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) public meeting on a Bay Crossing has not materialized.

Since rescinding an announcement of “open house” style meetings for the winter of 2019 (itself a delay from the original plan for such meetings by the close of 2018), MDTA asked the public to watch for such meetings in the spring of 2019. The excuse we were given for not meeting the winter deadline was the federal government shutdown, which did not allow federal staff to participate in meetings.

Now, the current notice on BayCrossingStudy.com states only: “Please check back here for upcoming Public Open House dates and times.” There are no explanations for the further delay.

This significant delay, currently more than six months, raises two grave concerns. First, exactly how transparent is this public process? How are we, the public, supposed to interpret this delay? It seems to us that the MDTA is totally disregarding its obligation to provide the public with real information about what is happening on this important and controversial project.

Second, this delay is robbing the public of time to consider critical information and participate adequately in the next phase of the process. A delay of this magnitude should be reflected in a comparable modification of the overall schedule and deadline, extending the close of the process.

MDTA was given five million taxpayer dollars to conduct a study required under the National Environmental Protection Act for the project. Were these wasted dollars on an agency that is unable to conduct a professional and transparent study? One of the primary responsibilities stated in the Coordination Plan for agencies conducting these reviews is public input. Another important aspect of their work is to implement consultation on historic resources in accordance with the National Historic Preservation Act, known as the Section 106 process. Neither of these is happening. Unless there is a change in the scheduling they will be shortchanged. Of particular concern would be that the Section 106 process will be foreshortened in a way that is unsuited to the sensitive and important historic resources across the Eastern Shore that could be affected by a new Chesapeake crossing.

There seems to be a great deal of chaos at MDTA. First a map showing 14 potential corridors for Bay crossing turned out to be leaked “pre-decisional” maps that were for internal use and not meant to be shared with the public. This was followed by the abrupt unexplained departure of Kevin Reigrut, the head of MDTA’s 1,700-employee agency. His replacement, James F. Ports, Jr., formerly Maryland’s Deputy Transportation Secretary, was appointed in June. Coupled with the unexplained missed deadlines there is the appearance that this agency is unable to get its house in order. This track record is not reassuring when the agency is tackling a decision on what will be an extraordinary expense for Maryland residents, a potential scar on the Chesapeake Bay, and could result in a profound alteration of the culture and landscape of the Eastern Shore.

We deserve an explanation of why dates in the schedule have effectively been changed to TBD, why the Coordination Plan has not been updated and extended to reflect delays in the scheduling, when the Section 106 consultation process is going to happen, and where MDTA currently stands in its obligation to bring forward the Corridor Alternatives Retained for Analysis for public participation. As the situation is now, MDTA is operating in its own bubble and the public is completely excluded from the conversation.

Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance has tried communicating with project coordinator Heather Lowe at MDTA to no avail. We have written to Senator Hershey and Delegate Jacobs for help in getting some answers to our questions about this project and holding the agency to its responsibility to be open and transparent. Mr. Ports, copied on the letter sent to our State representatives, has replied: “I appreciate hearing from you and as the newly appointed Executive Director, I’m sure you can imagine that I have quite a few issues to follow up on. I will look into this issue and as soon as I can garner the information about this request, I will do my best to inform you and the public at large.” We will have to take him at his word but are mindful that this is only a promise that has been made by an agency that has failed repeatedly to answer questions that we and the residents of Kent County have posed.

You will not be asked to “check back with us” as MDTA has done, KCPA will publicly release any information received in real time.

Janet Christensen-Lewis, Chair

Board of Directors

Kent Conservation and Preservation Alliance

Kentalliance.org

 

Council Discusses Ways to Restore July 4 Fireworks Display Next Year

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Chestertown council members, at the July 15 meeting, responded to numerous complaints from the public about the lack of a July 4 fireworks display this year.

Fireworks were dropped from the FY2019 budget during deliberations last Spring, in response to tightened fiscal circumstances that also led to an increase in the town’s property tax rate. However, since a 2018 fireworks show had been already included in the previous budget and was already under contract, the town went ahead with the display last summer on July 4, 2018. The town website did not mention that there would be no display in 2019, and many residents evidently assumed it would take place “as usual.” Some online search engines, including Google, made the same assumption and erroneously listed Chestertown as one of the Shore towns with a July 4 fireworks show.

