From Home Brewers to Craft Brewers

The microbrewing craze continues unabated, with four more on tap

At this point, it might seem like everyone has that neighbor (or perhaps you’re that neighbor) who has given home brewing a try in the basement or garage.

In fact, so many of the booming microbreweries around the First State (and pretty much everywhere else) began as garage brewing operations that it’s almost become a cliché.

But you’ve got to give credit to Middletown’s Kevin and Dawn Schatz for taking that “garage brewer” idea and pushing it so far that it goes beyond cliché right back around to cool. The two are the proprietors and brew masters of Volunteer Brewing Co., perhaps the most micro of Delaware’s microbreweries, located in a renovated two-car garage at 120 Main St., behind the Middletown Volunteer Fire Company.

Volunteer is just one of several new microbreweries popping up this year and into 2018, a growth spurt for the local brewing scene that may add as many new brewers during a nine-month period as we’ve seen over the last few years.

The Schatzes were originally attracted to Middletown from Chadds Ford, Pa., 12 years ago, when they went looking for a smaller-town feel and an escape from the traffic of the Route 202 corridor. What they found, they say, was a place that was gradually growing while struggling to retain its small-town vibe.

Crowlers from Volunteer Brewing Co. in Middletown. Photo Jack Pickett

The decision to go with such a small space, says Kevin Schatz, allows them to focus on their motto: “Serve Local Beer,” which also includes an emphasis on local community service and support for other local businesses, along with brewing superior small-batch.

“Local is really where we want to focus one hundred percent of our time,” says Schatz. For example, Volunteer’s Orange Blossom Honey Wheat is made with honey from a local beekeeper.

And while Volunteer has yet to commit to regular hours—beers and opening days are posted each month—their opening during the Middletown Peach Festival was met with long lines of thirsty customers for pints and 32-ounce “crowlers” (cans of fresh beer filled and sealed at the brewery).
“We’re asking people what they’d like to see and drink and putting that together and keeping it local whenever we can,” Schatz says.

Burning the Midnight Oil

Microbrewing, by its nature, often starts as a hobby pursued after spouses and children have gone to bed. And so, Midnight Oil Brewing Co. has taken that work-into-the-night ethos and applied it to its full-time brewing philosophy.

Founder and brewer Mike Dunlap had been brewing for about 10 years, and four years ago he and cofounder T.J. McGrath decided to move forward with a brewery distribution model focusing on a venue space within a tap room, rather than a brewpub model. Two years ago, a third partner, Joe Stickel, joined the team. A brewery/tasting room is slated for a late fall opening, says Patrick Jones, director of sales and taproom operations.

Midnight Oil Brewing Co. founder & brewer Mike Dunlap (top), with (l-r) Joe Stickel, Patrick Jones, and T.J. McGrath. Photo Jim Coarse

That distribution model, thanks to Delaware laws, means a location at 674 Pencader Dr. in a light industrial park outside Newark. The focus on the taproom environment is welcoming to beer lovers. The finishing touches are being put on Midnight Oil’s taproom, which will open in December with 90 seats, eventually expanding to about 120, Jones says.

Above all, he says, the emphasis will be on quality in an area that’s already full of great brewers. “We have great respect for our peers who were here before us. We’ve done our homework and developed communication and relationships with those who’ve already been here, so we’re super excited about working with people around the state who’ve already paved the way.”

A Stitch in Time

In 2016, the building at 829 Market St. in Wilmington was already on its way to becoming a restaurant. Local restaurateur Scott Morrison, who owned Chelsea Tavern and Ernest & Scott, was renovating the long unused industrial property for a new brewpub. Then, in February, Morrison died suddenly from a heart attack.

Not long after, Dan Sheridan, who had already successfully opened Wilmington Pickling Co. and Locale BBQ Post in Wilmington’s Little Italy, was looking for his next venture. Ideally, one that wouldn’t dominate his life the way the two previous openings had. And he thought a brewpub might be just the ticket. The fact that the former Morrison property was available made it seem like Sheridan’s next project, Stitch House Brewery, was almost meant to be.

Looking at an opening late this year, Stitch House aims to be a full-service brewpub with a wide selection of house-made beers and a food menu that will keep the downtown lunch crowd fed while offering a welcoming destination for the dinner and evening crowd as well.

Stitch House Brewery’s logo.

“Obviously, the beer is the focus. But to group it with a nice atmosphere and to be in the city of Wilmington, then couple that with good food? That got us excited,” Sheridan says.

The plan is to have 12 beers on tap always, with a rotating list of specialty and seasonal brews. The food menu will be heavy on cast iron skillet dishes and cassoulets at reasonable price points. Plans are for an opening before the end of the year.

The building itself, which at one time was a linen mart and the pole house for the Diamond Electric Co., informed the brewpub’s name. Work crews have been busy rehabbing the space, which has yielded some treasures, Sheridan says.

“Once all the crews got in there and ripped out everything from people trying to cover stuff up, we really uncovered a lot of cool steel and brick and architectural details that we’re trying to incorporate everywhere we can,” he says.

North of the Border

What’s a Delaware brewer to do when the right space just doesn’t present itself nearby? Head north, of course.

That’s what took Kent Steeves of Braeloch Brewing, soon to open in Kennett Square, out of the Diamond State and into the Keystone State. After he spent nearly a year trying to find the right space in Newark, Pennsylvania eventually beckoned with a building at 225 Birch St., just up from the Creamery of Kennett Square.

Steeves started out as a homebrewer, then got serious about owning his own brewery when his daughters left home for college. After visiting Germany for ideas and inspiration, he began hashing out a business plan with his wife, Amy, and partners Kathy and Matt Drysdale of Hockessin.
Plans are for 12 taps, with a running selection of IPAs, a few seasonals and at least one experimental brew.

Braeloch Brewing’s logo.

“We can and need to offer a broad range,” Steeves says. “For the IPAs, we want to always be highlighting different hops to really try to help customers choose what they want to taste.”

Some of that hops—as well as much of the beers’ barley—will be sourced locally. “There are a lot of barley growers in the region, and a local hops grower wants to be able to expand his acreage,” he says.
As for food, a small kitchen will provide light fare like nachos and flatbread pizzas, with a rotating cast of food trucks—vetted for quality and speed of service—adding variety. The space will also be fitted out for catering and to accommodate large groups.

The building, erected in 1903, will boast a 4,000-square-foot taproom with a 3,000-square-foot beer garden that overlooks the east branch of Red Clay Creek.

“We wanted that large taproom and outdoor space,” Steeves says. “We wanted this to be a place you want to go and hang out and completely relax and enjoy.”

Brewing Up the Perfect Storm

Never mind getting started as a brewer in your garage. Local entrepreneur Craig Wensell started with his own brewery.

One of the founders of Bellefonte Brewing Co., Wensell has since sold his interest to his partners at the Old Capital Trail brewery and embarked upon blazing a microbrewery trail in the underserved northern reaches of Wilmington by creating the first production brewery to be located within the city limits in more than 60 years.

Wensell’s new baby, Wilmington Brew Works, will occupy a former brownfield site at 3201 Miller Rd., just a stone’s throw from Route 202 and, conveniently, in his own neighborhood.

“I wanted to create this synergistic effect between my small business and other small businesses and bring it to my neighborhood to enhance the nightlife in that area,” says Wensell. “My goal was to bring to my neighborhood the things that I wanted to be near.”

The cleaned-up Spanish colonial-style building is the former site of the Harper-Thiel Electroplating Co. The building was where the duPonts are thought to have developed smokeless gunpowder. The renovated space will include a 1,400-square-foot taproom with a second wing that site owners Ralph and Rose Pepe will likely lease to a restaurateur or a group of restaurateurs as a dining room or upscale food court.

Wilmington Brew Works also will feature two outdoor spaces, one patio overlooking Haines Park across the street and the other adjacent to the Northern Delaware Greenway Trail, from which Wensell hopes to draw thirsty bikers and walkers.

Wilmington Brew Works’ logo.

He hopes to create a family-friendly neighborhood spot with live music and excellent beer—from IPAs and lagers to his forte, wood-aged sour beers.

“We’re a neighborhood microbrewery, and the challenge for me at this point is to navigate that brand concept in a way to tie my brewery to the city and the neighborhood,” Wensell says. “I’m really trying to distance myself from the concept of ‘bar.’”

He says he feels he is filling a need in the city and the neighborhood that for too long had been devoid of such amenities.

“I feel like we’re adding the right touch at just the right time to do what the city’s trying to do. It’s kind of a perfect storm of rainbows—everything coming together at the right time.”

Not the Same Ol’ Song and Dance

Oscar Compo leads high school vocal majors in "In The Beginning" from Children of Eden by Stephen Schwartz at the 25th Anniversary celebration of the Cab Calloway School of the Arts. Photo Joe del Tufo

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Cab Calloway School of the Arts overcame a bumpy beginning to become, according to one parent, almost perfect

When the Red Clay Consolidated School district announced in 1992 that it would launch a Creative and Performing Arts Middle School, it wasn’t hard to find students to start refilling a mostly empty building that then housed the dying Wilmington High School.

“Some thought it was going to be a breeze, that all they had to do was sing and dance all day,” recalls Sally McBride, a Red Clay parent who served on the committee that helped found the school.

As it turned out, the school’s curriculum developed with as much substance as style, and this year there’s plenty of singing and dancing going on as what has become the Cab Calloway School of the Arts is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Indeed, visitors should not be surprised to observe art students painting in the hallways, musicians playing pianos in the lobby, or a trio bursting out of a classroom and breaking into song in the middle of a class period.

There’s a certain irony to the origin of the school, opened a few years before the lifting of a federal court desegregation order for northern New Castle County schools. In the desegregation era, Wilmington High’s enrollment declined sharply, largely because white families in the nearby blue-collar suburban areas chose to send their children to private or parochial schools.

In search of a solution, a group of Red Clay School Board members, administrators and parents hopped on a train to New York City and found their answer in, of all places, Harlem, recognized as a major African-American residential, cultural and business center since the early 20th century.

As they visited a classroom in a middle school whose curriculum blended academic subjects with the performing arts, “the kids were practicing for a musical, and their work was so good, so powerful, that tears ran from our eyes,” recalls Bill Manning, once the legal counsel to former Gov. Pete du Pont and then president of the Red Clay School Board.

Creating a new school, even in an existing building, in a mere six months or so proved quite a challenge. There were lots of startup issues—textbooks not arriving on time, the transformation of a spare closet into a library, to name just two.

Separate Board of Directors

But the middle school came together well, due in no small measure to dedicated parents and enthusiastic support from the local arts community. It helped too that Red Clay, recognizing the unique character of its new magnet school, created a separate board of directors that functioned as a mini school board.

As the school was opening, its leaders realized that Cab Calloway, the legendary singer and bandleader, was living at Cokesbury Village retirement community in Hockessin. They invited him to the school’s ribbon-cutting in November 1992. Soon after, his daughter, Cabella Calloway Langsam, joined the school’s board of directors. A year later, the Red Clay Board of Education renamed the school in Calloway’s honor.

After the bandleader’s death in 1994, Langsam remained involved with the school until she moved to Arizona several years ago. Today, photos, paintings and other Calloway memorabilia—most of them donated by Langsam—adorn many of the school’s walls.

In its first three years, the middle school blossomed, and parents urged Red Clay to expand the program to include a high school. That occurred in 1997, but the first couple of years were rocky.

Enrollment wasn’t large enough to sustain a broad high school curriculum, so academic options were limited, and hardly rigorous. “If you’ve only got 29 seniors, you can’t offer six Advanced Placement courses,” says Julie Rumschlag, who took over as the school’s dean in 1999.

Red Clay adopted a velvet glove approach toward the high school program. Rumschlag remembers being told, in essence, “you have to make it work or we’re going to close the high school.” But the school board also gave her additional resources to beef up academics.

Student art adorns the Cab gallery. Photo by Joe del Tufo

To supplement what the district provides, Cab’s original board of directors has morphed into a separate entity, the Cab Calloway School Fund, which serves as a fundraising organization, providing enough money each year to pay for two staff positions and to help purchase musical instruments and other equipment.

As the pieces came together, Cab has evolved into a top-performing academic school, with its emphasis on the arts perfectly complementing the science and math-focused Charter School of Wilmington, with whom it shares the old Wilmington High Building.

Because of their strong reputations, “students at both schools inspire each other to work harder,” McBride says.

Nine Majors

And there are partnerships and synergies as well. Cab students participate on Charter athletic teams, and Charter students can try out for roles in Cab’s theater productions. Cab’s marching band performs at Charter’s football games. If there’s an extra seat in a class Charter offers, a Cab student can register, and vice versa. Besides taking all the courses needed to meet the state’s graduation requirements, Cab students can choose from nine majors: dance, digital media and communication arts, instrumental music, piano, strings, technical theater, theater arts, visual arts and vocal music.

Getting into the school is a challenge. Students have to take “assessments” in two of those major areas before even qualifying for the admissions lottery, which is conducted according to the rules of the state’s choice enrollment system.

“The quality of the dancers has really changed,” says Allyson Cohen-Sherlock, who began teaching at Cab the year the high school opened. “There are 14 or 15 spots open every year, and I see maybe 100 people [at the assessments].”

Overall, Cab enrolls 940 students in grades 6-12. From the students who complete the assessments and apply for the lottery, about one-third are admitted, Rumschlag says.

Parents appreciate the way the school integrates the arts into its regular academic subjects.

“They put on a one-act play in their history class. That makes it easier for them to learn,” says Erin Lacey, who has daughters in sixth and seventh grades. “My sixth-grader had to write a parody song for an English assignment. She’s writing poetry and she doesn’t even know it.”

