A Cape May Feast
FOR most of us, spring cleaning means putting some elbow grease into the deepest, darkest corners of our living space… plenty of work, even if one’s space is not 92,000 square feet. That’s the size of the hangar at the Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum where 22 aircraft, among other displays, currently reside. “It will take five days to clear them all out,” Director Bruce Fournier told us. “Then we’ll do about two days of prep work — our spring cleaning — to get it all nice and ready.” Ready for what, you’d like to know? On May 7, the museum will host the 13th Annual Feasting On History event, a major fundraiser for Historic Cold Spring Village, and an unofficial kick-off to Cape Island’s season.
“This year, we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the village’s founding,” Kate Devaney, HCSV’s Deputy Director of Public Relations and Programming, told us. “I think it’s important to understand where we’ve been, and to understand the experiences of our ancestors, so that we’re better able to understand where we are now. Feasting on History is a wonderful way to toast all of the preservation work the village has accomplished over the last 40 years.” Preservation work, like the saving of 26 buildings from the Early American era including, most recently, the Coxe Hall Cottage, built in 1691 and believed to be oldest surviving structure in Cape May County.
In these buildings, which span 30 beautiful acres, interpreters and artisans in period clothing showcase the trades and crafts pursued in south Jersey between 1789 and 1840. “It’s especially wonderful to see children discovering history,” Kate said, “and to see them having fun that doesn’t include an iPhone or a video game.” Part of the village’s mission, she explained, is education via school trips, classroom visits and interactive teleconferences. “In one program, kids learn about games children played in the Early American period and subjects they studied in school, but they’re always most fascinated by discipline… how a child could have been smacked across the hands with a hickory stick or forced to stand on a wooden block with a dunce cap for misbehaving or not keeping up in school.”
Adults are equally enthralled by the village’s offerings. “Something I’ve learned,” Kate told us, “is that Concessions and Agreements, a text written by Jacob Spicer, Jr and Aaron Leaming, both lawyers and Cape May County residents, was a source of inspiration used in crafting the US Constitution. Pretty cool, huh? The Spicer Leaming House on the village grounds belonged to Jacob’s grandson.”
So it’s fair to say that a fundraiser benefiting HSVC is a great cause… but, importantly for the approximately 700 people who will attend Feasting on History, the event is also a great time…. this due, in large part, to the 40 area restaurants who will be serving food. “It’s the highlight of the spring, as far as we’re concerned,” said Harpoon Henry’s owner Teresa Henry. “We’ve participated for the last eight or nine years, and the event seems only to be growing. It’s a lovely opportunity to mingle, and to taste the offerings of so many restaurants you may not have time to visit during the summer. You’ll see the same favorites represented every year, and always a new place or two. Many of them bring their most popular dishes.”
In the meantime, the preparations continue. “Our volunteers have been wonderful,” Kate said. “One thousand invitations went out in January, and we had a group of people who spent three days stuffing those and addressing them by hand. And a couple — Liz and Merrill Miller — have volunteered to spend three weeks folding the 850 linen napkins I just ordered. They’re just awesome.”
And Feasting on History will be, too, no doubt. To buy your tickets, priced at $75 per person, contact Kate at 609-898-2300, or visit hcsv.org.
Oh, and if you’re wondering where all of those 22 aircraft will end up during the festivities, look no further than the 40 feet of property on the north side of the aviation museum. “These are military aircraft,” Bruce told us, “so they won’t mind a bit of rain.”
Cape May Seals
IN THE past two weeks, a couple of readers have sent us pictures of seals resting on our beaches, one near Queen Street, the other just south of the lighthouse. We shared the photos on Facebook; 249 of you “liked” the former, and 368 of you, the latter. One hundred and seventy two shares later, we got the hint… everyone really enjoys seals. And hardly anyone, judging by the 40 mostly befuddled comments these photos garnered, is familiar with them. We called the Marine Mammal Stranding Center — a nonprofit based in Brigantine which has responded to 4,000 calls about dolphin, whale, turtle and, of course, seal, strandings in New Jersey — for more information.