Chestertown Councilwoman Linda Kuiper and Town Manager Bill Ingersoll

Town Manager Bill Ingersoll described the reaction as “a lot of flak,” adding that one complaint that “went overboard” was turned over to the police. “If everyone out there who’s angry wants to donate, this is a good time,” Ingersoll said. He said the town could put up “an unbelievable show in the space that we have” for $7,500. He said the town could start accepting donations for next year right away.

“A lot of people should have known,” said Councilwoman Linda Kuiper, who presided over the meeting while Mayor Chris Cerino was on vacation. She noted that the decision to eliminate the fireworks display was made more than a year ago. “Maybe they just weren’t paying attention,” she said. She asked how far in advance of a proposed fireworks show would the town need to start obtaining the necessary permits.

Ingersoll said permits from the U.S. Coast Guard and “the bomb squad” need to be obtained three months before a proposed display, “so we usually start in February.” He said the town has staged the display on the same small site near Wilmer Park for several years now. “It’s very visible from the river,” he said.

Councilman Marty Stetson said the town should try to find some community organization that would take on the fireworks display. He said he felt it was unfair to taxpayers to fund the display out of public money when not all of them are interested in fireworks. He said after the meeting that he knows of very few residents of Ward 4, which he represents, who go to the show. He said that Rock Hall, which finances its fireworks from donations, actually has money left over after the show, which he said costs about $20,000.

“I know the boating community was upset,” said Stetson. He said he asked people who complained to him how much money they would be willing to contribute for a show. “I think it would be great if some other organization heads it up,” he said. “The government doesn’t do well raising funds.”

Kay MacIntosh of Main Street Chestertown said there had been discussions last year about her organization possibly taking over the fireworks, but she would have to talk to her board before she could make any commitment. She said the organizers of a Fall Car Show scheduled for September told her that if the show made any money they could donate it to the cause. MacIntosh said she had gone on vacation to a little town in Pennsylvania where the local businesses sponsored the display, and there were signs all along the road acknowledging the sponsors.

Councilman David Foster said he had talked to members of the town’s fire department who had a booth at the Farmers Market last Saturday. He said they appeared willing to consider the idea, although they made no commitment. He said he had written them a letter proposing the idea for them to discuss at the next department meeting, which he couldn’t attend because it took place at the same time as the council meeting. He pointed out that the fire department is in need of more volunteers, and that they have “fundraising challenges of their own.” As a result, it would probably require another organization to work with them to do some of the fundraising and advertising. Also, he said, the firefighters would probably want to touch base with the Rock Hall Fire Department to see what was involved. “I was pleased that they would be willing to discuss this on short notice,” he said. He said he would report what he heard back from them.

Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver said there are several community organizations “that want to contribute and make it happen,” and that working with the fire department could be a good way to bring all the resources together.

Also at the meeting, the council heard the monthly police report; a report on proposed “no parking” bags to place on downtown meters when a festival or other event requiring street closings is scheduled; and a short preview of the September car show. Look for a full account of these and other town council matters in an upcoming issue of the Chestertown Spy.

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“Lights for Liberty” Vigil Protests Treatment of Immigrant Children

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A “Lights for Liberty” vigil in Chestertown’s Memorial Park Friday, July 12, drew some 125 residents to protest the incarceration of immigrant children in what are being called concentration camps located both near the US border with Mexico and in other states. The vigil featured speakers, music, and prayers for the children in the camps, which have drawn widespread criticism for crowding and inhumane conditions.

Heather Mizeur, organizer of the vigil  — Photo by Jane Jewell

Soul Force Politics, a political action group created by former Maryland Delegate and gubernatorial candidate Heather Mizeur, organized the event. Mizeur opened the proceedings, noting that the candlelight vigil on Friday was one of hundreds being held around the nation and internationally, with some sources estimating over 1,000 such events world-wide. She said the purpose of the vigils was to call attention to the presence of the camps and the conditions of the children “in a nice way.” She then called out, “(Rep.) Andy Harris, are you here? We’re trying to send you a message.” As the Stam Hall clock tolled 9 p.m., she said the attendees were there “to toll the bell for a different way” of treating the refugees in the camps. “This isn’t going to stand any longer,” she said.  It was important, she stressed, that we bring both intention and attention to the situation.

