Bay Hundred Senior Center’s New Leader: Ann DeMart

Ann DeMart wasn’t looking for a job. For the past few years, she had been freelancing while taking care of her mom, who had Alzheimer’s. Before that, in the corporate world, she specialized in healthcare marketing, writing, and program development both on the east and west coast. So, when a friend suggested she apply for the position of Manager of the Bay Hundred Senior Center, she thought why not?

Four days later, the job she hadn’t been looking for was hers’. “I hadn’t really expected to get a job, particularly one that I liked so much at this point in my life. But it was just the timing and kind of a combination of what I can do and what they were looking for,” says DeMart.

The Center, open on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays, is located in the new Perkins Family YMCA in St. Michaels. It offers active seniors, age 60 and over, opportunities for socializing, learning, exercising, recreation, and community engagement. Giving seniors in the community more choices is high on the list of priorities for DeMart. “We’ve got a really diverse group of seniors in the Bay Hundred area. You know, we’ve got people who are born here, and watermen, and farmers, and we have retiring CEOs.” Her goal, she says, is to bring this diverse group together through programs ranging from basketball games to needlework and everything in between. The Center also serves lunches at noon on the days they are open, giving seniors another opportunity to interact with others.

DeMart did emphasize that they’re not taking away from the programs already locally established. Instead, their mission is to emulate the successful Brookletts Senior Center in Easton while enhancing the benefits and services currently offered through the community center and church groups in the Bay Hundred area.

It is the unique differences, however, that make the Senior Center a paradigm to the community, town, and possibly even the state. It started when two organizations joined forces to open one building instead of competing for funding dollars. The collaboration of Upper Shore Aging and the YMCA of the Chesapeake was innovative but took on a new character when the facility was built behind the St Michaels Middle High and Elementary Schools

Since they opened in early June 2019, the Y and the Senior Center have been working with the school system to arrange for projects that involve the students. This alliance is the first example of a multi-generational program in the state of Maryland, and a model for future programs.

“Starting in the fall we’re going to have interns who will come in and work with the seniors,” says DeMart. “One student has already offered to teach Spanish.” The school will also be able to reap the benefits of the partnership. “Take their theater performances: we can go on and watch the shows or dress rehearsals. We can help their history projects and science projects. Seniors can give them oral histories of their lives. I love that this is intergenerational, which I think benefits everybody.”

Undeniably, the school is a great asset, but another advantage of the alliance is that the ultra-modern and spacious Y facility has plenty of equipment and room for classes and programs. Already, the Center has attracted talented members of the community who volunteer to teach activity and courses in art and dancing. Then there are the musicians who come to entertain, drawing large and appreciative crowds.

Some of the volunteer interest from the community is thanks to DeMart herself. She’s a member of the Art League, on the Talbot County Arts Council, on the board and marketing chair of the Chesapeake Forum (formerly Academy for Lifelong Learning at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum). The welcome news that some Chesapeake Forum courses will be held at the Y is one DeMart helped to make happen. “There are a lot of people who aren’t able to exercise, she says, “but they’re still exercising their minds. I saw classes attended by people in their nineties, and they were sharp as can be. Intellectual curiosity doesn’t have to die.”

For now, DeMart’s emphasis is on growing the number of seniors enrolling in the Center. Membership is free to eligible individuals, and membership to the YMCA is not required to participate in the Bay Hundred Senior Center programs and activities. Members’ spouses who are under the age of 60 are also eligible. Since opening, over 200 people have already signed up, which seems to be an indication that the community is excited about all that the Center is offering.

Ann DeMart wasn’t looking for a job, but sometimes what you’re looking for comes when you’re not looking at all.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Mid-Shore Food: Jordan Lloyd Takes Over Eagle’s Cafe

It’s not often that you hear of people going out of their way to have lunch at a golf course. But then again not many golf courses have chef Jordan Lloyd taking over the Eagle’s Café at the Hog Neck Golf Course. Featuring a new and tempting menu which ranges from pulled pork BBQ sandwiches to pasture-raised beef burger, there are two things hungry clients can count on: they’re going to get an affordable, delicious meal and, as much as possible, the produce will be locally grown and raised. That’s because Lloyd is passionate about both quality and the farm-to-table model, and he has a plan to show others in the food and hospitality companies how it can benefit both the community and local economy.

The idea probably began when he and wife Alice opened Bartlett Pear Inn Restaurant in 2009. “We never intended on being a farm-to-table restaurant,” he says. “We never thought of this as a concept. This was just our way of life. We wanted to open up a really great restaurant, and I was always taught that the way to do that is through providing the highest quality available. We do that by making sure we know where our products are coming from, and we make sure that they’re at the freshest peak value that they can be.”

But running a successful fine-dining eatery that only had 30 seats, was not making financial sense and in 2016 they decided to close the restaurant while continuing to operate the Inn. The lessons learned, however, were invaluable and ones he felt he could teach others to do. They included: how to create superior food, how to hire quality management, how to incorporate fresh local produce, and how to create the right atmosphere to attract clients who appreciated quality service. He turned his focus to Hambleton House, LLC, the contracting and consulting company he and Alice formed when they first went into business. Through Hambleton House, Jordan Lloyd would use his vision to transform the hospitality and food business, all while supporting the local economy.

After taking on a couple of DC-based restaurants. Lloyd invigorated their recipes, changed their menus, and trained new staff. The reshaped businesses picked up new customers and rave reviews. With those accomplishments under his belt, he began looking for something local that fit the scope of his dreams. It appeared when Nauti’s, the new seafood restaurant project at the Ferry Point Marina, asked him to oversee and design their kitchen operations. Despite that project being currently on hold due to permit issues, other opportunities arose as his successes became known.

