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Holiday cheer: Heritage Society holds first Christmas in July event

ESSEX — From the front yard of the Essex Museum on Sunday, two gleeful Christmas elves and Yukon Cornelius, the prospector from the television special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” rang their bells greeting passersby and asking them to come inside to visit Santa. It was the inaugural Christmas in July event organized by the Heritage Society of Essex and Middle River, and, sure enough, on the other side of the museum door sat St. Nick in a Hawaiian shirt waiting to hear wishlists and take photos.

After the photo shoot, event attendees had the option to walk through the network of narrow hallways to see the display of artifacts in the museum and a diverse group of local vendors and suppliers eager to share their products. The museum had small gifts and coloring sheets for the children, and all sorts of historical items for adults to view, and vendors had samples and pamphlets strewn about the tables.

“For our first time doing this, I thought it went really well,” Heritage Society President Lisa Harlow said. “Santa was a draw for the kids, and we are always a family-friendly place to visit.”

In May this year, the museum reopened since it closed in 2019 for its yearly hiatus (December to April) and remained closed through 2020 due to COVID-19.

“It is nice to see the community back out and coming in to say ‘Hi’ and give us support,” Harlow said.

Following discussion among the Heritage Society’s board of trustees – which includes Santa for Hire Brian Marchetti, the museum has now shifted programming to open only once a month for special events, instead of every Saturday afternoon.

Harlow said that the board came to a consensus that the museum needed to change its practice, because it was not attracting a lot of visitors.

“Some weekends in here, it was like a ghost town,” she said. “We decided that if we did one event a month, we would likely get more people than if we opened every Saturday.”

For July, the board decided to hold a Christmas in July event, and invite vendors inside for the first time ever, several of whom are from the area. It held an event commemorating first responders in May and an event celebrating Flag Day in June.

“Single-day events have had more visitors than some months in past years when we were open every Saturday,” she said.

Now, thanks to social media and word of mouth, the board has been able to promote the museum’s programs more effectively. Harlow said that she has seen community members who have attended every event, and new attendees who have never visited the museum. Following an event, she also has more people asking when the museum is opening again.

On Aug. 14, the board plans to hold an event to watch the NFL preseason game between the New Orleans Saints and the Baltimore Ravens, and on Sept. 18, it will hold the 44th Annual Essex Day Festival.

“Everyone has been happy with the turnout so far,” she said, “and I hope it continues through the rest of the year.”

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Stormy weekend: Flooding, downed trees reported in Essex

ESSEX — Keri Talmadge, of Essex, had just arrived at a graduation party for her cousin on Saturday evening when she got a call from her neighbor about a big tree that had fallen into the front yard of her townhouse on Middlesex Road. Her neighbor could see the tree from outside her window, and had told Talmadge that the tree had cracked and lifted the sidewalk. Talmadge immediately left the party, when she heard the news.

“I told my cousin ‘I love you. Congratulations. But we have to go,’” she said.

The felled tree had barely missed the house, and a couple of feet to the left, and it would have crashed into it. At first, she was afraid that the tree had struck the corner of her house, where her bedroom is.

“On the drive home, I was thinking, ‘Oh my God, can you see inside my house right now?’ I was really, really scared.” she said. “It wasn’t like that. Thank God.”

Talmadge was one of many area residents affected by the storm that passed through last Saturday.

The storm featured 3.55 inches of rain and 60 mph wind gusts, and it damaged homes and vehicles across Eastern Baltimore County, according to Luis Rosa, a meteorologist employed by the National Weather Service.

Another place in Essex affected by the intense storm was the Marlyn Garden Apartments. Fallen trees had damaged three buildings in the apartment complex, and residents in 10 units had to move out and relocate to vacant units within the complex, according to an apartment official. It is not yet known how severe the damage is or when residents will be able to return home.

Several other downed trees and large branches had caused damage across Eastern Baltimore County, according to Chief Tim Sinnott and Assistant Chief Dan Mroz with Middle River Volunteer Fire & Rescue Company, Inc.

Department personnel had responded to a total of 24 calls for service in the area, Sinnott and Mroz said. Most of the calls came in between 2:30 and 6 p.m. on Saturday, though crews are still responding to reports of storm-related damage.

Middle River crews, along with other county crews, responded to calls on Saturday night of lightning strikes hitting an apartment building and a house, several fire alarms going off, and a working church fire. Investigators are still trying to determine the cause of the church fire.

The department’s Dive Rescue Team was also called to rescue people from vehicles submerged in the flood waters. Both water rescues were at or near Route 40, which flooded from Rosedale to White Marsh. Parts of the roadway were shut down for a few hours until the water receded, and those rescued were able to leave the scene unharmed, Sinnott and Mroz said.

In addition to the storm damage and emergencies, 41,000 people lost power due to the storm, and 32,000 of those live in Baltimore County. A high number of the residents are from the southeastern quadrant of the county, according to Richard Yost of Baltimore Gas and Electric communications. By 8 p.m. on Monday, all power was restored. 

Jackson Cusic participates in Farmers Walk on Sunday to help move kettlebells to new location for Baltimore Kettlebell Club.