Article and Photography by Jennie Hall-Frantz | Owl Staff
Havre De Grace is one of the oldest American small towns since the nation won its independence.
With my eyes closed, I beat to the rhythm of the other drums in the drum circle. My fingers touch the drum in various places, creating a flurry of unique sounds. Once, I open my eyes and see a beautiful belly dancer facing our group, with a lovely talent for hip-swaying that I don’t have. I lose my beat but train my eyes on her and go back to drumming with the dozen or so other community members that sit down, whether children or senior citizens. It is fun and exciting, typical of every “First Friday” celebration.
“First Fridays,” as the name suggests, take place on the first Friday of every month from May to October. With such positive energy in town, they are my favorite free thing to experience in Havre de Grace, Maryland.
Havre de Grace lies at the confluence of the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay, bringing people together in more than one way. Multiple other festivals fill the artisan streets and town throughout all seasons, with diverse bands and locals selling their wares.
We live in an incredibly unique region of the country. Although Havre de Grace seems like a sleepy small town, the Smithsonian Institute named it the “Best Small Town in America.” There are always things to do, and this year I hope to try kayaking on the bay, taking pictures, and breathing in the scenery.
I’ve taken yoga classes from several studios and appreciate the styles of different teachers. I enjoy walking or biking the Joe K Trail; there is a loop and newer bridge that takes you to the Loch House. Boating and sailing are popular, and fishing is free. From crabs and oysters to scallops, we are also blessed with so many delicious seafood options and places to dine.
When I am looking for tranquility, I go to the Loch House or Lighthouse to write. There is something soothing about sitting by the water, with the sound of birds nearby.
I enjoy walking the promenade and taking a seat at one of the many benches to appreciate nature. I climb the lighthouse and look at everything from an unmatched perspective. The water, docks, and beach are beautiful.
My friend is an artist and she just did another piece on the lighthouse. She opened HAVEN, a wellness center which includes her artwork, and holds a variety of classes almost every day, from health to gardening.
They offer massage and Reiki, yoga and art classes. My treasured gift from her is a coffee sugar scrub. I bought their bath salts with essential oils and herbs (which were much appreciated).
Concord Point Coffee is where my friends and I meet on Saturday mornings. The owner, Carl Lucas, always greets us with a warm smile. He has kitschy signs on the side of the café, along with thoughtful journals, and an art gallery on the other side for local artists. He encourages the community to come together in his “sharing” area for locals to advertise for free.
Lucas is a second-generation local and says that everyone is friendly and authentic, adding that visitors tell him the same. He admits that he travels a lot and has never found a place quite like Havre de Grace.
The whole town has flat sidewalks on each street, making it easy for people to walk to work, or walk their dogs (there are even bowls of water throughout the town). The downtown district has its shops in one area for easy navigation, and they are all near the water.
As I interviewed Carl Lucas, a young man came in and started playing classical music on the piano. I asked, “Does this happen often?” He replied, “One time a man went over to the piano after purchasing his coffee, followed by another that bought a cup of coffee and sat down and started playing guitar.” Before he knew it, the whole coffeehouse was singing along to their harmony.
He tells his staff, “You’re not selling coffee. You’re selling community. You’re selling atmosphere. We’re an extension of people’s family.”
This town is authentic. It is special. Artists come together. People come together. Since being a part of this amazing town, now I beat to the rhythm of my own drum. I was meant to live here.
Not only is Havre De Grace a historic town, but it is also a hub for local artists, such as Thomas Sterner, who created this sculpture.