|The Gala Season to Celebrate Life
For everything, there is a season. The first week in August, as all of Calvert County knows, is the season to celebrate life. For that's when - as it has for 19 years - Rod 'n' Reel's grand gala returns.
With it come three reasons to celebrate:
First, the weather is warm, the moon new, the breezes balmy and the Bay - as it should be for an affair titled "On the Bay" - is the backdrop.
Second, everybody who's anybody in Southern Maryland is there, as well as many who hope to become or remain somebody this election year. Even Anne Arundelites drop down to see how their southern cousins celebrate. With darkness falling an hour into the event, you never know who you'll run into.
Third, the food is not to be outdone by season, surroundings or company. Rod 'n' Reel's chefs serve, on the surf side, Maine lobsters by halves, Maryland crabs, fresh fin fish, oysters, clams, shrimp and mussels. Competing on the turf side are roast pig, steamship round, filet mignon, barbecue ribs and chicken. Salads keep up the pace, and desserts rush ahead into the far reaches of decadence.
Drinks - from champagne to beer to a martini bar - are so varied and abundant as to want a reason all their own, but we are keeping this simple.
Adding savor to this season for celebration is the sure and certain knowledge that, for each of us, there will come seasons scant of celebration. Cancer is the reason for the annual gala, and to fight it brothers Fred and Gerald Donovan each year hold the gala in memory of their own father, snatched by cancer. They have raised over one million dollars in 19 years, and the gala ranks as the largest per-capita American Cancer Society fundraiser in the nation.
Last year's gala raised an all-time high of $186,000 from sponsorships, tickets and donations. That's $2.71 for every one of Calvert County's 68,579 residents, calculates Rod 'n' Reel owner Gerald Donovan.
Local money buys local returns. "Forty percent of the money stays right here in Calvert County," says Donovan, "to support such programs as Road to Recovery, started this year, where volunteer drivers transport cancer patients to and from their treatments."
Chairing each year's gala is a Calvert Countian whose life has been touched by cancer and who, accordingly, works extra hard to bring in big bucks. This year's chair is businesswoman Gail Gibson, owner of Garner & Duff Flower Shop in Prince Frederick and now also Chesapeake Beach Florist & Gifts.
"I had breast cancer four years ago," she explains. "Everybody was so nice to me when I was going through my treatment with radiation and chemotherapy, I had so many prayers, phone calls and cards, I could never figure a way to give back. Being able to work with the gala is my way of saying 'thank you.' Hopefully one day with lots of funds raised, we'll be able to find a cure."
Setting Flora After Fauna
By Audrey Y. Scharmen
A small girl with seagreen eyes who has come to spend part of a Chesapeake summer at my house says, Grandma, what you need are some Venus flytraps to get rid of these tiny flies you complain about. Then the wise womanchild carefully explains that such plants are carnivorous and catch wee winged pests in their leaf lobes and digest them. She says all they do is sit on the window sill and eat.
What a clever common-sense solution, and well worth a try, I muse. I have been plagued for years by obnoxious summer insects that resemble fruit flies, whose source may have been a wheel of Mennonite cheese (delicious!) brought here from down Mexico way by one of my grown kids.
Anyway, they have resisted all manner of preventive measures. They ride on ones eyelashes, crawl into the ears and gawd knows where else. I dont even want to know what happens when one disappears into a nostril; I have read far too many tales about parasitic insects.
So it is over the river and into the new Lowes store on opening day for the little girl and me; and there in a fairyland of miniature succulents is an entire colony of tiny flycatchers, sly and smug and menacing even in their smallness. There, as well, is another bright green-eyed child like mine.
He is perhaps nine (as she is), a tall and handsome lad and very articulate, and soon we are engaged in an animated conversation about fruit flies. (He includes me as if I were a regular person, not just someones old-geezer grandma.) He has had much success with these plants, and he shows us how to choose one with large lobes and upright stems. The two nature-wise children have an instant rapport. They are as a perfectly matched pair of beautiful dragonflies.
