An annual festival more than a half-century old will continue to highlight the traditions of Chesapeake Bay watermen, who have their own culture that stretches back much further.

The 7th District Optimist Club is seeking nominations for the Waterman of the Year Award, to be presented during this year’s Blessing of the Fleet, which will be held in October at the St. Clement’s Island Museum.

John Laychak of St. Inigoes will serve as the chair of this year’s Blessing of the Fleet, and is participating in the push to breathe fresh air into the festival and award nomination process.

“We’re hoping to get as many [nominations] as we can,” the 7th District Optimist member said in an interview this week.

“It’s to recognize the hard work and the effort watermen put out every day and every year,” Laychak said. “Also, they take care of the bay. They spend a lot of time taking care of and conserving the bay.”

To qualify, the nominee must meet the following criteria: make their living on the water; respect and preserve the natural habitat of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed; be respectful of the laws of the water and the current fishing regulations; always lend a hand when needed out on the water; teach the next generation the ways or history of the water; and live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed area.

The last qualification is somewhat new — Laychak said in the past awardees have always been from St. Mary’s County. This year the award is being opened up to include the entire bay watershed.

Last year’s winner was Willie Ridgell, and other recent winners include John “Willy” Dean, James “Ernie” Woodall Sr. Bobby Bowes, Robert C. “Bobby” McKay Sr. and “Buddy” Thompson.

Held the first weekend of October for more than 50 years, the Blessing of the Fleet has featured entertainment, demonstrations, games and more, all in an effort to celebrate St. Mary’s rich heritage ties to the Chesapeake watershed and the watermen who work its waters. Organizers are planing to present this year’s event with a revamped format, slated for Oct. 5 and 6 at St. Clement’s Island Museum in Colton’s Point.

“This will be the 52nd annual Blessing of the Fleet, and time has moved on,” Laychak said.

The 7th District Optimist Club, which hosts the festival, uses proceeds from the event and other fundraisers to provide funding for youth events and causes throughout the county, as well as to elderly programs and local fire and rescue squads.

Nominations must be submitted to the 7th District Optimist Club no later than Sept. 1. They may be emailed to Karen Stone, Blessing of the Fleet committee member, at or via mail to Blessing of the Fleet Committee, 38370 Point Breeze Road, Colton’s Point, MD 20626.

For more information about the 7th District Optimist Club, visit

National women’s golf tourney coming to Pax

Each year since 1962, The Women’s Military Dependents Golf Championship has been hosted annually at a chosen military installations in the United States. This year, for the first time, the Cedar Point Golf Course at Naval Air Station Patuxent River will host the tournament, on July 23, 24 and 25.

Amateur female golfers, who are dependents of active duty, retired, reserve component or deceased service personnel of the U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force or Coast Guard, will have the opportunity to gather to promote fellowship, camaraderie and good golfing, according to a release.

The Cedar Point Ladies Golf Association, a nonprofit organization, is coordinating the event in concert with the Cedar Point Golf Club management and MWR. They are hoping to find sponsors to “make this a successful event for an expected field of 120 participants,” according to the release.

Donations will be used to augment the prize fund for about half of the flighted 120 participants in the form of military gift cards and pro shop gift certificates. Prizes will be presented at an awards banquet. Donations may also be used toward the cost of a welcome ceremony, score watching luncheon and the awards banquet.

The deadline for applications to the tournament is June 8. For more information or to register, call Kimbra Benson at 240-561-3921 or visit

Local bluegrass musician wins state folklife award

The Maryland Traditions folklife program recently announced the recipients of the 2019 Heritage Awards, given annually to outstanding stewards of Maryland’s living cultural traditions. This year’s winner in the “person or people” category was bluegrass musician and promoter Jay Armsworthy of California.

Other winners include the Arch Social Club of Baltimore City for the “place” category, and Cultura Plenera of Howard County for the “tradition” category. Each winner will be honored at a ceremony hosted June 7 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. The ceremony is free and open to the public, and will be a featured event at the Maryland Arts Summit, a convening of artists and arts leaders from around the state. Ticket information is available at MSAC’s website at

SMCM students win sustainability challenge

The Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission recently announced the winners of the 2019 Sustainable Growth Challenge. Four groups of students representing St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Morgan State University and the University of Maryland received their awards earlier this spring.

