Delmarva Drives
Music, Music in Onancock, Cape Charles, and Virginia's Eastern Shore PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fran Severn   
Friday, 18 February 2011 17:36

I don’t know about the hills, but the marshes of Virginia’s Eastern Shore are going to be alive with music this weekend!


It all starts with the Eastern Shore Community College’s annual Heritage Festival. There will be 50 artisans and a heritage café plus poetry readings, but the focus will be on the musical traditions of Virginia. You’ll hear gospel choirs, blues, American folk, acoustic guitars and vocals, and Stump Hole Water bluegrass and traditional music band. It runs from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. The campus is in Melfa, VA.


At 3 p.m., the musical focus shifts to Onancock, VA where the Virginia Symphony Orchestra presents an “Instrument Petting Zoo” at Ker Place on Market Street. Designed specifically for younger kids, it gives them a chance to learn about musical instruments, even try to play a viola or toot a flute. Think of the fun when your four-year-old announces his deepest desire is to play the drums. Or tuba. Or harp. At 4 pm, there’s a live narrative and musical interpretation of Aesop’s fables. It’s a refreshing way to introduce kids to culture. 757-787-8012.


The Symphony moves to Nandua High School on Onley for their 8 p.m. WINTERFEST concert. Tickets are $24 at the door. www.acesva.org or 757-302-0366.


Meanwhile, Stump Hole Water heads for the historic Palace Theater in Cape Charles for the Voices on the Shore Concert with Lady Vee and the Band. You’ll hear an eclectic mix of Americana and all other styles of acoustic tunes. 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 adults/ $8 students. www.artsentercapecharles.org or 757-331-2787

Last Updated on Friday, 18 February 2011 18:20
Delmarva Discover Center PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fran Severn   
Friday, 18 February 2011 17:13


One of the most interesting places to visit on Delmarva is the Delmarva Discovery Center in Pocomoke. Housed in a sturdy red brick building that is itself part of the history of the region, it is a great place to learn about the nature, people, and history of life from Cape Charles to the Chesapeake and Rock Hall to Ocean City.


There’s an amazing amount of information and number of displays shoehorned into the building. Director Brian Garrett delights in showing it all off to visitors. Here’s a Native American wigwam constructed in the traditional way by local Native peoples; crawl inside the human-scale model of a beaver dam; check out the aging market hunting float. He stops by the walk-through mock-up of a steamboat wharf. “We’re always trying to think of ways to make things more interactive while still being educational. I’m trying to figure out a way to show how they used pulleys to load cargo. It’ll teach the physics as well as the history.”


A lot of people offer to donate artifacts to the Center. Usually those offers are turned down. “We don’t have anywhere to store them, first of all. And we don’t want to take something that we can’t display.” There’s also the fear of becoming an annex to Grandma’s attic by accepting lots of things that families don’t want to keep but would feel guilty about hauling to the landfill.


This spring the newest display opened. The Reef Tank shows the geologic history of Delmarva’s waters with corals and fish, including the Atlantic Sturgeon. The needle-nosed fish has been swimming around for something like 40,000 years. They were so plentiful that they were once considered a nuisance. But between their caviar and products that could be made from them, Sturgeon is now severely endangered. The specimens cruising along in the tank may be the only ones you’ll ever see. There’re also gar (looking like the stretch limo of aquatic life), largemouth bass, and bluegills, several types of crustaceans, and corals and anemones swaying in the current. This is one of those exhibits where the more you look, the more you see.


One of the Center’s goals encouraging families to join as members. There are at least one or two special events each month, with the cost included in the daily admission. But that racks up quickly during a year. Most of the events, though, are covered if you are already a member. Which means that a one-time $40 family membership gets you into every special event as well as all the visits you want to make at any other time. (The regular admission is $10/adult $5/kid. Each visit.)


This weekend is an example of the special programs the Center puts on. “Reptiles Alive” is all about turtles, lizards, frogs, and – of course – snakes. There are special presentations hourly throughout the afternoon. Find out why spring peepers peep and other mysteries of nature. And learn a lot more about Delmarva. www.delmarvadiscoverycenter.org

Digital Storytelling: Preserving Delmarva's Traditions PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fran Severn   
Friday, 18 February 2011 15:34


A few years before he passed away, I had a chance to interview Scorchy Tawes for Chesapeake Life. The chronicler of life and lore of Delmarva mentioned that he still had files of people and stories he never had the chance to cover before he retired. It would have been terribly rude of me to ask to have access to those files, but I thought about it then and since. Now, like Scorchy, most of those contacts are gone forever.


Delmarva is a fragile thing in that respect. Isolated from the mainland of Maryland and Virginia with most of Delaware also removed from the metros to the north and west, it developed its own culture and traditions. That’s changing as technology and communication homogenize the planet. The things that make this place unique are vanishing and with them, some of our soul goes, too.


Preserving the legacy is the goal of a project of the Worcester and Somerset County Libraries. Using a grant from the Community Foundation of the Eastern Shore, they’ve started “Your Story: A Digital Storytelling Opportunity.” Once a month people with stories about the region from the past are invited to come and record them. The idea is to create an in-depth picture of life here from 1914-2000.


