Friday, August 10, 2012

Royal Lipizzaner Stallions Perform at Hamilton House

A Royal Lippizzaner that featured at Hamilton House last weekend

Story and photo by C.Ayn Douglass
Staff Columnist

A piece of Historic New England hosted a piece of historic Austria last weekend when Herrmann's Royal Lipizzaner troop appeared at Hamilton House in South Berwick.
Lipizzaners date back to the 16th century and were originally bred from Andalusian and Arabian bloodlines for the Hapsburg royal family of Austria. During World War 11, General George Patton led a dramatic rescue of the horses ahead of the Russian advance, and that story was documented in Disney's “Miracle of the White Stallions.” In keeping with that military tradition, riders are outfitted in military uniforms.
On August 3, 4, and 6, fourteen stallions and seven riders thrilled horse lovers with dramatic and graceful moves on the grounds of Hamilton House. While appearing like a ballet, the intricate formations were developed as part of battlefield strategy.
Rebecca McCullough is a third generation Herrmann - granddaughter of Ottomar Herrmann who brought the stallions to America in the 1960s. She and her mother, Gabriella Herrmann, are on tour from June through October in the northeast and spend the winters at their farm in Myakka City, Florida, teaching riding and dressage. 
“After Patton saved them, the Herrmann family was given a couple of horses,” she said. “We came to America and settled in Vermont and then in Florida. We keep our riders in military-based clothing partly in honor of Patton and his rescue of the horses and partly to make it pretty.”
McCullough said the horses appearing at Hamilton House range in age between seven and twenty-seven years old.  “We use stallions in our shows because they are flashier, and mares and geldings typically aren't. We have a lot of teenagers (horses) in this show,” she said.
While the horses are all stallions, the seven accompanying riders are all women.  “Our family was mostly girls,” McCullough said. “The boys just don't want to do it. They wanted to go play with trucks and stuff.” Three-year old Sydney McCullough, Rebecca's daughter, is already in training to continue the family legacy and travels with the show.
Peggy Wishart, Historic New England site manager in South Berwick, said the Herrmann's Royal Lipizzaner Stallions have performed at another HNE property in Massachusetts.  “Two years ago they approached us to see if there were other sites where they could perform, and we suggested Hamilton House.  It's a fascinating breed and story,” she said.
The show typically spends one week in each location. Their schedule as well as more information can be found at

Local Wood Carver Selected to Teach His Craft

These duck decoys – a blue winged teal pair, hollow wood, painted with artist acrylics -  took 1st and 2nd place at the Ward World Championship this past April. (courtesy photo)

