Like many rural areas, Caroline County has to work to develop and maintain a cultural calendar. But cooperation and planning between the Caroline County Library, the Caroline County Council of Arts, and the Department of Recreation and Parks gives the county a program a lot of metropolitan areas envy.
According to Debby Bennett, Administrator of the Caroline County Library, the idea for joint cultural programs started back in the 80s when the Arts Council staged a Mardi Gras Ball fundraiser. The library joined in promoting and putting it on. Things went so well that the two groups looked into other programs they could co-sponsor. Recreation and Parks saw the benefits to the county and added its expertise. Before long, it evolved into the two series of musical, cultural, and entertainment programs: Friday Nites in Caroline and Second Story Live Coffeehouse.
“Friday Nites is a variety of free cultural events the family can enjoy. The focus is on good fun,” says Bennett. “We put on the programs at several locations around the county, both at the libraries and the high schools when the program is too large for the meeting rooms.”
The programs are the second and fourth Friday of each month. Past Friday Nites have featured Blues vocalist “Big Joe” Maher, contemporary pianist Ann Sweeten, Bay Country Barbershop Chorus, and Circo Comedia comedy and daredevil duo. Once or twice a year, it’s ‘open mic’ night for local artists and performers to shine. Keeping Friday Nites free is a priority. “We have a strong partnership with the Arts Council which picks up a lot of the costs involved. Recreation and Parks also helps out.” It’s a sign of the level of cooperation that when budgets are being cut and agencies are understandably looking to protect themselves that these groups are still supporting each other.
The other program is Second Story Live. Held once a month at the main library in Denton, it features nationally known singer/songwriters in an intimate setting for a small audience. There’s a small fee ($10) for the show which helps offset the performers’ fees. “This was always envisioned as a showcase for singer/songwriters with a real coffeehouse atmosphere. They enjoy performing here because we have good acoustics and sound system and a very enthusiastic and appreciative audience.” The Coffeehouse has hosted folk Americana, Celtic fiddle, and acoustic guitar concerts.
This Friday, Feb. 11, is one of the most popular Friday Nites shows. The UMES Jazz Band treks up from Princess Anne for its annual, standing-room-only concert. It starts at 7p.m. in the auditorium of the North Caroline High School. 410-479-1343 for information.
For details about the Friday Nites and Second Story artists, check the websites for the Arts Council: http://www.carolinearts.org/secondstorylive.php http://www.carolinearts.org/events.php