Friday, March 12, 2010

Florida Visits, Essex Heritage Grant Information, Bike News from Danvers, Hamilton Interviews Candidates, and Bishop Fenwick Gala,


Visit to Local Agricultural Fair

We recently spent part of a day on a visit to a local agricultural festival in a community about 30 miles north and east of where we stay in Florida. Plant City founded in the mid 1800 as a community that focused on cotton growth has had several names in the past. It was first founded as Ichepucksassa in response to the Indian tribe that first settled the community, and then after that name caused too much difficulty it was renamed Village Cork after the community in Ireland. The community was in due course-renamed Plant City after a prominent businessman who brought the railroad to the community.

The Plant City Strawberry festival is organized annually in a community that is in the heart of the agricultural section in this part of Florida. Plant City is a community that focuses almost entirerly on agriculture. The community now produces three quarters of the winter strawberrys produced in this country, and also provided other produce to the region as well. The Strawberry Festival we visited is one of the largest collections of vendors that I have ever viewed. I have never seen more food stands or amusement rides in one location. The event makes Jim O’Brien’s Topsfield Fair event look small by comparison. In fact there were many similarities to our annual event that focuses in the farming work accomplished in Essex County. There were dozens of strawberry stands offering that fruit in as many variations as one could imagine. The best application was a Strawberry shortcake location offered by a local Catholic Church community that put on quite an event. I spoke to one of the volunteers that helped run the stand, and she was one of 1100 parishioners who donated time and commitment to make that event into a major fundraiser for the church community over the eleven days that the Festival is offered. They served the desert to a steady line of visitors included me, and clearly this use of strawberries was most delicious.

Essex Heritage Partnership Grant Program Produces Numerous Applications

The closing date for grant applications for the Essex heritage Partnership Grant program has come and gone. Bill Steelman from the Essex Heritage office who is managing this process reported recently that the applications process was most gratifying in 2010. As many of you know due to funding concerns, Essex Heritage was forced to put the Grant Program into hiatus for 2009 after many years of providing a substantial number of grants to communities and our many non-profit partners. In 2010 we have found that is will be possible to offer a scaled back version of the program, and that news was well received by the region. Since the inception of this program Essex Heritage has provide over $1.7 million in matching grants to almost 200 area recipients, and those grants have produced an addition $15 million in matching investments to the region.

The application program in 2010 has produced 46 total requests and that matches the application activity in most of the recent years. A process to deal with the applications has been established where a winnowing process has been set in place to bring a manageable number of applications to a grants selection committee for their recommendations. That committee is made of a broad representative group of individuals from across the region, many of who have provided their special expertise in this area for many years. David Hildt of Amesbury who has handled this task and managed the process most effectively for the last several years leads the Committee again this year. That Grant selection committee will meet before the end of this month, and then after an additional review by the Essex Heritage Board of Trustees, final recommendations will be made public by early May 2010. In 2010, Essex Heritage has made $25,000 available for this process and ten $2,500 Partnership grants will be available to the region.

Danvers Bi-Peds Activities

The Danvers Bi-Peds were organized several years ago with a goal of helping to assure that the Town of Danvers creates a safe environment for biking in the Town of Danvers and to help with the development of a bike and pedestrian trail on an old abandoned rail line in that town. Since the inception of that group they have made substantial progress towards that goal, and several of their members now serve on the official Town managed Rail Trail Committee. The group recently announced that on Saturday, March 13, they would be offering their fifth trail walk along the proposed rail trail. The walk this month will be a two-mile round trip event and will be appropriately called the Shamrock Stroll. For more information on the walk or about anything connected with biking in the Town of Danvers, contact The event will be held as scheduled on 3/13 unless bad winter weather arrives. For information on a possible cancellation please check at the e-mail address shown above. Also the official Town of Danvers Rail Trail Committee will hold its next scheduled meeting in the Town Hall on March 18, 2010. As with all Town meetings that event is open to the general public.

Interviews with Three Candidates for Hamilton Town Manager

Over the past weekend the Town of Hamilton held interviews with prospective candidates for the recently created position of Town Manager. The Town has recently changed its organizational structure to create this new position with more authority than the previous Town Administrator position. Essex Heritage certainly stands ready to work with the new manager for the Town of Hamilton when chosen, and will provide whatever assistance we can offer to make the transition as seamless as possible and to offer our help and any updates on regional issues that a new Manager might require.

Bishop Fenwick 50th Anniversary Gala

I believe that that there may be just a few more tickets available for the Gala being planned by Bishop Fenwick High School on March 19, 2010 to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of that regional private school. The event scheduled for the Danversport Yacht club will be a spectacular event as alumni from the past fifty years and parents and friends of the school join together to celebrate five decades of educational successes. The school has accomplished a great deal in the last half century and all over this region we can find Bishop Fenwick Alumni in leadership positions. If you have a connection to the school it is not too late to make a reservation and you can contact for more information or to assure that a seat is available at an event that will certainly be talked about for years to come.

No Matter Where you are the News is the Same

If I were not certain that I am in Florida, I would think I were reading Essex County newspapers, as I read the local news. The big news here in the Sunshine state is the banning of texting in autos, and a big move to open three full service gambling resort casinos in Florida; I guess that the news in pretty much the same regardless of where you are residing.

As always we value your comments, questions and observations about the work of Essex Heritage. Please contact me with your thoughts at Thanks. Tom Leonard

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