“We want to capture the stories so future generations can see and hear them,” says Lisa Outten-Stant, who runs the adult programs and public relations for the Worcester Library System. “We are looking for older people who remember what the county was like. There were so many jobs, like canning or the railroads. What the towns were like. What life was like.” There are World War 2 veterans who have their memories of the war and what it was like leaving here and then returning, and members of the Civilian Conservation Corps which was deeply involved in the agriculture during the Depression.


The response has been encouraging. Not only are people calling to make appointments for their storytelling, but “we get calls saying ‘You need to talk to so-and-so.’ Most of the time people come to the library but if someone can’t get here, we try to take the equipment to them.”


All of the recordings are up and running at the Ocean Pines branch of the library. Lisa says the new material is added after every recording session, and it’s an on-going project which will continue as long as the grant money lasts or can be renewed.


The next opportunity is Feb. 24 at the Berlin Branch. Other sessions are set up over the next few months at Snow Hill and Crisfield. You need to call to make an appointment and to get the whole schedule. 410-632-3970, 410-208-2910.

The Rock Hall Wave PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fran Severn   
Friday, 18 February 2011 14:37


I’ve loved Rock Hall ever since I was sent there to write about it for Chesapeake Life nearly 10 years ago. It’s a place that’s happily sure of itself. A hard-working town with self-reliant people who have a great perspective on life. It’s the waterman’s ethos: Enjoy life. Don’t worry about stuff you can’t do anything about. Focus on things that matter. Take care of each other. Watermen’s Day in July doesn’t mean just bragging rights for the winner of the anchor toss or work boat docking contest; the money goes to a scholarship fund for a waterman’s child or grandchild. And the regular spaghetti dinners and oyster roasts keep the fire department running.


It might have been that way all over a few decades ago, but Rock Hall’s semi-remoteness at the end of the end of the road well west of Chestertown has protected and preserved it. The yachting crowd has discovered the town, but these are mostly the sorts of yachters who enjoy kicking back with a beer at the dockside restaurants and appreciate the watermen who built the town and still earn their living off those docks.


A Jimmy Buffet song talks about the ‘coconut telegraph,’ that invisible circuit of communication that spreads news in a small town faster than a summer storm sweeping across the Bay. Rock Hall undoubtedly has that but it’s also decided to enter the digital age with the Rock Hall Wave. It’s the town’s digital newspaper. “All The News We Have Time For in Rock Hall” is its motto.


Editor Robin Kurowski started it up in September as part of an experiment on the viability of on-line community newspapers. Dave Wheelan, a veteran of non-profit and academic communications, wants to see how and if micro-local news outlets work in this end-of-print-newspapers & magazine age. He started an on-line version of The Chestertown Spy newspaper and she took to the keyboard to produce The Rock Hall Wave. As co-owner of Gratitude Yachting Center, Robin’s got her pulse on everything that happens in town. She’s also written a few books on her own, so she’s a natural as editor.


Robin sends out an e-mail blast several times a week with headlines about the main stories. Clicking on them takes you to the full story. “It’s interesting sorts of news,” says Robin. “People forget how many family stores there are and the volunteer base that’s here.” She writes up what matters to the people she sees every day. There’s a report on the nabbing of illegal rockfishers by the DNR; news that Village Hardware is adding berry plants to their spring inventory; Del. Jacobs sponsoring a bill concerning seafood harvesting; the New Orleans Festival at The Mainstay; an article about The Science of Waving in Rock Hall (as in waving to friends while driving). The articles are on a blog platform, which means readers can leave comments, and they are not shy about doing so.


Local businesses are running ads, which is what will ultimately decide the success of the experiment. In the meantime, Robin and her staff of Rock Hall natives will keep their neighbors up to speed on the things that matter in their special corner of the Chesapeake.

The Great Backyard Bird Count PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fran Severn   
Thursday, 17 February 2011 20:58


Today starts the annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). Organized by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, Bird Studies Canada, and Wild Bird Unlimited, it uses amateur birdwatchers to help create a snapshot of where birds are across our continent. It takes as little as 15 minutes a day, but you can spend as much time as you like each day of the event.


The GBBC website has all of the information you need to participate. There are lists of birds you are likely to see in your area this time of year and hints on the best way to identify and count them. If you want to be ‘stationary’ and watch from your kitchen window, that’s fine. Counting birds you spot on a walk through the park or on a trail is also useful. You upload everything each day or at the end of the weekend.


The scientists hope the bird count will answer some questions, like how this winter is influencing bird populations, how this year’s migrations compare with other years, are bird diseases like West Nile affecting birds in different regions, and what kind of bird diversity is there in urban, rural, suburban and natural areas?


Last year, over 2,500 people participated (or at least answered the survey about participating). The cited wanting to be close to nature, concern over the health of bird populations, wanting to learn more about birds and how to recognize them, and simple curiosity about what birds are where at this time of year.


If you want to participate, check out the website: www.birdsource.org/gbbc


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