The winners from St. Mary’s College’s Applied Sustainability Practicum were: Kaitlin Aaby, Toby Beauregard, Haley Brueckman, Dylan Burgevin, Allison Burnett, Amanda Cox, Mariah Dean, Afton Hauer, Spencer Kessinger, Emmett Mayberry, Tilghman Meiser, Isaac Page, Jacob Rosenzweig-Stein, Samuel Tyson-Brown, Hannah Warlick, Nick Williams and Ava Yensan.

The program engages Maryland college students in developing creative solutions to sustainability while also providing a career-building, real world learning experience. The challenge is an interdisciplinary exercise promoting economic growth, environmental stewardship and sustainable land use at the community level.

For more about the challenge, contact Joe Griffiths at or 410-767-4553.

Marine museum has tunes during the summer

The Calvert Marine Museum has a lineup of several shows planned for its Summer Concert Series at the PNC Waterside Pavilion.

Country music star Kane Brown will perform live on Saturday, June 1, with opening acts Ryan Hurd and Maryland’s own Jackson Dean.

Next up will be the funk, jazz, soul and R&B band Earth, Wind & Fire on Wednesday, July 3. Then, country star Brett Eldredge will perform on Friday, July 26.

For ticket prices, availability and other information, visit or call 410-326-2042, ext. 16, 17, or 18.

Sailing program offered at college July 17 to 26

The Brendan Sailing Program, which provides learn-to-sail camps for children and teens with learning differences, will again this summer offer day and overnight camps at St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

The program at the college will run from July 17 to 26. Overnight students sleep in the residence halls on campus, take meals in the student dining center and learn to sail at the James P. Muldoon River Center on the banks of the St. Mary’s River.

In addition to sailing, campers experience other water activities such as swimming, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding and canoeing. Through Brendan Sailing’s partnership with Spirit of America, students also have the option to learn powerboating and obtain their Maryland Safe Boating Certificate.

For more information about the sailing camp or to register, email or visit

Poker run to benefit veterans program

There will be a poker run on June 2 to benefit Southern Maryland Vacations for Vets, a local nonprofit that provides free weekend retreats for wounded/recovering service members and their families under going treatment at military hospitals and centers. Registration starts at 10 a.m. at the Hollywood firehouse. Cost is $25 per person and includes a T-shirt and post ride party at the Mechanicsville Moose Lodge. For more information contact Susan Kilroy at 301-399-0013.

Honor loved ones who have passed

“An Evening of Remembrance” will be held at Flora Corner Farm on Sunday, June 9, from 6 to 7 p.m. Organized by Melinda Ruppert, a grief and loss counselor, all are invited to join in the program at the farm in Mechanicsville to honor and remember loved ones. There is no fee, but registration is required by June 1 since seating is limited. Those attending are asked to bring a photograph of the loved one being honored. To register, go to and click on the “Register” link.

Church to present dinner theater next month

First Missionary Baptist Church’s drama ministry will present “The Church Meeting” dinner theatre on Saturday, June 22, at 4 p.m. The one-act show for adults only will cost $25 per person. For more information or to reserve tickets, call the church at 301-863-8388.

Apply for CSM Kids College

Registration for the College of Southern Maryland Kids and Teen College summer program, which includes scores of comprehensive and exciting courses ranging from guitar lessons to SAT/ACT prep for ages 6 to 17, is now open. Kids College is designed to give participants the opportunity to explore their interests or learn new skills on a college campus. For more information, visit

Got instruments?

Do you have unused instruments taking up space in your house? The St. Mary’s County Arts Council accepts gently used musical instruments and then redistributes them to qualifying, low-income students and other underserved members of the community. Musical instrument donations to the arts council are tax deductible. For more information, call 240-309-4061 or email

Twitter: @JesseEntNews