We put three plants into our cart as he disappears into the crowd. Wait, I shout, but he is quickly gone. This is all too serendipitous. The two children are made for each other, and I want to call him back and ask where he might be in 2010.
But of course I do not. We add a hammock to our purchases and head home.
The flytraps are comfortably ensconced on the window sill in the back kitchen, happily munching. The fruity flies decrease in number overnight and seemingly have lost interest in my orifices.
As for the green-eyed girl, she is on the beach in search of the teeniest ever carapace of an infant horseshoe crab, and the largest of sharks teeth. Or she is wandering down a country lane where the sweetest wine berries grow.
Crabs, Corn, Etc.
Summer's a bit funky around the Chesapeake this year, but the summer harvest's bounty still rolls in.
Tony Evans from Maryland Department of Agriculture reports troves of "very, very good" cling peaches, with freestone and semi-clings starting to come in. Sweet corn is in excellent supply and blackberries are plentiful. Field ripened tomatoes, however, are a little slow due to cold summer weather; Evans suggests getting to the Farmers' Market early to snag up a limited supply.
The crab season remains wishy-washy, with supplies and prices about the same as they've been all season. According to DNR, the estimated catch for April, May and June was 6.1 million pounds (152,500 bushels), averaging $1.33 per pound for hardshells and $4.17 for soft. Area seafood markets report no big changes in supply or price, with large males ranging $150 (Capt. Smith's Seafood Market, Solomons) to $210 (Annapolis Seafood Market, Severna Park) per bushel. Mixed males sell for $130 per bushel at Dunkirk's S&S Seafood.
The Worthiest Fleet on the Bay
It may not be the most majestic fleet on the Bay, but for YMCA Camp Letts the price is right. The camp gets more than half their watercraft, from canoes to cabin cruisers, for free. They come from folks like you: big-hearted boat owners who prefer to hand over old faithful to a good cause rather than dribble away time and cash selling a boat that's become an albatross.
"It's also a great tax deduction," says Camp Letts waterfront director Bert Hubinger, who handles the donations. "We'll look at anything." But that doesn't mean he'll take it. Hubinger asks that your boat be seaworthy. "I hate to turn down any free boat," he sighs. "But we've learned free isn't always a good thing."
The Camp Letts crew rerigs its adopted boats, scrapes barnacles and paints the hulls. This requires constant trips to boating supply stores for knickknacks. "We're always having to pick up new sails and rigging," says Hubinger. "Flying Scots in particular love losing their masts."
The camp lacks the skilled labor and heavy equipment for serious repair, which is why Hubinger will probably turn down a boat he's just been offered by an owner who saved marina costs by dry docking the craft in his driveway - where a falling tree crushed it. Major body and engine work must be farmed out to a marina.
With a truly hot prospect, however, Hubinger may be tempted to break his own rule, as he did for a 32-foot Chris Craft cruiser with twin inboards. The boat was so beat up the camp needed a benefactor to underwrite the repair bills.
The tree-shaded row of picnic tables where Hubinger now talks boats is soon swarmed by campers perching on benches and table-tops like a T-shirted, Bermuda-shorted flock of birds. They've come to hear Hubinger and his boating instructors lay down the rules for tomorrow's fun: "What do we always put on before getting on a boat?" calls out the otherwise soft-spoken Hubinger. The group knows the drill and sounds off on cue: "Life jackets!" A timid female voice follows up with, "Sunblock?" followed by a few chuckles. "A pair of really cool sunglasses," offers Steve, the sailing instructor.
Life jackets, sunglasses and all, the group reemerges next morning at the camp's dock for water adventures. Two teenage girls on waterskis are already out on the river, towed by the Gray Bomber, a 30-foot cabin cruiser donated by an especially generous boater.
