Thumbs up: It’s starting to feel a bit spooky around here. Every October we, like many of you, start thinking about plump orange gourds, chilly weather and, of course, spooky sights. Ahead of this Halloween, we reached out to readers throughout the county in search of particularly spooky front-yard displays, and many residents excitedly replied with photos and even shoutouts to their neighbors. Then we set out to capture several of those volunteered sites in photos that are being published in Wednesday’s Neighborhoods section as well as our website. We hope readers enjoy seeing these fun, expressive decorations from their neighbors. We’re happy to be able to involve our readers in our coverage, even in this somewhat frivolous way. We at the Times do our best every day to keep focused on finding, exploring and reporting the important, interesting and fun things that go on here. But that job would be far more difficult in not for locals reaching out to us to report something they saw, ask an observant question and generally tell us what they like to see from us. We’re a community news organization, and it’s essential to our mission that we engage with our community. So, with that in mind, we want to thank everyone who chimed in to help us find all these Halloween displays. And don’t hesitate to get in touch.
Thumbs up: Forgive us in advance for gushing. But if you’ve seen the elaborate, jaw-dropping costume Westminster resident Candace Birger took to New York Comic Con — well, can you really blame us? Birger is an avid participant in cosplay — a portmanteau of “costume” and “role play” — and brings characters from movies, comics and video games to life in the real world. For this cosplay, she became a masked and armored female figure with massive glowing, moving wings, based on Pride, a villain from the video game “Darksiders III.” Did we mention that those wings are 15 feet wide? This is not the first time Birger has put together an impressive cosplay design, but for this one she stepped up on her biggest stage yet: the regional cosplay championship at New York Comic Con. She ended up winning first place in the armor category, though she missed out on the overall crown. Still, this was a huge splash on a major stage. As Birger told us, “This one was national. It was live streamed, it was on SyFy. It’s kind of a big deal for me; living childhood dreams.” This artful work takes a great deal of talent, dexterity and time to pull off — and that’s just what this Carroll countian did.
Thumbs up: We’re shouting out Michael Campanile and Michael Schweinsberg, two teachers at the Carroll County Career and Technology Center who were surprised Thursday with a big ol’ check. That check, for $50,000, was awarded to them in recognition of their work training young people for careers in the skilled trades. Of that $50K, $35,000 will be awarded to the school and $15,000 in total goes to the two educators, who applied as a team after years of collaboration between the welding and masonry programs. They were selected out of competitive field of hundreds of teachers from throughout the country, so the award is truly impressive. The two-man team was chosen as a second-place winner from a pool of about 750 nationwide applicants for the Harbor Freight Tools for Schools Prize for Teaching Excellence, which recognizes outstanding instruction in the skilled trades in U.S. public high schools. The prize money could go toward a digital marquee sign for the school, as well as to the welding and masonry programs. Carroll prides itself on strong schooling, and this achievement is just another feather in the caps of local educators. As Jim Liming of Harbor Freight Tools said, the work they do “is critical to the future of our country and our communities ... Your students are lucky to have you.”
Thumbs up: Anyone who has played a round of Uno — especially one-on-one — has probably been hit with strings of reverses, skips and the dreaded draw fours. As shocking as plays like that can be for the victim, the game can still be great fun among friends and loved ones. Thanks in part to two visually impaired siblings and Westminster students, other visually impaired players can now enjoy the game of Uno with cards designed specifically for them — with Braille. Derrick, 13, and Meredith Day, 11, took the opportunity to beta test the cards at a convention for the National Federation of the Blind in Las Vegas over the summer. The Uno Braille cards were released earlier this month and are sold exclusively at Target. It’s important for all children to have opportunities for safe, fun play, and we were tickled to learn that a couple of Carroll countians had a small hand in helping a classic game better fit the needs of an entire group of card gamer players.