Piano teacher Margaret Badger’s children began attending Cab well before she joined the faculty in 2012. As a parent, she was impressed by faculty members and their care for and dedication to students. “When I joined the faculty, I found that that passion is real. Every teacher is extremely committed to their subject,” she says.

Dan Kafader was a visual arts major at Cab, graduating in 2003. He came back as a science teacher after working at schools in Philadelphia and in Cecil County, Md. He offers a personal example that “our graduates can pursue a lot of different things—not only arts careers, but also careers in science and math.”

Ethan Hunter Raysor, a 2012 Cab grad who dances with the First State Ballet, performs during the anniversary event. Photo Joe del Tufo

James Mikijanic, who teaches technical theater and manages the school’s theater (the old Wilmington High auditorium was gutted several years ago and rebuilt with state-of-the-art equipment ideal for both performances and instruction), says he enjoys working at Cab because “the students who come here want to be here. That’s not always the case now in education.”

On a Monday morning, he says, “sometimes a teacher will want to ask the class how their weekend was, and someone will ask if we can’t get on with the lesson.”

Senior theater major Megan Allen says she chose to attend Cab because “I knew it was a really good academic school as well as an arts school.”

Stage Combat

She has found many opportunities to pursue interesting activities that aren’t possible at most high schools, like co-writing a play with one or her classmates and taking a class in stage combat, which Mikijanic describes as “how to create safe but realistic-looking violence on stage – with hand-to-hand combat, knives, rapiers and swords.”

With experiences like these, “there’s no such thing as a typical Cab experience,” says Kuno Haimbodi, president of the senior class.

The school “invites you to learn and think from multiple perspectives,” he told the audience in the theater nearly filled for an anniversary celebration in late September. “And, apart from the basement mice and the occasional cockroach, I have enjoyed every single moment of it.”
Teachers too have to deal with multiple perspectives.

Badger, the piano teacher, finds that her greatest challenge is “individualizing … trying to find the perfect piece for each of 150 kids.” There are 24 pianos in her classroom, each one equipped with a switch that lets students hear what they’re playing through headphones without disturbing each other’s concentration. One September morning, students were playing jazz waltzes, classic rock and Chopin.

On the other hand, Cohen-Sherlock’s challenge with her dance classes is teaching them to work as an ensemble. Most of her students have taken lessons at private dance schools for years, learning different ways to perform the same moves. “They have to learn how to work together,” she says.

And, she notes, there’s a lot more to dance instruction than teaching the right moves. “We do psychology of dance, anatomy, nutrition and eating disorders,” she says, “and a lot of boot camp cardio. You need a strong core and strong posture.”

Some of those attributes were evident at the anniversary celebration.

Ethan Hunter Raysor, a 2012 graduate who dances with the First State Ballet, covered most of the stage in a brief performance of “Blue Bird Variation from Sleeping Beauty,” while senior pianist Shane VanNeerden dominated the keyboard with Franz Liszt’s “Paraphrase on Verdi’s Rigoletto.”

While the school is too young to have produced its own Cab Calloway, some of its graduates have already launched promising careers. Jeremy O’Keefe, a member of the first middle school class, and 2004 graduate Bridget Matthews are both in Los Angeles, working in the film industry. Nick LaMedica, a 2006 graduate, is a professional actor in St. Louis, and Megan Hellman, a 2000 graduate who formerly danced with the Baltimore City Ballet, is now teaching dance at a college in Florida.

As Kafader noted, not every graduate seeks a theatrical or artistic career, but most put the skills they learned at Cab to good use.

One example is Sarah McBride, a 2009 graduate, who last year became the first transgender individual to speak at a national political convention. She is now national spokesperson for the Human Rights Campaign.

Sally McBride, Sarah’s mother, has remained close to the school since its beginnings, and has marveled at what it has become.

“We may not be the perfect school,” she says, “but we’re close.”

First State Frights

Jess McIntern. Photo Joe Hoddinott

Delaware has more than its share of things that go bump in the night

Amateur ghost hunters, supernatural hobbyists, and just plain curious tourists have plenty to love in the First State. For instance: a good-natured soul keeps a New Castle cafe staff on their toes; the scent of a bygone baker’s cinnamon wafts through a New Castle home, and the spirit of a widow in Lewes is a stickler about the details of her death.

But any ghost tour of our state rightly must begin with a visit to Fort Delaware, and especially to the Confederate general who apparently is still in solitary confinement there.

The Union fortress on Pea Patch Island near Delaware City was built in 1859 to protect the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia. During the Civil War, it housed Confederate prisoners, and it has been attracting paranormal investigators for years. Ghost Hunters has filmed there and YouTube is full of videos shot there by amateur ghost detectives. But far more enduring and locally successful have been the efforts of the Diamond State Ghost Investigators, headed by President Gina Dunham. Since 2009, DSGI has led the fort’s official October nocturnal investigations. (For more on DSGI, see “Normal? Or Paranormal?” on pg. 21.)

Diamond State Ghost investigators captured this photo of a dark apparition at Fort Delaware. Photo Andy Lendway/Diamond State Ghost Investigators

Dunham firmly adheres to the idea that the investigations only work if the team is willing to think critically about the unexplained. “I’m very much a skeptic,” she says. “I try to only recruit people who have that skeptical quality.” If investigators won’t attempt to explain an incident, there’s little value in their results, she says.

Even with such an approach, DSGI sometimes has difficulty rationalizing an experience. Take, for example, Dunham’s story involving Confederate Gen. James J. Archer.

Archer was captured the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg and sent to Fort Delaware. The prison administrators gave him quarters befitting a captured general, sparing him the less comfortable wooden barracks where thousands of enlisted men were housed.  That changed when Union soldiers found out that Archer was using his rank to try to persuade other prisoners to seize control of the fort. As punishment, they put him in solitary confinement, most likely using an empty section of the South Casemates, also known as “the Endicott.”

Dunham’s story takes place in the same section. She was guiding a new DSGI team member through the fort in preparation for that night’s programs. They were the only two in the area, and the room was still naturally lit. Dunham was telling the new member about Archer’s capture and time in solitary, when over the team member’s shoulder, a black shadowy figure came out of the wall, floating a few feet above the ground. It lacked a distinct shape, but it had a surprising density to it; Dunham was transfixed.  “It was the sort of thing where you stare at it because you’re not even sure if that’s what you saw,” she says of the experience.

The figure, she says, disappeared almost as quickly as it came. Thinking their discussion about Archer may have caused the figure to appear, Dunham and the team member picked up the conversation, but it didn’t appear again.

Old New Castle: A Spooky Hot Bed

It wasn’t long ago that New Castle was a town bustling with taverns, bars, pubs and hotels, which

Employees at Café New Castle have experienced ghostly goings-on. Photo Anthony Santoro
Employees at Café New Castle have experienced ghostly goings-on. Photo Anthony Santoro

resulted in a somewhat rowdy nightlife. One place that saw a lot of action was the building where Café New Castle now stands, at 414 Delaware St. Soon after the cafe opened last April, Manager Krista Stanton invited a medium—someone with a supposed strong connection with the paranormal—to conduct a casual investigation of the building. She concluded that, in the early 1900s, two men had a bar fight that ended in the basement of the building and both men died. Now, staff members often hear noises they can trace to the basement, but they have been unable to find exactly what causes the sounds.

According to Erin Redding, general manager of the cafe, there are other ethereal patrons in the building, some of whom make playful nuisances of themselves.

One of the spirits, Redding says, regularly unlocks the deadbolt of a small door in the front bathroom and trips the breakers in the building, which was rewired during the work leading up to the April opening. Redding now checks the bathroom door and closes it whenever she finds it open, but she’s at a loss as to what to do about the balky breakers.

If there’s a pattern to the apparition’s pranks, Redding can’t find it. “It seems like it picks whoever it’s going to mess with for the day.”

During our visit, the phantom’s quarry seemed to be Alexandra Jordan. Just that morning, Jordan was opening the shop alone and heard coughing coming from the basement. Later, as she stood up from a crouch, she felt something untying the back of her apron.

Most activity is harmless, and Redding and her staff actually welcome their spiritual cohabitants. “We definitely feel that there are [ghosts] here and we wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says.

That philosophy seems to extend to the rest of New Castle, which celebrates it ghostly past each October. Hosted by the New Castle Historical Society, the Hauntings in History program features interpreters who lead guests on a walking tour of the town, stopping at notable locations and sharing historical information as well as paranormal anecdotes. This year, the program is scheduled for Oct. 13, 14, 20, 21, and 26-28, with tours beginning at 7, 7:30 and 8:30 each night.

Among the stops are the Dutch House, David Finney Inn, Emmanuel Church and Amstel House, and the latter offers one of the tour’s more popular ghost stories.

The Scent of Cinnamon

Throughout its centuries as a private home and museum, Amstel House residents and visitors have reported seeing “The Lady in Blue.” The Lady’s identity is hard to pin down, though tour guides make the case for several women without stating who they believe she might be. According to Dan Citron, executive director of the Historical Society, they prefer to leave the final call to those who take the tour. One of the portraits in the house is of a woman in a blue dress, however, and that is usually evidence enough for tourists.

Citron also shared a story of more recent origin.

"The Lady in Blue" allegedly haunts Amstel House in Historic New Castle. Photo Anthony Santoro
“The Lady in Blue” allegedly haunts Amstel House in Historic New Castle. Photo Anthony Santoro

Shortly after moving into an older house on Harmony Street roughly a decade ago, a family heard clanging coming from the basement. They explained it away as the sort of noises old houses make when they settle. But something that was harder to explain, since it has nothing to do with a house settling, was the strong smell of cinnamon. When they went outside to locate the source, the smell was gone, but as soon as they re-entered the house, it was back. They asked around, and neighbors told them the house used to be a bakery, with baking ovens located in the basement.

“They were happy to live with their ghosts,” says Citron, “but they were worried they’d gain weight because they’d always be wanting pastries.”

South of the Canal

Haunted attractions are by no means limited to north of the C&D Canal. The people of Lewes take an active interest in their ghostly past, and the Lewes Historical Society hosts the Lewes Legends Tour, a program similar to New Castle’s October tradition. The Lewes tour runs every Wednesday beginning in July and concludes Oct. 18.

According to J. Marcos Salaverria, the Historical Society’s director of education, interpreters who lead the tour prefer to treat ghost stories much like historical events. They won’t tell a story for which they can’t find supporting evidence.

Salaverria himself witnessed an incident in 2014 in the Cannonball House, which is allegedly inhabited by the ghost of Susan Roland King, an elderly widow. In March of 1917, she was found dead in bed in her back room. She was badly burned and people assumed the small fire in her fireplace jumped into the room after she’d fallen asleep.

Recently though, new evidence of a slightly different scenario has surfaced. “Additional documentation from the Philadelphia Examiner spoke of an old woman who’d passed away while blackening her pot [a method for cleaning older cookware],” says Salaverria. “The chemical she was using caught and she burned to death in a chemical fire.”

The Ghost Box

It was while Salaverria was recounting the story to a visiting Boy Scout troop during a midnight field trip to the Cannonball House that they had an apparent run-in with King. The group was using a “ghost box,” a device with red and green lights and a pre-recorded electronic voice that ghosts are supposed to be able to manipulate to communicate.

As Salaverria was telling the group that King had died in her bed, the ghost box interrupted, lighting up red and repeating “Wrong!” three times. When he said maybe she didn’t make it to bed, the box said, “Half way.” At this point, Salaverria says, the Scouts were wide-eyed, and one of them suggested she may have died right there on the floor. The box lit up green and said, “Exactly.” With this, one of the Scouts moved away and said, “I don’t want to play anymore.”

Lewes is also a favorite investigative spot for Wendy Robinson and Jenn Dalgarn, lead and co-lead investigators, respectively, for Delmarva Historic Haunts. They’ve gotten great results at the Cape May-Lewes Ferry, due in large part, they believe, to the history of the location.

“The way the currents between the river, bay, and ocean interact would wash bodies from shipwrecks ashore there,” says Robinson.  “The townspeople would return the bodies if they could identify them, but they’d have to bury those they couldn’t.” 

Eventually, the Delaware River & Bay Authority moved into the area and renovated and extended the land for the terminal.  A historical marker now commemorates the lost souls along this historic waterway.

During one of DHH investigators’ trips to the Lewes terminal in 2012, they got some of the most striking video evidence of any place they’ve visited, and it was in a room they hadn’t planned to cover.

The sunroom at the Lewes terminal isn’t particularly paranormally active, although some ferry workers and local police officers have reported incidents. On the day DHH people investigated, they decided to focus on other, more haunted areas of the terminal. In the interest of being thorough, however, they covered the sunroom with two of their closed-circuit cameras, but they didn’t expect to catch much.

While the rest of the team was elsewhere in the terminal, two investigators watching the CCTV system noticed some activity in the sunroom. They radioed their teammates to check if anyone was in the area, but every response came back negative.

They’ve since put the video on their YouTube channel, hoping for some community feedback. To find it, search for DHH2011, then go to “Camera 2 & 6 Review Cape May Lewes Ferry Investigation” in the 2012 Season playlist.

Not every Delaware ghost tale involves hauntings and grisly deaths. One legend has it that Henry McCracken, a river pilot who lived in Lewes in the 1800s, was caught in a storm while coming down the Delaware River, forcing him out into the Atlantic. He dropped anchor, saving him and the crew. His will specified that he was to be buried with the anchor in St. Peter’s Episcopal Cemetery in Lewes.

“McCracken’s good luck anchor is poking out of the ground.” Salaverria says, and visitors are encouraged to touch it in hopes that the luck will rub off.

Happenings This Fall

Do the season right with these autumnal events!

