Progressive Dinner Tour, A Christmas Carol
Herald Christmas in Cape Charles


December 22, 2014

Living in Cape Charles is always great no matter the season, whether spring, summer, fall or winter. But Christmas time in Cape Charles is always a special time that sets itself apart from the rest of the year. The streets are lined with decorations, Smitty has his crab pot tree at the harbor, and the shops are decorated as cheerfully as any in Ghent or Old Town Alexandria.

This season, I was fortunate to be able to be part of two wonderful Christmas events: acting in short skit at one of the stops along the Progressive Dinner Tour, and acting and directing in the Palace Theatre’s A Christmas Carol.

The Progressive Dinner Tour’s theme this year was “Christmas by the Bay,” where a yacht full of rich folks are stranded in the harbor, and are forced to endure the holidays in this little bayside village. Of course they, like all of us, fell in love with Cape Charles, and wind up buying a home here. My role in this little drama was to play the saucy Mrs. Lambertson, along with Michael Flannigan as the sea captain and Sagre Strutzman as the chef. I don’t mean to sound immodest, but on this evening I was certainly the sexiest woman in Cape Charles (and moving forward, possibly Cape Charles’ new “I”’ girl).

I have been involved in several Progressive dinners in the past, yet it seems like this year was truly one of the best. Carol Evans and the Chamber of Commerce, along with all the volunteers, should be commended for designing such an elegant, yet streamlined evening (we have seen some of these go well into the night). I wish I could review each and every location but I can only give a first person account from where I was working, at the beautiful Sea Gate Bed and Breakfast. Mr. Bannon did a wonderful job decorating for the occasion, filling each space from the Florida Room to the Peach, Blue, or Yellow bedrooms with ample color and holiday cheer.

Magnificently restored Abod residence on corner of Tazewell and Pine was also a feature of the Progressive Dinner Tour. (Photo: Chris Glennon)

Magnificently restored Abod residence on corner of Tazewell and Pine was also a feature of the Progressive Dinner Tour. (Photo: Chris Glennon)

As always, the crew was a well-oiled machine, moving large and sometimes unwieldy groups through the house, and then making sure they each received proper Cape Charles refreshment. The cuisine at our location was provided by Kelly’s — a delectable combination of shredded beef short ribs, wild mushroom sauce with pappardelle pasta, garnished with rainbow carrots, grape tomatoes, and scallions. I have had the pleasure of enjoying many great dishes from Kelly’s over the years, but I have to say, on this night, this was one of their best.

The most impressive thing about this event is that every year, no matter the climate (meteorological, political, or financial), the Town comes together and works as a team to truly put on a show and highlight all the best Cape Charles has to offer. I can only speak from where I was, but from what I have heard from others, every spot along the tour was festive, delicious, fun, and elegant, and made this year’s Progressive Dinner a smashing success.

Over the years, Arts Enter and the Palace Theatre have attempted to bring our community shows and events that layer Cape Charles with holiday cheer. This tradition was cemented by Sheila Cardano, whose original Christmas dramas set the bar for how we approach each show. Trying to remember everything she taught us, the Cape Charles School of Dance and Arts Enter brought their version of A Christmas Carol to the stage. Once again, I was part of this show, so a truly unbiased opinion will not be possible — please take this review as you like it.

A Christmas Carol cast lit up the Palace Theatre stage. (Photo: Chris Glennon)

A Christmas Carol cast lit up the Palace Theatre stage. (Photo: Chris Glennon)

Having spent many years in the Washington DC area, I recall one season where Ford’s Theater downtown was putting on A Christmas Carol. Leading up to the show, the Washington Post published an extensive writeup on all aspects of the production, which, after actors, directors, crew, and set, had a budget in excess of $80,000. I bought tickets, and although the show was “good,” to me it seemed hardly worth the price tag. In reality, it was the same old, same old, a bit stodgy, and generally boring. When Amy Watkins and I decided to do this story this Christmas, we vowed that, hit or miss, we were not going to just trot out the same old Scrooge in the same old way. We would not even think of attempting such a thing without having such a supremely talented group of young thespians and dancers to yell at — I mean offer insight and encouragement.

