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Month: February 2013

North Wildwood Fifth Graders Celebrate American History at Congress Hall

presdients-AFifth grade students at Margaret Mace School dressed up as past U.S. Presidents Wednesday, Feb.13 and toured historic Congress Hall.  They will also met “President and Mrs. Benjamin Harrison,” of the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), who stopped by to give the students a tour and quick history lesson.  The students will learn that while serving as President of the United States, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Ulysses S. Grant along with Benjamin Harrison all vacationed at Congress Hall. This year marks 120 years since Harrison, the  23rd president, completed his term, during which he hailed Congress Hall as his “Summer White House” making it the center of presidential politics during the summertime. The local students  took turns, while dressed in presidential costumes, to present to their parents and teachers what they learned from their historical research.


Cape May Music Festival named ‘Favorite Music Festival’ in 2012 People’s Choice Awards

orchestra2The Cape May Music Festival, presented by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts & Humanities (MAC), has been chosen “Favorite Music Festival” in the 2012 annual People’s Choice Awards administered by the Discover Jersey Arts program of ArtPride New Jersey.

Now in its fifth year, the awards honor the work of arts organizations over the past year and the devotion of their fans. More than 60 nonprofit arts groups were nominated by members of the arts community in 14 categories. With nearly 7,000 people casting their ballots, winners were chosen from all over the Garden State, and announced Feb. 5.

As a People’s Choice Award recipient, MAC will be recognized and presented its award at the upcoming 2013 New Jersey Tourism Conference taking place March 20-22 at the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City.

This year marks the festival’s 24th year. From May 26 through June 13, 2013, the Cape May Music Festival will feature world-class orchestral and chamber music, a world traditions series and Bach’s Lunches.

“We are delighted the annual Cape May Music Festival was chosen favorite by the voters in this year’s annual People’s Choice Awards,” said MAC Director Michael Zuckerman. “Our heartfelt thanks goes to all those who have contributed to the 23-year history of this event.”

“The People’s Choice Awards pay tribute to the wonderful work done by New Jersey’s cultural community and the strength of its supporters,” said Jim Atkinson, director of programs and services at the ArtPride New Jersey Foundation, the statewide arts service organization that coordinates the annual awards. “All nominees should take great pride in the respect they’ve gained from their peers and the impact they have on their communities.”


Cape May Brewery Company: Not Your Ordinary Home Brew

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This article originally ran in the Spring 2012 issue of Cape May Magazine. Some of the references are to the brewery before its expansion, which Ryan talks about in the video.

DSC_3219One thing you should know before you read this – I don’t like beer. I drink a lot of alcoholic beverages, BELIEVE ME, but beer is not one of them, until now.

The other thing you should know is that as an entrepreneur myself – in addition to my duties as editor at Cape May Magazine, I have also been in business for over 30 years – I get a certain lump in my throat when I see young entrepreneurs willing to follow their bliss and this is where our tale begins.

On a fairly mild Saturday afternoon in February, I found myself on Breakwater Road turning into the Cape May County Airport. I’d been hearing great things all summer and fall about the two young guys and a dad who started a micro-brewery out at the airport. I followed the Cape May Brewery signs and parked in front of a garage with several very happy people standing about.

Going to a Cape May Brewery tasting is like going to a party. True, this is a party which starts at noon, ends at 4 p.m. and where you might not know anyone there. But it doesn’t really matter. What does matter is that everybody is having a good time. And it was not too hard to spot the party’s hosts. This will sound like a segue from the Dating Game, but it can’t be helped.

Bob “Mop Man” Krill is behind the taps pouring the samplings. Bob is a retired pharmaceutical executive and, according to the beer guys’ website, “has been drinking beer for 65 years and finally decided to make some.”

DSC_3232The enthusiastic guy with the baseball cap on, who talks really fast is Ryan Krill. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University and a master’s degree from NYU – that’s New York University to those of you not in the know. Prior to becoming a professional brewer, he worked in real estate finance.

And the guy moving swiftly about the brewery checking equipment, temperatures and ensuring the beer is fermenting is Chris Henke. Chris has a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Villanova University and up until quite recently was building satellites at Lockheed Martin.

So, those are our hosts. Girlfriends Kaysi Franceus and Allyson Corcoran, as well as Ryan’s mother, Pat Krill, are also on hand. Their sole employee is their friend “Growler Man” aka Mark McPherson. I corralled Ryan and asked him a few things about his “home brew” like how did all of this get started.