Six Students to Learn to Create Duck Decoys

Jim Higgins, a wood carver from Eliot, is one of fourteen artists from around the country to have been selected as part of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. Higgins is to teach six students from Maine and New Hampshire how to carve and paint a working decoy through a project with the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University.
“I’ve been making decoys forever,” Higgins said. “But I haven’t taught it in probably fifteen, eighteen years.” Higgins said the students were selected by word of mouth.
“It went very quickly. Within hours of finding out I was involved, friends in the business talked to people and filled half the positions. I have a neighbor who was interested.”
Higgins said he was hoping to get some high school kids involved, to help lengthen the tradition by teaching it to the young.
“The youngest is twenty-three (years old), and the oldest is probably quite a bit older than that. I wouldn’t hazard a guess,” he said. “Three of the students have never made a decoy in their life; the other three have a bit of experience.”
Higgins is going to start the classes August 15, teaching two students at a time.
They will spend the next couple of months, creating, carving, and painting wooden duck decoys, and then bring their all their produced artwork down to a show in the fall.
The products are functioning decoys.
“Of the group I have, two of them are duck hunters,” said Higgins, an avid hunter. “Of course, that’s how I came to it. I started making them for myself, back in 1974.”
The Ward Museum was awarded the grant by the N.E.A. to support the project, which is called “Carving Out Future Decoy Makers.” The thirteen other carvers selected to teach are: Jim Burcio, Antioch, CA; Tom Matus, Boise, ID; Billy Pinches, Arcata, CA; Bill Browne, Lincoln, NE; Jason Russell, Gadsden; Mark Schupp, Boonville, MO; Gene Herbert, Houma, LA; Pat Gregory, Bloomington, IL; Rich Smoker, Marion, MD; Bob Hand, Sag Harbor, NY; William Belote, Lewes, DE; Ross Smoker, Selinsgrove, PA; Patrick Eubanks, Farmville, NC and Brian Ballard, Hopkins, MI.
This project intends to help preserve, promote, and present the decoy carving traditions of the United States. This is the sixth year that the National Endowment of the Arts has awarded the Ward Museum a grant to support this project. The first two years were limited to the Mid Atlantic region; it now is expanded to represent the four major migration flyways across the United States. The NEA provides the funding to pay the professional carver’s instructor fee and a stipend for materials. The students have the unique opportunity to learn how to craft a functional hunting decoy from a professional carver at no cost. It is hoped that this experience stimulates the eighty-four students to continue the tradition of decoy making, an original American art form.
Each fall the Ward Museum holds the Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo on the grounds of the museum, next to Schumaker Pond. The Expo is an opportunity for carvers and collectors to meet each other, exhibit their decoys in a public forum, and compete for ribbons and prizes. The decoys completed in this project will be entered into the Chesapeake Challenge held on October 13. Their work will be judged as functional working decoys along side the work of other regional carvers. The instructors will also participate in discussions regarding their efforts to pass their skills and knowledge to their students and their community.
In addition to the Chesapeake Challenge, there are many other activities at the Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo held October 12-13 that promote and preserve waterfowling traditions. On Friday and Saturday the front parking lot becomes a festive Market Place to buy, sell and trade an eclectic mix of fine antique decoys, collectible hunting items, folk art, and antique furniture. Decoy identification and appraisals are available both days.
The museum hosts an Eastern Shore Seafood Feast on Friday evening which is sponsored in part by Chesapeake Utilities.  Special programs follow the pig roast and are of interest to both the collector and contemporary carver.
Saturday is a day of competitions. Collectors enter antique decoys from their collection into the “Old Birds” Antique Decoy Competition. Competitors enter a canvasback into the Contemporary Antique Decoy Competition in which carvings are to resemble those made prior to 1950. There is also a duck head carving competition in which participants are given one and a half hours to complete the carving of a drake hooded merganser head. Each year the species for the above competitions change.
During the Expo, the LaMay Gallery showcases “Great Lakes Decoys and Folk Sculpture.”  The five Great Lakes, in the heartland of North America, have provided natural habitats, easily navigable waterways, and abundant food fresh water since their formation more than 10,000 years ago. Humans and wildlife alike have thrived along the shores of Lakes Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario and Superior as well as the smaller St. Clair, which together form the largest system of freshwater lakes in the world. Great Lakes Decoys and Folk Carvings presents many individually-made and commercially-produced wildfowl and fish decoys, patent drawings, and related folk sculpture from Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin and Minnesota, along with a history of exclusive hunt clubs in those regions
The festive atmosphere beckons visitors and competitors. Admission to Expo and the museum are free. Tickets for the Eastern Shore Seafood Feast can be purchased at the museum store. Children’s programs are offered on Saturday. A variety of food and beverages will be for sale on Saturday.
For more information regarding the project “Carving Out Future Decoy Makers” or Chesapeake Wildfowl Expo call the Ward Museum at 410-742-4988, 106 or visit

Daisy’s Children Founder Spends Month in Honduras

Hand-making tortillas to feed more than 100 children (courtesy photo)

One of Noble’s local heroes talks about trip

Story by Sharon Beckwith

“Welcome back.”
“You got some sun.”
“How was your trip?”
“Was it successful?”
“Did you have a good time?”