Steamin’ Days at Auburn Heights
The Marshall Steam Museum
3000 Creek Rd., Yorklyn
First Sunday of the month through November
Climb into an antique automobile or board one of the trains and experience what it was like to travel at the turn of the 20th century. Another option is touring the 1897 mansion that was home to three generations of the Marshall family. General admission is $8 for ages 12 and under, $10 for 13 and up, and free for Friends of Auburn Heights Preserve members.

Corn Maze & Fall Fun
Ramsey’s Farm
330 Ramsey Rd., Wilmington
Embrace the fun of fall with the corn maze, sorghum maze, hay maze, pumpkin painting, hayrides, and more this month.

Kalmar Nyckel Adventures
Various October dates
Wilmington & Historic New Castle
Set sail on the Kalmar Nyckel in October for day sails, private sails, tours, or river cruises, setting off from multiple locations, including Wilmington and Historic New Castle.

Fort Delaware Ghost Tours
Pea Patch Island, Delaware City
Various October dates
For three hours, participate in an actual paranormal investigation of Pea Patch Island’s Fort Delaware. All departures are on the ferry from Delaware City at 45 Clinton St. Admission is $50 per person.

Milburn Orchards
1495 Appleton Rd., Elkton, Md.
October through November
Milburn Orchards is the place to go for hayrides, a corn maze, farmyard playground, tractor tunnel, straw jump, and more. Admission is $5-$10, and free for ages 2 and below.

Harvest Moon Festival
Coverdale Farm Preserve
543 Way Rd., Greenville
Saturday, Oct. 7, and Sunday, Oct. 8; 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
This fall festival, located at the scenic Coverdale Farm Preserve, features fun activities for all ages with hayrides, live music, food trucks, artisan demonstrations, and children’s activities. The festival is free for all members and $7 for non-members over the age of five. 

Grainfest 2017
Grain Craft Bar + Kitchen
270 E. Main St., Newark
Saturday, Oct. 7; 12 p.m.
The second annual Grainfest will include more than 20 breweries, live music, food trucks, kids’ activities, live music provided by five bands, and more. Beers will be available as half pours ($3) or full pours ($6). Wine will also be available. Advanced admission is $12; $15 at the door. ?

Vendemmia da Vinci
Wine and Food Festival
Bellevue State Park
800 Carr Rd., Wilmington
Sunday, Oct. 8; 2-6 p.m.
Dedicated to promoting the Italian-American heritage, the Da Vinci Society helps families in need, provides educational grants, supports cultural events and institutions within the community and throws one heck of a fall event. At the 14th annual Vendemmia celebration, guests can sample Italian wines and food, visit the Italian Beer Garden, listen to live entertainment, participate in a silent auction and handcrafted wine and homemade gravy contests, and more. Admission is $55 in advance and $60 at the gate.

The Ultimate Tailgate
Sheraton Wilmington South
365 Airport Rd., New Castle
Thursday, Oct. 12; 6-9 p.m.
The Ultimate Tailgate fundraiser benefiting Meals On Wheels Delaware will include wine, spirits, and craft beer from 2SP Brewing Co. as well as area restaurants’ unique interpretations of tailgate food. Guests will enjoy live entertainment, a silent auction, tailgate-themed games, and a beer/wine toss. Tickets cost $65 per person and should be purchased online.

Musikarmageddon Finale
the baby grand
818 N Market St., Wilmington
Saturday, Oct. 14; 8 p.m.
Local acts Rusty Blue, Carrier, Cologne and TreeWalker are the four finalists of this year’s Musikarmageddon battle of the bands. The finale will determine the 2017 championship.

DTC Wine Feast & Auction
Sponsored by Delaware Theatre Company
At Delaware Art Museum
2310 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington
Saturday, Oct. 14; 6-9:30 p.m.
The 25th annual Wine Feast & Auction will include 500 food and wine aficionados from New York City to Washington, D.C. Proceeds go to providing artistic education and community engagement programs, as well as serving 35,000 theatergoers and 5,000 children throughout the state. Tickets are $100 through Oct. 1, and $125 after, though admission is $75 for people 35 years old and younger. Patron ticket: $250.

Delaware Wine & Beer Festival
Delaware State Fair Grounds
18500 S. Dupont Hwy., Harrington
Saturday, Oct. 14; 12-5 p.m.
The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival is the First State’s “official” wine and beer festival, and still the only one that features all of Delaware’s breweries, wineries and distilleries in one location. The festival includes music, games, performers, DJs, and access to various local eateries featuring gourmet foods and Delaware specialties. Guests must be 21 or older. Admission is $10-$40.

October Free Writes
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington
Thursday, Oct. 19, and Sunday, Oct. 29; 6:30-8 p.m.
Visit the galleries and explore a topic or idea through writing inspired by prompts. These informal gatherings allow participants of all experience levels to write with the hope of unearthing new materials and perspectives. No writing experience is required and advanced registration is recommended. Author Dennis Lawson will lead a mystery and crime themed free write on Thursday, Oct. 19, followed by a horror free write with Jessa Mendez on Sunday, Oct. 29.

Boo at the Zoo
Brandywine Zoo
1001 N Park Dr., Wilmington
Friday, Oct. 20 and Saturday, Oct. 21; 5-7 p.m.
Trick-or-treat and celebrate Halloween Brandywine Zoo-style with this merry, not scary, event. Here, kids can trick-or-treat in their Halloween costumes through the zoo as it gets dark.

Halloween Blue Jean Ball
Food Bank of Delaware
222 Lake Dr., Newark
Saturday, Oct. 21; 6:30-10:30 p.m.
The Food Bank of Delaware’s 12th annual Blue Jean Ball will feature a small plate menu prepared by students from the Food Bank’s Culinary School as well as Iron Hill Brewery’s chefs. Admission is $75 per person, which includes unlimited beer and wine, food from Iron Hill Brewery, live entertainment from Mike Hines and The Look, and a commemorative beer mug. Tables of 10 are available for $750.

Movies on Tap
Penn Cinema
401 S. Madison St., Wilmington
Thursday, Oct. 26, and Friday, Nov. 17
On Thursday, Oct. 26, watch Young Frankenstein while enjoying brews from Argilla Brewing Company—all for a good cause. The viewing benefits Alex’s Lemonade Stand. And don’t miss Planes, Trains and Automobiles while sampling what Yards Brewing has to offer on Friday, Nov. 17.

Jack O’Lantern Jamboree
Gateway Garden Center
7277 Lancaster Pike, Hockessin
Friday, Oct. 27
Bring your pre-carved pumpkins to the sixth annual Jack O’Lantern Jamboree, a free family-friendly walk through, and expect to see upwards of 70 carved pumpkins. Contact Gateway Garden Center in advance to save a place for your pumpkin.

Beers & Gears
Delaware Park
777 Delaware Park Blvd., Wilmington
Saturday, Oct. 28; 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
This car show includes rat rods, muscles, exotics, hot rods, turners, pro street, imports, trucks and classics. More than 450 trophies will be awarded during this family-friendly event, free for spectators, with live music and DJs.

Halloween Loop
Downtown Wilmington
Saturday, Oct. 28
Featuring 13 local restaurants, pubs and bars, the 37th annual Halloween Loop is an extravaganza for guests to dress up in the spirit of the holiday. There is no official starting point. Select the nightspot you’d like to visit first, pay the cover charge, and you will receive a wristband that gains you admission to all other Loop venues without paying another cover.

Urban Bike Project
Fall Crisp Classic
Bellevue State Park, Wilmington
Saturday, Nov. 4; 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
This autumnal bicycle ride begins and ends at Bellevue, with eight-mile or 12-mile riding options for riders. An after party at the finish line in Bellevue State Park is sponsored by Dogfish Head Brewery. Tickets are $30 with $15 non-rider tickets available for those who would just like to join the festivities at the finish. It’s $20 to sponsor an Urban Bike Project youth rider.   

Normal? Or Paranormal?

Our intrepid reporter joins experts to find out if there really are ghosts at Frightland

I’ve seen every paranormal research horror movie ever made. They’re all the same movie at heart—a team of foolhardy ghost investigators enters a notorious murder house/long-shuttered orphanage/abandoned lunatic asylum to investigate the truth about the ghastly legends surrounding said site, only to disappear forever, the lone clue to their fates a video they left behind.

Ignoring the most important lesson I learned from watching such films—never go into a haunted building—I joined such an expedition, led by several intrepid members of Diamond State Ghost Investigators (DSGI), headquartered in Bear. On a chilly August night, we paid a visit to Frightland—a popular Halloween-season attraction in Middletown, and attempted to contact the spirit or spirits who purportedly haunt the barn on the property.

Feel free to scoff at the notion of real ghosts dwelling at one of America’s most highly touted Halloween theme parks, but Frightland really does have a macabre past. Some 200 years ago, then owner Clifton Davis, a farmer and family man, hung himself in woods on the property. Not long thereafter, Davis’ young daughter hung herself in the barn’s loft. Then there was the mysterious burning of the slave quarters, which occurred at about the same time. So spooky events have occurred on the property.

Let me state at the outset that the 18 members of the nonprofit Diamond State Ghost Investigators—which got its start in 2005 as Delaware Ghost Hunters—are objective professionals who take their work seriously. They’ve got all the latest ghost-busting equipment, and they’re neither dismissive of nor eager to prove the existence of spirits in our realm, letting the evidence fall where it may. That said, over the course of its many investigations, DSGI has gathered some rather unsettling data to support the premise that paranormal phenomena are no joke.

DSGI’s armamentarium of paranormal research equipment includes audio recorders to gather electronic voice phenomena (EVPs), as well as laser grids, motion detectors, still and video cameras, and Mel meters, which detect fluctuations in temperature (a sudden drop in temperature could indicate the arrival of a spirit) as well as shifts in the electromagnetic field (a spike in EMF activity is said to be similar to a drop in temperature). DSGI also boasts a central control computer that can record up to 16 cameras continually for more than 72 hours. You can listen to some of the more chilling examples of EVPs that DSGI has recorded at its website,

A Gaggle of Ghostbusters

Alicia Lenoir, Mike Little, Andy Lendway (standing), Kyle McMahon and Fred Conkey watch the cameras set up at Frightland on a monitor at the central command center. Photo courtesy of the Diamond State Ghost Investigators (DSGI)
Alicia Lenoir, Mike Little, Andy Lendway (standing), Kyle McMahon and Fred Conkey watch the cameras set up at Frightland on a monitor at the central command center. Photo courtesy of the Diamond State Ghost Investigators (DSGI)

The paranormal business apparently is thriving. I count 15 “ghostbusters” in Delaware and a larger number across adjoining states. They go by such compelling names as Delaware Investigators of the Afterlife (Harrington), Spirit of the Sword Paranormal (Wilmington), and Delaware City Ghost Hunters (New Castle).

Like most such groups, Diamond State Ghost Investigators are there to help should you feel like you’re sharing your house with someone, or something, unknown. They will gladly travel anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic region free of charge should you, say, suffer the unfortunate experience of suddenly happening upon a floating head on the stairs. Sure, you can sell the house (“six bedrooms, sitting room, two bathrooms, floating head”), but why not try to get to the bottom of what’s going on first? It’s possible the floating head simply doesn’t like the new wallpaper. They can be choosy that way.

Unlike its sister organizations, however, DSGI is the only Delaware-based paranormal research investigative group to boast a contract with the state. To wit, DSGI operates Delaware Tours at spook-infested Fort Delaware on Pea Patch Island, where every October its staff sets up shop in various areas around the fort, teaching the stout of heart how to use paranormal equipment before letting them conduct their very own forays into the uncanny. It’s a wonderful way to amp up your Halloween season thrills and chills after you’ve visited Frightland.  

Do I believe in ghosts? I’ve never seen one—although plenty of people I know and trust have—so I suppose I’d have to call myself an agnostic on the subject. That said, does the idea of a face-to-face encounter with a malevolent spirit (or a friendly one, for that matter) scare me? You’re darned right it does. I paid close attention to every one of those horror movies I spoke of earlier, and I don’t want the only evidence of my horrific fate to be discovered on a creepy “found” videotape. So yes, the prospect of seeking out the ungrateful dead at Frightland gave me pause.

Tales of Terror

And I’m not alone. Kyle McMahon, the marketing manager of Frightland, told me he won’t go into the structure alone even during daylight hours. He’s not the only one; the property owner won’t either. And over the years that Frightland has been in operation, numerous employees have reported seeing the ghost of a little girl, or have said they feel like they’re being watched or followed. Some have departed the barn in terror, declining to return no matter how many other fellow living humans are on the premises.

As for McMahon, his refusal to tread foot by himself into the dusty old structure is based on hard experience. During a previous DSGI investigation at Frightland, McMahon and a DSGI member—the only people in the barn at the time—were doing a post-session check to make sure nothing had been left behind when, in his words, “A child’s toy that we had purposefully left behind was hurled at the back of my head. I was terrified; I’m sure you can hear me scream on the video. From that point on I swore I was never going to go in there alone, day or night.” Did the spirit of the little girl employees have reported seeing hurl it? One thing’s for sure: while it was a bit drafty in that old barn, it was anything but toy-hurling drafty.

McMahon’s story gave me something to think about as I joined him, DSGI staffers Alicia Lenoir, Fred “EVP King” Conkey, Andy Lendway, and Frightland employee Kim O’Neill for our late-night sojourn in the old barn that has been partitioned and decorated with loving attention to the last ghoulish detail to create a multi-roomed chamber of horrors.

The team set up its command center near the silo at the downstairs entrance to the barn, and hooked it up to their video cameras and an infrared grid in the barn’s loft, where young Miss Davis hung herself back in the early days of our republic. Lenoir also placed some toys—a small ball on a bed of flour, a small plastic car, and a stuffed gorilla—on the floor, in case the spirit was in a playful mood. During my time monitoring the screens from downstairs, I kept a close watch on these toys; had one of them moved by itself I’d have been out of there, pronto.

