THE FAIR: Terrific entries

For years I've run the Youth Baked Goods competition at the Unionville Community Fair, and this year we had the best entries ever. My dedicated volunteer judges took two hours on Thursday morning to assess all the cakes, cupcakes, brownies, candy, muffins and cookies. I got to be the tie-breaker on a few occasions when the quartet couldn't reach consensus. I also pulled rank to sample a rich, moist yellow cake with chocolate icing and peanut butter frosting between the layers. It may have been the best cake I've ever had. Best-of-show honors went to an elementary school girl's ginger snaps that were not only professional-looking but delicious. I take some pride in my ginger snaps, but these were light-years better.

The vegetables and the canned goods contests had impressive numbers of entries this year. In fact, even after my judges had finished, the canned goods judges were still at work, sampling the array of jams, preserves, marmalade, relishes, pickles, preserved fruits, and sauces.

Students from Longwood's professional gardening programs judged the vegetable, flower and house plant contests and carefully pored over the entries, inspecting for insect damage, non-uniform entries and other flaws.

The classroom exhibits were charming. We especially liked an adorable display of woodland creatures made from pine cones and acorns, and "The ABCs of Agriculture" by the London Grove Friends Kindergarten.

It was great to catch up with all of my Fair friends. And the renovated barn looks great: no leaks!

UNIONVILLE: Fire company open house

The Po-Mar-Lin Fire Co. is hosting its annual open house from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13 at its station on Route 82 in downtown Unionville. You'll be able to watch the highly trained, dedicated Station 36 volunteers demonstrate their firefighting and rescue expertise. I remember how enthralled the kids and adults at last year's event were when the firefighters showed how efficiently they can cut apart a car and extract a trapped accident victim. There will also be food trucks, raffles, music and flu shots.

WEST MARLBOROUGH: Funding emergency services

To pay its "fair share" of ambulance and fire company expenditures, West Marlborough taxpayers' yearly contribution will need to jump from its current $17,000 a year to between $52,000 and $106,000.

That was the stark conclusion presented to township residents by the township's EMS Task Force on October 1.

The task force, comprising Phoebe Fisher, Clipper LaMotte, Nancy Truitt, Jake Chalfin and Hugh Lofting Sr., has been working since July 2018 to examine the budgets and activities of the emergency service providers that cover the township: Avondale Fire Company, Po-Mar-Lin Fire Company, Modena Fire Company, and Medics 93 and 94. They devised a "fair share" formula with three components: the assessed property value, the call volume and the population for each municipality.

The task force noted that under state law, townships must fund emergency services.

Mr. LaMotte said that even though funding volunteer companies is expensive, costs would skyrocket if paid emergency responders are ever needed to replace volunteers. "It's in our best interest to keep [volunteer companies] healthy," he said.

Several residents expressed their frustration that most of the accidents take place on state-maintained roads that they believe could be made safer. For instance, PennDOT will not approve the installation of guardrails along the notorious hill on Route 82 near Dupont Road.

Mr. LaMotte reminded the residents that the bulk of the companies' expenses are fixed and go toward maintaining the capacity to handle emergencies. Those fixed costs do not vary according to the number of calls.

Others thought it was unfair for West Marlborough residents to pay for accidents involving "outsiders." Some said car insurance companies should cover emergency services (Dr. Fisher said some do but the payment is inadequate).

The next step is for the township supervisors to review the recommended formula and analyze its tax implications.

State Rep. Christina Sappey attended the meeting and said the funding of emergency services is a statewide problem. "Your township has done more than a lot of municipalities," she told the audience.

Amid the sobering numbers, there were moments of levity in the evening, which was attended by about 40 residents and representatives from local fire and ambulance companies. Before her talk, Dr. Fisher, a pediatric anesthesiologist, said, "My usual job is to put people to sleep" but hoped it did not carry over into her presentation. And at the end of the evening, the task force members were presented with boxes of Marlboro Mushrooms and a "key to the township," which Supervisor Bill Wylie said entitled them to a ride on the township road grader.

PENNSBURY: The supervisors explain

Thanks to an alert reader, we now know why the Pennsbury Township supervisors allowed the clear-cutting of a wooded lot along Route 1 at Chandler Road: they were ordered to do so by the state.

