Out and About (Sort of): Local Events Reflect Easygoing Charm by Howard Freedlander

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There’s something about summer that provides a stage for events that project community cohesion in a low-key, down-to-earth way. Nothing flashy, just comfortable and relaxing.

A month ago, my family, including two grandchildren age 6 and 4, participated in the Trappe carnival, organized to raise money for the local volunteer fire department. We watched the standard parade of queens and princesses, fire department equipment, floats with young baseball players and politicians. The requisite tossing of candy to eager children lining the parade route particularly engaged and thrilled my six-year-old grandson as he seemed to scoop up most of the goodies. His mother, who eschews sweets in her health-conscious home, seemed sanguine by the candy onslaught.

What impressed me was the carnival, as the dollars seemed to fly out of my wallet. The games were geared to children who could win prizes with some ease. I liked the fact that the games were simple and uncomplicated.

Most of all, I liked the small-town feel of the Trappe carnival. I liked that the money raised would support a volunteer organization critical to Trappe and the surrounding area. I learned a long time ago that volunteer fire departments provide the backbone of towns and cities on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Their skills at fighting fires and providing paramedical support are invaluable.

Just the past Friday morning, I spent some time at the Talbot County Fair and again appreciated the down-home ambience. I watched the riding competition as young girls, ignoring the heat and humidity, put their horses and themselves through their paces. I was impressed by the obvious preparation undertaken by the riders and their serious competitive spirit.

I chatted with a friend who was cooking for the Easton Ruritan on this hot, muggy day. He’s always loved county and state fairs.

As I walked around the fair, I was reminded that Talbot County is still an agricultural community where youths raised on farms want to show off their skills and enthusiasm.

Being at the county fair brought back memories of the Queen Anne’s County Fair in 1979, a time when I was the editor of the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer. I was asked to help judge a dog contest. I knew nothing. Fortunately, I sat next to a woman who knew almost everything about dog-judging, instructing me to look at poise, posture, movement and head size. My aptitude as a dog judge was comparable to being asked to judge a cat show. The pickings are slim when a local newspaper editor is asked to judge dogs—while hoping that the competition is not a prelude to the Westminster Kennel Club event in New York City.

I was pleased that I wasn’t being judged as a judge. That would have been embarrassing.

Intending when I thought about writing this column to avoid any expression of strong, possibly controversial statements, I found that The Sunday Star article about characterization of Talbot County as the “New Hamptons” particularly irksome. In fact, I found the description downright disgusting.

Nothing I’ve heard about the Hamptons seems at all alluring. It is defined in my mind by opulence and conspicuous consumption, I wondered if this rarified enclave includes a Trappe-like carnival and a county fair focused on the area’s traditional agricultural roots. Perhaps I’m being far too judgmental. Perhaps I’m right.

As a 41-year resident of Talbot County, I certainly am aware of its affluence and presence of political and corporate celebrities. Waterfront homes are magnificent, some of them secondary residences. At the same time, I’ve seen first-hand the incredible generosity and community engagement of many residents who have retired to the county. Many of our non-profits either would be non-existent or non-functioning without the support of wealthy, caring residents.

The characterization of Talbot County as the new Hamptons is not new. I recall hearing it before and feeling equally put off by what some might consider a compliment. For me, it connotes pretension. I’ve seen little or no showing off by most fiends with whom I’ve had the pleasure to serve on nonprofit boards.

A small-town parade and carnival and a county fair reflect the goodness of our county, as do other events organized by cultural institutions and non-profits. An image of pretension has little value.

Columnist Howard Freedlander retired in 2011 as Deputy State Treasurer of the State of Maryland.  Previously, he was the executive officer of the Maryland National Guard. He  also served as community editor for Chesapeake Publishing, lastly at the Queen Anne’s Record-Observer.  In retirement, Howard serves on the boards of several non-profits on the Eastern Shore, Annapolis and Philadelphia.

Letters to Editor

  1. Jock Beebe says:

    Right on, Howard.
    Your vivid description of local life as displayed by carnivals is compelling boots-on-the-ground data that makes your point about the Hamptons telling.
    Anyone who has been to the Hamptons will see a comparison with Talbot County as invidious.

  2. Kelley Malone says:

    I agree completely with your assessment Howard — I find the comparison offensive.

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