On shore, a stack of tiny Lasers await the Seafarers, the advanced sailors who will launch one by one until they are circling each other gracefully mid-river, with Steve buzzing in and around them in a motorboat calling out warnings and verbal memos to the sailors.
A single 15-foot Laser costs around $5,000 new. "So you can imagine what the larger boats would run us if we had to buy them all new," says Hubinger.
"Seafarers spend a week on the Lasers, then they graduate to Flying Scots and venture further out," says Hubinger. "Flying Scots are good for beginners. They're very forgiving."
How does the camp retire its older, spent boats? Talk about recycling: Hubinger sells them "really cheap" to boaters with the means to overhaul them. "We use the profits to buy parts for our other boats," he says. Some of the proceeds may also finance other camp needs as well.
Camp Letts occupies a 200-acre wooded peninsula off Route 214, flanked by Southern and Bear Neck creeks as they meet to form the Rhode River. A 1909 brochure promoting its fourth season describes the camp as "15 days of solid fun," dedicated to "the cultivation of manly Christian character." Along with photos of smiling boys on boats and hiking trails, the pamphlet boasts quarters "free of mosquitoes and malaria." The camp is named for benefactor John Cowen Letts, who gave most of the money to buy the former plantation. Except for the coming of electricity and some new buildings, this boys' camp changed little until it opened to girls in 1975.
True, Letts offers the classic camp adventure, with archery, horseback riding and the like. Still, surrounded on three sides by water, the camp's devotion to boating is only natural. Even the campers are classified navy-style: Girls and boys become plebes and quartermasters, while preteens are bosuns and mariners. Teenagers get the title of ensigns and commodores. Officer or enlisted, anyone in the Camp Letts navy can choose a boating program to suit his or her level and wishes, be it waterskiing, earning a motorboat certificate or learning to fly on a Scot.
Downstream from the sailors and waterskiers, a pair of counselors demonstrates canoe rescue maneuvers for a platoon of quartermasters and plebes. A few bosuns are sprawled across the pier chicken-necking for crabs as they sunbathe. A dinghy with a payload of quartermasters and plebes putters off toward one of the motorboats, where the campers will be taken to explore nearby islands as part of the Pirate Adventure program.
Meanwhile, Bert Hubinger leans against the boathouse surveying the waterfront tableau: canoes paddle, sailboats circle, waterskiers whiz and speedboats streak off into the horizon. It's a landscape of joy, created for a bunch of kids by folks like you.
Add your own touch to this idyllic landscape: If you have a power boat, sailboat, dinghy, canoe or even windsurfer you'd like to donate, call YMCA Camp Letts at 410/798-0440 or 301/261-4286. Donations must have a title and, preferably, a trailer.
Way Downstream ...
In Washington, the decision by U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia to bow out of the race for Democratic Whip if his party regains the House has greatly increased the chances for Rep. Steny Hoyer of Southern Maryland to win that powerful job. Hoyer's final hurdle is the candicacy by well-financed, Maryland-born Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco ...
In Greenbelt, a Rockville company agreed last week to pay a $10.4 million fine for smuggling millions of dollars in Russian caviar and labeling eggs from American paddlefish and shovelnose sturgeon as caviar. The company, whose officials agreed to prison sentences, fooled retailers that included Sutton Place Gourmet and Fresh Fields ...
In Delaware, the state DNR found another 500,000 dead fish last week in Arnell Creek. Instead of Pfiesteria, authorities now suspect a lack of oxygen, which usually is caused by nutrient pollution from sewage treatment, septics and lawn chemicals
In Marin County, Calif., Marc Reisner, who sparked a review of federal water policies and wasteful irrigation with his 1986 book, Cadillac Desert, died at his home last week, at age 51, of colon cancer ...
Our Creature Feature comes from Sequim, Wash., where people are getting tired of running into elk. Literally. So they have concocted a plan to place collars around the necks with radio transmitters that trigger a flashing sign that says Elk X-ing.