The next venture was the retirement community, Londonderry on the Tred Avon. Lloyd redesigned their menus, hired a chef, and brought in Chesapeake Harvest to provide some locally sourced foods to the restaurants. Chesapeake Harvest, part of the Easton Economic Development Corporation, connects farmers to the consumers (both wholesale and retail) through an online farmer’s market that Lloyd helped create. “The carbon footprint impact with Londonderry buying local is huge, he said. “That’s thousands of dollars a year in the pockets of local farmers.” But his excitement didn’t end there. “The residents were coming to me saying, ‘Jordan, ever since you started cooking here my feet don’t swell. Ever since you started cooking here, I don’t have headaches like I used to.’ I mean, we are making real nutritional impacts with food. In the past, if their feet were swelling, they may have taken medicine. Now, it’s being helped with good nutritious food.”

Which brings us back to the Eagle’s Café at the golf course. Right now, Lloyd says, they’re able to tap into the best of what is available locally. “The café is serving Hummingbird Farm tomatoes. It has Bramble Blossoms Farm lettuces. It has Shi-Mar Farms pork shoulder. All available like good local products at a concession stand.” Affordable, locally sourced, flavorful food, served in a beautiful setting excellent has led to some fantastic feedback from clients. “It was just a matter of resetting the facility with products and a nice menu,” he says. He’s equally proud that the ‘amazing foundation of employees,’ despite all the changes, are enthusiastic and want to remain with the café.

And that’s the whole point Lloyd feels. “If you’re bringing in Hambleton House you are bringing in a company that has a constant pursuit for higher quality. We will be relentless for that pursuit because we believe that’s what makes great businesses great. The quality that they execute and that quality is not just food and beverage, but it’s also in its people and its atmosphere, and it’s in its presentation. So, it’s quality across the board is really our pursuit.

Next on their client list is Pope’s Tavern in Oxford. “I’m there to set them up with a business plan,” Lloyd says. “Really good food for sure, but on a consistent level that the staff on-site can execute consistently with quality and with understanding. For example, if they’re ever having trouble with a particular soup, I’m either going to work extra hard to train them on making it correctly, or we’re just going to change it to something easier for them to execute.”

Lloyd also sees Hambleton House’s mission as being an incubator for other businesses. Starting June 1st, Amanda Cook, a world-class pastry chef and baker will be moving into the area and starting a wholesale baking company at the Bartlett Pear Inn kitchen. Lloyd, looking at the future, doesn’t discount a storefront retail situation, but for now, the focus will be to support her on the wholesale side.

Not surprising, Hambleton House’s reach has extended beyond the restaurants and cafés. As part of a task force, Lloyd has been meeting and working with Maryland Delegates and Senators to create a state level bill called Maryland Food for Maryland Institutions. The goal of this proposal is to mandate that a percentage of all food procured by state institutions be bought from in-state farms. “Imagine how this impacts the farmers in our area,” Lloyd says. The bill is expected to become law within the year.

Stay tuned. There is much to be done and much that Jordan and Alice Lloyd would like to accomplish. “I would say our mission as a couple and as community participants is that we really do care. We care a tremendous amount about the success of the community and anything that we can do to support the efforts of our community business leaders or community aspects, we’re 100% there.”

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Mid-Shore Commerce: Ten Years of Crow Farms

Judy Crow, from Crow Vineyard and Winery, remembers 10 years ago when The Spy came for lunch on the patio of the newly renovated Farmstay B&B. She remembers mentioning during the interview that the questions on the minds of the locals were, how were they going to get people there and why would they come? “For us,” says Judy, “it felt like people are going to want to come to be a part of the farm and stay at the farm. It just seemed like that wasn’t a challenge. And with the Internet the way it was back then, you’ve put yourself up on a few platforms, and people find you. We had no problems filling rooms.”

This innovation, foresight, and daring is the reason why The Spy is here 10 years later, talking about the expansion of Crow Vineyards and their influence on local development.  Judy perceives it this way: “I think when we see opportunities, we are fluid enough that we can change. And I think it’s also about the diversity of the management team: My husband Roy, myself and our son, Brandon. All three of us have a little different approach. But we have seen that each new idea can be proven to be successful. It doesn’t matter whose idea it is because we all work together at it.”

The B&B was just the beginning of their plans. Next, they learned how to grow grapes and used three and a half of their 365 acres to plant some vines. Then, Brandon thought they should be involved in wine-making. “So, we started to think about renovating an equipment shed and making some wine, says Judy.” While they were doing that, they also became intentional about growing their 10-15 Angus cattle herd and raising them as beef. Today, the 100-head herd, the 12½ acres of wine, the 5,000-case wine production, and a store at Queenstown Outlet are just some of the changes affecting the farm.

Clearly, Crow Vineyard’s success has also been an enormous boost for the entire area. Led by Judy, a collaborative and marketing relationship formed known as the Rivers to Canal wine trail. It encompasses three wineries located within 15 minutes of each other: Crow, Broken Spoke, and Chateau Bu-De and encourages visitors, tourists, and residents to tour all three locations during their trip. “When you have this Upper Eastern Shore region becoming a destination for people coming for the day or the weekend from areas such as New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, or Baltimore, it just makes sense.”

The collaboration does not end there. Crow Vineyards is also committed to supporting the growth of the Eastern Shore wine industry by renting out their wine-making production to other new startup wineries. “Some people we make wine for would like to satisfy the sweeter pallets of a wine drinker,” says Judy. “So, there they have sweeter wine. Or they just want to make a few wines and have a good tasting room. Then we work with them to do that. As we’re growing, we’re bringing others along with us to really map this out as a tourist destination.” The effort to expand Maryland’s diverse wine growing regions is one Judy can speak about with authority. For the past two years, she’s served as the President of the Board of Directors of the Maryland Wineries Association.