“So, I was a home brewer and I was introduced to home brewing by Chris. We are all brewers – myself, my dad, he’s over there pouring beer, and my college buddy Chris. It started taking off and we were brewing at my dad’s house in Avalon and we were saying, ‘This is nuts that there’s no brewery down here. There are wineries.’

“We opened up last July. It’s an interesting story because on 4th of July 2010 we were saying we should do it and Chris didn’t take me seriously. He was like, ‘Well, we don’t want to start a brewery now.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’ And it happened pretty quickly and exactly one year later, 4th of July 2011, we were in Cabanas drinking our beer on tap. It was really exciting to have it happen that quickly.

DSC_3165“We started real small. We’re still real small. We decided to manufacture everything ourselves. So Chris is an engineer with Lockheed Martin or used to be – so he designed all the equipment – this is all repurposed stuff.”

And here Ryan proudly takes me on a tour. Now remember we are in a pretty large garage/warehouse, but a garage nonetheless and everything is very compact. The brewing area is where it all starts and is about the size of a generous walk-in closet.

“We have a three vessel brewing system,” Ryan explains, “consisting of a hot liquor tank (used to heat water), a mash tun (the stainless steel tank used to steep the grains in the hot water from the hot liquor tank) and a boil kettle (the other stainless steel tank) used to boil the liquid we get from steeping the grains in the liquid, called wort, and to add hops.”

The stainless steel containers, at one time, were used to ship orange juice concentrate.

“We got them from a distributor near Trenton,” said Ryan. “Chris designed the stand, the burners, and we have a whole chilling system. When you make beer, you’re making a tea by heating hot water, then mixing it with grain and that’s called the mash.” The brewing process takes about 6 or 7 hours.

DSC_3215The fermentation process is next. That takes about 3 weeks. Ryan’s dad, aka Mop Man, built the white boxes which are temperature controlled rooms which operate with a simple window air conditioner and a space heater that maintains a temperature of 65 degrees.

There are multiple “batches” of beer fermenting at all times – a barrel or (31 gallons), and two barrel-and-a-half (45 gallons) containers. Once the beer has fermented, the batches are moved into the walk-in freezer. The cold temperature clears the beer out, removing the cloudy quality of the liquid.

“We got the walk-in from Quiznos in Philly,” said Ryan. “And it all works perfectly. Everything here is used or we built it ourselves.” Even the containers used to inject CO2 are reconditioned soda kegs. “We did everything on a shoe string,” said Ryan, “and it’s working out fantastically.”

But how do they make money? Three ways. One – the Tasting which costs $11. You get a sample of four different ales. Second – Growlers. These very smart looking reusable brown bottles with Cape May Brewing Company simply printed on them cost $20 initially, and $10 when you bring them in for refill. And there were plenty of people there that day with their growlers in hand. Last, they wholesale kegs of their brew to four outlets – Cabana’s and Sea Salt both on Beach Avenue in Cape May; Lucky Bones, at the bottom of Schellenger Bridge as you come into town; and Good Night Irene’s in Wildwood.

Sometimes people are lined up before noon. And they sell out of product nearly every Saturday.

But let’s get to it. Let the tasting begin.

DSC_3189On this day our four choices are: a wheat beer, a stout, and two IPAs (India Pale Ales).

According to my very handy tasting sheet, the wheat beer is a pale, spicy, fruity, refreshing hefeweizen [“Hefe” means yeast, “Weizen” means wheat]) originating in Southern Germany. This is a pretty light beer and I can see serving it with a fish or poultry dish. It would be very refreshing, as suggested, on a hot summer day. It is also the selection with lowest alcoholic content (5%) and the least amount of hops (12 IBUs). So I will NOT be buying a growler of wheat beer. Just in case you were wondering – IBU stands for International Bitterness Units, a metric used to determine the bitterness of the beer.

The next selection is a stout. Described as being, “very dark, sweet, full-bodied, slightly roasty ale that gives a distant taste of chocolate-covered coffee beans.” And true to its description, this stout was, I have to say, a jolt to my beer tasting senses. And I did not like it – at first – and then with each sip – it grew on me. I could be wrong, but I would serve this with some pretzels, cheeses and sausages – and by the end of it would find myself and my stout drinking companions sitting around singing that famous beer drinking song, Ein Prosit. It has a 6.1% alcohol level and nearly three times the hops (32) as the wheat beer.

But, as we move into the India Pale Ales (IPAs), we get a little closer to my palette. And just what is IPA, I hear you asking. Ryan explains that they became popular during English colonial rule over India. Quite simply, the brew with the highest alcohol content and more hops was the one most likely to make the sea voyage without going bad.

