Lighthouse Foundation hosts Light Night fundraiser

Dorchester Banner/Jill Jasuta A guest admires the lighthouse cake on display at the Light Night fundraiser.

Dorchester Banner/Jill Jasuta
A guest admires the lighthouse cake on display at the Light Night fundraiser.

CAMBRIDGE — It’s a familiar feeling for many of us in Cambridge, whether returning from a quick errand in Easton, a day trip to Baltimore, or three weeks in Australia. You cross the Choptank River on the right lane of the Malkus Bridge and look over to Cambridge. By day or night, you see the Choptank Lighthouse and you smile and say to yourself, “I am home.”

On Saturday night at the Cambridge Yacht Club, 200 people celebrated the fourth birthday of the lighthouse that has become a symbolic attraction of Dorchester County. It would be easy to believe that it’s always been there. This being a heavy polling season, I staged my own poll. “What brings you to this party?” The answer? Uniformly, “I love the lighthouse.”

The lighthouse joins the crab, the oyster, the heron and the skipjack as another icon of maritime Cambridge. The image can be found on wine glasses, lapel pins, tea towels and stationary. The subject of many fine paintings and photographs, it can be found on the walls of galleries as well as homes. Approximately 15,000 visitors from Maine to California have signed the guest book at the lighthouse, and a stop at Long Wharf is one of the most picturesque possibilities traveling to or returning from the beaches of the Eastern Shore. Cassie Burton of the Cambridge Lighthouse Foundation says, “We welcome visitors to our city and county, sharing our rich maritime heritage with them.”

The same mind that came up with the idea to build the replica lighthouse is at it again, this time, big special lighting. Fourteen years ago, artist George Wright, driving down High Street, had a thought, no, a vision. He explains, “A lighthouse at the end of High Street on the wharf would be a beautiful sight. It could replicate the old Choptank light at the mouth of the river that years ago gave way to automation, weather, and vandalism.”

But George confesses it was in the talking stage way too long until he sought out Jackie Noller. “Vision plus resources can yield amazing results,” says Jackie and she proceeded to raise funds from people like the Todds, now deceased, who committed financially to the idea.

Now the next step is called “Monument Lighting.” Jim Duffy, the new executive director who has just started, part time but full speed, explains, “The Cambridge Lighthouse Foundation is raising money for the preliminary study for monument lighting. A more dramatic visibility could draw more people to the lighthouse. Tourists in Cambridge could be guided by Lighthouse volunteers (appropriately called Keepers) to places to eat, shop, stay, and to activities, museums, and celebrations in town.”

But Jim Duffy stresses that the experience of the lighthouse isn’t just for tourists. One important goal, he insists, is getting all the city and county residents to enjoy what it offers — gorgeous scenery, history, and a sense of ownership. The lighthouse belongs to the City of Cambridge.

Saturday’s fundraiser included a silent auction with donations from both little shops and big businesses like the Hyatt resort. Lots of packages for paddling, pedaling, sailing and feasting were up for bids. Also listed were fine paintings and photography, and even a stained glass chandelier. The Live Auction, conducted by Chucky Love Hayward, intensified excitement with some expensive experiences like “Lobster Boil for Ten” and a “Seven Course Wine-Pairing Dinner for Ten.” Bill Wise’s stained-glass Lighthouse was a lovely addition to the list. The donations were generous, glamorous, and desirable.

The money came in although expenses were kept down. Cheryl Willey of the Organizing Committee says, “We even had committee members’ cutting their own magnolias and roses for decorations.” She estimates the evening purchases and tickets raised well over $20,000, which should be enough for the preliminary study.

The evening ended with music and dancing and a slice of the Lighthouse cake, while outside, Saturday night’s bright and humongous moon provided the “monument lighting” for the celebration.

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