Fredy Granillo then took the microphone for a song in Spanish, which he dedicated to all Latino people. He asked the crowd to make an effort to see that Latino people they meet in the community are comfortable and feel welcomed. As he sang, the crowd joined in on the chorus, “Sobreviviendo” (“surviving”).

Alana Watson of Students Talking About Racism (STAR)   — Photo by Peter Heck

The next speaker was Alana Watson, of the Students Talking About Racism (STAR) group at the Kent County public schools. She said it was shameful that children are being imprisoned, and noted the words of the Pledge of Allegiance, “liberty and justice for all.” She said that while the damage of the camps is not being done “in our backyard,” it’s necessary to shine a light on it to make everyone aware. She characterized the children in the camps as “people without someone to bring them justice… We need to be those people.” She ended by recalling the July 4th celebrations in Rock Hall, with the song “Proud to Be an American” playing, while the children in the camps were cold and alone. “I hope they know that we care,” she said.

Bob and Pam Ortiz and Ford Schumann then joined Granillo for more music. Bob Ortiz said that his own family was part of the first wave of Latino immigrants to the U.S. that arrived between the end of the Spanish American War in 1898 and World War II. Granillo joined in on the song, “Vaya con Norte,” (“Go North”) with the audience singing along with the chorus. Ortiz said he had only recently learned that Puerto Ricans are only “provisional” citizens.

Fredy Granillo, Pam Ortiz, Ford Schumann, and Bob Ortiz perform a Puerto Rican song   — Photo by Jane Jewell

Mizeur invited several members of the clergy who were in attendance to say a joint prayer. She expressed hope that the incarcerated children and their parents know that people are “standing with them,” and that Americans understand that they are here because of the threat of violence in their home countries. With the threat of raids by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) police beginning Sunday, “it’s up to us to provide a safe harbor,” and directed attendees to the Soul Force Politics website for resources to help refugees. Mizeur also suggested that attendees support Latino-owned businesses such as the Mexican grocery store near Chestertown. She concluded by saying that Chestertown was “the most beautiful I have ever seen you” that night at the vigil, and told the attendees, “Your heart, your soul, your dedication matter.”

Members of the clergy attending the vigil  — Photo by Jane Jewell

Caitlan Gartland, the associate pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown, said that the vigil showed that “the spirit is moving upon the people,” and expressed hope that the protests would help turn around the administration’s immigration policies.

Rev. Tom Sinnott, who serves the Spanish-speaking congregation at Shrewsbury Church, said he had picked up a candle at the local convenience store and saw that it was labeled “born to shine.” He said that was equally true of people of faith, and that he was here to make sure they said, “No more” to those maintaining the camps.

Granillo and the Ortizes then came together for a final song, “Dale,” from Granillo’s native El Salvador. Granillo said that the song has a happy rhythm, but the words are “in the opposite direction” from the rhythm. He dedicated the song to all Latin American people.

Mizeur closed the evening by asking each audience member to hug five people before they left. “Love each other real good,” she said. “It’s love that’s going to bring about change.”

Photos by Peter Heck and Jane Jewell

Lights for Liberty Vigil – Friday, July 12, 2019 – Photo by Peter Heck

Lights for Liberty Vigil – Friday, July 12, 2019 – Photo by Peter Heck

Photo by Jane Jewell

Legacy Day to Celebrate African-American Churches in Kent County

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Sunday school students from the Still Pond/Colemans charge, including Mt. Zion, Fountain, Union, and St. George United Methodist churches

At the center of this year’s Legacy Day celebration, scheduled for August 17, is a recognition of the role of African-American churches in the history and culture of Kent County. A joint project of the Kent County Historical Society and Sumner Hall, Legacy Day is in its sixth year of celebrating the role of African-Americans in the community. Drawing attendees from a wide area, Legacy Day has become an important part of Chestertown’s cultural landscape.

Asbury United Methodist Church, Georgetown

While the most visible part of the festivities, for many attendees, is the parade and block party Saturday evening, Legacy Day incorporates a lot more, including a great deal of research into the history of Kent County. This year’s research was even more extensive than usual, documenting the history of all the African American churches that were founded more than 125 years ago, a total of 24, of which 16 are still actively holding services.

As lead researcher Bill Leary notes in an article summarizing the research, the historic African American churches were all of the Methodist denomination. This is because, as Leary says, “No other religious group treated African Americans better. Early Methodists worked hard to make black converts and spoke out clearly against slavery.” Also, with the church’s emphasis on conversion rather than the formal study of church doctrine, Methodism made itself accessible to the poor and uneducated of all races.