Our work that night was simple; while several team members watched the video monitor downstairs, the rest of us went up to the loft to try to coax our (perhaps) friendly ghost into making herself known. Lenoir and McMahon took turns asking questions (e.g., “Can you knock if you’re here?”) while I stared into the tiny corridor in which the infrared grid had been set up, waiting to see if a ghost stepped through its elaborate web of red beams (no dice). I also kept a close eye on the little set-up of toys, to discern if anything happened there (once again, no dice). Then we traded places and I watched the DVR below.

There were a few odd occurrences; while monitoring the DVR Lenoir distinctly heard a little girl humming, and the team picked up a few EVPs of what sounded like a man’s voice—interesting, since every prior story of the uncanny revolved around the little girl.

Did anything happen that would make me refuse to enter the barn ever again? No. We even held an impromptu flashlight session in the barn’s downstairs after hearing strange sounds emanating from near the silo, but if there was a spirit with us in the near total darkness it declined to make itself heard, turn the array of handy flashlights on or off, or activate a handy Mel meter.

Plenty of people scoff at the notion of our sharing this all-too-corporeal realm with spirits, and I understand their point of view. But that’s where groups such as DSGI come in. They use scientific instruments to gather evidence that, at the very least, raises the possibility that we have company, welcome or not.

My experience at Frightland didn’t knock me off the list of agnostics. But whether you’re an agnostic or a downright cynic, the evidence being gathered by groups like DSGI should give you pause even if you have never had the blood-curdling experience of hearing the piano playing Barry Manilow’s “Mandy” all by itself in the dead of night. Or run into a floating head on the stairwell. If you have, call Delaware State Ghost Investigators. Like I said before, the problem could just be your wallpaper.

New Kids On the Block

Says one parent: "Every student seems engaged." Photo Joe del Tufo

Opened in 2014, First State Montessori Academy is growing its enrollment, adding two grades, and finding its downtown location an advantage

Creating a new school can be a bit like completing a jigsaw puzzle. It requires vision to put the pieces together properly.

As it prepares to start its fourth year of operation in downtown Wilmington, the First State Montessori Academy is seeing all its pieces fit nicely.

Enrollment should top 500 students this year as the school adds a seventh-grade class, and could grow to 660 in the fall of 2018 when an eighth grade is added. The school received more than 600 applications for 91 open seats this year, so its waiting list has more than 500 names.
They must be doing something right.

“Every time I go into the school, I’m in awe,” says Meredith Rosenthal, whose son and daughter attend the school. “Every student seems engaged. You can see them engrossed in their learning, working together.”

As Rosenthal sees it, the school’s board of directors and staff adhere to a very basic principle: “They only do things if they know they’re going to do it well.”

That started in 2009, when the leaders of several private Montessori schools in New Castle County began meeting to develop a plan to bring Montessori education into a public school setting. An application filed that year with the state Department of Education’s Charter School Office did not win approval, but the group expanded its membership, refined its proposal and submitted a successful application in 2012 to open a new charter school. (A charter school is a public school, funded primarily by state and local tax dollars, but it is operated by a board of directors, not a local board of education, and is not subject to all the same rules and regulations as traditional public schools.) As originally planned, the school would open in the fall of 2013 with 241 students in kindergarten through sixth grade and grow to 325 students in its fourth year.

“We just did it one step at a time,” says Yvonne Nass, president of the school’s board of directors.
Preparing a charter school application is no mean achievement. The completed document totaled 635 pages, with details about curriculum, finances, discipline policies, health and safety, and the qualifications of the board members and staff.

Head of School Courtney Fox is a former first-grade teacher in the Brandywine School District and Delaware’s Teacher of the Year in 2008. Photo Joe del Tufo
Head of School Courtney Fox is a former first-grade teacher in the Brandywine School District and Delaware’s Teacher of the Year in 2008. Photo Joe del Tufo

But that was just the beginning. As has been the case with many new charters in Delaware, it took First State an extra year to open, partly because of difficulty finding a suitable building.

“We looked all over New Castle County,” says Courtney Fox, the head of school, a first-grade teacher for 15 years in the Brandywine School District and Delaware’s Teacher of the Year in 2008. “Old school buildings were not available. We looked at a lot of empty office space.”

They applied for space in the Community Education Building, the former MBNA/Bank of America office building acquired through the Longwood Foundation and retrofitted with the goal of housing up to four charter schools dedicated to meeting the educational needs of Wilmington’s low-income students.

The application wasn’t approved. “The schools that were accepted had in their mission statement that they would serve certain communities,” Fox explains. “Our mission was to serve a variety of communities.”

The Right Place and Space

As it turned out, First State would settle in another surplus MBNA/Bank of America structure, a former corporate childcare center at 920 French St., just two blocks south of the Community Education Building. “It was the right size, the right space, with the right amenities,” Fox says.
“The kids could move about, there were large hallways, the rooms had observation windows,” Nass adds. “We decided that it was our spot.”

And, since it was built as a daycare center, it didn’t require much retrofitting.
But there was one hitch. First State made an offer to buy the building, but the Buccini/Pollin group put in a higher bid. So First State wound up as BPG’s tenant.

First State faced two other significant start-up hurdles: ensuring that the Montessori curriculum would cover all the items in the Common Core standards recently adopted by Delaware (and many other states) and recruiting teachers trained in Montessori methods.
“Common Core tells us what to cover. We modify our content to fit lesson planning and methods,” Fox says.

“It wasn’t that hard,” says Liz Madden, a 17-year Montessori veteran and the school’s director of education. “The Common Core standards are more challenging, more rigorous, but Common Core doesn’t dictate how you teach something.”

Montessori educators require special certification beyond meeting the standards for a state teaching license. The certification involves taking a seven-week summer course and a series of projects that are completed while working in a Montessori classroom.

“A couple of our teachers live downtown, and a couple live an hour away,” Fox says. “Because there are fewer certified Montessori teachers, we have to cast our net wider.”

Hiring hasn’t been a big problem, Fox says, partly because teacher salaries at First State, while slightly below the range for teachers with comparable experience in traditional public schools, are higher than those offered at most private Montessori schools in the region.

Mary Falkenberg, who had spent 12 years teaching third grade in the Colonial School District, joined the First State staff last year after spending the summer taking her Montessori training. This summer, she says, she has to turn in the papers she completed during the school year and take a final exam for certification.

As with private Montessori schools, First State uses multi-age grouping, with kindergarten and first-grade students together, then second and third grade, then fourth through sixth.

Two Teachers Per Classroom

Each classroom has two teachers and there’s a Montessori-certified teacher in each one, Fox says.
Having two teachers working together makes a huge difference, Falkenberg says. “If I give a lesson and a student is struggling with it, he or she can go to the other teacher for additional support.”
The arrangement also allows teachers to play off each other’s strengths, she says. “I was more science, my co-teacher was more artistic. I love teaching third grade writing with essays, and she likes phonics and decoding.”

While Montessori teachers spend plenty of time instructing, students do a lot on their own, following weekly “work plans” designed by their teachers and based on their needs. A morning meeting starts the day, which includes some group instruction and special classes like art and music. But the biggest chunks are a pair of two-hour blocks during which students work on their own without interruption.

Look around a classroom and you’ll see some students reading quietly, others collaborating on a group project, and some using blocks or other materials as they work out their math lesson. “If a couple of kids want to do something at the same time, they have to learn to share, or to wait and check in later. They have to figure out a plan for how to get it done,” Fox says.

The biggest difference between a traditional school and Montessori is how students build their sense of independence, Falkenberg says.

“They have their own work places. Kids have more freedom in choosing their own work. Some will pick their favorite subject and work on it first. Others will save the best for last,” she says. No matter how they set up their agenda, “they get so excited at the end of them, saying, ‘I completed my work plan. I got all my work done.’”

Staying with the same teacher and classmates for two or more years benefits young students, Rosenthal says, because “unbelievable relationships are developed, both student-to-student and student-to-teacher.”

Rosenthal relates another positive she has noticed with her son Max, who just completed sixth grade. “Watching him in grades four through six, he really matured,” she says. “He felt responsible for the younger kids in the classroom. He became a mentor and a role model.”

Max’s maturation in the Montessori environment is one reason he is staying at First State, rather than transferring into a middle school in the Brandywine district, as the school adds seventh and eighth grades, his mother says.

Adding the two grades was an instance of a problem becoming an opportunity.
In the school’s first two years, Fox explains, it was losing students who would have entered sixth grade, largely because parents felt their children would be more comfortable moving into a middle school, which typically serves grades 6-8, for sixth grade rather than for seventh grade.

First State contemplated dropping back to a K-5 structure, but a survey of parents indicated that most would keep their children at First State if grades seven and eight were added.

In the fall of 2015, the school forged ahead with that plan, but had to find a second building to house the additional students. At about the same time, the Delaware MET, a charter high school that had just opened across the street from First State, failed. Due to a series of management, curriculum and discipline issues, the state ordered Delaware MET to close at the end of its first semester. The Charter Schools Development Corporation, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that had purchased another former MBNA/Bank of America building at 1000 French St. and leased it to Delaware MET, now had an empty building on its hands. Just as 920 French proved to be an ideal initial location, the building across the street was just right for First State’s expansion.

Downtown Advantages

A large part of First State’s appeal to students and their parents is the array of downtown amenities available through the school.

“Putting suburban kids in a city environment—new sounds, new sights, new experiences. It opens up a whole new world,” Rosenthal says.

While students at suburban schools might take a field trip to a play or a concert, First State

Students follow weekly “work plans” designed by their teachers and based on their individual needs. Photo Joe del Tufo
Students follow weekly “work plans” designed by their teachers and based on their individual needs. Photo Joe del Tufo

students regularly walk to musical and theatrical performances at The Grand, the Playhouse on Rodney Square or First & Central Presbyterian Church. Kindergarten students take dance lessons at The Grand, and grades four through six visit the Wilmington Institute Free Library once a week. “Their artwork gets displayed in the library. That’s a big deal for them,” Rosenthal says.

First State parents provide strong support for the school, Fox says. Some help with landscaping around the building, others staff the teachers’ workroom.

Another group takes regular assignments handling the lunch program. First State contracts with the Community Education Building to prepare and deliver student meals. Parents sort the lunches by class and take them to each classroom and, when they’re done, they assemble breakfasts for the next school day in the same fashion.

“We’ve got a core group of 10 to 15 parents, and others fill in. They try to take the same day each week. With seventh and eighth grade, we’ll probably need more,” says parent Corey Lamborn, who will be coordinating the assignments this year.

“It’s really fun to be there, to see your own kid at lunch time,” she says.

In addition to contracting with the Community Education Building for its lunches, First State uses the back office services of Innovative Schools, a charter school support organization, for its bookkeeping needs, and collaborates with other downtown charter schools on professional development for staff members.

First State’s enrollment is roughly two-thirds white and 25 percent African-American, Latino or multiracial. About 12 percent are considered low-income, and 8 percent have special education needs, according to the latest school profile report filed with the state Department of Education.

About a quarter of the students live in city ZIP codes; the rest come from all over New Castle County, Fox says.

There’s more than a little irony in those enrollment figures. A generation ago, when court-ordered desegregation began in northern New Castle County, student assignments were made with an eye toward setting school enrollments at about two-thirds to three-quarters white. Most white suburban parents were unhappy with their children having to attend city schools for up to three years; many black parents from Wilmington complained that their children endured long bus rides to the suburbs for up to nine years.

With the lifting of the desegregation order more than 20 years ago, and the subsequent development of charter schools and choice programs, few white children from the suburbs are now attending traditional public schools in Wilmington. But the enrollment numbers for First State Montessori demonstrate that there are suburban families who will choose to send their children to a public school in the city.

The Montessori curriculum is certainly a factor in the school’s popularity, board president Nass says. And it’s a plus that leaders like Fox and Madden were well known in the public school and Montessori communities, she adds.

“Parents are looking for choice. They’re shopping,” Nass says. “And we are very clear about our mission.”

Wilmington Music: Ever Evolving

Susquehanna Floods cookin’ at Kelly’s Logan House. Photo courtesy of Kelly’s Logan House

Cover bands, small groups and small venues prevail, but change is in the wind

Music-loving Delawareans old enough to remember can gleefully recount stories of the times Springsteen played Newark’s Stone Balloon back in the ‘70s and ‘80s, when national acts were common sights there and at the Talley Ho on Concord Pike. Tony Cappella, a local bassist who plays with several local acts, most notably Montana Wildaxe, remembers the era fondly as a time when packed houses were the rule, not the exception.

“When we played those venues, you typically played Tuesday through Saturday,” says Cappella. “Same went for rooms like Prime Times, Reflections and so many others. Montana Wildaxe used to play at the Logan House the last weekend of every month and pack the place.”

Rob Zinn performing at Shine A Light 2016. Photo Joe del Tufo
Rob Zinn performing at Shine A Light 2016. Photo Joe del Tufo

Rob Zinn, a local jazz musician who’s been performing since the early ‘80s, confirms Cappella’s memories of the large venues. “Stone Balloon, 4&1 Club, Prime Times, Tally Ho, Big Kahuna and Garfields all come to mind,” says Zinn. “It was common to be booked at some of these rooms for four or five days in a row, with big bands every night of the week.”

But those times didn’t last. It wasn’t long before that era’s temples of great rock ‘n’ roll started to shut their doors.

Joe Trainor, another major name in the Wilmington music scene, remembers the early ‘90s into the early 2000s, when things started to shift. “In Wilmington alone, we watched bar after bar close due to the waning interest in live music,” he says. “You knew things were concerning when places like The Stone Balloon, The Buggy Tavern and The Barn Door closed.”