Initially the township tried to enforce its strict rules against tree cutting. However, the family that owns the land filed a complaint with the state attorney general arguing that they had filed a logging/land use permit for the property and had obtained approval from the county's Conservation District. The attorney general agreed, meaning the landowners didn't have to abide by the township ordinances and didn't even need to obtain a permit. The supervisors decided against pursuing legal action.

There is still no word on what will be done with the newly cleared land.

You can read the full story about the dispute in the township's fall newsletter on the township website (

WILMINGTON: The Grimpen Mire

The Delaware Theatre Company opened its season with a hilarious production of "The Hound of the Baskerville," in which three actors portray all of the characters, male and female. With its split-second costume changes, over-the-top acting, physical comedy and madcap humor, it reminded me a lot of People's Light's production of "The Mystery of Irma Vep" 30 years ago.

At the beginning of the second act the actors announced, with mock outrage, that some irascible crank named "BudLiteMartin" had tweeted during intermission complaining about the slow pace of the first act. In response they did a hilariously speeded-up recap of the first act. The in-joke was that Bud Martin is the theatre's executive and artistic director.

After the show we had a lovely stroll along the riverfront, which was full of families, joggers and bicyclists. There are plenty of restaurants along the way (Harry's Seafood Grill is now Banks' Seafood Kitchen) and lots of benches so you can sit and gaze at both the Wilmington skyline and the Christina River. We even got to see the drawbridge raised to let the tall ship Kalmar Nyckel through. It looked majestic motoring down the river.

CARLISLE: Revisiting my college town

On Saturday Dearest Partner and I headed to the Carlisle Invitational to watch the Young Relative and his UHS cross-country teammates run. The Y.R.'s race was originally supposed to start at 12:30 but was moved up to 9:30 a.m. because of the hot weather.

We set out at 5:45 a.m. and soon learned that the Gap Wawa is a surprisingly busy spot before dawn. Route 30, normally jammed with tourists between Route 41 and Interstate 283, was smooth sailing at that hour. Interstate 81 was no problem at all, even though the westbound lanes of the Pennsylvania Turnpike were closed for construction.

The upshot was that we arrived at Carlisle High School even before the Unionville team bus did and well before the other three members of the Y.R.'s cheering section. We scored a great parking spot, chatted with two school police officers (they told that us teams from 100 schools were expected) and had time to walk part of the course before heading to the finish line.

After the race we congratulated the Y.R. on his spectacular performance and set out to tour Carlisle. I went to college there and stayed on a few years afterwards writing for the local newspaper, but the town was new to Dearest Partner.

Our first stop was a delicious carb-filled breakfast at my old favorite Fay's Country Kitchen. Then we drove south through the little town of Mount Holly Springs and walked around the beautiful Pine Grove Furnace State Park. We drove past a lot of rustic hunting cabins tucked in the woods and saw the "Babes in the Woods" memorial plaque. My traveling companion was patient as I bored him with reminiscences of my hard-working, hard-playing young adulthood ("here's where we'd go ice-skating at night …. I used to listen through the mail slot when they'd have executive sessions and kick me out … this place used to have great stromboli").

One turn, though, and we were no longer in rural Cumberland County but back on I-81 and headed home. Unlike almost all of our road trips, we didn't get lost even once.

CONFUSED: Mistaken identity

Before the Carlisle cross-country race on Saturday, it was quite a task to locate the Young Relative and his father amidst hundreds of leggy youths, many sporting gold jerseys and headbands, and athletic-looking dads, many sporting sunglasses and baseball caps.

"Oh, look!" I'd say to the Dearest Partner, pointing to a likely candidate. "There he is!"

Then we'd get closer, and of course I was wrong. I came really close to hugging one middle-aged guy I thought was my brother.

My repeated errors greatly amused the Dearest Partner. The next day, when we were driving through Wilmington, I saw an odd sight on the sidewalk.

"That man," I said, "is carrying a cat in a milk crate."

"Are you sure it's not a dog?" asked the D. P.

"No, it's definitely a cat!"

"Are you sure it's not your brother?"

CAMPAIGN: Friendship trumps politics

A British friend takes a keen interest in American presidential politics, and we’ve developed a tradition where I send him a T-shirt with the name/slogan/logo of his preferred candidate of the moment. He wears it proudly at his gym and enjoys seeing people’s reactions. Unfortunately his political tastes are decidedly not mine, and, because I order the shirts online, now I’m receiving fundraising appeals via email and text from parties both Left and Right. Do they cancel each other out?

Write to Tilda at Thanks!
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