When asked to reflect on how she measures their success, Judy responds: “I think it’s two things. One is we’ve been able to make really good wines, and I think that speaks to our commitment to, have something pleasing for everyone. The other thing is our focus on teamwork and good customer service.” The type of customer service that Judy talks about means that visitors who want to hear how the farm got started will get to hear it directly from the owners. It means visitors who express interest in helping to harvest the grapes get to do so by signing up and joining them in the fall. It means that anyone who wants to stomp grapes can do so at the Crow Fest on September 8th.

Speaking of the Crow Fest, Judy sees the annual event as an opportunity to expand their enthusiastic customer base and support those who have supported them throughout the years. The festival will feature live music, wine seminars, cooking demonstrations, exhibits from local vendors, and yes, grape stomping. “The grandchildren are the first to stomp the grapes, and then the public is welcome to join them. Monies raised are donated to the FFA (Future Farmers of America).”

As for what may be forthcoming, Judy knows they will continue to be open to new possibilities and will involve their other children if they are interested. “When I first met Roy (and even though he owns the farm), he said his philosophy has always been, that he’s the caretaker of the farm. There will be somebody else for the next round, whatever the next round is. When I married him, I bought into that concept that I’m a supporter and caretaker here. Everything I think we’ve done so far has invigorated, not only the farm but the local economy and it’s pretty exciting when you can do that.”

Whatever that future might bring, today a visitor can come to stay overnight, be part of a working farm, taste the wines, enjoy the breathtaking farm views, chat with the owners about how it all was different years ago, before the vineyards, before the festivals. Today they’ll leave with some great memories, some fresh beef and their favorite wines. Not bad for 10 years!

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Two Decades of Watching Ospreys with Atlantic Security’s Cams by Val Cavalheri

A true harbinger of spring at the Eastern Shore is the return of the ospreys to their elevated nests, usually around St. Patrick’s Day. If you live or pass by any of the local waterways, just about now you may see the top of the head of one of the parents sitting on their eggs. But unmistakably, the best view can be found on your computer, tablet, or phone anytime day or night on the Ospreycam Live feed, set up and hosted by the Chestertown-based Atlantic Security Inc. (ASI).

Started in 1996 by ASI’s founder, John Wayne, the first camera was mounted on a tree, aimed at the nest, and displayed on a kitchen television monitor in black and white for his family. Today, the feed which has kept up with the growing camera system technology, delivers HD quality images, night vision, AND sound from a state-of-the-art camera, according to ASI’s marketing manager, Jennifer Wayne. It is mounted on a pole aiming down at the nest and available to anyone interested in the comings and goings of the pair and (within the next couple of weeks) their babies.

Although ospreys mate for life and return to the same nest year after year, Wayne says she’s not 100% sure this year’s couple is the same as from previous years. What she is sure of is that there is a lot to see starting from when they begin building the nest through when they migrate south for the winter. Until then, the live feed will allow visitors to see life not only inside the nest but also the surrounding area.

Expect to see and hear the unmistakable squawking of one or both parents as they take turns rotating and sitting on the eggs, keeping the nest clean, and warding off predators. Once the chicks hatch, the parents will fish and feed their new family. There may be glimpses of an osprey diving feet-first to capture a meal, repositioning the fish, so its head faces forward, making it easier for the osprey to fly.

Even after 23 years in the Osprey Cam business, the Wayne family can still be surprised by new observations. One of which has been the disappearing egg. An osprey usually lays two to three eggs, but many times only two eggs hatch and the third disappears. Perhaps it’s accidentally removed, maybe it speaks to the viability of the egg which the parent buries or discards. (Note that there are currently three eggs in the nest.)

Another event which Wayne described happened last year during the hottest summer days when adult ospreys were seen skimming the water, as if fishing, coming up empty and returning to the nest. They learned that this was how the parents brought water to the chicks.

As much as the video cam is a great educational tool, visitors are also warned that this is a live feed of a nature event and sometimes unexpected and upsetting things can happen. Predators such as great-horned owls and bald eagles may attempt a hostile takeover of the nest. A chick may get injured or killed. “These events are difficult to watch,” says Wayne, “even when we feel we need to notify the proper authorities, they usually tell us not to impede. It’s not our job to play God. Not only that it’s illegal to interfere with birds of prey.”

Thankfully, those types of incidents are rare. What can be expected is watching the quick cycle of the chick’s development after they hatch at the end of May. There will be practice lift-offs in the nest and, as one common saying goes, they will ‘learn to fly by the 4th of July.’ By the end of August/early September, once the fledglings become independent, the adults will fly south. Shortly afterward so will the chicks, “It’s always sad to see them leave,” Wayne says. “But we know they’ll be back.”

The bulk of the credit for the Osprey Cam goes to James Bowman and Dan Wagner, says Wayne. “They are our fearless technicians who provide not only technical expertise but also brave cold, windy conditions in the winter months to make any necessary camera changes and adjustments.” And it is all worth it.

Ospreys are not just fascinating birds. They are also a conservation success story. One of the largest birds of prey in North America, ospreys were formerly endangered. Now a significant proportion of their increasing numbers can be found here, on the Eastern Shore. Since 99% of their diet is comprised of fish, this rebound in their population is a positive indicator on the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Talbot County’s Rachel Roman Rides with Pride in the Mongol Derby

It’s a little after dawn somewhere in a remote part of the Mongolian Steppe. The rider has just been helped onto a native and semi-wild Mongolian horse. The temperature is brisk—in the mid-30s and does not foretell the almost 80 it will be later in the afternoon. If all goes well, the rider will travel 75-100 miles today on a path which loosely follows the horse messenger system developed by Genghis Khan in 1224. But this is not a guided re-creation. The course is not marked, and the rider must rely on their skills and a GPS tracking system that will get them through the over 600 miles (1000km) adventure. They will stop every 25 miles at horse stations (uutuus) to swap horses.