That’s one of the big differences between today’s music scene and the period when Cappella, Zinn and Trainor first emerged: large groups used to have plenty of places to showcase their talents. But when venues began to struggle financially, they ditched the traditional cover charge (the thing that made those large acts possible) in an attempt to entice the more casual, curious fan who might stick around for a few drinks.

It worked, in a way. Venues now book at least in part based on bar activity during the act. “I think the hardest thing is finding bands that are not only good, but also good at keeping the crowd at the bar,” says Joe Mujica, who’s been helping to book acts at Logan House since December.

Cover Bands Prevail

On paper and in practice, it makes sense. A restaurant or bar can’t get away with selling tickets.

Scantron plays at Arden’s Shady Grove concert in 2014. Photo Joe del Tufo
Scantron plays at Arden’s Shady Grove concert in 2014. Photo Joe del Tufo

Their product is the food and drink, and a live band is a draw they use to sell more of both. They can’t afford to be overly experimental and must provide entertainment that won’t alienate anyone.

That means time-tested, crowd-pleasing cover songs. Acts aren’t discouraged from playing their own material, but if a band wants to play, say, the Logan House, they’d be well advised to build a solid base of songs the audience already knows.

“The covers usually keep the people interested,” says Mujica. “Then you throw a few originals in there and the crowd seems to really like it.”

Lee Mikles, owner of Grain, follows much the same formula at his locations (Newark, Summit North Marina and Kennett Square). “We are looking for acts that can bring a mix of originals and covers in the artist’s unique style,” he says. That’s typically the blend that can keep an audience interested enough that they’ll drive the sales Grain needs to keep booking live music.

But, as venues and musicians alike soon found out, getting crowds to stay in one place and buy more drinks didn’t do enough to replace the economic assurance of the cover charge. Talking about the loss of the cover, Zinn says, “I believe that has impacted the ability to bring in bigger and more expensive bands.”

So, even if today’s musicians are playing well-worn songs from popular bands, they’re doing so in significantly smaller groups. “Gigs nowadays are more trio and duo acts,” says Cappella.

Typical of smaller venues is Oddity Bar, on Greenhill Avenue in Wilmington. “We book keeping the space in mind,” says Andrea McCauley, who owns the bar along with Pat McCutcheon. “So it’s all about what’s comfortable for our customers.”

Angela Sheik performs at The Ladybug Festival. Photo Joe del Tufo
Angela Sheik performs at The Ladybug Festival. Photo Joe del Tufo

She cites the genre that’s most popular at the bar, an alt rock-leaning style, versus her own musical roots, a heavier punk type. She’d like to book more punk shows, but those are better suited to bars where crowds have room to spread out and dance, as opposed to the more intimate setting of Oddity Bar.

Cappella and Trainor adapted well to the new prevalence of smaller places and smaller groups. “I play several styles of music, so some bands I play with can play large electric type venues like the Queen,” Cappella says. “Other acts are trios and duos that work smaller rooms like the Bellefonte Cafe, Kid Shelleen’s and Tonic.”

Trainor created his own solution by founding The Joe Trainor Trio and streamlining the group’s songwriting style, eventually building a larger audience than what his earlier, more experimental groups played to.

Zinn, on the other hand, is a musician who is at a bit of a disadvantage in a scene that favors smaller groups. Certain instruments, like, say, Zinn’s trumpet, don’t adapt well to duos and trios. “Being a trumpet player, I’m shut out from any of these types of [smaller] venues, unless I want to play along with tracks,” he says. “As for the new Queen, I’d love to be a part of any show with [the Rob Zinn Group], but I’m not sure if they are interested in original jazz/funk type bands.”

Emerging Styles?

Despite this, Zinn hasn’t lacked for success—which he finds a little surprising. Plenty of the local spots support his preferred style of music. Says Zinn, “The Nomad, Ubon Thai Cuisine, World Cafe Live [now The Queen] and Tonic bring me in regularly; more recently, Kennett Brewing Co.”

So it seems that, even if there is a preference for cover songs, Wilmington isn’t devoid of emerging styles and opportunities to play original work. The fact that Zinn is getting consistent gigs hints that the city is ready for new music.

He also is getting support from other musicians. “I happen to love jazz,” says Cappella. “Thanks to people like Rob Zinn, Tony Cimorrossi and the Nomad bar, because they are putting it back in Delaware again.”

One group that has successfully transitioned is The Susquehanna Floods. It started as a cover band, but the group didn’t find widespread success until they switched to original music. “After almost five years of being in a cover band, I think we’d all gotten a bit burnt out,” says Zachary Crouch, Floods lead guitarist. “We all showed up to rehearse and agreed the only way we’d want to continue making music is if we focused on writing our own.”

Since their switch, the band’s amount of Facebook exposure has doubled, it won the 10th Musikarmageddon, got better treatment in venues, and attracted crowds that were much more receptive to and supportive of their original creations. “The crowds at these venues are super responsive and it’s clear that they bring out fans that are active in the original music scene,” says Crouch. Cover bands may have ruled the scene in the early 2000s, but the Floods are proof that the city is ready for more original tunes.

Some musicians and venue bookers even see opportunities that aren’t being fully developed. “I think there’s a market out there for good hip-hop, especially in Wilmington,” says Trainor. “Richard Raw seems to be the only artist making a real name for himself, and you’d think hip-hop would have a stronger voice in the city than it does.”

Rob Matera, who’s been booking in Arden since 2011, says it’s time to expand a different genre. “In North Wilmington, there’s a strong roots and Americana fan base that not many local original bands have exploited,” he says.

New Acts at Shady Grove

Matera makes sure his bookings at Shady Grove reflect his desire for more original music. “I personally like bringing new acts to our audience,” he says. “I think it has become something of an expectation that when you come to Shady Grove, you’re going to see new bands.” This year, of the nine shows planned for Shady Grove, eight are acts appearing there for the first time.

Another place original music comes first is, not surprisingly, also in Arden—Gild Hall. “We actually prefer not to repeat acts very often,” says Ron Ozer, the man in charge of bookings. There are some crowd- and venue-favorite musicians who return every so often, but for the most part, Gild Hall acts are fresh, original bands.

Both Arden venues provide plenty of bookings, with Gild Hall hosting close to 20 shows a year, along with Shady Grove’s nine. For volunteer-run venues, 30 shows represent an admirable offering.

If any organization is plugged into the opportunities for every genre, it’s Gable Music Ventures. To Gable, that soft reliance on cover songs is finally starting to give way, allowing local, original acts, like those from the ‘70s and ‘80s, to retake the scene. Says Gayle Dillman, who, along with Jeremy Hebbel, owns Gable: “We are thankfully seeing more of a trend towards original music, something we’ve been encouraging since we started.”

Through Gable’s efforts, original music is reclaiming large venues. Attendance for The Ladybug Festival, the all-female-led music event in Wilmington, has skyrocketed, allowing Gable to experiment with lineups. “We are able to focus less on how many people an artist can bring to the event,” says Dillman. “[Instead, we] can focus more on achieving our goal of having a diverse lineup of tremendous artists covering as many genres as we can.”

Besides Ladybug, Gable is bringing diversification to Smyrna at Night, events for the City of Newark, Wilmington University, The Sugar Bowl Series, Grainfest and the New Castle County Ice Cream Festival. That’s in addition to the daily gigs the company plans.

Similarly, McCauley and McCutcheon are using the popularity of Oddity Bar and its regular acts to introduce new groups to the scene. McCauley says they like to use a few slots in their Friday and Saturday night lineups to mix in new bands with the more consistently popular acts. Says McCauley, “Some bands we know well will get the [other] bands who play the whole night.” In other words, McCauley and McCutcheon will occasionally trust Oddity’s regular bands to fill Friday and Saturday nights with unknown acts that the regulars think will fit in well. It’s rare that it happens, but when it does, it’s a great opportunity for the older players to pull acts they enjoy out of obscurity.

Ultimately, the Wilmington music scene is one in recovery, but it’s recovering well. Coming off the glut of cover bands, venues are slowly beginning to experiment with original acts again, and they’re finding crowds that are receptive. There are still hurdles, but there is an ever-increasing number of capable people and companies to overcome them.

Hungry for the Arts?

Satisfy your palate with this delectable menu of Wilmington-area arts

8th Avenue Arts Collective
Jasmine Brown leads this creative agency that helps artists, makers and doers to create and share in their own communities. 8th Avenue supports artists across the city through visual art exhibitions, open mic night performances and more. For September’s Art on the Town (Friday, Sept. 8), the organization features artist Erin Courtney’s acrylic resin work in an exhibit at Artist Ave Station. On Sunday, Sept. 3 and 17, 8th Avenue will host Art in the Park, an open-air, all-ages gathering. Bring your own supplies, sit together and create at the Wilmington Green Box location at 420 N. Market St. The Flavour, 8th Avenue’s regular open mic event, will be held Wednesday, Sept. 27, also at Wilmington Green Box, weather permitting. (If inclement weather, the location will be Wilmington Jaycees Clubhouse.) All events are free to attend.
800 N. Tatnall St., Wilmington • 723.9197 •
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @8thAveCG

Arden Concert Gild
Arden has an outstanding season ahead with new shows continually added. The kick-off is the annual end-of-summer jubilee, Arden Fair, on Saturday, Sept. 2, with rides, games, food, art and the free Shady Grove stage featuring music by Garry Cogdell, Steal Your Peach and Jr. Wolf. Thursday, Sept. 21, heralds the first-ever David Bromberg Quintet performance at Gild Hall. Friday, Oct. 6, brings Rhett Miller’s (of the Old 97s) solo show and Thursday, Oct. 12, Dar Williams concert and book reading (What I Found in a Thousand Towns includes an extended section on Wilmington). Hot young Brooklyn duo—the Indie-folk-with-electronic-undercurrent Overcoats—hits the stage Friday, Oct. 20.  Jazz perfection is celebrated on Friday, Oct. 27, with Etienne Charles on trumpet and percussion with his Creole Soul Sextet. Finally, on Saturday, Nov. 4, the vibrant voice of Mary Fahl (formerly of October Project) fills Gild Hall for a debut performance.
2126 The Highway, Arden • 898.9308 •
Facebook: @ArdenConcertGild • Twitter: @ArdenConcerts

The Arts at Trinity
This free series in the heart of Wilmington, hosted by Trinity Episcopal Church, is in its seventh season of “pop-up” events in literature, drama, poetry and visual arts. This year opens on Saturday, Oct. 7, with the Serafin String Quartet performing works by Haydn, Mendelssohn and American composer William Grant Still. On Sunday, Nov. 5, Trinity Church Choir and orchestra, conducted by Terrence Gaus-Wollen, performs sacred music by Bach as part of its regular Sunday service. On Saturday, Dec. 2, rising jazz pianist Gil Scott Chapman performs, including classical and jazz works and his own compositions.
1108 N. Adams St., Wilmington • 652.8605 •
Facebook: @TheArtsatTrinity

Based in Wilmington’s bustling LoMa neighborhood, ArtzScape has created an equally bustling scene for local and regional artists, poets and musicians, providing a rental space for private and public events and encouraging active networking at events. On Sunday, Sept. 17, ArtzScape presents the third installment of its MUSIC.POETRY.ART series, featuring Christian poet Charles Robinson-Snead. Tickets are available at 205 N. Market St., Wilmington • 267.679.2711 •
Facebook: @ArtzScape

Christina Cultural Arts Center
A new Literary Café program leads off Christina’s 71st year, featuring author and Delaware native Jeff Hobbs on Saturday, Oct. 21, discussing his New York Times best-selling work, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Pearce. CCAC’s focus on intimate live performances returns on Saturday, Nov. 18, with a concert by SPANK, featuring gospel/soul/hip hop drummer George “Spanky” McCurdy. Finally, CCAC embraces the majesty of the holidays on Sunday, Dec. 10, with the stunning contemporary dance/music/narration production of “Carols in Color,” performed by Philly-based Eleone Dance Theatre. December wraps up with CCAC’s own Holiday Festival of the Arts on Saturday, Dec. 16. 705 N. Market St., Wilmington • 652.0101 •
Facebook, Twitter & Instagram: @CCACDE

The Delaware Art Museum
The museum welcomes two major exhibitions this fall. The first, Tableau: The Art of Richard Cleaver (Sept. 16-Jan. 7, 2018), features elaborate sculptures full of hidden compartments to capture the lives and secrets of historical figures and personal acquaintances of the artist. The next, An American Journey: The Art of John Sloan (Oct. 21-Jan. 28, 2018), is the first major retrospective of Sloan’s work since 1988. It covers his work as an illustrator in Philadelphia, his depictions of New York City, his views of Gloucester, Mass., and his studies of Santa Fe, N.M. Throughout the fall, the museum also offers many engaging, informal programs for all ages: enjoy Art is Tasty (Sept. 1, Oct. 6, Nov. 3), a monthly series pairing 30-minute art discussions with a delicious lunch in the Thronson Café; take part in Peace Week Delaware or Día de los Muertos with the Labyrinth Walks on Friday, Sept. 22, or Thursday, Nov. 2; listen to Concerts on Kentmere on Thursday, Sept. 28, with “ensemble in residence,” Pyxis Piano Quartet; or talk with New York Times best-selling author Robert Wittman at his lecture and book signing on Thursday, Sept. 7, for The Devil’s Diary: Alfred Rosenberg and the Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich. 2301 Kentmere Pkwy., Wilmington • 571.9590 • delart.orgFacebook: @DelawareArtMuseum; Twitter/Instagram: @DelArtMuseum