DSC_3168India Pale Ale is the third selection on my list. It is a “decidedly hoppy and bitter, moderately strong American pale ale. The beer emphasizes the hop aroma and flavor while muting the hop bitterness.” It has an alcohol level of 6.1% but the hops content is 65.

And now at last, we get to my favorite and the one I chose for a growler. Centennial IPA. Decidedly happy, I mean hoppy, very strong pale ale. Just what the doctor ordered at 1 in the afternoon. “Fill ‘er up Growler Man.” The Centennial IPA is named after the hop used in the brewing process for this beer. It’s very lemony/grapefruity and has been a huge hit, according to Ryan.

So what have we learned?

We learned that we must stray off the reservation once in a while or risk leading a tediously boring and narrow – taste wise – life.

We learned that it is still possible to task risks and be rewarded. And to that point – Cape May Brewing Company will expand in the spring to three garages – one for brewing, one for packing and organizational work and one devoted solely to tasting. Tasting days will increase with the warmer weather. Keep an eye on their website www.capemaybrewery.com for more information.

And we learned that I have suddenly acquired a taste for ale and an inclination to sing German drinking songs. Prost! historic-endmark


Your favorite pictures from 2012

We started Picture of the Day back in 2003, and it is still our most popular feature. Throughout the year, visitors vote on their favorite pictures by clicking the heart button. Here are your favorite photos from 2012.

January 2012: Hot Wave

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February 2012: Cloud Cover

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March 2012: Day is Done

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April 2012: Moonlit Diamond Beach

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May 2012: Post Sunset

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June 2012: Perspective

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July 2012: 9:40 pm

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August 2012: Early Sun

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September 2012: It’s all here

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October 2012: Morning Gull

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November 2012: Beaux

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December 2012: Our Lady Star of the Sea Christmas Eve

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Post office at the Point

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of Cape May Magazine.

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Cape May Point rejoices in being quirky, quaint – but authentic– and off the beaten path.

No commercial enterprises are permitted at the Point. It’s the law. Only residential dwellings are allowed as decreed in the most recent municipal master plan. It’s a way of keeping the Point the way it is – a small seaside village of simple tastes where nature rules.

The only store is the General Store which was grandfathered in as a place of business because it’s been around since the 1930s. It’s a seasonal store and restaurant, and opened just last year after being closed four summers for renovations. The only other place to shop is the rather secluded Cape May Bird Observatory, where you can buy gifts and supplies for bird watching and study.

There are no schools at the Point, and there is no residential mail delivery. This means the most popular place, year-round, is the Post Office. I don’t know why it is, but I love little old post offices that speak of their unique communities and assume the personalities of the people who live there. Small post offices are fading pictures of American life – like the crab shack, the custard stand, the red barn, the farm silo, the country school house and gas station. They are an endangered species, these folksy hubs of life; many now threatened with closure by the U.S. Postal Service.

Postmaster Melissa Lomax

Postmaster Melissa Lomax

If you want to know what’s going on at the Point, the Post Office is the place. As spring begins to bloom, Postmaster Melissa Lomax is watching for her “snow birds” coming home from the south and the city folks heading down to open for the season. Sometimes, even before they unlatch their doors, the locals make a hasty run to the Post Office to see who’s back in town, check on the winter’s news, gossip and weather.

If you’ve been going to the Point Post Office for any period of time, you know the weatherman extraordinaire is longtime former Postmaster Wes Wright who still works the window and p.o.boxes part time.

When Hurricane Irene was whipping up the coast last summer, he said he wasn’t worried much. “Look,” he said, “I gauge the severity of the storm on where the Weather Channel’s ace Jim Cantore is stationed. “If he’s at the Cape May Pavilion, at the Cove, I am outta here. But he’s not here, he’s up in New York. Irene’s gonna blow right by.”

Wright operates with a police and fire scanner in the background. He always seems first to know the news. When everyone was worried about three Philadelphia TV helicopters hovering over Higbee Beach, Wright reported, “Awe, it’s rescuers pulling out a horse stuck in the mud at Pleasant Valley.”

He’s an avid sports fan, a holder of one share of Green Bay Packers’ stock. After the Giants whipped the Packers in the play-offs, Wright was telling customer Mike Neary, “I’m going to call up a couple of those players and ask how come is it, that in Green Bay, an icebox, they’re not used to the cold yet, dropping footballs like snowballs.