“It happens more than you’d think,” Seal Stranding Technician Danielle Monaghan told us. “Up and down the coastline, we see gray, harbor, and harp seals. Just today, we received three calls. Not too far offshore, like in Great Bay and the Sandy Hook barrier spit, there are several colonies.”
While it’s possible the animals who come ashore are in trouble of some sort (think shark bites, net entanglements, ingestion of plastics, illness and the like), seals on the sand are often just looking for some R and R. “The animals don’t sleep in the water, so they come out for rest,” Danielle said. “Beaches, docks, jet ski ramps… wherever they can take a nap, they will.”
It’s an explanation that many have found suspect. “People want to know why a seal who’s healthy doesn’t make a break for it when they approach,” Danielle says. “The answer is that the seal doesn’t want to… it’s likely that he just swam a great distance, and he wants to take his nap.”
And just for the record, it’s actually illegal to test this out. “No one is allowed within 150 feet of any marine mammal, unless you have the proper permit,” Danielle told us, explaining that the folks of the Marine Mammal Stranding Center are the only ones in the state who do.
So how should you react when you spot a seal? “Call us, and we’ll come check out the animal, just to make sure everything is okay,” Danielle said. If it’s not, the center will rehabilitate and release it.
Perhaps most importantly, remember that these are wild animals. “Seals aren’t puppies,” Danielle said. “We’ve had many cases where people have been bit… one woman in the face, another in the arm. When that happens, we have to quarantine the animal, and it’s really not fair. It’s a perfectly healthy seal.”
If you simply can’t resist these adorable creatures, try adopting one of your own. The Marine Mammal Stranding Center runs a program that allows you, for a donation of $25, to secure food, medicine and care for one special seal. Check out the pictures and video on marinemammalstrandingcenter.org for a seriously awww-inducing moment.
Because the seals are here in the winter, usually between November and April (they head toward New England in the warmer months), we’re expecting to see fewer and fewer. But if you do happen to run across a rubber-skinned sunbather, call 609-266-0538. And send us a picture.
The Wood Man
A COUPLE of weeks ago, while pulling into Sunset Liquor to buy an outrageous amount of wine (hey, it was the weekend), we spotted 22-year-old Taylor Smith posting an advertisement for his custom-made woodworkings. We love stories about local people doing cool things, so we gave Taylor a call to find out what he’s up to.
“Right after the hurricane,” Taylor told us, “I was walking on the beach with my dogs, and I came across an Australian Red Cedar. I liked the wood so much, I wanted a way to make it into something special, and I decided a bench would allow me to keep the natural look. Since then, I’ve made eight benches, and I’m doing lamps and wood pieces for walls… I’m having fun experimenting. I’m just starting to branch out.” No pun intended.
But it’s more than just a hobby; woodworking is a craft Taylor’s learned from doing various construction projects on the island (he was laying 102-year-old Tarracotta tiles at the Mission Inn when we called him, and he did help his cousin build a post and beam barn house just over the Cape May Bridge from a Lincoln Log-style kit). And it’s also a talent that’s in Taylor’s blood. “My grandfather, Mickey Blomkvest, was a Cape May Mayor, and he worked on some of the most amazing places in Cape May between the 50s and the 80s, including the original Convention Halls.”
Actually, Taylor’s whole family is comprised of Cape May movers and shakers. His mom, Stina Smith, owns Jersey Cape Dance Studio, and you may have seen his father, Parker Smith, acting on stage at Elaine’s Famous Dinner Theater.
So it’s fair to see that Taylor — himself a graduate of Lower Cape May Regional High School who’s been working on a commercial fishing boat out of Lund’s Fisheries since he was 18 and who serves tables at Crab House at Two Mile Landing in the summer — knows this area like the back of his hand. And he knows that what he’s offering might just appeal to your typical Cape Mayan. “This town is made of artsy people who are organically-minded,” he told us.
Plus, we’re a group who’d rather support the grassroots up-start — like the guy building benches out of his Washington Street apartment — than any kind of faceless chain. So, if you’re in the market for some cool new furniture, check out Custom Woodworks By Taylor on Facebook, or give him a call at 609-408-0563. He does do special requests. “I could never do a nine to five,” Taylor said. “But the physical act of working with my hands… I really enjoy what I do. And that the possibilities are endless.”