Traditions: The Dorchester Center for the Arts Showcase


For 37 years and counting, the Dorchester Center for the Arts has shut down a gorgeous stretch of High Street in Cambridge on the fourth Sunday of September to present their annual Arts Showcase. The focus is on displays of juried arts & crafts by artists from around the region, but there’s a whole lot of other stuff going on as well.


Churches and community organizations will serve up Eastern Shore foods. There’ll be a variety of music performances, including some by talented local youths. Kids activities are  in the works. They’re  trying to add in a plein air painting element this year for the first time.


The stretch of High Street where the event is held is gorgeous, a run of stately old trees and elegant old houses that ends down on the Choptank River waterfront at Long Wharf Park. There, you can tour the replica Choptank River Lighthouse or enjoy a free one-hour sail on the skipjack Nathan of Dorchester. (Be warned: the skipjack cruises are likely to be very popular, and admission is first come-first served at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30pm. So get down there early if you’re interested.)


You might also want to stroll up from Long Wharf to the Cambridge Yacht Club, just about a block up at Mill Street. They’re holding the Maryland Boatbuilders & Dealers Expo, which showcases custom-built boats made by amazing craftspeople in Maryland boatyards–most of those participating are on the Eastern Shore, in face. There’ll be dealer boats and marine accessories on display as well.


The Showcase event runs noon-5pm on Sunday Sept. 21, with exhibits and events held between the 300 block of High Street and the waterfront. There’s lots of free parking in lots and along streets in the downtown area. The Center’s phone is 410.228.7782.


Posted on: September 19th, 2013 by admin

On the Waterfront: Shakespeare tours the Shore

Next Tuesday, my wife Jill and I are headed up to gorgeous Kent Island to take in a little Shakespeare. The Eastern Shore lovers in us are especially excited about the fact that this particular production of the comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is going to be performed al fresco, right out on the Matapeake Beach waterfront while the sun sets in the distance behind the actors.


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This little theatrical gift comes courtesy of the Boston-based Brown Box Theatre Project, with support from a bunch of local nonprofit groups and county arts councils. One of the founders of Brown Box, Kyler Taustin, was born here on the Shore, in Berlin, and he’s been working his tail off to build up a regular series of  performances around Delmarva in non-traditional spaces. In fact, Brown Box has already announced plans to return to the Shore in December with another production.


The troupe is built around the idea that top-notch professional theater performances should be available to all kinds of people in all kinds of places, not just to the so-called cultural elite in a handful of big cities with fancy theater districts. Here’s how Brown Box sums up that mission: “Like the traveling medieval troupes that brought their shows from the cities to the villages on the back of a wagon, we load up our truck and bring theater to the people.”


Brown Box has seven more performances scheduled hereabouts over the  days between today, Sept. 11, and next Saturday, Sept. 21. They’re in Easton on Wednesday, Sept. 11; Berlin on Friday, Sept. 13; and Salisbury on Sunday, Sept. 15. Then comes that show on Matapeake Beach that we’ll be watching on Kent Island; it’s on Tuesday, Sept. 17. Their tour of the region closes out with shows in Rehoboth Beach on Thursday the 19th; Pocomoke City on Friday the 20th; and Lewes on Saturday the 21st.


All shows start at 7pm. All are free. You can find your way to the specific locations on the Brown Box website, under “2013 Season.” And you can also follow Brown Box on Facebook. That’s where I stole these photos from–hope they don’t mind!

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Posted on: September 11th, 2013 by admin

Crazy Strange Shore Fun #2 – Freedom House


The story of this fabulous piece of folk art begins with my friend Branden Spear. A construction contractor in Cambridge, he was locked up in a  dispute with  local officials about getting approvals on a project when he started thinking about the fact that no local regulations governed issues of color selection. And so he launched this project as a creative way to send a very public message about the freedoms we enjoy in this country and how important they are.

As you can see, the design is quite detailed. The reason why there are only 45 stars on the Freedom House is that there were only 45 states in the year that the house was built. Branden also intends the house as a shout out of thanks to the men and women in uniform who defend those freedoms.

He unveiled the house on July 4, 2010. It’s since been featured in Forbes Magazine (as one of the country’s “Amazing Colorful Houses)” as well as in a piece in Roadside America. After photos of the Freedom House went viral on Facebook, had to weigh in to debunk the false stories   circulating about the origin of the house–especially the bogus one about how a “homeowner’s association told the owner he couldn’t fly a flag.”

Freedom House is located at 1106 Locust Street–here’s a map. And here’s a shot of Branden enjoying himself on a day a couple of years back when he donated a whole bunch of time, equipment and energy to a nonprofit project in which more than 100 community volunteers turned out to help paint and repair some  buildings so that downtown Cambridge might look nicer.