At the base of the story are the visits that Scrooge receives from the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley, and from the spirits of the Past, Present and Future. The role of Marley’s ghost is one of the most daunting in all theater, yet when we cast McKay Shockley, we knew we were putting the character in the right hands. Not that it was ever easy, McKay approached the role as a pro, fighting to achieve each shudder and nuance, while delivering one of the most difficult and important set of lines in the play.

As the ghost of Christmas Past, Emma Philpot combined the perfect elements of grace and care to create an aura of ephemeral charm that disarmed and softened the nasty Scrooge. Although her acting is always spot on, one of the challenges for Emma was being able to project her soft, delicate voice into the rafters of the Palace. Through technique and patience she accomplished this and exceeded all our expectations.

Those who saw last spring’s Curiosity Cat show well remember Ms. Lily Jo Mullaly, who killed as the Yiddish lion. As the spirit of Christmas Present, she once again brought that wit, charm, and impeccable comedic timing to bear in another unforgettable performance. When she collects that Academy Award, we can all say we knew her when.

"Nasty" ol' Ebeneezer Scrooge himself. (Photo: Chris Glennon)

“Nasty” ol’ Ebenezer Scrooge himself. (Photo: Chris Glennon)

When I think about the things that I love about Cape Charles, one has to be the chance that I have had to watch some of our kids begin from scratch, and through hard work and dedication emerge from their cocoons as full-fledged talents. A case in point is Ms. Taylor Terry, who played the role as the spirit of Christmas Future. The years of work that began way back with Christina Hardy, and is now nurtured and polished by Miss Amy, culminated in a truly dominant performance. Combining athleticism with lushness and hauteur, she was truly a “Spectre” for the ages.

The pinnacle of the show was the ensemble cast of the Cratchit family. As Mrs. Cratchit, Rachel Creed once again delivered a practiced, polished, professional caliber performance — intricate and insightful; her performance was the glue that always held the scene together. Newcomer Grace Baker provided a powerful, workmanlike performance as the meek Bob Cratchit. Her performance and interpretation was remarkable for an actor with such limited experience on the stage, as she truly captured the “Bob Cratchitness” of the role. As the children, Jada Crockett, Rylee Coates, Josephine Kohler, Neely Guinan, and Katie Colson created the commotion, chaos, and love that surrounded the Cratchit household and really made the scene come alive. Eli Philpot delivered big as Tiny Tim, always solid with his line, “God Bless Us Every One,” incorporating an inner beauty that sought to overcome his sickly body. [Read more…]

LETTER: Northampton County Is Not Virginia Beach!

December 22, 2014


First of all, thanks to the Cape Charles Wave and reporter Dorie Southern for the expert coverage of the”Occupy the Old Courthouse” rally in Eastville on Tuesday evening, December 9. As Ms. Southern reported [CLICK], the Northampton County Board of Supervisors’ meeting that followed the rousing but cordial rally on the Courthouse green drew a packed house with standing room only. Out of the 18 speakers, many of whom were former county officials and current heads of civic and environmental organizations, only one speaker spoke in favor of the Board’s unilateral attempt to completely rewrite Northampton County’s zoning ordinance with virtually and literally no public involvement (except for our obligatory three-minute comment period at the BOS meetings). This same lone speaker also submitted a lengthy letter to a local newspaper which was printed on the same day as the lead story about the rally, and I greatly appreciate this opportunity to respond to several of her comments.

The writer insinuates that those of us who merely want to be more involved in the decision-making process that will dictate the future economic and environmental future of this great county are misinformed and using scare tactics to prevent Northampton County from growing and prospering in this otherwise difficult fiscal climate. She cites many examples of our alleged “fear mongering” and refutes many of the claims made by those opposing the unilateral changes proposed by the Board.

Upon information and belief, the writer is a real estate professional with roots in Virginia Beach. And while we all love to visit Virginia Beach and its many offerings, we do not choose to live there. Frankly, it is just too crowded for the likes of many of us, and most do not want to pay the high taxes of living in such a congested area. Note VB’s taxes are about 50% higher than Northampton County’s. That said, the writer’s theory that we need to develop Northampton County in a more intensive and commercial manner to bring more revenue into the county is belied by the tax profile in Virginia Beach, as well as Ocean City, Maryland.