Rachel Roman

By 8PM, they will have traveled 12-14 hours, and a nomadic host family will give them dinner and a place to rest for the night. With a lot of physical and mental stamina, this will be the routine for the next 7-10 days. With a lot more luck, they may be in the 35-40% who finish the race. This is the Mongolian Derby, also known as the longest and toughest horse race in the world.

To understand why someone would want to take part in this journey, talk to 27-year-old Rachel Roman. Roman, an Eastern Shore native applied on a whim after hearing about the race online from former participants. Her reasons were no different from others, who like her, list horses, adventure, and outdoors as life passions. Even though she was not experienced in endurance riding, there was something about her application that stood out to the interviewers. Whatever it was, she is one of only 40 riders worldwide who was accepted to compete this August.

Since then Roman has been relentlessly training and spreading the word about the race. “I am also using the race,” she says, “as an opportunity to raise funds and awareness for the work the Nature Conservancy is doing in Mongolia in their efforts to preserve one of the last wild places on earth and the nomadic communities that depend on that environment.”

Raising funds is vital to her taking part in the race, as well.  Her GoFundMe site will help offset the steep $15,000 entry fee and travel expenses and includes the $7,000 she wants to raise for the Conservancy. It helps that Roman is familiar with outreach and fundraising, being involved in the nonprofit environmental field. She previously worked for The Eastern Shore Land Conservancy and is currently employed by The Nature Conservancy in Washington (State). She chose Seattle, she said, because it most closely reminded her of home “I wanted to be near water and great outdoor spaces. The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary by size, and Puget Sound is the largest estuary by volume. I consider it the West Coast Chesapeake Bay!”

When not at her 9-5 job, Roman spends every available moment preparing for the race. Part of the challenge has been to spend as much time in the saddle and on as many horses as possible. She leases a horse and rides it daily. She has a trainer that is helping her with strength and endurance. She has a spin bike and gets on it every day. She walks to and from work. On weekends she rides 7-10 horses at a dressage farm. But dressage, with its synchronized and prescribed movements, differs from what she will encounter and ride during the competition.

The native horses used in the derby have changed little since the time of Genghis Khan. They are short and of stocky build, usually between 4-5 feet tall, with short, strong legs. They are also incredibly tough and well-adapted to the extreme temperatures, lack of food and water, typical of the Steppe environment.

Around 1,400 horses from local herders are chosen and trained for the Derby. Riders are given a start and an end point and 10 days in which to complete the adventure. Winners usually finish within seven days, but most do not. There are very few rules and most have to do with the horse’s welfare. It is the Derby’s primary concern and built into every aspect of the race. Because of the horse’s stature, riders can weigh a maximum of 188 lbs. and carry no more than 11 their pack. This is also the reason why last year 70% of the competitors were women. Participants, who last year ranged from 19 to 70 years of age, will ride between 24-26 different horses since each horse is used for only one leg of the competition. Riders switch horses every 25 miles, and an international team of vets makes sure that all horses are ‘roadworthy’ when they leave the urtuus and not in distress when they are brought in. If a horse is dehydrated or stressed, a time penalty is issued (usually two hours). If a rider consistently brings in an overworked horse, they will be kicked out of the race.

Choosing your horse is part of the strategy and done on a first come, first served basis. “My goal,” says Roman, ‘is to look for a horse that is not completely wild. Some will be actual Mongolian race horses which, I heard, are unbelievable to ride. I’m hoping to get one where you basically sit there and hang on. I’m going to look for horses that show a little bit of age; look like they’ve done the race before. The worse thing, I’m told, is to have a horse that won’t go forward or bucks you off. The problem is you don’t know which ones have been handled more or who are used to the saddle. The only thing Mongolians can do is put the saddle on for you, help you get on, and then they let go. The rest is up to you.”

All riders must dismount by nighttime and may choose to stay with a local family.  In fact, part of the entry fee is compensation to the approximate 250 Mongolian families who participate in the race and supply horses, shelter, and meals for the riders. Food raises concern for Roman. “We eat whatever the local families make us,” she says. “Items such as fermented mare’s milk, tripe, goat, sheep, and warm vodka is part of the diet. It’s heavy on meat and different from the meat we eat here. I’m not quite sure how to prepare for that aspect. I eat pretty healthily; lots of vegetables, it’s going to be difficult for me. It’s one piece of my training I have yet to figure out—how to prepare my gut for that.”

Roman admits that a large part of her training is mental preparation to be out alone and to remain calm should something go wrong. It is a concern. There has been a fair amount of race-ending injuries in prior years: falls, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hyperthermia, intestinal issues, and even debilitating saddle sores. Should she or her horse get into trouble, there is an SOS button on the issued tracker that will activate the team of vets, ambulances, and medics on standby. “But if you hit the button you’re out of the race,” she says.

Roman is building in the time to go on some hikes before her trip to East Asia to refresh her comfort with the outdoors. A few years ago, she did a National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) course for 3 months in New Mexico. Says Roman, “I learned a lot about the wilderness in my training. Hopefully, that will give me a little bit of an advantage over the other riders. I spent 22 days without showering in the wilderness. Some of the people might be great riders, but they haven’t had to be in the wild. We have to purify or boil our water, there won’t be any bathrooms—it will be a whole wilderness experience, and I’ve done that.”

She mentions two goals she would like to meet: Incur no time penalties and finish the race within the allotted 10 days. As for what’s next, Roman replies: “There are other adventures like this, but I don’t want to keep doing the same thing. Like with this race that I randomly applied for, whatever my next adventure will be, it will be something that just comes up, that I won’t be able to put off. I hope this race inspires others to put time aside for whatever adventure they’ve been putting off.”