All genuine questions posed when one returns to Maine from a summer adventure. But how do you answer when you feel like you've traveled through time warps and experienced the unimaginable?
Not a reasonable, pert answer can be readily developed on the fly. Which part do you divulge to the one who asked? Do you describe the rush of hot, humid air as you walk out the airport doors into what often looks like “the land before time?” Perhaps you should smile politely as you describe hand-making authentic tortillas with your daughter to feed more than 100 children. Will this person be able to relate to your tales of traveling down a narrow, mountainous cattle path by car amid the cattle so that you can access food for the hungry children? Then of course there are the cold showers that you actually look forward to as temperatures soar. Let's not forget the tropical thunderstorms which look and sound like those on the television at home, as the electricity goes out yet again, and you watch the mountain road outside wash away in a sea of brown rapids. Will you spend another early morning sweeping mud and water out of the rooms of the guarderia?
Can you impart the joy as you see once malnourished children laughing, playing, or in their uniforms preparing to walk to school after breakfast? Will they understand the humility and pride as you are asked to speak as the voice of the village children by the mayor during negotiations with a neighboring mayor who refuses to allow road access, access that could mean life or death to a child? Will they believe your witnessing of life in a typical hospital in which two women post-Caesarian shared a single bed with their two newborns as well?
And so unfolds my true-life journey. I’m  a local kindergarten teacher, and this is a familiar journey for me, as I travel to the village of Concepcion del Norte, Santa Barbara, Honduras at least twice a year. What began as a trip to aid a travel group in 2007, has now become so much more. Daisy's Children, named after Deysi Suyapa Madrid Chavez, is a non-profit organization which strives to provide sustenance, clean drinking water, education, and medical intervention within this and surrounding villages.
In 2008, I returned to the village again to serve as medical support. Using my former career as a nurse to support a group for a week seemed like a reasonable thing to do. Just prior to traveling, a story reached me that confirmed why I should go. A young woman in the village had recently died, leaving behind several children. She had died because she opted to not eat so what little she had could be fed to her children. Little did anyone realize what my first meeting with these three children would bring to all that it has touched through an initial photograph and the voice brought to it. 
What began as the urge to feed three has evolved, through the help of many, into a guarderia or daycare center, as we in the states would refer to it, that now feeds 119 children two meals and a snack, Monday through Friday. I got to spend ample time aiding the four women from the village who run “Casa Verde” - as the locals refer to it - as a well-oiled machine. Also, my daughter Ashley and I were able to coordinate a parents day in which all parents came to answer some vital questions to allow Daisy's Children to develop valid statistics surrounding family structure, education level of parents, as well as current height, weight, and photographs. Acute awareness pierced the air as we listened to parents struggle to recall ages or birthdates of their children. This was emphasized even further as parents and grandparents alike completed the forms with three Xs as their signature.
So many poignant images come to mind as I try to recall twenty-four days spent amongst these people that I have developed such strong ties to. Happy faces bringing roadside flowers and love notes. People who truly have nothing brought me gifts of avocadoes and mangoes. One of the most concerning 'littles' brought me a red plastic bracelet in gratitude, and it still sits on my wrist to remind me of those I leave behind each time. And then I remember the moment that strikes my core each time I recall it: the tears welling in the eyes of a mother who tells me how proud she is to now have the opportunity alongside her husband to work selling firewood - work that makes her heart swell with pride because she was able to buy a small wooden table and a mattress for her family of seven. The children no longer have to sleep on the cold earth floor.
Each step I take on this side of such a trip makes me aware of every blessing I have, including the group of 119 children who call me by name from wherever they are in the village, making each time I tell the story, and each moment I spend conjuring up the next fundraiser worth ten times the effort.
We are currently formulating a group to join us in February of 2013 to aid us in transforming a dilapidated two-room school house into a functional space to house a study center for our older children, as well as a site for high school equivalency studies and a future English as a Second Language Center. The completion of this project will lead to our acquisition of the adjoining land to build our permanent guarderia as well as a vocational center. We have hosted multiple groups prior to this and even serve as an annual Alternative Spring Break setting for Northeastern University. For more information, we suggest you read our blog and preview our Volunteer Handbook, both available on our website at To contact me directly, email me