“Oh, and by the way, Mike, your six-year-old granddaughter, Ella’s, picture is in the Borough Newsletter for designing the sea turtle, the 2012 Point beach tag. You must be proud.”

“We are family here,” says Postmaster Lomax. “We care about each other. Many of our folks still write letters and checks by hand, and send greeting cards. Eighty-eight-year-old Elizabeth Theobald walks to the Post Office every day to get her mail, and her exercise. We also have a thriving retired population who are busy with second and third careers. Their communications and shipping help keep us very busy here.”

Former Mayor Malcolm Fraser is a walk-in regular. “We are just one square mile at the very southern tip of New Jersey. Because of our remoteness, our off-season population is about 300, but in summer, that number explodes about 10 times to 3,000 people.

Springer General Store

Springer General Store opened in 1897

“Our year-round population,” he says, “has professional interests in many surrounding states. The Marianist Retreat Center [John Wanamaker House, Cape May Magazine, July 2011] has a year-round program. And the Convent [St. Mary-by-the-Sea: Nature Meets Nurture, Cape May Magazine, Fall 2006], with its summer vacation program, draws people from all over the country. Our Post Office is a vital link to all our commercial and communication services. To funnel our mail to Cape May or Lower Township would be a disaster for all of us.”

The old grey building at 408 Yale Avenue resembles something from a John Wayne movie set. There are still rings attached to pillars where horses were tied. Owner Rick Benoit, a third generation Pointer, rents the space to the Postal Service. He has renovated the remainder of the building into two comfortable apartments, one of which he and his family use as their vacation get-away.

The building was once the Springer General Store. It opened in 1897 following several stores around town, selling fish, meat, cigars, dry goods and millinery. The Springer store was the most successful and outlasted the others. Alexander Springer was postmaster and mayor. His store served as both the post office and town hall.

The interior of Springer General Store

The interior of Springer General Store

Sally Sachs loves the lore of the old general store.” There was a small coal stove to warm hands and hearts. Boxes were pulled from high shelves with a grasping tool while gossip gushed from lips. We have replaced that dear country store with our Post Office. Walking, biking or driving to that daily destination affords us not only our mail, but a chance to catch up on household news, be it happy or sad. The Post Office and its friendly, helpful postmasters connect us all as the large, caring family that we are here, extending to our guests and renters. It is a feel-good center for our tiny town.”

The tiny town was first called Sea Grove, established in 1875 by wealthy devout Presbyterians John Wanamaker and Alexander Whilldin, as a private religious enclave where sin was not welcome. The U.S. government decided that Sea Grove itself was a sin against federal regulations. It was not a legal municipality; it was concluded, but operated by a band of private entrepreneurs for religious purposes. What’s more, the Postal Service did not like the name Sea Grove because it sounded too much like Ocean Grove. It took a few years and a couple voter referendums before Sea Grove became legally and officially Cape May Point.

Though Wanamaker’s Sea Grove was a failure, the Philadelphia department store founder continued to spend vacations at his villa at the Point. He was an ardent Republican and during the 1888 presidential campaign, raised a record amount of money for the national Republican party and the election of Benjamin Harrison as president. Harrison lost no time rewarding Wanamaker. He appointed him Postmaster General March 5th, 1889. During that summer, the Wanamakers entertained the First Family at their beach house. By the next summer, the President and his wife had their own, even finer, house on waterfront, financed by Wanamaker and his rich Philadelphia friends.

Wanamaker was Postmaster General for four years. He handled the job the way he managed his department store – with innovative procedures and imaginative marketing. Under his watch, the Post Office Department issued its first commemorative stamps, a 15-cent series celebrating Columbus’ voyage. The first issue sold an astounding $40 million worth. The commemorative stamp program is still going strong today.

Wanamaker was sympathetic to people in the hinterlands who complained they were forced to travel by foot and horse over long distances and muddy roads to pick up their mail. He proposed RFD – Rural Federal Delivery – but the idea was c

The Cape May Point post office today

The Cape May Point post office today

ontroversial. There were fears such a large government program would bankrupt the country. RFD did not become reality until after Wanamaker left office.

So it is that Postal Service financial problems are nothing new. Today the USPS says it’s broke and has to take some dramatic steps about saving money. Some small New Jersey post offices will be closed. But the little vibrant, vital centerpiece of Cape May Point is not on the list.

And that’s good news for everybody – and a few good canine, too, like Bailey and Magellan, who wait patiently for their owner, Aileen White, to come out with her mail – and doggie biscuits, courtesy of the Postmaster. historic-endmark