Congratulations to our Heritage Awardees who were honored on Nov. 2 for their achievements in helping to preserve and promote Dorchester County’s local culture. More than 70 people attended the reception at the Dorchester Center for the Arts. The program included a recap of the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area achievements from the past year. In addition, Del. Tom Hutchinson presented citations from his office, as well as those on behalf of State Sen. Johnny Mautz. The honorees are:

Organizational Excellence: Dorchester Skipjack Committee

This award recognizes an organization or local government entity that demonstrates sustained achievement in contributing to heritage preservation, promotion, interpretation or tourism efforts.

The Dorchester Skipjack Committee has owned, operated and preserved the Nathan of Dorchester for more than 30 years. Preserving this iconic sailing oyster dredge boat has provided multiple individuals and groups the opportunity to experience the life of Chesapeake Bay waterman. It is a consistent presence for tourism in Dorchester County, carrying more than 1,200 passengers per year. In addition, it provides a continuous opportunity for volunteers to learn to sail and maintain this traditional wooden vessel.

The organization also supports the heritage of the skipjack community through the Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race. Being able to provide financial reward for participation enables the remaining skipjacks to continue their own maintenance and preservation. By annually providing free sails as part of Dorchester Center for Arts Showcase event, the organization gives back an experience many have not had.

Organizational Excellence - Dorchester Skipjack Committee

From left, Del. Tom Hutchinson, Skipjack Committee President Dr. Patricia Johnson and Heritage Board Member Barbara Seese

Outstanding Project: Beacon of Hope – Harriet Tubman Sculpture

Outstanding Project: Beacon of Hope - Harriet Tubman Sculpture

From left, Del. Tom Hutchinson, Heritage Board Member Steve Rideout, and Project Steering Committee Members Adrian Holmes, Jermaine Anderson, Katie Day, Julie Gilberto-Brady and Bill Christopher. Not pictured: April Byrd, Amy Craig and Rhodana Fields and Addie Eckerdt.

This prize recognizes an exceptional project, event or activity conducted/sponsored by an organization, business, individual or local government that highlights Dorchester’s natural or cultural heritage and/or increases public awareness of its history, heritage and cultural traditions.

In selecting this awardee, the Heritage Board made note of the diverse community collaborators who came together in a grassroots effort to honor a local icon. Their work was led by Alpha Genesis Community Development Corp., with Steering Committee Members Adrian Holmes, Jermaine Anderson, April Byrd, Amy Craig, Rhodana Fields, Katie Day, Julie Gilberto-Brady, Bill Christopher and Addie Eckerdt. Their efforts raised $250,000 to have a permanent Harriet Tubman statue created specifically for Dorchester County. The sculpture was unveiled in 2022 at the Dorchester County Courthouse and dedicated to Dorchester County in 2023.

They group worked with nationally renowned and award-winning sculptor Wesley Wofford and his wife, Odyssey, on the design and installation of the sculpture. But the project encompasses much more than the creation of the Harriet Tubman sculpture. During the two years leading up to the sculpture’s unveiling, Alpha Genesis organized a multitude of historically inspired activities to engage the community, from a free sculpting master class for local students to Bike the Underground Railroad rides for children and adults.

Heritage Business Partner: Choptank Communications

This award recognizes a for-profit partner that demonstrates sustained commitment to heritage preservation and/or promotion, including historic preservation, cultural or natural resource stewardship, advocacy, or heritage tourism opportunities in the Heart of Chesapeake Country.

Choptank Communications has worked very closely with the Heart of Chesapeake Country Heritage Area over the years – from researching and writing the very detailed and comprehensive Strategic Plan in 2018 to providing guidance and creative ideas to promote heritage tourism in Dorchester County.  Choptank Communications helped establish the effective and timeless “Water Moves Us” brand, as well as the “Soul of the Shore” brand for heritage partner Cambridge Main Street. They also have done much to promote and elevate the status of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, and they were instrumental in establishing Cambridge’s acclaimed Ice and Oyster Festival.

Their dedication to our heritage area is unparalleled, and all of these examples illustrate their commitment to heritage preservation, promotion, advocacy and tourism opportunities in the Heart of Chesapeake Country. Brent Burkhardt accepted the award on behalf of Choptank Communications, and a special mention was made for business partner Andrea Vernot, who was recognized posthumously for her role in elevating heritage projects in Dorchester County and on the Eastern Shore.

Heritage Business Partner: Choptank Communications

From left: Del. Tom Hutchinson, Choptank Communications Partner Brent Burkhardt and Heritage Board Member Susan Banks

Named in honor former East New Market Mayor Caroline Cline, this award honors an individual for service and contributions as a volunteer supporting local history or heritage tourism.

“Zeke is willing to share his knowledge of our history to anyone who will listen and enjoys doing it and works tirelessly volunteering, helping to preserve it for future generations,” stated his nomination. “Zeke is a person who loves history, especially Dorchester history.”

Willey is president of the Dorchester County Historical Society, a trustee of the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance and the registrar for the John Smoot chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution. He helps tend the native garden and maintain the longhouse on the Handsell historic site in Vienna. He has taught carving classes for kids and adults, as well as flint knapping at events in the Dorchester County.

Volunteer of the Year: Zeke Willey

Heritage Board Chairman Tom Bradshaw presents the award to Zeke Willey.

Individual Achievement: Shirley Jackson (posthumous)

This prestigious award recognizes a person for her contributions to the heritage community by interpreting, preserving, promoting, researching and/or supporting local history and cultural traditions.

As a trustee of the Dorchester County Historical Society and a trustee and president of the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance, Jackson was actively involved in preserving local history, culture and heritage. Yet, she found time to share her talents with many other organizations, including Waugh Chapel, the Harriet Tubman Museum and Educational Center, Friends of the Library, the NAACP, the Veterans Recognition Committee, the League of Women Voters, Hot Meals Ministry, Project Head Start and Coastal Hospice. In 2020, she was named to the Maryland State Senior Citizen’s Hall of Fame.

Jackson’s nomination noted that “countless people were impacted by her during her lifetime and that they are continuing to be impacted by her work even today.”

Individual Achievement: Shirley Jackson (posthumously)

From left, Del. Tom Hutchinson and Heritage Board Member Midge Ingersoll, who accepted the award on behalf of Shirley Jackson's family.

Heritage Award Presentation

Heritage Board Chairman Tom Bradshaw addresses the more than 70 friends, family and colleagues who came out to honor the awardees at the reception at Dorchester Center for the Arts.

-All photos by Jill Jasuta

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