It's dawn on Tilghman Island, and Dot Tyler, spry at age 70, is carrying on a community tradition.
As her family and forebears have done, Dot is at work in the kitchen of the local fire department. She's readying food for the annual Tilghman Island Seafood Festival set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Events will take place around Tilghman, and some 1,000 people are expected to join in. Donations are $5 per person, and all proceeds will go to the volunteer fire department, hosts of the day.
Events include crab-picking contests, baiting contests, a children's beauty pageant, a parade of fire trucks, trophy presentations and crab races. There will be bluegrass music at Maynard Lowery's Boat Yard on Chicken Point Road. Lowery will introduce the fine art of boatbuilding, and you'll encounter various waterside adventures at Dogwood Harbor.
But perhaps the most beckoning sight will be the vessels that recall bygone days on the bay. The skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark was built in 1886 and has been designated a national historic landmark. Captain Wade Murphy Jr., a third-generation waterman who was an oysterman for some 40 years, runs the skipjack as a charter out of Dogwood Harbor. "I like to deal with people, to educate them," he explains. (For more information, go to www.skipjack.org or call the Captain at 410-829-3976.)
"Being out on the water is being part of nature," Murphy says. Or, as Michael Roe, a promoter for the festival, says, "It's a festival, not a carnival. It's a true slice of Americana."
As David McQuay, co-chair of this year's festival, promises simply, "It'll be a good day."
Where to eat
In addition to the seafood that is the festival's reason for being, there are fine restaurants in the area. Among them are:
Bay Hundred Restaurant, 6178 Tilghman Road, on the water near the bridge. 410-886-2126.
The Bridge Restaurant, 6136 Tilghman Island Road. 410-886-2330.
The Tilghman Inn, 21384 Cooperstown Road. 410-886-2141. Executive chef David McCallum says his establishment is part of the "sustainable restaurant movement." As such, it has a creative agreement with nearby farmers who supply the inn with fresh produce daily.
So Neat Cafe and Bakery, 5772 Tilghman Island Road, 410-886-2143, is open daily for breakfast and brunch throughout the summer.
Harrison's Country Inn and Chesapeake House, 29551 Chesapeake House Drive, 410-886-2121, has been run by the Harrison family since 1898. They're known for their seafood, prime rib and chicken dishes.
Where to shop
So Neat Card and Gift Shop, 5776 Tilghman Island Road, 410-886-2143.
Island Treasures, 21445 Chesapeake House Drive, 410-886-2158, sells charming gifts and apparel.
The Book Bank/Crawford's Nautical Books, 5782 Tilghman Island Road, 410-886-2230, has a trove - some 1,200 items - of sea-oriented literature. (You can e-mail them at email@example.com.)
From Baltimore, take Interstate 97 south to U.S. 50 near Annapolis. Follow U.S. 50 east across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and go another 30 miles to Easton. Bear right to Route 322, follow 322 to Route 33 west. Pass through St. Michaels to Tilghman Island.
Go to www.tilghmanmd.com. Try the volunteer fire department at 410-886-2677. Call the Talbot County Chamber of Commerce at 410-822-4653 or reach them online at www.talbotchamber.org.
For more regional trips, see Page 36.