Posted on: August 24th, 2013 by admin

Crazy Strange Shore Fun #1: Roller Derby!

Roller derby is back, and the Eastern Shore is now in on the act. The Salisbury Roller Girls will be happy to show you why this strange-but-fun skating extravaganza full of “bouts” and “jammers” and “sasquatches” and “grand slams” now ranks as one of the fastest growing sports in the country.

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Over the last dozen years, more than 1,300 leagues have started up in the U.S. and around the world—not bad for a sport that had been dead for some three decades before that. Best of all, this unlikely resurrection tends to be a DIY affair graced with a self-deprecating dose of the punk aesthetic.

That’s definitely the way it works in Salisbury. Founder Eva Paxton (aka Buster Skull) started up the Roller Girls by spreading the word on Facebook. The skaters she coaxed into the fold range in age from early 20s to early 50s—in fact, there’s a mother-daughter combo on the roster.

Bouts are held in a strip-mall martial arts studio. Promotional posters are the epitome of anime cool. What fun that the Roller Girls have rounded up a roster of sponsors and advertisers that run from tattoo parlors to crab shacks to the local chapter of the Jaycees and the iconic Old Bay seasoning company.

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The Roller Girls operate two teams, the Salisbury All Stars and the Wicomikazis. Founded in 2010, they’re now rated as an “apprentice” program in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the official governing body of the sport.

Last time the wife and I took in a bout, in August 2013, Wicomikazis captain “Copper Feel” was the star of the show. The wily jammer (bottom photo, with the jammer star on her helmet) ducked, dipped, slipped, and shimmied her way through the defense time and again, piling up a slew of points for the good gals as they scored a comfortable victory over the New Jersey Hellrazors.

The skaters’ “boutfits” that night boasted fishnet stockings, lime green leggings (and hair extensions), bandana scarves, and more fun oddities. A couple of hundred people attended, and I can’t imagine anyone went home disappointed. The two of us were perched rinkside the whole time, right up on the action, and we’ll definitely be back soon.


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FOOTNOTE: What’s up with the crazy names? Back in the ’70s, the once proud sport of roller derby had descended into a sort of sad distaff version of pro wrestling. Bouts were fixed, and fights were staged. It was all a sham of a show, built for cartoonish TV broadcasts. Today, the sport is dominated by homegrown teams and amateur athletes focused on having fun, hitting hard, and skating to win. But one remnant that remains from the old  days is the glorious nicknames. Go to an SRG bout and you’ll be cheering for the likes of Marv E Lust, Big Booty Judy, Obsessa Combustive, and StoneWall Jaxie. Roller derby fans wouldn’t have it any other way.


Photos courtesy of a certain Jill Jasuta!


Posted on: August 20th, 2013 by admin

Going Overboard in Chestertown

The “real” Chestertown Tea Party almost certainly never happened. But the fake one local townsfolk have been staging every Memorial Day weekend for four-plus decades now is quite well done! It’s like a scene at Colonial Williamsburg, only this one unfolds in the midst of a 21st century block party awash in beer, bands, and vendors.

The re-enactment of a May day in 1774 kicks off with a dozen of so amateur actors in colonial garb jumping up on barrels and hay bales, urging everyone to gather ’round and join in an emergency civic meeting. A couple of them recount recent events in Boston and then everyone engages in a spirited back-and-forth debate about whether to throw their own Tea Party right here and right now.

Soon enough, the colonials lead all us festival goers in a march down to the Chester River. Along the way, there is an exchange of warning shots with some menacing Redcoats, then another round of debate, and then finally, our plucky heroes row out and board the brig Geddes. There, they toss both tea and Redcoats overboard to boisterous cheers from the assembled throng back on the shore.

Local lore says an event like this actually happened in 1774, but historians who have reviewed the evidence are quite doubtful. One of them, Adam Goodheart, works in Chestertown at Washington College, and he wrote a swell essay in the American Scholar about what it was like to debunk a town’s cherished myth while living and working in that very town.

But back to the larger Tea Party Festival, which stretches along the five or so blocks between the waterfront and the downtown. There are some events on Friday night, but the real party is on Saturday and Sunday. There is a slew of music, most of it in the sea-chanty and colonial-era categories. Kids can play chess against Ben Franklin. A giant crab is wandering randomly about. There’s a parade, puppet shows, fencing demos, square dancing, and a whole lot more.

All in all, this one’s pretty top notch. Keep up with plans for future Chestertown Tea Party Festivals here.

Posted on: May 29th, 2012 by admin