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Caroline County, MD Works to Revitalize Cities and Downtowns

A quiet, rural county offers an impressively rich cultural scene, charming downtowns and a full calendar of festivals and fun.

By John Fuller on May 5, 2015

Only a few special places combine placid rural vistas, charming small towns, fascinating historical sites, vibrant cultural opportunities, great food and fun things to do – all just a short drive from the beach.
Caroline County is among the best of them. An integral part of the nation’s past, from Colonial times to the Civil War, Caroline County is also right at home in today’s world, forward in its thinking, but preserving its past and celebrating its diversity. Nowhere is that clearer than in its towns, where contemporary culture and history work hand in hand to create community – and boost economic development.
Arts & Entertainment District
Denton, for example, has its own Arts & Entertainment District, designated as such by the state in 2005, where restored historic buildings and a number of cultural attractions and events help promote the economic life of the community. The ArtsWay at Denton is the cultural hub of the area, and home to The Foundry Gallery, the Fiber Arts Center of the Eastern Shore, the Denton Community Demonstration Garden and the ArtsWay Pathways. Plans are in the works to further expand the district to include the new Chesapeake Culinary Center and eventually encompass the waterfront along the Choptank River.
“To us, the mission is to enhance the county through education, culture and economic development,” says Marina Dowdall, executive director of the Caroline Council of Arts, which is housed in an early-1800s building on the ArtsWay. “From an economic standpoint, the arts really draw visitors into the county, they give Denton and the county a sense of place, and they bring the community together. And, of course, there are so many things people as individuals can get from the arts.”
Partnering with various public organizations and government programs, the council creates a whirlwind of arts activities. Its headquarters building is home to The Foundry community art gallery, where work by 50 local artists is displayed.
The council also created and operates the Fiber Arts Center, where quilting and other local fiber artists display their work, practice and teach their crafts. The largely volunteer council (Dowdall is the one paid staff person), also organizes public arts projects like the Byway Quilt Trail along the path of the Underground Railroad, the popular Friday Nights in Caroline performance series, a writers group, arts workshops and demonstrations, and more. Add the parks and recreation department’s events and programs and a lively county events calendar, and choosing where to go can be tough.
“When you see the local talent, it’s just really exciting and makes you proud to be part of this community,” says Ann Jacobs, executive director of the Caroline chamber. “Honestly, with so much going on, it’s hard to get to everything.”
Culture of a Delicious Sort
Culture of a slightly different, more hoppy sort is also making an appearance in the county. Besides any number of excellent restaurants found around Caroline, microbrewing is coming to town in Federalsburg and Denton, thanks to several passionate young entrepreneurs.
In Denton, Market Street Public House is expanding to offer its own brews on tap. The Pub, as locals call it, has become an institution, drawing crowds for its trivia competitions and other events held throughout the week.
In Federalsburg, Gayle Galbraith sees her new Federal Brewing Company as a place where traditional community identity and closeness are celebrated.
“I always wanted to do something for the community,” says Galbraith, who serves gourmet coffee, in addition to beer, and envisions her space in a former bank building as a community meeting place. “The good news is that Federalsburg is small, and the bad news is Federalsburg is small, so I thought about what I could do to bring people, investors and money into Federalsburg from outside, and this seemed ideal.”
Find out what it’s like to live in the Maryland Eastern Shore region.

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