Sing It Loud
PATRICK Logue, Operations Director for Cape Resorts Group, remembers what a typical weekend at the end of March used to mean in Cape May. “It was the one month of the year that was dull and bleak,” he told us. But in 2007, while attending the Millennium Music Conference in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, he had an idea.
“I was blown away to find an entire city reveling in three days of music from singer songwriters from around the country,” Patrick told us. “Even in the middle of a snowstorm, every venue in Harrisburg was packed. I thought, ‘We have to make this happen in Cape May’.” Patrick spoke with event organizer and New Jersey native John Harris, and the following year, Singer Songwriter Cape May was born.
“There was an electricity to it,” Patrick told us. “I remember walking from one place to another and being astounded by the level of performance I was hearing. It was so new for Cape May. It attracted a demographic outside what we usually attract. It was great to see all these young people from metropolitan areas come to Cape May. They had no idea what to expect, but they loved it here.”
Now, the festival is an established part of the local calendar. On March 22 and 23, quality musicians will once again perform for free at venues all over town (only the two headliners — Ellis Paul and Tracy Grammer, who will play in Congress Hall’s ballroom — carry an admission fee of $10).
“We have musicians of every genre, from folk to country to blues to alternative rock,” John, now the festival organizer, told us. “If you want to hear rock music, go to the Ugly Mug. If you want to hear country, try Marq’s Pub at the Marquis de Lafayette, or Carney’s on Friday night.”
Each set will last approximately 40 minutes. The majority of the acts will be soloists, but expect to see some bands as well. And from every performer, bank on original music only.
But, John tells us, some of the most exciting action, at least for the artists, will be happening behind the scenes. Once they arrive in Cape May, musicians will have opportunity to attend classes taught by producers, studio owners, and other music industry professionals. They will be taught how to market themselves as artists, how to use social media for promotion, tips and tricks for song writing, and how to carve themselves a niche in the music world. Ellis Paul and Tracy Grammer — the epitome, according to Harris, of what the attending artists are striving to be — will serve as keynote speakers and guests of honor.
“I was interested in Singer Songwriter Cape May because there was a teaching component involved,” said Ellis, who has released 18 folk albums to date. “I’ve been writing songs for a long time, so why not share some of my knowledge?”
In the meantime, we’ll look forward to sharing, too — sharing in the excitement of knowing we could be, very shortly, in the presence of a rising star or two. “When you walk into any of the venues featuring songwriters,” Patrick told us, “you’re struck with a thought: what you’re hearing just might be the next big thing.”
Bald And Beautiful
WE ARE approaching mid-March, which means people across the country are gearing up for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, synonymous with green beer, green cocktails, and a busy night for our friends at Aart’s Taxi. But while so many look forward to a night of St. Paddy’s-inspired boozing, a group of local kids are preparing to tackle a more sobering reality — head-on.
On March 7 at Richard Teitelman Middle School, and on March 28 at Lower Township High School, students, teachers and administrators will shave their heads in an attempt to raise $30,000 for the Saint Baldrick’s Foundation, which donates extraordinary funds to childhood cancer research.
It all started in the year 2000, when three successful reinsurance agents decided to give something back. They held their first event, in which 19 volunteers petitioned for donations before going bald for the cause, at a pub in Manhattan. By 2004, the small movement had grown into the Saint Baldrick’s Foundation and, by the end of last year, it surpassed the $100 million mark in research grant funding. Since the beginning, the organization has taken hold in 22 countries around the globe.
And in 2010, it made it’s way to our neck of the woods.
Lower Township High School teacher TJ Belasco already knew that his students were keen to contribute to the fight for a cure. “It’s amazing,” he told us. “For all of the bad rap they get, if you give kids a chance to do something good for someone else, most of them want to.” Case in point: Lower Township had been sponsoring Locks of Love events, in which students donated 10 inches of hair or more each, to be made into wigs for cancer patients who’d lost their own. “But a lot of the boys felt left out,” TJ told us. “So I did a Google search for programs in which guys might participate, and I came across St. Baldrick’s.”
In the first year, Lower Township kids raised $11,000; two years ago, $17,000; last year, $26,000.
And this month might just see the record-breaking event.
“Each child needs to raise $75,” TJ said. “In theory, if they don’t get to that amount, they don’t need to shave their heads. But some are setting goals of $250 or $500. One student at Teitelman has raised $1,000.” TJ, whose personal goal is $5000, has also joined a group of teachers who’ve put donation jars at the front of their classrooms. If TJ’s jar reaches the $350 mark, he told his students, he’ll die his hair any color they like the week before he goes under the razor. “Of course they chose pink,” he told us. “There are a lot of things like this going on to keep it fun.” On the big day, TJ explained, “hairdressers are told to have fun with the hair before they take it off.” Think mohawks and monk cuts and a pep-rally atmosphere in which everyone present is reminded of just how possible it is to make a difference.
But throughout the day, amidst all the fun, runs a staid undercurrent of truth: 175,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. “So we want to raise the money,” TJ said, “but we also want to show these kids some solidarity.”
Last year, one of the children who benefited from this showing of support was Layton Arenberg, granddaughter of Lower Township teacher Donna Hansen, and daughter to Katie Arenberg, who works at The Well. Layton was diagnosed with Leukemia in November of 2011.