The Delaware Contemporary
The Contemporary keeps our eyes, hearts and minds busy with its group exhibition that began last month and runs through Oct. 25—Spiral, Recoil: Honoring a legacy of Black Art —which asks the imperative question: In 50 years of “progress,” how far have we really come? Additional exhibits now through the fall: Artist Monique Rollins’ Eastern Poesia: A cultural exchange expressed through emotional abstraction through Nov. 19 in the Carole Bieber and Marc Hamm Gallery, and Ola Rondiak’s Behind the Lines: An Iconographic Journey of a Ukrainian Family’s Experience through Historical events, through Oct. 15 in the Beckler Family Members’ Gallery. Running Sept. 5-Dec. 3 in the Avery E. Draper Gallery is Adam Ledford’s Don’t Worry About the Government: Investigating the ideologies of mid-century modernism by leading the viewer through three-dimensional space. Be sure to stop by “the place to be” on Art Loop Fridays for exhibitions openings, open artist studios, food trucks and more. The music ensemble Mélomanie also launches its Wilmington Concert Series at the Contemporary on Saturday, Oct. 29. 200 S. Madison St., Wilmington • 656.6466 • decontemporary.orgFacebook & Instagram: @DEContemporary

Delaware Shakespeare
Once more upon a midnight dreary, Delaware Shakespeare opens many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore during its autumnal celebration of the macabre with Shakespeare, Poe and Fiends. New selections, new authors, new venues— including the courthouse in Historic New Castle and Old Town Hall in Wilmington—will usher guests into a world of literary spirits and specters for a night of readings from plays, prose and poetry. This year’s event runs one weekend only, Oct. 12-15.  The fall Community Tour production of As You Like It stars DelShakes alum Danielle Leneé as Rosalind, directed by Madeline Sayet, with original music composed and performed by Joe Trainor. The tour will present 13 free performances over three weeks (Oct. 25-Nov. 9), for audiences that traditionally have limited access to the arts, in the Rick Van Story Resource Center, Greenwood Public Library, Delaware Psychiatric Center, Howard R. Young Correctional Institution and Broad Street Ministry in Philadelphia. Where possible, productions are open to the public. The tour concludes with three ticketed performances at OperaDelaware Studios (Nov. 10-12). Performance venues: Varying in Delaware • 415.3373 • delshakes.orgFacebook & Instagram: @DelShakes

Delaware Symphony Orchestra
The Orchestra’s season begins Friday, Sept. 15, at The Grand Opera House with a concert featuring Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5; Prokofiev’s “Classical” Symphony No. 1; and Mozart’s Concerto for Flute and Harp, with soloists Kim Reighley, flute, and Sarah Fuller, harp. Music Director David Amado will conduct and give a pre-concert talk one hour before each concert. The second classics concert is Thursday, Nov. 16, featuring Pictures from the Floating World by David Ludwig with guest bassoon soloist William Short; Debussy’s La Mer; and Ferde Grofé’s Grand Canyon Suite. The first concerts in DSO’s Chamber Series are Tuesdays, Oct. 17 and Dec. 12, in the Gold Ballroom of the Hotel du Pont. 100 W. 10th St., Suite 1003, Wilmington • 656.7442, • Facebook: @DelawareSymphony; Twitter: @DelawareSymph

Delaware Theatre Company
This fall, DTC continues its vision as the only theater in the state developing new shows for Broadway with the World Premiere musical adaptation of Something Wicked This Way Comes, based on the Ray Bradbury novel, with book by Brian Hill and music & lyrics by Neil Bartram (Sept. 13-Oct. 8). Picture 1938, a small town, a mysterious carnival and two young boys bent on escaping to find adventure and themselves. Dare to Be Black follows (Oct. 25-Nov. 12), written by Tommie J. Moore. Before Muhammad Ali, there was champion boxer Jack Johnson, whose quest for equality has never seemed more timely. Finally, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [Revised] reinvigorates the Bard’s works in a madcap romp (Nov. 29-Dec. 23). These men in tights weave their way through all Shakespeare’s comedies, histories and tragedies in one wild ride, leaving you breathless with laughter. 200 Water St., Wilmington • 594.1100 • DelawareTheatre.orgFacebook/Instagram: @DelawareTheatreCompany • Twitter/Snapchat: @DelawareTheatre

First State Ballet Theatre
Delaware’s premiere professional ballet company first sweeps you away with Giselle—a transcendent story of a village girl transformed into a tender spirit after dying of a broken heart. The performances, at The Grand Opera House, are Saturday, Oct. 21, and Sunday, Oct. 22. Next, the company’s hallmark Up Front series opens Friday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 18, in Studio 1 of the Grand, giving audiences an intimate look at the company’s classical and contemporary work. Then, ring in the holidays with Wilmington’s favorite tradition, the magical Nutcracker, for two dates at The Grand on Friday, Dec. 22, and Saturday, Dec. 23. 818 N. Market St., Wilmington • 658.7897 x3851 • firststateballet.comFacebook/Instagram: @FirstStateBallet • Twitter: @FSBTheatre

Gable Music Ventures
After the smashing success of this summer’s expanded two-day Ladybug Festival, Gable continues to be the conduit for live music in and around Wilmington. Gable is booking regular performances in a variety of genres at places like 40 Acres’ Halligan Bar, Concord Pike’s Stoney’s British Pub and, of course, the highly anticipated weekly curated open mic showcase, Wilmo Wednesdays, at Ernest & Scott Taproom on Market Street in downtown Wilmington. Check the website for complete, up-to-the-minute details. Performance venues: Varying in Wilmington; gablemusicventures.comFacebook & Instagram: @GableMusicVentures; Twitter: @GableMusic

The Grand Opera House & The Playhouse on Rodney Square
The Grand’s newest season is sure to impress entertainment lovers of all kinds. America’s Got Talent’s Tape Face brings unconventional silent comedy on Saturday, Oct. 14, and a Capella showmen and Grand favorite Straight No Chaser will perform two shows Sunday, Oct. 29, in what will be a certain sellout. Broadway star Ana Gasteyer fills The Playhouse with saucy songs and comedy Thursday, Dec. 7 and comedian Sinbad returns with his sharp topical humor Friday, Dec. 15.  The Playhouse on Rodney Square kicks off its Broadway in Wilmington season with The Wizard of Oz (Nov. 14-19), captivating the entire family with a trip down the Yellow Brick Road and beyond. All your favorite characters from the beloved TV classic come to life in Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Musical in a limited engagement to kick off the holidays with two shows on Sunday, Nov. 26.
The Grand: 818 N. Market St., Wilmington • 652.5577; • Facebook: @TheGrandWilmington; Twitter/Instagram: @TheGrandWilm
The Playhouse: 1007 N. Market St., Wilmington • 888.0200 • Facebook: @ThePlayhouseDE

Market Street Music
Wilmington’s most affordable and diverse music series presents full-length Festival Concerts featuring organist David Schelat on Saturday, Oct. 14; Pyxis Piano Quartet on Saturday, Oct. 28; and Mastersingers of Wilmington on Saturday, Nov. 4. Its much-beloved mid-day music fest, Thursday Noontime Concerts, begin Thursday, Oct. 5, with a varied roster that includes the Copeland String Quartet; regional favorite artists like pianist Daniel Carunchio and countertenor Gus Mercante; and a return appearance by the Lyra Russian Choir—the vocal ensemble of St. Petersburg. The noontime series culminates in the holiday tradition of the Cartoon Christmas Trio on Thursday, Dec. 7, and a holiday choral concert by Center City Chorale on Thursday, Dec. 14. Performance venue: First & Central Presbyterian Church, 1101 N. Market St., Wilmington • 654.5371 • marketstreetmusicde.orgFacebook: @MarketStreetMusicDE

Wilmington’s “provocative pairings” music ensemble celebrates its 25th anniversary season. A new partnership with the Delaware Historical Society presents two performances: the first on Saturday, Sept. 30, Up Close and Personal, features violinist Christof Richter, and the second on Sunday, Dec. 3, which includes holiday music. A post-concert partnership with La Fia Bistro also follows each of those performances. The ensemble’s Wilmington Concert Series at The Delaware Contemporary begins on Sunday, Oct. 29, with a premiere by composer Mark Hagerty and guest percussionist Chris Hanning. The remaining series dates—Sundays, Jan. 14, March 11 and April 8—see three additional premieres written for the ensemble as well as a collaboration with Delaware’s Poets Laureate, The Twin Poets. Performance venues: The Delaware Historical Society, 505 N. Market St., Wilmington & The Delaware Contemporary, 200 S. Madison St., Wilmington • 764.6338 • melomanie.orgFacebook: @MelomanieDE

The Music School of Delaware
The Music School boasts a busy fall of performances, both student and professional. Its Wilmington Branch professional concerts will feature the music of the Revolutionary War; the 10th anniversary of its “Music of Many Lands” program; and an annual Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. Additionally, faculty recitals at both Wilmington and Milford Branches will be presented throughout the season. The Wilmington Community Orchestra, under the baton of Tiffany Lu, will perform works from Barber to Beethoven. Alumni return to share their musical stories in concert. And, the school continues to host its Classical Cafe sessions (complimentary coffee and donuts included), where attendees engage in lively discussion with select faculty on a variety of music-related topics. The Music School also hosts and presents events in genres from classical to rock, including quarterly Open Mic Nights, a monthly Bluegrass Jam, jazz and rock performances. 4101 Washington St., Wilmington • 762.1132 • musicschoolofdelaware.orgFacebook, Twitter & Instagram: @MusicSchoolofDE

OperaDelaware continues to tweak our perceptions of what opera is and what it can be in its distinctive programming and collaborations. The fall begins with Opera Uncorked! on Friday, Oct. 20, and Sunday, Oct. 22. Arias, Ambers and IPAs will flow at the group’s Riverfront Studio as operatic highlights are paired with your favorite beers provided by Swigg. Saturday, Nov 18, and Sunday, Nov. 19, features Werther—Jules Massenet’s opera based on Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young Werther—in concert with piano, again at the Riverfront Studio. 4 S. Poplar St., Wilmington • 442.7807 • operade.orgFacebook, Twitter & Instagram: @OperaDelaware

The Queen Wilmington
The Queen is bringing national touring acts to Wilmington that have never performed in the area—Third Eye Blind, Regina Spektor, Cheap Trick, Andrew Dice Clay, Kevin Smith, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness and more. With genres ranging from reggae to rock and roll to hip hop, there’s something for every kind of music lover here. 500 N. Market St., Wilmington • 215.309.0150; thequeenwilmington.comFacebook, Twitter & Instagram: @QueenWilmington

Summer in the Parks
This annual city-wide program completed its final week of free arts activities, and by all accounts, it was another wonderful collaborative effort by the City of Wilmington, the Grand Opera House and the 176 individuals (including 50 students), representing 31 artists/organizations who participated. This year’s Summer in the Parks has served 2,700 participants. Approximately 80 percent of those participating were children. Nearly 1,000 observers enjoyed the arts throughout almost every neighborhood, providing a total arts reach of 3,667 people.  In all, Summer in the Parks presented 52 daytime events and eight evening concerts, showcasing all types of music, dance and movement, arts and crafts, live theater and fun workshops. At the end of August, the Grand Opera House and the City of Wilmington Department of Parks & Recreation held an end-of-summer BIG BASH, featuring a performance with Illstyle & Peace on the mobile stage, to celebrate the program’s success. Performance Venues: Varying Parks in Wilmington • 658.7897; • Facebook: @SummerinParks

University of Delaware Department of Music
The Concert Season begins Friday, Sept. 15, with a return performance by the Calidore String Quartet. Additional season highlights include Sublime Strings, a group of five performances anchored by Quartet-in-Residence Serafin String Quartet, Blair String Quartet and Calidore String Quartet. UD Faculty perform at the Faculty Gala on Saturday, Sept. 23; in Faculty Jazz on Monday, Oct. 16, and in acclaimed Resident Ensembles and Faculty Artist Recitals throughout the semester. Students also perform throughout the semester in the award-winning UD Chorale, UD Symphony Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, Symphonic Band and UD Opera Theatre. The popular Chamber Orchestra Cinema Series opens with Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger (1927), a silent movie with live orchestral accompaniment on Friday, Oct. 20. Gore Recital Hall, Roselle Center for the Performing Arts, Newark • 831.2578 •

University of Delaware Master Players Concert Series
Producing Artistic Director Xiang Gao invites you to experience “Unity in Variety,” celebrating music as our diverse planet’s universal language. Now in its 14th year, Master Players Concert Series brings the world’s top musicians and ensembles to Delaware in its role as UD’s cultural ambassador. The three concerts on campus begin with musicians of the Baltimore classical music scene performing solo and chamber works in The Stars of Baltimore: Season Opening Gala on Sunday, Oct. 1; The Shanghai String Quartet: 35 Years of Our American Experience on Saturday, Nov. 4; and Holiday Pops: Frank Sinatra’s Coming to Town on Saturday, Dec. 9. Mitchell Hall, Roselle Center for the Performing Arts, Newark • 831.2905 • masterplayers.udel.eduFacebook & Twitter: @UDMPCS

Wilmington Drama League
For its 85th season launch, the Drama League presents Godspell (Sept. 15-24), directed by Chris Turner with music directed by Caty Butler. Based on the Gospel according to Matthew, the show features a troupe of eccentric players who team up with Jesus to teach His lessons in a new age through parables, games and tomfoolery. More madcap comedy follows with the farce Moon Over Buffalo (Oct. 20-29), centering on two stage actors with one last shot at stardom—if they can keep their act and relationship together. The Tony Award-winning Peter and the Starcatcher arrives Nov. 10-19, telling the story of how a miserable orphan comes to be The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up (AKA Peter Pan). The fall season closes with the classic tale A Christmas Carol (Dec.15-27), reimagined by Broadway heavy hitters Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens. 10 W. Lea Blvd., Wilmington • 764.1172 • wilmingtondramaleague.orgFacebook: @WilmingtonDramaLeague; Instagram: @WilmingtonDramaLeague

Rock Opera Kicks Off CTC’s 24th Season

Photo Joe del Tufo

City Theater Company, Delaware’s off-Broadway experience, drops the axe on its 24th season with Lizzie, a blistering rock opera based on the 19th century legend of Lizzie Borden (Sept. 8-16). Four women front a six-piece rock band to tell a tale of murder and mayhem, with music by Steven Cheslik-DeMeyer and Alan Stevens Hewitt; lyrics by Cheslik-DeMeyer and Tim Maner; book and additional music by Maner, and additional lyrics by Hewitt. The musical is based on an original concept by Cheslik-DeMeyer and Maner.