Eleven of the historic churches were founded in the years before the end of slavery, and another eight in the years immediately following the Civil War, when hopes for reconstruction and racial equality were high.

Leary notes that despite welcoming black worshipers, the early Methodist churches were not free of discrimination. African Americans were required to sit in the back of the church, or in the gallery, and at camp meetings, they were not allowed to sit in front of the speakers’ platforms. Because of this, a movement arose to establish independent churches for black Methodists. In 1813, Peter Spencer, born a slave in Kent County, founded the Union Church of Africans in Wilmington, Delaware. Three years later, the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church was founded by Absalom Jones and Richard Allen. Other black Methodists, including many of those in Kent County, remained within the main body of the church. However, by 1864, they were seeking more control over the governance of their own churches, leading to the foundation of the Delaware Annual Conference. This group, including churches in New York City, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and the Delmarva peninsula, remained independent of the United Methodist Church as a whole until 1965.

Janes United Methodist Church, Chestertown

Probably the earliest African-American church in Kent County was Zion Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in Chestertown before 1828 when a property transfer document refers to it as already standing on a plot on Princess (now Queen) Street. Moved and rebuilt several times, the church was renamed in 1867 to honor Bishop Edmund Janes, whose name it bears today. The present structure at the corner of Cross and Cannon Streets was built in 1914 after a fire destroyed much of downtown Chestertown. In its long history, it has been the spiritual home of many prominent citizens, including 19th-century businessmen William Perkins and James Jones, both trustees of the church.

Chestertown’s other historic black church is Bethel A.M.E. Church, founded sometime before 1872. The church trustees bought land at the corner of Kent and Calvert Streets in 1878, where the congregation met until 1910 when a new church was built on College Avenue. The church has been a center for the fight for equal rights, with its pastor Rev. Frederick Jones Sr. among the founders of the local NAACP chapter. Rev. Jones also welcomed the Freedom Riders to Kent County in 1962. More recently, Bethel has hosted the monthly meetings of the Diversity Dialogue Group.

Other Kent County churches still holding services are Emmanuel United Methodist Church in Pomona, founded in 1849; Asbury-John Wesley United Methodist Church in Millington, from before 1855; Graves Chapel Union American Methodist Episcopal Church, Millington, reportedly founded by and named for a veteran of the U.S. Colored Infantry in the Civil War; and Wesley Chapel of Love United Methodist Church in Sassafras, incorporated in 1893 and merged with two other congregations in 2004.

Also active in the modern era are Mount Pisgah United Methodist Church of Melitota, founded before 1860, when it appears on a map of the county; the New Christian Chapel of Love in Big Woods, founded sometime before 1888 as Fountain United Methodist Church; Mt. Olive A.M.E. Church of Butlertown, built in 1898 but likely founded much earlier; and St. George United Methodist Church of Worton Point, which is adjacent to the historic African American schoolhouse, built in 1890 and purchased by the church in 1958.

Union United Methodist Church, Coleman’s Corner

Union United Methodist Church in Coleman’s Corner was probably built in 1865 or 1866, shortly after Emancipation. Asbury United Methodist Church of Georgetown traces its origins to 1863 when local black residents began holding services in the local school. It is named for its first pastor, Rev. Asbury Grinnage. Mount Pleasant United Methodist Church, located on the north side of Fairlee, purchased land for a church in 1885. Its present building dates to 1908.

Emmanuel United Methodist Church, Pomona

Aaron Chapel United Methodist Church of Rock Hall originated when the local white church donated its chapel, which it no longer needed, to the free black community in 1854. Holy Trinity A.M.E. Church of Edesville erected its first church building in 1885, but there is evidence that the local African-American community was holding church services at least 20 years earlier when it built a school for black children shortly after Emancipation.

Another nine churches built more than 125 years ago are no longer holding services, and in many cases, the buildings are in ruins. Leary’s history, which will be available at the Historical Society during the month of August, gives details on all 24 of the churches, including the names of their pastors, prominent members of their congregations, and other historical information. There will also be an exhibit including artifacts from several of the churches, first at the Historical Society and later at Sumner Hall.

Members of the existing churches have been invited to take part in the Legacy Day celebrations, including a concert of old-time gospel music Aug. 10 at Bethel Church, and the parade Aug. 17.

