Sure, we’re all saying good riddance to 2020, but it wasn’t all bad. Here are 20 positive things about the year here in Dorchester County, from our point of view as Dorchester County Tourism, showing how we persevered, gave back, and carried on:
New businesses opened.
Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, several shops and eateries opened their doors in 2020, some before the pandemic; others smack dab in the middle of it. We welcomed DoCoVino Wine Bar & Boutique, Dorchester Pizza (Secretary), Fat Ricky’s Cambridge, Free Spirit Threads, Heirloom Athletics, Mandala Pies (Vienna), Market at Church Creek (Church Creek), Porter Soul Food, River Lane Photo Studio & Events Boutique, R Styles Boutique, Tullz Treasure Chest (Hurlock), Total Fine Foods Outlet Store, and Vintage 414.
We brightened Christmas morning for local children.
Christmas morning was brighter for many Dorchester children, thanks to locals giving generously to toy drives. The Dorchester Santa Toy Drive exceeded its goal, raising more than $13,000 in monetary donations plus all the toys. Fat Ricky’s raised more than $8,000 with their Toys for the Kids Cruise.
The Harriet Tubman sculpture was here for a visit.
A 9-foot tall, 2,400-pound traveling sculpture of Harriet Tubman was on display in front of the Dorchester County Courthouse in the fall, drawing visitors from near and far, and inspiring a local campaign to raise funds to commission a permanent Tubman sculpture in Cambridge.
More people spent time outside.
With pandemic closures canceling or closing many of our usual options for fun, people headed outside to take in nature. And interest in birding soared as a great outdoor, socially distanced activity. Here in Dorchester, where we celebrate our plentiful natural landscapes and waterscapes, we count that as a good thing! We were thankful for Dorchester’s ample wide open spaces.
Layton’s Chance was named the first craft winery in the Mid-Atlantic.
The “craft winery” distinction recognized their approach to growing and sourcing grapes and producing wine. (2020 also marked the winery’s 10th anniversary.).
Dorchester showed its belly – and its heart.
With school buildings shuttered for many months and many families struggling, volunteers with Mid-Shore Meals til Monday stepped up to provide meals to hungry schoolchildren and their families around the county, purchasing and distributing over 55 tons of food—that translates into over 35,000 bags of weekend food going to hungry children and their families.
The holiday spirit persevered.
Thanks to volunteers, we were able to enjoy another year of the Crab Basket Christmas Tree in Cambridge. The volunteers at Rescue Fire Company in Cambridge totally reinvented their annual train display so it would be outdoors and safe during the pandemic. And since many of Santa’s usual events were canceled, the RFC and other fire companies provided some time for the Big Guy and even drove him around to various communities throughout the county, brightening the spirits of children. And when the usual Cambridge and Hurlock Christmas parades were canceled, Vienna decided to throw its own parade.
Some existing businesses followed through on plans to expand, including Cabin Fever Play Center (with a new arcade, concessions, and shop), Lil Bitta Bull BBQ (working on their new larger location at 420 Race Street, which will be opening soon), and Bombay Tadka (working on their new larger location at 413 Muir Street; they’re changing their name to Bombay Social and should be opening soon). Fat Ricky’s also did a major renovation.
The community came together with paint.
Community volunteers joined forces, led by artist Miriam Moran, to paint a Black Lives Matter mural on Race Street in Cambridge, complete with nods to local Black history.
Buy local became more than a slogan.
We learned first hand just how important buying local is. When the pandemic affected the supply chain, making it difficult to find everything from toilet paper to groceries, local places such as Simmons Center Market offered essentials while Emily’s Produce pivoted quickly with their selection of local foods, added a drive-through and delivery options, and extended their season on the front and back ends.
Farmers markets grew.
With the usual supply chain interrupted for grocery stores, there a stronger emphasis on local foods. The Cambridge Farmers market grew and expanded its season; the Vienna Farmers Market had its second season.
Mother Nature didn’t close down.
While many things were not as they used to be, Mother Nature didn’t disappoint, treating us to some exquisite sunrises and sunsets. Plus dolphin sightings on the Choptank River!
A group of women walked 116 miles of the Tubman Byway.
The pandemic inspired Linda Harris from D.C. to spearhead a walk along the Harriet Tubman Byway. Six other women joined her as they spent nearly a week walking in Harriet Tubman’s footsteps. Linda has since organized other, shorter walks, and is in the process of creating Camp Harriet here in Dorchester County as a place for wellness, creativity, and more.
Eating “out” took on new meaning.
Hats off to all our restaurants and eateries, who faced enormous challenges and adapted amazingly quickly, changing menus, converting to carry-out only, creating online ordering, offering to-go and online wine tastings, building outdoor dining spots when eating out became about eating outside, and more. Downtown Cambridge moved quickly to close one block of Poplar Street to vehicle traffic and temporarily eased other restrictions, allowing restaurants to expand their outdoor seating. To keep up with the constantly changing scene, Dorchester Tourism created an online Dorchester Eats Guide, Pandemic Edition (which is still being updated regularly).
Dorchester’s frontline workers put on their superhero capes.
In the hospitals, doctors offices, pharmacies, and more, health care workers helped those who needed it. Special shout-out to the Dorchester County Health Department, which has been offering free Covid-19 testing with smiles and efficiency, and keeping us up to date on the local coronavirus numbers. We gained new appreciation for frontline workers everywhere, from our volunteer fire departments to our grocery stores.
Interest in Harriet Tubman’s ties to Dorchester County continued to build.
Harriet Tubman of Underground Railroad fame was born here in Dorchester County. Reader’s Digest named the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway as one of “11 places that have become landmarks for women’s history.” Plus the Washington Post featured the byway as one of “3 driving tours worth your time.” National media from Inside Edition to Atlas Obscura covered the story as archaeologists searched land at Blackwater Refuge for signs of the the home of Harriet Tubman’s father. (The search will resume in the spring when the weather improves.)
We developed new ways to learn about Dorchester culture.
Dorchester County Tourism and the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage area created new publications to help share the county’s story, including the Dorchester Visitor Guide, Chesapeake Mural Trail Guide, and Dorchester Heritage Guide. (View or download here.) We also went high-tech with 360-degree videos featuring Bucktown Store, Stanley Institute, Meredith House, and Handsell Historic Site.
More people caught on to fishing.
Fishing in Dorchester became amazingly popular, with anglers flocking here for snakehead fishing and fishing off the Bill Burton Fishing Pier. The Rock the Choptank Fishing Tournament had a record turnout, with payouts totaling more than $64,000 (and then gave charitable donations to more than a dozen local charities).
Dorchester shone in the limelight.
There were features about the county and its people and businesses in a range of media, including Reader’s Digest, Condé Nast, Washington Post, Washingtonian, Baltimore magazine, Chesapeake Bay Journal, Edible Delmarva, Coastal Style, Atlas Obscura, and more.
We had some 50th anniversaries to celebrate.
Here’s wishing everyone much happiness and new adventures in 2021!