Michael Gray, CTC’s producing artistic director, helms the piece, which he’s been looking forward to producing for some time. “I was intrigued by the story told by four women (though ‘men’ were always present) and how the music (rock, thrash, punk) was used to capture their rage—the years of abuse and neglect, and the loneliness and betrayal that led to the horrific murders. It’s compelling to see one woman, in a time when single women had little status, take control of her narrative. That’s the story we are excited to portray.”

Lizzie marks the CTC debut of Darby Elizabeth McLaughlin in the title role, alongside Jill Knapp of popular band Hot Breakfast!, Kyleen Shaw and Grace Tarves. The band features Caty Butler, Meghan Doyle, Jon Luther, Noelle Picara, Joey Lopes and Sheila Hershey.

CTC‘s Fearless Improv—the only comedy improv team in Wilmington—returned to Wilmington this summer with Third Thursday shows at Chelsea Tavern and continue through the year’s end with performances on Sept. 21, Oct. 19, Nov. 16 and Dec 21. Additional shows are scheduled at Penn’s Place in Old New Castle on two Saturdays, Sept. 9 and Nov. 11. Fearless also offers Improv 101 and Improv 301—eight-week, two-hour workshops open to the public that teach basic scene work and advanced performance techniques. Both classes begin Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Delaware Historical Society in downtown Wilmington.

In December, CTC returns to The Black Box to present a stripped-down version of the Sondheim classic Sunday in the Park with George (Dec 1-16). Gray has plans to collaborate with local visual artists to produce a “live” piece of art during each production—in essence, delivering a new and exciting multi-genre experience every night.

Class Venue: Delaware Historical Society, 505 N. Market St., Wilmington; Performance Venue: Chelsea Tavern, 821 N. Market Street, Wilmington • 220.8285 •

Facebook: @CTCImprov • Twitter/Instagram: @CityTheaterCo

UD REP Tackles Diverse Stories This Season

Photo Joe del Tufo

The University of Delaware’s Resident Ensemble Players (REP) is the only full-time, resident professional acting ensemble in Delaware and the tri-state region, and one of a few in the United States. Their fall season includes a diverse mix of powerful stories and raucous entertainment.

“The REP’s 2017-2018 season includes something for everyone,” says Sanford Robbins, producing artistic director. “From madcap comedies to suspenseful dramas…to the world premiere of a new play written for the REP by one of America’s most gifted young playwrights, this is going to be a dynamite season.”

It opens with a powerful, intimate look at Martin Luther King, Jr. in The Mountaintop by Katori Hall (Sept. 14-Oct. 8), directed by Walter Dallas. The story finds Dr. King retiring to his quiet room in the Lorraine Motel, exhausted after delivering his famous “Mountaintop” speech. But a chance meeting with an enthusiastic maid leads him to reflect on his achievements and all the work he has left to do.

Next is the comedy You Can’t Take It with You by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart (Sept. 21-Oct. 8). When the eccentric, rule-defying Sycamore family is introduced to high-society parents of their daughter’s fiancé, it is anything but a quiet evening.

November brings the World Premiere of From the Author of… (Nov. 9-Dec. 3) written especially for the REP by emerging playwright Chisa Hutchinson. The story follows a famous New York author who, reeling from disastrous reviews of her new book on homelessness, tries to save face by taking in a street person to rehabilitate. It’s a wickedly blunt, funny and insightful look at loyalty, responsibility and “who owns whose story.”  Directed by Jade King Carroll, this play contains adult themes and strong language.

Roselle Center for the Arts, Newark • 831.2204 •

Facebook: Twitter: @Delaware_REP

A Baseball Life

At 90, Jack Crimian can look back on a pitching career and a uniquely American odyssey that touched many of the sport’s immortals

It’s doubtful that any ex-ballplayer enjoyed his career as much, or remembers it as well, as 90-year-old Jack Crimian.

The long-time Delawarean spent parts of four years in the Majors and 11 in the minors as a right-handed pitcher, pursuing a quintessentially American odyssey that intersected with some of the immortals of the sport’s golden age—as well as Bing Crosby’s future wife.

The list of his encounters with future greats began at Olney High School, in Philadelphia, where Crimian, class of 1944, played baseball and football with Del Ennis, a star on the Philadelphia Phillies “Whiz Kids” team that won the National League Championship in 1950.

Four years later, as a minor leaguer in spring training in St. Petersburg, Fla., he shook hands with Babe Ruth. “Everything stopped when Ruth showed up,” remembers Crimian, “and we all went over to him. He could hardly talk.” A few months later, the Bambino would die of throat cancer.

In 1957, he served up Roger Maris’ first Major League home run—a grand slam. “It was a 3-2 count and I pitched him up and away. The ball went up and away, and it still hasn’t come down.” Adds the still competitive Crimian: “But it was Jim Bunning’s fault. He struck out Maris earlier in the game, so he told me how to pitch to him.”

Crimian fanned Maris’ future teammate, Mickey Mantle, five of the 11 times he faced the switch-hitting Yankee slugger. “One of his hits was a bunt down the third base line because we (the Kansas City Athletics) were the first to put a shift on against him, and there was nobody on the third-base side,” says Crimian.

He almost struck out Ted Williams, after a semi-epic battle of wits and skill (more later).

He was a teammate of Stan Musial (“one of the nicest men I’ve ever met”).

He played in Havana in dugouts guarded by Cuban soldiers carrying automatic rifles.

Crimian checks out a photo of the 1946 champion Blue Rocks, the team he broke in with. The Blue Rocks staff bought the photo on Ebay and presented it to him during the photo shoot at Frawley Stadium. Photo Jim Coarse
Crimian checks out a photo of the 1946 champion Blue Rocks, the team he broke in with. The Blue Rocks staff bought the photo on Ebay and presented it to him during the photo shoot at Frawley Stadium. Photo Jim Coarse

And he managed to connect peripherally with entertainment royalty. At a minor league game in Texas, players were recruited to escort contestants to home plate for a pre-game beauty contest, and Crimian was paired with Kathryn Grandstaff, runner-up in the 1952 Miss Texas competition. Years later, as Kathy Crosby, she would become the second wife of famed crooner Bing.

And in a final blaze of glory, he came out of retirement to go undefeated with the legendary Brooks Armored Car team in the Delaware Semi-Pro League from 1963-65.

But most important, throughout his career, Jack Crimian was a devoted husband to his late wife, Mary (“Mom” to him), and a loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather. And, in an age when players had to hold off-season jobs to make ends meet, he became a first-class auto body repairman in a Wilmington shop.

Crimian turned professional in his senior year in high school, when Phillies Scout Jocko Collins signed the 17-year-old son of a Philadelphia fireman to a $100-a-month contract with the Wilmington Blue Rocks.

“Got a check for $42.40 every two weeks,” says Crimian. “Lived at the YMCA.”

His budding career was interrupted a year later, near the end of World War II, when he was drafted into the Army.  After basic training in Alabama, he volunteered for the 82nd Airborne Division and went to jump school at Fort Benning, Ga. “First time I was ever in a plane I got kicked out of it,” Crimian laughs.

Kathryn Grandstaff, future wife of singer Bing Crosby, grins at the slightly flustered Crimian as he prepares to escort her to a home-plate beauty contest prior to a minor league game in '52. Photo courtesy of the Houston Chronicle
Kathryn Grandstaff, future wife of singer Bing Crosby, grins at the slightly flustered Crimian as he prepares to escort her to a home-plate beauty contest prior to a minor league game in ’52. Photo courtesy of the Houston Chronicle

Back from the service in ’46, he rejoined the Class B Blue Rocks. Working in the hot dog stand at the stadium, at 30th and Governor Printz Boulevard, was a pretty Wilmington girl, Mary Theresa Kelley. Crimian bought plenty of hot dogs, they began dating, and married two years later, honeymooning in—where else?—Niagara Falls.

A 5-10, 180-pounder with a three-quarter delivery, Crimian posted a 13-4 record with the Blue Rocks, and that winter was drafted out of the Phillies’ organization by the St. Louis Cardinals. Sent to Omaha, Neb., and now making the princely salary of $350 a month, he continued to stay at the Y during the season. In the offseason, the Crimians lived in the Olney section of Philadelphia and Jack went to work in the body shop at Roth Buick in Northeast Philly.

He spent the next four-and-a-half seasons in the minors, mostly as a reliever. “One year,” says, “I pitched 19 days in a row, sometimes three innings at a time. There was no such thing as a one-inning pitcher back then.”

He developed a slider, which became, he says, “my pitch. If you were gonna hit me, you were gonna hit my slider.”

In July 1951, the Cardinals called him up to “the show.” But the National League, stacked with sluggers like Willie Mays, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges and Ralph Kiner, gave him a rude welcome. He pitched in 17 innings over seven games in July, all in relief, allowing 24 hits and eight walks. He did manage his first win, against his original team, the Phillies, in Philadelphia’s Shibe Park, and struck out his high school teammate Ennis.

He had another brief stint with the Cards in June of 1952, but was roughed up again and returned to the Triple-A Rochester Red Wings for the reminder of the season.

Crimian loved his time with his Cardinal teammates, in particular Musial and second baseman Red Schoendienst. “They were like one big family,” he says. “They were the only club where if you went there as a rookie, they weren’t trying to cut your throat because you were trying to take their job.”

When he was sent back to the minors, Crimian says, “I called [Cards Manager Eddie] Stanky everything in the book.”

In 1955, he became a starting pitcher for the Toronto Maple Leafs, posting a 19–6 record and 2.10 earned run average, with 16 complete games. The performance earned him Most Valuable Player of the Year in the International League, and in October he was acquired by the new American League franchise, the Kansas City Athletics. That fall, Jack, Mary, six-year-old Ann Marie and two-year-old Mary Ann moved to Green Street in Claymont.

The A’s called him up for the ‘56 season. Working in 54 games —seven as a starter—and 129 innings, he won four of 12 decisions and recorded three saves for the last-place team.

The most vivid memory from that season: his first time in Yankee Stadium. “I looked around and said, you son of a gun, you made it now.”

He also discovered a difference in the balls: “National League balls had stitches that were high, and American League stiches were flat.” Crimian preferred the high stitches for the better grip they gave him, and he hated new balls. “Too slippery,” he says.

Crimian's baseball card from his days with the Kansas City Athletics. Card courtesy of Drew Davis
Crimian’s baseball card from his days with the Kansas City Athletics. Card courtesy of Drew Davis


His battle with Williams occurred in the’57 season in Boston’s Fenway Park. A’s Manager Lou Boudreau brought Crimian in at the top of an inning, with Williams set to lead off. “Boudreau told me, ‘just throw one [type of] pitch warming up, and don’t throw it after that, because he will have it timed.’”

As Boudreau predicted, Williams watched intently as Crimian threw nothing but fastballs during his warmup.

Williams stepped into the box and pitcher and hitter battled to a 3-2 count. That’s when Crimian decided he had shown the Splendid Splinter too many sliders, so he went to a changeup curveball for the full-count pitch. At first, it looked as if the off-speed delivery had worked. “I had him halfway out to the mound,” says Crimian, meaning Williams was off-stride, his front leg extended, as the ball came toward the plate. “But those hands were still back, and—pow!—he flicked his bat and hit one off the Green Monster (Fenway’s famed left field wall, the opposite field for the left-handed Williams) for a double.”

In the off-season, the Athletics included Crimian in an eight-player trade to the Detroit Tigers, who used him in just four games in April—one of which was the Maris grand slam game—before sending him down to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The ’57 season would be his last in the Major Leagues. He made $9,000.

In ’58 he won 15 of 23 decisions for the Leafs, then, his arm hurting, he retired.

In his MLB career, Crimian pitched 160 innings, allowing 177 hits and 65 walks while recording 69 strikeouts. His minor league record was151-91.

The Crimian family, which now numbered six with the addition of Michael in ‘56 and Kathleen two years later, had followed their paterfamilias around the country throughout his career. Now they all settled into their Claymont home, and the ex-hurler didn’t watch a game or throw a ball for more than two years. He kept busy with the family and became a specialist on large wrecks at John’s Body Shop, a fixture on Wilmington’s West Third Street.

Then, in 1961, friends persuaded him to join the softball team at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, his home parish. “I played a little third base and found out I could still throw, and it was softball, so I had some power [at bat],” Crimian says.

Then came his last hurrah, what he calls his most enjoyable time in baseball: three years with the Brooks Armored Car juggernaut. Brooks Manager and third baseman Lou Romanoli went to John’s shop and persuaded Crimian to join two other former Major Leaguers, Ray Narleski and Bob Davis, on the 1963 Brooks pitching staff.

By then, his fastball, which he estimates was in the mid-90s in his prime, had deserted him, so he morphed into the wiley veteran. He particularly loved playing in Canby Park. “It had a good mound, and my pitch came right out of that white house across the street.”

Relying on a slow curveball, he says, “I found out how to pitch with Brooks.” He used the talented defense behind him, throwing strikes and allowing opponents to ground out or fly out. Romanoli says Crimian used to chide Narleski, a strikeout pitcher, “Ray, it takes you at least three pitches to get somebody out. I like to get ‘em out on one.”