The full Legacy Day schedule:

Saturday, August 10:

2:00 pm, at Bethel AME Church – Old Time Gospel Music presented by local churches and Reception for Honorees

Saturday, August 17:

10:00 am, at Chestertown Public Library – Genealogy Workshop

11:00 am – 4:00 pm, at Sumner Hall – Stories and Snacks for the Young and Young at Heart

12:00 pm – 6:00 pm, at Chestertown RiverArts – Special Legacy Day Exhibit

2:00 pm, at Bethel AME Church – Gospel Concert by Rev. Dr. Anthony Brown

5:00 pm – Parade Down High Street, with MC Yvette Hynson (Lady Praise)

6:00 pm – 10:00 pm – Block Party on High Street featuring Music by Jasper Hackett with Quiet Fire — the band that played the first Legacy Day in 2014

The evening festivities include food and drinks booths and a dance contest.

Photos courtesy of Kent County Historical Society.

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One Nation One Team by Nancy Mugele

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Nike, the Goddess of Victory, had an epic fail last week when she canceled her launch of the Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July sneaker featuring the Betsy Ross flag. No matter which side of the equation you are on regarding athletes taking a knee in the NFL, or any other sport, during the National Anthem, Nike’s reversal on a shoe design is a fail for another critical reason.

As a former Cover Girl cosmetics marketer, I can assure you that in general “talent” does not have a say in product development, design, or marketing, nor can they impact a product launch. Imagine Christie Brinkley telling Cover Girl execs back in the day – “I don’t like that eye shadow color, it’s unappealing, don’t ship it.” Trust me, the talent would lose their lucrative endorsement contract. Companies whose management do not value their product development, design and marketing professionals, the ones who work tirelessly to advance their brand, will eventually lose those creative minds to competitors. To me, this recent event makes me sad for those Nike employees who have worked for a year or more on this sneaker launch in product development, package engineering, planning, logistics, sales, marketing, and publicity, only to have it derailed by one voice who did not pay attention in history class.

The Betsy Ross flag, named for the Quaker seamstress, upholsterer and flag maker, and one of the only females associated with the Revolutionary War (along with Deborah Sampson who disguised herself as a man and joined George Washington’s army, but that is another story), is a significant patriotic symbol which should be honored. According to her family, she created the design with its distinguishing feature, thirteen 5-pointed stars (vs. 6-pointed stars which were suggested) arranged in a circle to represent the unity of the Thirteen Colonies. My grandmother was also a seamstress and as a young girl I felt a kinship with Betsy Ross, because of my grandmother.

The fact that an extremist group may have hijacked this flag to represent hate in recent history does not negate or diminish its importance to the country’s founding. In fact, it is ironic that a group that avows to hate women would use a symbol created by a woman. The joke’s on them, but seriously, this flag flown by normal American humans is, and was, meant to signify our new nation, as Abraham Lincoln stated in the Gettysburg Address, “conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men [humans] are created equal.” Our union is far from perfect, yet we must continue to choose kindness and love.

We are an UnderArmour family, so I don’t usually pay attention to the Winged Goddess except as it relates to women’s soccer. Nike also had an epic victory last week announcing that the U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team official home jersey is its number one top-selling jersey, men’s or women’s, ever sold in one season. It is so fun to rally behind #OneNationOneTeam. As I wrote in a column last year, collective joy truly uplifts. These exceptional soccer players are a special breed – dedicated, full of athleticism, spirit, and patriotism – and they have captured our hearts in a way that overpaid male athletes have not. These 23 highly trained athletes are role models to an estimated one million girls playing soccer in our country who all share their dream. And, they deserve to celebrate their individual and team goals, and wins, unapologetically. They are, after all, playing in the WORLD Cup – a championship far greater than any Super Bowl.

I was at home last Sunday, along with many of you, watching with bated breath, as the U.S. took on the Netherlands. It was a hard fought game. The U.S. defended their World Cup title and, again, took the win, for the fourth time. Historic and incredibly inspirational!  I hope they also win their lawsuit for equal pay. Women and girls in this country, and in the world, are watching.

And, let’s just be One Nation One Team all of the time.

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at Kent School in Chestertown, a member of the Board of the Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools, a member of the Board of Horizons of Kent and Queen Anne’s, a member of the Board of Chesapeake Charities, and a member of the Education Committee of Sultana Education Foundation.