The 2019 Mongolian Derby will run August 7-August 17. Each rider has their own web page with a map linked to their satellite tracker allowing friends and followers to track them live throughout the race. To find out more about Rachel Roman’s journey and follow her progress go here

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Washington College Plans for Second Piano Festival in April

In just its second year, the Washington College Piano Festival is giving high school and college students a unique opportunity to advance and develop their musical skills and talents. The one-day event, part of Washington College’s Department of Music, will be held on Saturday, April 20, 2019, at the Gibson Center for the Arts, and is open to the public.

Interested applicants were asked to submit a recording from a designated advanced or intermediate piano piece. Chosen participants will have an opportunity to meet other pianists, attend workshops, and take part in one-on-one lessons with faculty members. They will also be able to perform in a competitive concert in Hotchkiss Recital Hall for a panel of Washington College faculty judges. Winners will receive cash prizes.

Dr. Woobin Park

The idea for the Piano Festival came about during a lunch between two Washington College faculty member—Dr. Matthew Brower and Dr. Woobin Park. Park, a renowned international pianist, recalls learning about a colleague who created a piano festival in his department at another university. “We don’t have a piano festival here,” she said, “so why don’t we try to create one?”

The festival, which is being described as an ‘immersive educational experience,’ attracted internationally acclaimed guest artist Yong Hi Moon, Professor of Piano at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Moon will be teaching a master class during the afternoon and, as part of the Washington College Premier Artists Series, will perform a concert in the evening at the Decker Theater.

Park is excited about everything the festival can offer to a burgeoning pianist. It’s a beautiful setting, she says of the recital hall and the campus. The focus of the day will be on classical music, particularly the German repertoire of Bach, Beethoven, Shubert, and Brahms. “In the workshop class, we will talk about reality as a musician, [musical] careers, and how to practice. It will be unique,” Park says. “The world is becoming superficial. Learning about classical music gives people a chance to be in the ‘now,’ be in the ‘moment.’”

Park is no stranger to those types of moments. She has been playing for over 30 years throughout the United States and Korea and has performed in various prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall and Seoul Arts Center. Winning various competitions and receiving full scholarships for her outstanding performance and academic achievements, have allowed her to continue and expand her education and study under distinguished musicians. Park completed her Doctor of Musical Arts (D.M.A.) at the University of Minnesota. She is now a Visiting Assistant Professor of Music in Piano at Washington College.

As for the future, Park sees the Piano Festival as an excellent opportunity to invite other outstanding pianists and expand to different genres, such as jazz. For now, however, she looks forward to sharing her experiences with a new group of talented students. Her advice to them will be: don’t feel too comfortable. A little anxiety helps to convey the music effectively. “We need a certain sense of intensity,” she says. “Finding a balance between being relaxed and having anxiety, makes a perfect performance in a concert.”

For more information please go here.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.



Mid-Shore Arts: The One Word is Plastics with Karen O’Dowd

Karen O’Dowd is a cutting-edge artist who, for the past 17 years, has used ‘found objects’ as a basis for her work. Like others in this genre, O’Dowd uncovers beauty and creativity in items not normally considered art elements, some of which are often designated as junk or recycled materials. Touring her Royal Oaks working studio, it is impossible not to be captivated with the originality and intricacies of the completed pieces that fill the available walls. The pieces are at times abstract, most often quirky. Then there are also the ‘art-in-waiting’ items on the counters; collections of cast-off materials that will eventually become treasured creations displayed in someone else’s’ home or garden.

This is made from plastic plant pots that have been cut into petal shape.

Not surprising, her search for items that could be incorporated into her art led her to become passionate about ‘recycling, upcycling and repurposing.’ She had used reusable bags for decades, knew not to buy bottled water, and was conscious about properly disposing of recyclable materials. But it was less than a year ago that a statistic changed her life even further. It said: By 2050, plastic in the ocean will outweigh sea life. “Once reading that I kept reading, she said, “and, every aspect of this plastic issue steamrolled into other horrific consequences. A year ago, I had no idea that plastic ‘lived’ 500-1,000 years!”

It was also disheartening to learn that the land mass of plastic in the ocean was twice the size of Texas and that a million birds and over 100,000 marine animals die yearly because of plastics. Frightening was also the description that 93% of Americans over 60 tested positive for BPA (bisphenol A), an industrial chemical often used in containers that store food and beverages, such as water bottles.

When her research confirmed that 91% of plastic produced was not recyclable, O’Dowd knew she had to do something. “I’ve been pretty environmentally conscious all of my life,” she said. “I’m very aware of social issues and know that we can choose to ignore or do something about it. I’m 68. I spent a lot of time at city councils, county and state meetings and commissions, boards, and testimonies. I’ve marched, sent letters to the editor. But I felt at this point in my life, I can change my habits and see where that led.”

What it led to was creating art pieces highlighting the issue and offering to do a talk to her Royal Oaks Garden Club about how to reduce the plastic footprint. Marcia Fidis, president of the club, suggested a workshop spin-off with the local Girl Scouts (Troop 961). The Girls Scouts would learn the information that O’Dowd had put together, and she would use her talent to help them create ‘fishes’ made from plastic bottles, which would then be attached to a 30-inch ‘nest’ made of items not recyclable in Talbot County. These items included composite ‘plastic’ bags, plastic utensils, broken plastic sunglasses, plastic straws (picked up from tables at restaurants), non-recyclable plastic pots, pump mechanisms from beauty products, etc. As the project began to come together, O’Dowd learned that this would also allow the Scouts to earn ‘Earth Day’ and ‘Using Resources Wisely’ badges. It was a win-win situation for all.

But, the collaboration didn’t end there.