As for the misinformation that has been put out by the major organizations which have been intricately involved in this proposed zoning revision, there is not one clear example of what has been presented that has been wrong. Indeed, much of the information distributed in newsletters, flyers, and letters has been based on in-depth analysis and careful consideration by former Planning Commissioners and other county officials who were intensely involved in writing the current zoning ordinance, and also in reviewing the proposed zoning revisions while they still served in an official capacity on the Planning Commission. [Read more…]

Supervisors: Read Your Own Report, Ditch Sewer Plan

December 8, 2014


I have sent the following letter to the Board of Supervisors:

Dear Northampton County Board of Supervisors,

In considering the need for a central sewer system, I’d like you to study the attached report, produced by Northampton County. You’ve probably heard before that Northampton County is losing population. The attached report illustrates how the county population has declined steadily from 18,565 people in the 1930 census to just over 12,000 today (see Figures 3.2 and 3.3 in the attached report). We currently have less people in our county than in any time in the past century. We are nearing the point where we will have lost 50% of our population. This trend is predicted to continue for the forseeable future. Projections going out to 2040 predict a continued decline in population (see Table 3.3). [CLICK to download report.]

Population density has a direct bearing on the ability of an area to treat sewage effectively with septic systems as opposed to centralized sewer systems. “On June 28, 2013, EPA released a model program for onsite wastewater treatment systems in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to help states more effectively prevent nutrients from entering the Bay from onsite or septic systems, which will improve water quality. When properly designed, sited and maintained, decentralized systems like septic systems can treat wastewater effectively and protect surface water and groundwater.” (

The EPA also “concluded in its 1997 Response to Congress that “adequately managed decentralized wastewater systems are a cost-effective and long-term option for meeting public health and water quality goals, particularly in less densely populated areas.” ( [Read more…]

LETTER: Don’t Call Me a Come-Here, Mr. Supervisor!

November 24, 2014


In regard to the Northampton County Board of Supervisors’ unilateral plan to change the current zoning ordinance to resemble an Ocean City or Virginia Beach model of development, it raises my ire when Supervisors such as Larry Trala dismiss those of us seeking more of a voice in this process as “come-heres.” This conjurs up the “pot and the kettle” scenario considering we have been told Larry may have roots in Detroit.

I take this dismissal personally, and must respond to several issues regarding various statements made by the Supervisors who are promoting the rezoning campaign. In response to the “come-here” remark, I have two comments. First, those who have discovered Northampton County and have decided to move here and invest much of their life’s savings in this great county do so because they have fallen in love with what we have to offer. Their tax dollars support our schools, our roads, our businesses, our support services, and our cultural resources. Rather than branding them something less than what they are as “come-heres,” we should open our arms and realize that they are here because they are “wanna-be-heres” as Art Schwarzschild recently stated at a public forum on the rezoning debate, and have fallen in love with the county for what it isn’t (Ocean City or Virginia Beach) — a scenario that is being threatened by this closed-door scheme.

As for this “come here,” I don’t think so. In fact, my father’s family, the Schoolfields, came to the Eastern Shore with the contingents that accompanied Lord Baltimore in the 1600s. My maternal great-grandfather, G. Russel Smith, was a horse-and-buggy doctor in Cheriton in the 19th century. His daughter, my grandmother, and her husband, Gansevoort Hurlbut, bought the majestic Wellington estate on the Nassawadox in the 1930s and later purchased the smaller Refuge estate, now the home of the county attorney (one of the prime movers of the “let anyone do anything they want on their property” zoning revision). My grandmother also worked at the Northampton-Accomack Memorial Hospital and helped raise the funds necessary to build that facility. I was born in that hospital 60 years ago (wow, where does the time go?) and spent many years and indeed every summer of my life on the Nassawadox Creek with my children. And as for my “come-here” husband, Ken, he is a “brought-here” — by me — and his involvement in the zoning debate is partly because I asked him to do so because I owe it to my heritage to protect this county from impending assault, and partly because we both want to protect our many investments in Northampton County and the Town of Exmore. [Read more…]


LETTER: Citizens Should Oppose Rezoning NOW

November 24, 2014


Several of our key Northampton elected and salaried officials apparently have taken zoning matters into their own hands thus necessitating the Shore citizens groups’ volunteer forum November 6 to bring us up to speed — in a cordial, impressively professional manner — on the complexities of the disturbing scenario. We owe CBES [Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore] and Shorekeeper our gratitude and respect.