Food Friday: Metropolitan Ice Creams

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It is shaping up to be a hot summer. Which is a good thing. It gives us something to reflect upon fondly when we are scraping ice off our windshields in February. Mr. Friday and I will remember the week we just spent vacationing in New York City, where the heat was hellish, the sidewalks were soft and sticky, and there was an endless parade of cooling, delicious summer ice creams forever strutting before us, beckoning us, luring us with chilly, sweet siren songs. And as good tourists, we obliged by eating as much ice cream as we could.

July is National Ice Cream Month. Thus our gobbling up ice cream was not only good manners, it was patriotic. Since we missed this week’s ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes for the U.S. Women’s National Team’s victory lap, I’m glad to say we celebrated the international competition of ice creams with gusto. Cautionary tale: since coming home, I have taken my plump little self back to the gym every damn day. But it was worth it.

On our first day in New York we ambled over to the west side, up on the High Line, and under the hulk of The Vessel, the new M.C. Esher-like landmark built for photo ops and tourist initiations to pedestrian challenges. https://www.hudsonyardsnewyork.com/discover/vessel The Vessel stands in the once industrial Hudson Yards, where Long Island railroad cars are stored before they make their return journey. Now there is a sleek urban mall with hideously expensive residences which rises above the trains, in a city that already has much of the world’s chic and pricey shopping. Take heart – not every shop is as tony as Neiman Marcus or Cartier. In the lower level you will find the bustling populist world of José Andrés’s Spain.

Our first steps into Andrés’s Mercado Little Spain fed us right into colorful whorl of people, murals, maps, small plates, hams, breads, wines, food cases, and this display of ice cream and ice cream sandwiches. I could not think of anything more divine than these cubic feet of frozen delight. For a more detailed description of this Iberian food paradise, please read Rachel Sugar’s New York Magazine piece: http://www.grubstreet.com/2019/03/jose-andres-mercado-little-spain-hudson-yards-nyc.html

I admire José Andrés’s World Central project where he and his people feed folks who have been stricken by natural disasters. His good work is a lesson to us all. And so I felt justified in supporting him by buying an extravagant ice cream sandwich – before meeting friends uptown for dinner. (Mr. Friday, in the meantime, scarfed down a large plate of paella, in case you wondered.)

Another day of walking the Museum Mile found us battling Stendhal Syndrome: an overwhelming, heart-stopping abundance of gawping and wonder. What can you do? Why not have a gelato or two? After a morning spent in the Planetarium, whizzing around the universe with Neil deGrasse Tyson, and mingling with dinosaurs, the great blue whale and a few grizzly bears at the American Museum of Natural History, we strode across Central Park, and into the Mecca of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We walked with the Egyptians and sallied into the American Wing to pay obeisance to my favorite painting, John Singer Sargent’s Madame X. https://www.metmuseum.org/en/art/collection/search/12127 The only thing to do after that humbling experience is to find ice cream. As the crush of humanity to get into The American Wing Café was unbearable, we perched on some uncomfortable chairs wedged into the Chinese porcelain collection in The Great Hall Balcony Café and spooned up some fortifying gelato. There must surely be a special place in heaven for the inventors of ice cream! Grazie molto!

On our last night we got gussied up and strolled around the Lincoln Center complex, sad that we had not booked tickets for My Fair Lady. Instead we watched little girls in tulle tutus chasing each other around the spouting fountain, while member of various orchestras rushed by, clad in black, hauling their instruments across the marble plaza. Then we ambled north to our restaurant, Café Luxembourg, for a final night of cosmopolitan living. I had a French 75 cocktail, which is always best when served on a silver tray by an obliging waiter.

Mr. Friday had Wellfleet oysters and classic moules frites; I had steak frites, because there was not going to be any frite sharing, I can promise you. But we did split an adorable serving of profiteroles, which were made with ice cream, and not the crème pâtissière we had expected, and it was a sweet and cool way to end our vacation. Tired and happy, heady with wine and frites and sweets. We loved New York.

(And thank you very much, Chef Andrés, for this helpful culinary hint:”Buy the best quality sorbet or ice cream from a local ice-cream maker. It’s the perfect ending.”)

“What’s the use of a great city having temptations if fellows don’t yield to them?”
― P.G. Wodehouse

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