Free Icehouse Tours next two weekends for Essex National Heritage Area Trails & Sails

Cape Pond Ice Company, 104 Commercial Street, Gloucester, on the Fort, is pleased to offer free Historic Icehouse tours over the next two weekends, in partnership with Essex National Heritage Area’s Trails & Sails.


Free Historic Icehouse tours at Cape Pond Ice offered over the next two weekends, September 16, 17 & 18, and September 23, 24 & 25:  Fridays at 2pm, Saturdays at 11 am & 1 pm, and Sundays at 11 am.

Chill with the coolest guys in town!  Enjoy a cool visit to Cape Pond Ice Company, icing Gloucester’s fleet since 1848.  We were featured in Sebastian Junger’s account of The Perfect Storm.  Tours highlight the history of the ice industry, with vintage film of natural ice harvests. See first hand 300-pound block ice being made (up to 350 tons per day), fishing vessels taking on ice and ice sculptures being carved in our historic Icehouse on Gloucester’s working waterfront.


Boring Birdsblack-bellied-plover-grey-plover-2-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smith

Especially that Black-belied Plover. Just look at his washed out and mud spattered feathered coat in drab shades of sand and dirt. He’ll never find a girlfriend attired in that old thing. He is so undistinguished, it is often difficult to discern the difference between him and his surrounds.


Really, hanging out in that smelly, bug and mollusk infested seaweed patch?

Migration routes of black-bellied plovers tagged on breeding grounds and a stopover location along the St. Lawrence River.
Migration routes of black-bellied plovers tagged on breeding grounds and a stopover location along the St. Lawrence River.

But wait, from where did you say he hails? I heard tell he summers in islands of Nunavet, Canada and winters in Brazil, stopping in Cuba or Honduras along the way. Known as the Grey Plover on the other side of the globe, his kin are world travelers, too, some leaving the Arctic circle breeding grounds and heading to fall stopovers in Great Britain and Norway, migrating all the way to South Africa, while other members of the family travel over Russia to winter in Japan, Australia, or perhaps even as far away as New Zealand. Black-bellies have  been tracked flying 3,400 miles nonstop from Brazil to NorthCarolina in five days. Tedious, I know.

While at his summer tundra home he sports a handsome black and white tuxedo, in reverse, sort of get up, like this –black-bellied-plover-b57-13-038_v

You mean that tired old coat molts to that dapper cutaway? Yes!

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-in-flight-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithDespite his flashy tux, he’s genuinely shy, and will flush on a dime if danger is sensed (i.e. this filmmaker for instance). He knows all the tricks of the plover trade, feigning broken wing to distract the enemy from his territory, and scraping together a nest from nothing but mere sand and tiny bits of stone.

And just look at the Black-bellied Plover’s spotted eggs painted in shapes and shades of lichen covered stones. A clever disguise if ever there was one.bbp-chick-and-egg-meagan

Perhaps the Black-bellied Plover isn’t so boring after all. We living within the continental flyways encounter these Plain Janes and James when at their plainest. Black-bellied Plovers are seen along Atlantic coast beaches at this time of year within mixed groups of Sanderlings, Semipalmated Plovers, yellow legs, and sandpipers. Although similarly as drably feathered as the other ‘boring’ birds during the winter months, at 11 inches, Black-bellied Plovers are easy to spot in these feeding flocks because they are almost twice as large as the smallest shorebirds. Next time you see a flock of birds feeding along the shoreline take a closer look for the world traveling Black-bellied

Each and every wonderful species of bird that I have been documenting while working on film projects over the past several years has a fascinating life story. Living in the midst of the Atlantic Flyway, I can’t imagine a more interesting region, although when I was visiting our daughter and son-in-law in Santa Monica, the creatures flowing through the Pacific Flyway were pretty exciting too. I hope to in the future spend time in the Central and Mississippi Flyways as well. I love thinking about this constant longitudinal movement of life force flowing as it does, year in and year out, century in and century out, millennium in and millennium out. For the most part, we go about our daily lives relatively unaware of this extraordinary undercurrent. Whether migrating by land or by sea, we are surrounded by this great movement of life, forms always in search of plentiful food on which to rear the next generation.

black-bellied-plover-grey-plover-in-flight-2-massachusetts-copyright-kim-smithIf having difficulty identifying, one of the clues to look for is the black feathers under the wings, visible when in flight as in the above

All photos not attributed to Kim Smith are courtesy of Google image searches.

How to save for Topsfield Fair: buy discounted ride tickets, don’t forget your kids’ Library Read & Win rewards, note active military and senior discounts


FREE admission for all active military on Tuesday October 4th, 2016.

Senior Citizens discounted entry on Monday October 3rd, 2016.

You can purchase advance discounted tickets from Topsfield Fair on line or at the fairgrounds. Ace Hardware in Gloucester has discounted admission and ride tickets for sale. Discounted admission tickets are also for sale at the Gloucester Daily TimesAnd Groupon.  Thank you Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library for participating in the Topsfield Fair Read&Win summer reading prize packet incentive which contains free entry, 2 rides and 1 yummy meal!

The 2016 Topsfield fair opens September 30th and closes October 10. Discounted ticket sales are limited and stop September 26.


Gloucester Lyceum & Sawyer Free Public Library one of many that partners with Topsfield Fair Read & Win — great kids reward packet for their summer reading


Gloucester schools consolidation

Mern Sibley speaking to the Gloucester School Committee Sept 14, 2016 about elementary schools merging

If you missed it, you’re in luck. Busy night of democracy was captured by Dave from Cape Ann TV- direct link if the video isn’t showing below.