“She was three at the time,” her father Gunar Arenberg told us. “And she’d never even had a haircut. She was finally able to pull it back into a ponytail, and she would talk about how she didn’t want to lose her hair.” Gunar, who’d been growing his dreadlocks since before Layton was born — actually, since right after his high school graduation in 2004 — decided to have them shaven off at last year’s Saint Baldrick’s event. “It was just a few months after she’d started treatment, and Layton was there,” he told us. “I handed her one of the dreadlocks, and she threw it across the floor… she never liked them! It’s a wonderful event.” Layton, Gunar told us, was especially impressed by the female students who participated — something, we’re told, that happens every year.
To show support for Layton, and so many kids like her, visit stbaldrick.org, click on the “donate” tab, and search for Lower Cape May Regional or the Richard Teitelman Middle School. You’ll be able to make a monetary donation even after the events take place, until these schools sponsor next year’s fundraising efforts. You can also see on this site exactly how your money will be distributed. And be on the lookout for future head-shaving events at more public, local venues in the near future.
“The kids are incredibly excited,” TJ told us. Let’s help them stay that way.
AFTER the February 27 passing of Barbara Ross Wright, who lost a hard-fought battle with leukemia, we got a little window into the kind of person Barbara was. We spoke with Deanna Fiocca, Lucky Bones manager and Barbara’s close friend, who told us that Barbara came to Cape Island in 1974 for a summer break after her graduation from Broomall College in Pennsylvania, and she never left. “To her, there was no greater place in the whole world,” Deanna said.
Barbara spent 27 years bartending at the Pilot House before moving to Lucky Bones, where she’s worked since 2006. “She built our daytime bar business from the ground-up,” Deanna said. But she’s remembered most fondly for her beautiful character. “There’s was just something about her,” Deanna said. “She never, ever had a bad word to say about anyone.” And she had a way of lifting up those around her. “My best memories are of sitting on Philadelphia Beach with Barb and our friends. No matter what decisions I’d made, good or bad, I’d sit on that beach and Barb would make me feel so special. Those were the greatest days of my life.”
Barbara leaves behind four sisters, their children, their children’s children, and loving husband Jake Wright. “It’s a great personal loss, but it’s a huge loss to the city as well,” Deanna said. “Cape May is never going to be the same.”
In memory of Barb, you are welcome to make donations to the Love of Linda Cancer Fund, which Barbara donated to every year. To contribute, visit loveoflinda.org. Rest in peace, Barb.
The Cruelest Trap
WE GET a great deal of messages from people excited about promoting various happenings in Cape May. They want to make sure we’re there to cover the efforts of all the entrepreneurs, artisans, and non-profit groups doing great things on Cape Island. But once in a rare while, we’ll get a message about a not-so-exciting happening in Cape May — or, in this case, a downright repulsive one. Because what else would you call it when a defenseless being is trapped — terrified and in pain — and left for dead?
On February 26, Cape May Chamber President John Cooke was walking in the woods that run parallel to New England Road with his friend Carolinn Pocher Woody and their dogs. Carolinn’s pup, an adorable French Pointer called Bix, was running ahead — as he does every morning — excited just to be outside and sniffing around.
And that’s when a four-foot snare trap closed its gaping maw around Bix’s leg.
“I thought a raccoon had mauled my dog,” Carolinn told us. “He was screaming bloody murder. I’m a hunter, but I don’t think trapping is humane.”
Turns out, such traps are legal, as long as they’re licensed. According to the Division of Fish and Wildlife, there are trapping seasons in New Jersey for beaver, otter, mink, muskrat, eastern coyote, fox, opossum, raccoon, skunk and weasel. Carolinn called the F&W, who sent an official to investigate. He confirmed that the trap was legal, that it had been set in an attempt to catch coyote, and that it had been set on private property. (Evidently, Bix had ventured a few steps from the Wildlife Management area where Carolinn and John had been walking.) The land owners had given a hunter permission to drop his death trap here.
Of course, we use the term “hunter” loosely, because we can’t fathom how trapping constitutes hunting. At least with a gun, there’s a little sport involved, and at least with a gun, death is swift. But according to local plumber Pete Leonard, a former hunter whose property also butts up against the Wildlife Management area, coyotes have been known to chew off their own legs in an attempt to free themselves from a snare.
The law requires that a trap be checked once every 24 hours “preferably in the morning,” meaning an animal could be suffering for an entire day before it’s discovered. Pete told us that a few years back he discovered some traps that had been set on his property illegally. “Where there’s one,” he said, “you can be sure there’s more.”
And dog walking in this area, he says, is a daily occurrence. Luckily, Bix was unharmed, albeit traumatized, but the next one might not be so lucky.
We called the officer who investigated this case, and he directed us to the Department of Environmental Protection’s press office. When we asked spokesman Larry Hajna whether dogs are often an unfortunate casualty of trapping, he said, “Not often, but it does happen from time to time.” Which doesn’t say anything of the other unintended victims who meander in — like deer, for example.
We asked how such a thing could be legal, and the best we got is that “trapping has been going on in New Jersey for many decades.” It’s been used to “manage habitat, monitor and control animal populations, protect and reintroduce endangered species, protect public and private property, and conduct research.”
We’re willing to bet that whoever is setting traps at the Higbee’s Beach area is more interested in collecting pelts than conducting research. Perhaps this could have been an attempt to protect a property from a dangerous animal. Still, we can’t help but wonder who’s going to protect the animal from a species that’s proving once again to be the most dangerous beast of all – our own.
Larry explained that people need to be aware of this area as a “multi-use” spot. But it sure is a shame when one of the uses —trapping — makes all the others — walking, exploring, simply enjoying nature with one’s dog — a scary, paranoid endeavor.
Is it too much to wish for legislation to outlaw this horrific practice in the state?