Chestertown U.S.A.

The Eastern Shore showpiece is a classic Colonial American small town

Outside

July 27, 2006|By SAM SESSA | SAM SESSA,SUN REPORTER

History gives Chestertown its charm.

Tourists go to the Eastern Shore town for its centuries-old buildings, homey small businesses and rivers of red brick - all strong sources of pride for residents.

When Chestertown turned 300 this year, plans for a series of parades, concerts and crab feasts to celebrate its heritage came as no surprise.

"The message we want to get across is Kent County was part of building the American small town, and to let people know that the heritage is still very clear, very easy to feel and to experience here," said Bernadette Van Pelt, director of the county's Tourism Development Office.

Some of the larger happenings in the nearly yearlong anniversary lineup occur within the next several months. This weekend, a host of musical groups will perform around Chestertown. They include Colonial and classical music, barbershop quartets, World War II-era swing, country, bluegrass and alternative rock. The music spans Chestertown's past.

"This is an opportunity for musical groups to be able to demonstrate the impact that music has had over the past 300 years, and it does bring together a whole range of traditions and voices and provides an opportunity to celebrate through music," said Lucia Foster, assistant director of the Prince Theatre.

The music venues themselves are rooted in local history: The Prince Theatre is a restored movie house from the turn of the century, Wilmer Park sits on the banks of the Chester River, and Fountain Park is in the middle of downtown Chestertown.

On Aug. 12, Horses to Hummers will showcase how transportation has evolved from carriages and buggies to Ford's Model T and muscle cars of the '50s and '60s. Eight Clydesdale horses will help lead a parade down High Street, along with classic cars, marching bands and other live music. When the parade ends, the Clydesdales will be on display at nearby Wilmer Park. The park will also feature pony rides, horse jumping and vendors.

In early September, there will be an all-you-can-eat crab feast, live music, hot air balloon rides, fireworks and other festivities in Wilmer Park. The crabs will be culled from Kent County waters and will line tables next to fresh sweet corn, fried chicken, pulled-pork barbecue, salads and fresh fruit, Van Pelt said.

Other festivities, such as a Native American Festival, continue through the fall and conclude with a time capsule being buried on Dec. 9.

"If a person's never been here, the downtown area is really quite an experience," Van Pelt said.

Chestertown's Music Festival Weekend runs 6 p.m. tomorrow, 9:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday in various locations. There is a $25 flat fee for all of the performances over the course of the weekend. The Prince Theatre is at 210 High St.

Horses to Hummers starts with a parade down High Street 10 a.m. Aug. 12.

The crab feast is 3 p.m.-8 p.m. Sept. 16 in Wilmer Park. Tethered hot air balloon rides from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. are $10 per person. Tickets for the all-you-can-eat crab feast are $25 per person in advance and $35 at the gate.

For more information about any of the events, call 410-810-2968 or visit chestertown.com.

sam.sessa@baltsun.com

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