The Chair of the School Committee, Johnathan Pope, opened with a power point presentation that went for the first 49 minutes. Questions from the floor began immediately after Pope’s background talk. First question up at minute 50–no surprise –concerned a clarification about the cost of West Parish, quickly followed by Mern Sibley’s remarks at minute 51 which received a large applause as did others throughout the evening. Some residents came prepared to speak. Some were spontaneous. The path to the mike was steady and fascinating. A few residents had more than one take like parent Kylie Mione  who is also by profession a teacher at Veterans.

Here’s a link to the Elementary School Plan Proposal August 2016


Councilor Ward 1 Scott Memhard Facebook page has several posts about the school proposal.

The audience numbered less than 100 and included Councilors Memhard, Lundberg, Cox and Ciolino.


Chair Johnathan Pope, School Committee, 9/14/16


07_big floral_flagThis amazing floral flag was sent by my friend Jan. I thought it especially appropriate in light of the recent attack on NYC/NJ and the uncontrolled wildfire at Vandenberg Air Force Base.

About the flag: Between the fields where the flag was planted, there are 9 plus miles of flower fields that go all the way to the ocean. The flowers are grown by seed companies. It’s a beautiful place, close to Vandenberg Air Force Base (Lompoc, California).

Check out the dimensions of the flag. The Floral Flag was 740 feet long and 390 feet wide and maintained the proper flag dimensions, as described in Executive Order #10834.

This flag was the first Floral Flag to be planted with 5 pointed stars, comprised of white Larkspur. Each star is 24 feet in diameter, each stripe is 30 feet wide. This flag is estimated to contain more than 400,000 Larkspur plants with 4-5 flower stems each, for a total of more than 2 million flowers.flag

Maybe Not Quite as Cool as Those Kansas Kids….AGAIN

Forgive me for reposting…but I had video difficulty yesterday and how else can I prove to Joey that I’m not one of those super overprotective, suck all the fun out of life parents that he likes to talk about.  Not to say that a little roundy round trip on the Go Kart track will actually prove that…but, you know.

Back in podcast #199 we were joined by a great couple from Kansas who owns a large corn and soybean farm.  I was intrigued by the farming for sure, but even more so (if I’m to be honest) by the life style.  Having kids in their 20s, I wanted to know a bit what day to day life was like when (if ever) they weren’t busy farming their land.  We got to chat a lot “off microphone” as well.

At one point they mentioned that their sons liked to “race.” Curious, I revisited the conversation to learn exactly what kind of racing they do.  While I might not have the official term down…I know it involved fast little cars and a figure 8 dirt track.  It further called to attention the differences between raising children in different places in our country.  Right or wrong, for better or worse….we may be much more cautious with our children than other locals in our very own country (not to mention other places in this big wide world).

But, Joey, look.  I let my boys race too.  And….the horror, no helmets!

Little Monkey Found in Stage Fort Park

Hi Joey!

This morning, while walking my dog in Stage Fort Park, we found this colorful little guy laying all alone, abandoned (probably by accident) on the ground by the picnic tables (not the ones by the water, but the ones by the road).  I lifted him into the neck of a nearby tree so he would be safe from other pooches, and could at least take a look around at the beautiful scenery while waiting for his tiny person to come back and retrieve him.

Perhaps Mr. Monkey will remain there as his little person has moved on, and he’ll find a new life out there by the ocean.  But I know sometimes kids get pretty attached to their stuffed animals, so on the off chance that there’s a little one who is madly missing his or her tiny friend, figured I’d pass along his whereabouts, so the two could be reunited. 🙂

He’s in the tree right near the sign about busses needing a permit…share if you think it’s worth trying to get him back home (and no worries if not – it was just a thought)!

Love the blog!

All the best –

Meagan Fratiello


Cape Ann Symphony Opens 65th Season!



Yoichi Udagawa, Music Director



Features Bernstein, Debussy & Respighi



Cape Ann Symphony kicks off the orchestra’s 65th Anniversary Concert Season on Saturday, September 24 at 8 pm with Big Night, Big Music featuring big thrilling symphonic pieces that showcase the talents of the CAS musicians at the CAS performance venue at Manchester-Essex High School Auditorium on 36 Lincoln Street in Manchester-by-the-Sea, MA. Manchester-Essex High School Auditorium is handicapped accessible. Ticket prices are $40 for adults, $35 for senior citizens, $5 for Youth age 18 and under. For tickets and information, call 978-281-0543 or


Cape Ann Symphony Conductor and Music Director Yoichi Udagawa describes the upcoming concert program, “We are starting off our 65th Anniversary Season with a concert we’re calling Big Night, BIG Music. The three pieces on the program are BIG!!!! Massachusetts born and raised Leonard Bernstein’s music from West Side Story, the French composer Claude Debussy’s description of the sea – La Mer, and the Italian composer Ottorino Respighi’s musical description of the Pines around the city of Rome are three incredible, powerful, emotional, gorgeous, knock your sox off masterpieces. We’re going to give brief introductions to the pieces during the concert to show our audiences some of the reasons why these pieces continue to move and excite people all over the world. It’s going to be a BIG concert, and we can’t wait!”

Leonard Bernstein was a Massachusetts boy. Born in 1918 in Lawrence, he spent summers in Sharon, and attended Boston Latin before completing his BA at Harvard University. Though he later moved to Philadelphia (to attend the Curtis Institute) and then to New York, he remained connected to the area – studying conducting at Tanglewood and frequently leading the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He holds the distinction of being the first American Music Director of a major orchestra – the NY Philharmonic. Musically, he was a jack of all trades: a brilliant pianist, much sought-after conductor, a critic and lecturer on the arts, and of course, a prolific composer of music in many styles. He was a deep admirer of Copeland and other classical composers of the day, and strove to be recognized as one of them. However, one of the works he is best known for is not one of his symphonies or his chamber pieces, but rather West Side Story.



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