Four centuries ago the original Shore inhabitants were blindsided with the arrival of Europeans who in short order — a generation or so — transformed forever their heritage and way of life by relocating them (displacement) to a reservation, the 52 acre fragment of which remains today as Indiantown Park, Eastville seaside. No matter that the natives were friendly and peaceful, used coastal waterways as their highways, and were not prone to fouling their own nests as they moved back and forth seasonally from their small scattered settlements.

Equally soon by early spring of 1651-1652 the invasive settlers found cause to protest excessive taxation in the first such demonstration in American history. So, you see, dramatic earth shaking and shaping events can happen very quickly. We may be on a similar precipice.

Thus far our elected officials — save one — propose opening Pandora’s box for unbridled development on our rural lower peninsula, not only with the potential for a bar in Franktown as our hospital closes down, but also more seriously with unannounced nasty wastes and dangerous biomass uses. Their unleashed rezoning ignores state code requiring a (formerly carefully crafted) Comprehensive Plan as its foundation, the format of which was defined by Northampton citizen input over an extended period. Thankfully our Comp Plan, aka the backbone approved by state code, remains a flexible document in that it can be adjusted or amended when necessary. Critics of rezoning often have cited this key advantage. So if it ain’t broke, why fix it? [Read more…]

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LETTER: ‘Open Season’ on Central Park Cats

This rescue cat, "Tiger Lilly," is happily still in the land of the living.

This rescue cat, “Tiger Lilly,” is happily still in the land of the living. (Photo: Sandy Mayer)

November 17, 2014


Keep your kitties inside! Evidentially there was a complaint filed with the Sheriff’s office by a woman who was disturbed by the cats in her yard. Consequently, the Sheriff’s office and Animal Control are actively hunting cats in the Cape Charles Central Park area. No animal is safe — it is open season on Cape Charles cats. If you are missing an animal you need to call Animal Control in Onley at 757-787-7385 to identify the animal and produce evidence of rabies vaccinations to reclaim the animal. [Read more…]


GUEST EDITORIAL: Withdraw the Proposed Rezoning

Executive Director
Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore

November 10, 2014

Some 140 citizens gathered last Thursday at the Northampton Community Forum in Eastville to hear an explanation of the proposed countywide rezoning and some of the changes versus our current zoning. Volunteering their time and expertise, the panel included several trained, experienced Virginia State certified citizen Planning Commissioners, a scientist and Director at the University of Virginia’s Coastal Research Center, and a real estate broker of 40 years.

As co-sponsor of the event with Virginia Eastern Shorekeeper, Citizens for a Better Eastern Shore was encouraged by the large attendance. Clearly there is a thirst for additional information about the proposed zoning.  The lack of knowledge, confusion, and alarm residents expressed concerning the new zoning proposed is another indication that the county has not done an adequate job explaining the changes proposed. [Read more…]


Great Atlantic Sturgeon Making Comeback

One of the first sturgeon caught in the James River in decades, this specimen measured over 7 feet long and weighed 300 pounds. (Photo: Virginia Commonwealth University)

One of the first sturgeon caught in the James River in decades, this specimen measured over 7 feet long and weighed 300 pounds. (Photo: Virginia Commonwealth University)


November 10, 2014

In 2012, the National Marine Fisheries Service listed the Great Atlantic Sturgeon under the Endangered Species Act. This is usually bad news, but since sightings and spawning grounds were so rare, the fact that there was enough sturgeon left to even warrant the declaration is a good thing. Two years later, we find that they are once again spawning in the Chesapeake Bay just outside the James River.

A bit of a homecoming, the fish was critical to the first English settlement at Jamestown, and was noted by inhabitants as the “founding fish.” Historians and archaeologists unearthing the history of the Jamestown colony have called the sturgeon “The fish that saved Jamestown.” During a period known as “The Starving Time,” it was the one food source available to the English colonists that kept them alive. Because of their familiarity with the sturgeon species from the Thames River in England, they knew how to catch and cook the fish. [Read more…]


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