It’s now evolved to include the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Through the end of May, the Plastic Nest sculpture will be mounted outside the entry doors to the Steamboat building. It will coincide with both the Sea Glass Festival exhibit and Community Day, which will be the public launch of the single-use plastic-free initiative on CBMM’s campus.

O’Dowd has to be pleased. Her workshop is touching and involving a new generation of future consumers; her talks to groups is bringing awareness of what can be done now. She hopes that others follow her recommendations or come up with their own solutions. “Be aware-it’s everywhere,” she cautions.

For now, O’Dowd follows her counsel. At home, she keeps a large canister on her sink (similar to a counter compost container) where she throws non-recyclable plastic. Once filled, it is moved into a large duffle bag. She hopes that within her lifetime she or industry will find some use for it. “If nothing else,” she says, “it’s a big reminder of how enormous this problem is, how much I need to try to purchase as much as possible with no plastic. Hopefully, we will enact legislation prohibiting or at LEAST limiting single-use plastic. Other countries have done it.” No doubt, until that day, O’Dowd will use her voice and her art as a reminder.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.


Lady Patriots Go All-Terrain

Sometimes changing a life starts with a dream. Such was the case with a group of friends who wanted to do something meaningful and rewarding for local veterans, first responders, and their families. Calling themselves the Lady Patriots of the Eastern Shore, they decided two years ago that as their first project, they would provide mobility to an Eastern Shore veteran who had lost that function. Their vision, however, went beyond typical transportation. Instead, they hoped that a special All-Terrain Action Wheelchair would allow a wounded veteran to enjoy the best parts of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, including hunting, fishing, etc.

Connie Sheer, president of the group, said the idea for the chair came from a news program that she overheard. “A rock band was donating a chair to a veteran,” she said. “The chair was absolutely fabulous, and I thought, ‘wow, I wonder if we could do this.’ I took the idea to the board, and they agreed.” In March 2017 they began raising money with help from sponsors: Cheesecake Girls, Crabi Gras, Graul’s Market, and Teddy Bear Fresh and donors which included Tri-County Ruritan Club, Zone 6, Easton Rotary Club, District 7630, Flags for Heroes, VFW, Post 5118, VFW, Post 7464-Grasonville, and The Elks Club, Lodge 1622. In addition, local businesses held fundraisers and donated several crab feasts and Thanksgiving dinner which were raffled off.

By the end of last summer, the Lady Patriots had grown to over 30 members and met their goal, raising the $16,000 to buy the chair. The question now became who would be the recipient. The answer came from a partnership with another veteran’s group out of Dorchester—Heroes Haven whose mission is to transport wounded warriors, injured police, EMS and firefighters in their van for a 4-day October hunting, fishing, crabbing experience. The Lady Patriots offered the chair to the group. But Hank Wheatley, president of Heroes Haven, had another idea, said Sheer. “He knew that they were limited by the hunting season and that we wanted it to go to an individual who could use it all the time, so they identified Rick.”

Rick is Rick Lawson, a former Marine from Wicomico County. He had sustained injuries over various tours of duty, had undergone spinal cord surgeries, but had been unable to walk since 2006. An avid outdoorsman, he and his wife Tammy live on 18 ‘rugged’ acres. He used to love hunting and fishing and hanging out at the sporting shop. They all agreed, he was perfect.

On February 14, 2019, the Lady Patriots presented the chair to Mr. Lawson. “It’s equipped for someone who would use it outdoors, says Sheer. We put in a rifle stand, tool box/tackle box, floodlight. With where he lives, he definitely has the room to use the chair. It also goes in sand, ice, snow, and can even go into a foot of water.”

Lawson considers it a blessing. He hopes to start enjoying the wooded area around his home again. There are a lot of plans, he says. He wants to go fishing, he can’t wait to go hunting. He’s also hoping for snow since there is a snowplow that attaches to the chair (donated by Off-Road Track Chair) and he wants to try it out. “We have a long driveway, and normally, I would have to hire someone to plow,” says Lawson, “but with this chair, I’ll be able to do it myself.”

But before he can do that, he has to get approval from Tammy. “I’m trying to train myself, but my wife won’t let me out of her sight till she knows that I’m able. I’m trying to learn how it reacts to different situations and circumstances. It’s going to give me independence.”

Lawson’s reaction and how the chair will change his life is everything the Lady Patriots hoped to accomplish. But his life is not the only one they touched. Besides raising money for the chair, they also helped a veteran’s widow repair her roof and helped another veteran with rent and groceries. As for their new big project, they’re not sure, says Sheer. It’s under discussion, but they look forward to continuing to serve and give back to those who protect our country and communities.

If you’d like to know more about Lady Patriots of the Eastern Shore or want to help go here

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

Wendy Grubbs’ Campaign to Rescue the Old Dogs on the Shore by Val Cavalheri

573 Reasons to read this.

This story, I promise, has a happy ending. It’s about Wendy Grubbs, an ordinary person, and at the core, it’s a story about love. Yet, her story is unquestionably connected to and can only be understood by first hearing about two dogs named, Dubya and Samson.

Dubya (aka Dubs), estimated to be around 13 years old, was a surrender to Prince George’s County Shelter by his owner. He had rotten teeth and a cancerous tumor on his front leg.


Samson at approximately 14 years of age, had an unknown history, but the embedded rope scars around his neck speak of a rough start. He was adopted by a loving rescuer who shortly afterward died from breast cancer. The friend she entrusted him to had a cat that didn’t appreciate the new family member. Samson had nowhere to go.

What these two had in common was PetConnect Rescue, where Grubbs is a board member, who saw potential and hope for these two misfits and others like them. The rescue group which arranges and pays for medical services ranging from routine vaccinations and blood tests to treating serious medical conditions (such as broken bones) had recently launched a Senior Dog Program recognizing that seniors are usually overlooked due to their age and are most at risk to be euthanized.

