Sweet spring breezes carry Gloria’s love to the Mitchells

R&L Liquors made sure there would at least be a few big tulips in bloom for the Tulip Festival in Lewes. BY DENNIS FORNEY
April 20, 2012

Gloria Holland enchanted the elements Tuesday night this week when she took to the old upright piano in the Henlopen Grange Hall at Quakertown and started playing a few upbeat gospel hymns.

Springtime scents of freshly cut grass, sweet purple wisteria and the subtle cleanliness of dogwood blossoms billowed through the simple curtains hanging over the open windows of the hall.  It was tough to decide which was winning the gentle contest: the lovely breeze sliding off Delaware Bay and making its way into the hall, or Gloria’s spirited music rolling out of the piano, and her lungs, through the windows into the night.

Both won, to the benefit of the crowd gathered for Henlopen Grange’s annual observance of National Grange Month.  Part of that observance included announcement of this year’s Citizen of the Year Award.  A lifelong resident of Belltown, Gloria thought she was invited to provide music for the program.  The tears that glistened her face when her name was announced as this year’s winner showed what a pleasant surprise the honor was for her.

The Grange, a rural America organization that celebrates community values, has been presenting the Citizen of the Year Award every year since 1978, when former Lewes City Manager Ronnie Donovan was the first recipient. Gloria was selected in honor of the wonderful music she provides for the seniors at Cape Henlopen Senior Center in Rehoboth and for a number of the churches in the Lewes and Rehoboth community.

Self-taught, she has been playing since she was 12 years old. “I have to play,” said Gloria. “God wants me to.  It’s a gift and I can’t waste it.”

Before she received her award, Gloria chose to play a soulful song called “Let The Work That I Do Speak of Me.” She played it to accompany the presentation of a plaque to brothers Bob and Jerry Mitchell on behalf of their parents, Jane and Lowder Mitchell.  The Mitchells have been integrally involved with the Grange for decades.  “There isn’t a square inch of this Grange Hall that Lowder Mitchell hasn’t touched and improved in some way or fashion,” said Dick Millman.  “Right down to the plumbing, which we can’t see, but which sure was a big improvement over that old outhouse we used to have.”

Granger Shirley Millman reminded the audience that Jane Mitchell served eight years as the first female master of the Delaware State Grange.  “She was also one of the prime movers behind creation of the state’s Farmland Preservation Program which continues to help preserve the farms in our state.  For everything that Jane and Lowder have done for the Grange, their community and the state,” said Shirley, “we wanted to give them this tribute.”

Still living in the classic Sussex County rural home on Kings Highway in Lewes – on the Zwaanendael Farm long owned by the Mitchell family - Jane and Lowder were unable to attend the function due to poor health. But there’s little doubt that the love carried out of the Henlopen Grange Hall by Gloria’s inspired music rode on the northwest wind, with plenty of power, to drift across the Mitchell home less than a mile away.

Tulip Festival magic
People in Lewes held their breath last week hoping that the cool weather would hold out long enough to preserve the tulip blooms brought out early by the warm spring days in the week before.  They didn’t even look at the sun, and the trick worked. At least through Saturday, the colorful flowers reminding residents and visitors of the town’s Dutch heritage held themselves up in full regalia for the heart of the festival. When the sun took it up several notches on Sunday, however, the tulips folded like fainting guards at Buckingham Palace.

Carol Garner and the folks at R&L Liquors on Second Street weren’t about to take any chances that the heat wave would take the tulips before the weekend festival.  They commissioned Russian muralist Alexander Badialov to paint large red tulip blossoms on the front windows of their store.  Tom Greenwood, aka Chuckles the Clown, who works in R&L, helped the artist by adding the supporting greenery.

“We heard such positive comments,” said Garner. “We’re planning to ask Alex to paint a beach scene on the windows for the summer.  We’ll leave the tulips up until then.”
Badialov is also known as the artist who painted the decorative architectural flourishes on the Front Street foundation of the Inn at Canal Square.

Canal produces a fat flounder
Tom King took his grandchildren to the Canalfront Park in Lewes last weekend and came across Mark Slapcinsky with a big smile on his face. The big flounder in his hand told the story.  The Middletown resident drove to Lewes with his kayak, launched at the Dogfish Ramp in the park, and proceeded to drift a meaty bull minnow into the wide mouth of the 21-inch keeper fish. Fresh flounder is as tasty as any fish that comes out of local waters and Mark probably had a great weekend meal.

You can be sure you’ll be seeing plenty of small boats drifting the canal over the next few weeks.  The flounder are moving in.

Senator sets us straight on poultry
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, an indefatigable campaigner (and that’s not even easy to say), stopped by the office last week.  In the course of a wide-ranging conversation, Sen. Carper set me straight on a misconception about the poultry industry.  I was under the impression that international political wrangling involving tariffs and other turf wars had put a real crimp in chicken exports.  But he and his staff, who have been working in recent months with industry officials to bolster their business, said exports of American chicken have grown from three out of every hundred chickens going overseas in 1985 to 20 out of every hundred chickens being exported now.

“And we’ve actually seen poultry exports double again in the past 10 years,” he said.

There’s no question the tariffs still dampen exports.  He said packages of leg quarters sold to Panama importers for $10 have to be sold there for $36 due to tariffs imposed by that nation’s government.

That’s about it for the week.  Don’t forget to get outside and enjoy another beautiful coastal spring.

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