That approach proved effective. From 1963-65, he went 24-0 for Brooks, whose 1963 playoff games with John Hickman’s Parkway team were the stuff of legend, drawing more fans than Phillies games.

Crimian retired for good after the ’65 season. He was 38 and a mainstay at John’s, where he built the unique car with two front ends, welded back to back, that came to symbolize the shop around town.

The tight-knit Crimian family was devastated in 2010 when Mary passed away. She was buried in the Delaware Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Middletown, and until recently, when he could no longer drive, Crimian went to see “Mom” every day. Setting up a folding chair by the graveside, he says, “I would just sit and talk to her for a while.”

Today, he has seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren (with another due this month) and lives with Kathleen in Boothwyn. Looking back, he says, “I wouldn’t trade the life I’ve had for anything.”

He and his extended family are regulars every Tuesday for half-price burgers at Kid Shelleen’s in Wilmington. “Sometimes there are eight or nine of them,” says Drew Davis, the restaurant manager.

A memorabilia collector and student of baseball history, Davis didn’t realize who Crimian was when he began coming to the restaurant several years ago. Then he spotted Crimian in a photo of the Brooks 50th reunion dinner. Now he views the nonagenarian as a living national archive of baseball lore.

“I shake his hand every time I see him,” says Davis. “I love pointing him out to people and introducing him. He has a new story for me almost every week, and they all check out.”

The nonagenarian wanted to deliver a pitch from the Frawley Stadium mound, and the Blue Rocks staff made it happen. Photo Jim Coarse
The nonagenarian wanted to deliver a pitch from the Frawley Stadium mound, and the Blue Rocks staff made it happen. Photo Jim Coarse

Crimian uses a walker now, and he has taken a couple of falls, breaking some ribs, but the competitive fire hasn’t gone out. One of Davis’ favorite stories involves the time Crimian, who compiled a respectable .231 average in only 26 at-bats in the Majors, was poised to put down a sacrifice bunt against Hall of Famer Bob Feller. Crimian didn’t know that Feller, a noted fireballer, had a curveball in his repertoire, so he was startled, he said, when “Feller threw a ball that started at my head and fell in for a strike.”

“So did you bail out?” asked Davis.

“Hell, no,” Crimian bristled. “I got the bunt down.”

Reflections on ‘The Show’

John Melvin Crimian knows how to tell a story and deliver a punch line. Here are his takes on some of the Major Leaguers he played against and with, along with comments on the game in general:

• Harry “The Hat” Walker, an outfielder for the Cards, Phils, Cubs and Reds and National League batting champ in 1947: “He must’ve touched his hat a hundred times during an at-bat.”

• Jackie Robinson, who was on first base when Crimian came into a game against the Brooklyn Dodgers: “I threw over to first 10 times straight. I had him twice, but they wouldn’t call him out.”

• Yogi Berra, the great Yankee catcher who was a notorious bad-ball hitter: “You couldn’t get a ball by him, unless it was right down the middle. Anything anywhere else, he’d get a bat on it.”

• Joe DiMaggio, “The Yankee Clipper”: “In Spring Training, I threw him a fastball inside and he ripped it down the line and tore the glove off my third baseman. He [the third baseman] was so mad because I threw inside to DiMaggio that he wouldn’t talk to me afterward.”

• Bobby Shantz, diminutive pitcher for several teams, including the Philadelphia Athletics, with whom he won the American League MVP in 1952: Shantz, 91 and still making personal appearances, is bald and has always worn a toupee —but not on the field. Says Crimian, who played with Shantz in Kansas City: “When he was pitching, he wouldn’t come out of the dugout while they played the National Anthem because he would have to take off his cap. On the road, his suitcase was clothes on one side and hair products and toupees on the other.”

• Joe Garagiola, a below average Major League catcher who gained fame as a broadcaster: “They sent him down to the minors because he could not throw the ball back to the pitcher. Believe it.” 

• On the movie 42, about Robinson, which Crimian saw with his grandson: “Everything in it is true.”

• On today’s baseball players. “Nobody can bunt anymore. And the way they keep adjusting their gear and moving in and out of the box? In my day, they would’ve been on their butt all the time. And pitchers should not throw in the off-season. Your arm needs time to recuperate. That’s what winter’s for. From the last pitch of the season to opening day, I never picked up a ball. The only thing I did was go to Spring Training early and run on the beach. We did a lot of running.”

• On coming close to hitting a home run: “We were in Toledo, and I hit one off the top of the fence, and man, I thought it was a homer and I’m Cadillacin’ around the bases, only I missed first base. They called for the ball and threw it to first and I was out. Didn’t even get a hit out of it.”

Fueling the Engine

Here’s your handy guide to both off-the-shelf and at-home energy foods and drinks

Looking to boost your energy throughout the day? Whether you’re trying to overcome the 3 p.m. slump or to increase your athletic performance, it’s important to select the appropriate foods to sustain your energy.

For guidance on the best off-the-shelf and at-home energy foods, I interviewed these six local health experts—nutritionists, trainers and athletes:

• Matt DiStefano, marketing manager at CoreTen Fitness, Wilmington

• Janet Glennon, owner of Toned by Janet, Wilmington

• Kate Mackie, RN, ACSM & ACE-certified trainer at Fusion Fitness Center, Newark

• Scott McCarthy, owner and personal trainer at Balance Strength & Fitness Center, Wilmington

• Nikki Mowbray, membership director and certified health coach at the Central Branch YMCA, Wilmington

• Laura Van Gilder, professional cyclist for Mellow Mushroom Racing Team

What I learned is that, one, I need to eat healthier, and two, all advice should be weighed against your specific nutritional needs, which depend on several factors: age, activity level, body type and hormones.

Also, when it comes to energy food, it’s important to consider your overall health and fitness goals—whether you’re looking to lose, maintain or gain weight and/or muscle. For this article, we’ll focus on macronutrients—carbohydrates, protein and fat—the basic components of any diet and the source of most of our energy.

According to Mowbray, healthy adults who want to maintain weight generally need a macronutrient ratio of “50 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein and 25 percent fat.”

For athletes and weightlifters, who generally want to gain muscle, McCarthy recommends a combination of 40 percent carbohydrates, 35 percent protein, 25 percent fat.

And for those hoping to lose weight, the macronutrient distribution shifts to 45 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein and 25 percent fat, says Mowbray.

Note: these ranges are estimates and should be based on your body type and nutritional needs.

So, how do these percentages factor into energy food and exercise? As shown in the chart below, our health experts recommend the following macronutrient breakdown to fuel your pre- , during, and post-workout. Keep these in mind when selecting off-the-shelf and at-home energy foods. 

Heavy carbs and some protein 90 minutes to two hours before working out. “During high intensity workouts (it’s best to) sip an electrolyte-rich drink with sugar,” says McCarthy. Around a 2:1 ratio of protein to carbohydrates.

Off-the-Shelf Bars

Energy bars are convenient and tasty, but with scores of options, how do you choose?

“When looking for an energy bar, be a customer of the (nutritional) labels,” says Glennon. She recommends looking for energy bars that are low in sugar, made with whole ingredients, namely whole nuts, berries and grains, and if needed, high in protein. Go one step further, recommends Mowbray, and “look for bars that are low in trans fats and no added sugars.”

Some bars are marketed as protein or energy bars, but they may contain upwards of 20 grams of sugar, making them no more than “a glorified candy bar,” Mowbray says.

Finally, choose a bar based on when you’ll need fuel. Energy bars are excellent for pre-workout snacks, especially when combined with a balanced diet. They also are a great supplement both during and after endurance-based activities lasting more than a couple of hours.

“I always have a bar or two in my gym bag or in the car to bridge the gap between meals,” says DiStefano.

Sports Drinks and Gels

Need an alternative to Gatorade? Professional cyclist Van Gilder recommends hydration tablets—Nuun and Skratch Lab.

Full disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Nuun; they’re just like Alka-Seltzer—dissolvable effervescent tablets. Pop them into the specified amount of water and enjoy fun flavors like Strawberry Lemonade and Tri-Berry.

Adds Van Gilder: “(Nuun’s) tropical flavors encourage me to drink when I otherwise wouldn’t.”

Nuun tablets are packed with electrolytes and are low in calories and sugar. Skratch Lab’s Hydration Mix is similar, but available only in powder form. With flavors like Matcha + Lemons with caffeine and Raspberry, both Skratch and Nuun offer a cheaper alternative to the well-known hydration brands.

For those who need sustained energy during intense workouts or competition lasting more than two hours, Van Gilder also recommends Gu Energy gels, which are easily digestible and a perfect way to get carbohydrates during strenuous exercise without causing gastrointestinal issues that accompany eating solid foods.

For post-workout recovery, many of the health experts recommended protein shakes. “Just keep in mind,” says Mackie, “that protein powders are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration,” so stick to reliable brands like Optimum Nutrition and PlantFusion. Both brands ranked high with the experts due to their high-quality protein and flavor varieties.

Here’s a roundup of off-the-shelf energy bars and drinks recommended by our experts:

Kind Bars All bars are made from “nutritionally dense ingredients like whole nuts, fruits and whole grains”; no artificial flavors, preservatives or sweeteners. Everyone Recommended by a majority of the panel, Kind Bars are lightly drizzled with chocolate and are perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
Quest Bars High protein (20-21 grams per serving); no added sugar, soy or gluten. Athletes Mainstream choice for protein bar. Perfect for athletes needing a high protein bar to fuel their workouts.
RX Bars No added sugar; no artificial colors or flavors; no preservatives or fillers, and no dairy, soy, gluten or B.S. (yes, they claim that). Everyone Those who want real ingredients and no B.S.
LUNA Bars Non-GMO, no gluten, partially-hydrogenated oils, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup or artificial flavors; also high in calcium, folic acid and iron. Made specifically for women, but men can indulge too. LUNA bars are one of the first bars created specifically for women. Owned by Clif Bar &
Company, makers of Clif Bars.
Kashi Go Lean Bars All bars have “multi-source plant protein,” are non-GMO and have no gluten. Some bars are vegan. Everyone For those who seek exotic flavors.
Epic Bars No dairy, gluten, grains, soy; low in sugar and high in protein. Everyone The only “paleo-friendly” energy bar on the list that is meat-based. Epic bars are perfect for those who want little to no sugar.
Nuun Hydration Tablets Low in calories and sugar; packed with electrolytes. Athletes Portable and easy-to-use. Multiple product lines: Active, Energy, Vitamins and Performance.
Skratch Labs Hydration Mix Non-GMO; no dairy or gluten; and vegan and kosher. Athletes No artificial sweeteners and portable (if you buy the individual sachets). Not all flavors dissolve due to the
“real” fruit.
Optimum Nutrition – whey powder High quality (100 percent whey). Athletes 24 grams of protein per serving. Also offers casein, soy, egg and blended proteins.
GU Energy Labs’ Gel All energy gels are vegan, gluten free and kosher. Athletes Ultra-portable sachets that are 100 calories per packet and high in carbohydrates for sustained energy.
PlantFusion – vegan protein powder No dairy, eggs, fish, gluten, nuts, shellfish, soy, or tree nuts; and no artificial flavors or preservatives. Athletes 21 grams of protein and 120 calories per 12-oz. shake.

At-Home Energy Foods

All-day energy doesn’t come in a one-size-fits-all solution or “miracle” food. Our health experts stress the importance of continually fueling the body throughout the day and not getting to the point of being “hangry” (hungry + angry). Mowbray’s solution to fuel the 3 p.m. slump is to eat a “mini meal,” or 150-250-calorie snack that balances the right number of macronutrients—mostly carbohydrates and protein, with minimal fat.

Says Glennon: “Stay away from refined foods, which are low in fiber and can cause a glycemic spike, in addition to fatty and fried foods, which require a lot of digestion.”

Adds DiStefano: “What it boils down to is the preparation time. You’re bound to make less healthy choices when you have no options.” He recommends having a jar of peanut butter readily available
for when the “hangry” monster appears. His go-to snack is a PB&J smoothie with almond milk, strawberry purée, banana, peanut butter, spinach, flax seeds and protein powder (optional).

Or, if you’re in downtown Wilmington, head to CoreTen Fitness’ Smoothie Bar, which is open to the public. Stay energized throughout the day by filling up on these at-
home energy-packed foods:

Dried berries & nuts “Trader Joe’s has a massive selection of dried fruits and nuts, so you can mix and match,” says Mowbray.
Fruit/vegetable with protein Carrots or peppers and hummus; apple or banana
and nut butter.
Eggs One of the most inexpensive, protein-dense foods available.
Smoothies Pre-measure frozen fruits into plastic bags for when the craving strikes.
Greek Yogurt “Try Chobani 100 or Dannon Oikos Triple Zero Greek yogurt. Both varieties are low in sugar,” says Mackie. “Mix with berries and nuts for a low-calorie yogurt parfait.”
Nut Butters A resounding favorite among all interviewed. “Stick with nut butters that have little to no added sugar,” says Mackie.
Water Stay hydrated with this free (sort of), zero-calorie drink.
Chocolate Milk A good, inexpensive, high-endurance, post-workout recovery
Whole grains Combine whole grains with protein to “hold you over” between meals. “Quinoa is high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats,” says Glennon.
Beans and lentils “Beans and lentils are low in fat and high in many micronutrients and fiber,” says Glennon.
Oatmeal with fruit “Choose non-instant oatmeal topped with fruit,” says McCarthy.

These are just a sampling of the energy food and drink options on the market. With so many out there, we encourage you to read the nutritional label carefully and use these energy food charts as a guide to fuel your engine throughout your day and your workout. Reference the charts to get started.