The organization stepped in and fixed what could be fixed, removed or cleaned what couldn’t. “We try to give [the adopter] a dog who is in the best health a senior can be,” Grubbs said. “You’re going to get a dog that big things have been dealt with. Basically, you get a pretty healthy animal.” Since PetConnect doesn’t have a facility, they can only pull a needy dog from a shelter when they have someone willing to foster or adopt.

Dubya Before

Now, this is where the happy part is: Dubya was adopted a year ago and Samson four months later. They and three additional ‘flawed’ rescues named Jellybean, Stella, and Camilla live with and are loved by Grubbs.

Grubbs finds nothing unusual about her passion for saving animals in need. She’s had, since kindergarten, always had shelter dogs as family members. It surprises her, however, hearing people’s first instinct is not always to get a rescue animal. “What is the psychology of why people need to buy an animal?” Looking around her home, she said, “You can buy posters, or you can get original art. You can wear clothes that everyone else wears, or you can buy couture. I prefer original art, and I prefer my dogs to be couture—one of a kind.”

Despite the increase in her family size, Grubbs is not housebound, they are “totally manageable,” she says. Currently an equities markets specialist, she’s had a busy career in law and investment banking. She also spent a few years as a Special Assistant to President George W. Bush. There were always dogs running around the White House, she recalls, and their presence made the Executive Mansion feel like a conventional home. But her focus these days and uppermost in her mind is how to persuade people to give homeless animals a chance. “There are 573 senior dogs in shelters within 100 miles of Oxford looking for homes,” she says. “I want to convince people to think of adopting from a shelter as being the only option instead of an option. We’re still euthanizing 4 million adoptable animals per year, and it really breaks my heart.”

But an older dog? I asked.

These are some of the reasons they are so perfect, she said:

-You don’t have to worry about potty training. You have to show them where to go and also learn how they’re used to asking.
-They don’t chew your expensive things. Sampson sleeps in my closet. On my shoes. I don’t have to worry about picking them up.
-Oh yea, they sleep a lot.
-You don’t need to crate them.
-They don’t require tons of exercise. Dubya loves to go for a long walk, but the rest of them are super not interested.

That’s not to say there aren’t challenges in this type of adoption. “Most times, I know nothing about them,” she said. “I have to figure out their favorite scratch spot. I knew nothing about Dubya. He doesn’t seem to like toys. In fact, he sat on a squeaky one and scared himself to death. I just go slow and try and figure it out.”

There are other times when a dog’s history is known. “When I got Samson, I got a bag of his stuff, and I cried over that. It was such a mixed blessing because I had all of this information about him, I had his toys. I was also heartbroken because his owner was so thoughtful and she planned for him. She put his favorite stuff in a bag. She was 40 years old when she died. I feel like I owe it to this person. And as for Samson, I am at least his third and definitely his last, owner.”

This reminded the lawyer in Grubbs to give the following advice. “If you have an animal, put their care in your will. Samson is a very clear example of doing it right and things going wrong. The owner left Samson with a friend, and it didn’t work, and there was no backup plan. So, you can leave a dog with a friend or family, but provide a Plan B in case they won’t or can’t do it. Plan B should be naming a rescue group in the will, so the dog doesn’t end up in a shelter and is euthanized because of their age.”

Dubya After

The hardest thing to talk about and the most significant objection Grubbs hears are people’s feelings about the animal’s end of life. “I don’t have the perfect answer, but let me tell you this, I think when you see a ‘before’ picture, like the one of Dubya, and they have this forlorn expression that says, ‘I did my best for my human and here I am, and I’m lost.’ And then you see them blossom, and you see them run and play, like he does every morning, with such vigor. Look, I know it’s going to kill me when he goes, but I feel like I’ve done such a good thing for him and I’m so rewarded as a person. They’ve been loved, and that’s such a powerful thing. They win, and I win.”

There are several ways to help organizations, such as PetConnect, rescue more adoptable animals.

The most obvious is, of course, adopt an older dog. For every Dubya and Samson, there are others like Shana and Smitty, a bonded pair who were found in a motel with a dead, overdosed owner. After all the loss they have experienced they cannot be split up.

Foster a senior while they wait for a forever home.
Donate to a needy shelter, cash, in-kind goods, etc.
Volunteer to help socialize a dog. Seniors who have had lives with people and end up in a shelter shut down. If they are socialized, they are more adoptable.
Contribute to a spay and neuter program.

Recently, Grubbs has been working on a new rescue model, raising awareness on a solution she feels is ideal: matching senior dogs with senior humans. Unfortunately, many shelters refuse to allow senior citizens to adopt. “Older folks are perfect adopters. If a dog is willed back to the rescue, then why wouldn’t an older person, who will spend most of their time with the dog, be perfect?”

There is much that can be done, but there are changes on the horizon. Best Friends, the largest coalition of shelters in Utah have a goal for no euthanasia of adoptable pets by 2025. As of January 1, 2019, a new law in California requires pet stores to sell only rescue animals. “I think rescues are morphing and people understand that these animals are family members. I want these animals to live with dignity, not curled up in a corner in a shelter somewhere.”

As for her future, Grubbs says she’ll be out there educating people that older dogs are worth it, “I don’t know how many more dogs I’ll take. I’ll take as many as I can. I’m a go big or go home kind of person, so I’m going to do what I can do and take as many as I can take. Hopefully, in the future , this will be less needed.”

She again mentions the numbers she can’t stop thinking about: 573. The number of senior dogs in shelters within 100 miles of Oxford that are looking for homes. It’s the reason she does what she does. However, she will probably be the first to admit she’s just an ordinary person with a desire to do something. But to Dubya, Samson, Jellybean, Stella, and Camilla, she is so much more than that. She is extraordinary.

Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

One Year Later: The Liza Ledford Touch at the Oxford Community Center

Towards the end of this interview, Liza Ledford, Executive Director at Oxford Community Center (OCC), summarized the past year since taking over. She hoped, she said, that people who came to the center would leave inspired. She also wanted OCC to remain relevant. In retrospect, this seems to be precisely what’s happened. Then again, this is what Ledford knows best. Before OCC, some of her production and marketing skills were put to use in the Hollywood film and entertainment industry for the likes of Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment, Universal Pictures, and Sony Studios. “Working in the movies or in other marketing capacities, it’s always been about selling an experience. You’re not selling an item that people can go home with, and you’re not selling anything tangible. I want people to have a positive and moving experience. That has carried over from all my jobs,” she said.

Liza Ledford, Executive Director, Oxford Community Center

This talent converts well for the growth that OCC saw in 2018, made possible by the generosity of annual fund donors. For Ledford her year began with getting to know the community, figuring out the personality and spirit of Oxford. “It was a wonderful year of learning,” she says. “This town has the most unbelievable people—really eclectic, really sophisticated, really concerned and passionate. It’s hard to find something that will wow them, and that’s been the fun of getting to know this town for me.”

Finding something new and different was only part of the challenge. Ledford also learned that the community appreciates and is loyal to what has been successful in the past, including a St. Patrick’s Day and 4th of July event, an appearance by The Fabulous Hubcaps, Casino Night, model boat show, etc. In between these larger events are the daily, weekly, or monthly programs, some new and some ongoing, that are a major part of their role to serve Oxford and beyond. These include: Aerial Fabric Exercise workshops, meditative yoga (Anahata) classes, games and trivia nights, cooking, health and art classes, a possible collaboration with Tred Avon Players, Oxford Kid’s Camp, Cars and Coffee, etc.

On a grander scale and with an eye towards the future, Ledford continues to nurture the connections she created last year. One partnership that extended outside of Oxford brought to the Center the sold-out Anderson Twins jazz concert in December. The joint project with Chesapeake Music’s Jazz on the Chesapeake attracted people beyond Talbot county. “We can’t afford to do this on our own, but with partnerships, we can bring this kind of amazing talent to Oxford,” she said, citing how local businesses, B&Bs, restaurants, stores, etc. benefitted. Current discussions include bringing bi-annual prestigious jazz events to OCC, with the next offering being Sammy and the Congregation on May 25th.

Cars and Coffee

Currently on her radar are the preparations for one of OCC’s most popular events, the Fine Arts Fair, which this year celebrates its 35th anniversary on May 17-19. Whatever Ledford and her group are doing, the Economic Development and Tourism office has taken notice. “They’re pitching us to destination and travel writers, and we have to give them something to talk about. We have to let people know why they need to come to Oxford that weekend.” Crediting Jody Ware, OCC’s Fine Arts Coordinator, Ledford says: “This year Jody’s intention is on the artists themselves. She’s broadened her outreach to national level artists so the caliber will continue to be better this year than even in the past. It’s going to be exciting to see who will be here and how we can make the experience of coming here just a little more dynamic with the whole town. Which is why the tourism board said they’d pitch us, and that’s never happened before.” With help from partners and sponsors, she envisions expanding the Fair into a Festival and offering not only incredible art and artists but also attracting foodies, local winery and craft brewers, all while celebrating the 35 years of history in Oxford.

In planning stages are self-guided walking tours for that weekend and then again on July 14th for Paint Oxford Day during Plein Air. The tours, which will be Oxford specific, will categorize vanishing landscapes, and highlight the influence that water has on culture and life. “One of the impacts Oxford had is when Holland Island disappeared because of water,” she said. “We inherited some of those homes, and we inherited people from other islands that have disappeared. So, we’re going to identify some of the Holland houses, maybe invite some artists to paint some of these special places, the Art Academy can offer a watercolor workshop. This is how it spirals, with one conversation leading to the next and becoming a great partnership.”

Paint Oxford Day

Another alliance being cultivated is a collaboration with Busy Graham from Carpe Diem Arts to bring music to OCC. “(Graham) has her finger on the pulse of who is new and accessible and around the region,” says Ledford. “So, working with her as our curator, if you will, she’s going to supply us with some great music, and we can have a Friday night lounge kind of vibe, more regularly. If you’re coming to the Eastern Shore for the weekend and you want to do something we’re going to have some music going on more often.” Watch for the February 8th Black History Month Concert, which will be the next partnership with Carpe Diem Foundation & John Wesley Preservation Society.

Other events recently added to the calendar include:
March 30, 31 – Mr. Morris, Mr. Morris Spoken Word Show in partnership w/TAP & RMI
April 5th – Sara Jones
May 26 – Broadway Jukebox 2 – in partnership with Brown Box Theatre
June 21-23 – Shore Shakespeare
Oct. 18 -20 – Garden Club hosting 12 clubs

As Ledford shared her vision for even beyond this year, it’s hard to not circle back to the experience and enthusiasm she brings to OCC and the partnerships she hopes to expand. “I would love us to be an extension of all the great venues in this area like The Avalon or the Academy Art Museum. I want us to be known for finding unique things. I want people to ask, ‘How did they get that person?’ I want people to say, ‘I better buy my ticket today, or it’s going to be sold out.’ I definitely want us to have our own personality. I want people to be curious about what we’re doing next. I want us to be another venue that everyone wants to know about; I want them to ask: ‘what unique cool things did they produce?’ I want people to be exposed to Oxford and its uniqueness. That’s what keeps me so excited. It’s always so fresh; there’s always someone new who walks in and has a story or connection. How to fit everything in and how to make sure everyone knows about what’s going on is always my day-to-day quest.”

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Val Cavalheri is a recent transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.

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