Local Author’s Novel A Labor Of Love

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BERLIN — One local author is offering insight into early animal conservation and re-introduction efforts. But author Benjamin Beck decided to frame his experiences taking golden lion tamarin monkeys back to the wild in a creative non-fiction novel meant to appeal to children and adults, conservationists and laypeople.

Thirteen Gold Monkey is a novel with several parallel storylines. While the force of the plot focuses on Beck and other conservationists’ efforts to re-introduce the tamarins to the wild in Brazil, there was so much more going on under the surface, according to Beck, including the personal story of how he developed a relationship with his future wife.

“We were working together and we were falling in love. But we had this tension between us about what was the best way to re-introduce the monkeys,” said Beck. “So that’s kind of a sub-theme of the story, how our relationship developed.”

The novel begins in 1983, when the idea of what a zoo was began to evolve from just being a pleasant distraction into what we have today.

“The inspiration for the work came from, well my career was in zoos,” explained Beck. “We were challenged in the 70s and early-80s to change the concept of zoos from menageries to conservation meaningful organizations.”

This led to the project that serves as the foundation of Thirteen Gold Monkeys, the re-introduction of the creatures into the wild in the hopes of boosting their population. To prepare them for release, Beck explains that he and his colleagues attempted to train them to find hidden food in their cages at irregular hours to better prepare them to forage.

“We really believed that they needed to be trained to understand that food won’t be delivered twice a day in a pan,” said Beck.

Unfortunately, initial attempts to prepare the tamarins weren’t able to realistically mimic what their new environments would be like, and Beck said that many of the animals early in the program struggled to survive or disappeared. Improvements came quickly, however, like allowing the monkeys to roam the entire zoo in the summer and providing some food and shelter for them post-release, all of which greatly improved their chances for survival.

As important as the story is at face value, Beck tried to expand upon it further, which is where the “creative” part of the non-fiction comes in. The original 13 monkeys that are referenced in the story are given the gift of human speech by Beck’s narrative, the better to express what they would have been feeling going through such an experience.

Other creative liberties are taken with time compression and the occasionally blending of two characters into one, but Beck promised that the story stays true to the facts and is only altered enough to make it engaging and readable for any age.

“I came to write the book to make an approachable, accessible account of what I think is a landmark conservation program,” he said.

Despite having no experience with novels beforehand, Beck found writing Thirteen Gold Monkeys to be fun and free from writer’s block. Much of that, he admitted, comes from the fact that he has 40 years of experience in conservation, including more than 20 spent managing the re-introduction of the tamarins. While it was his first shot at a novel, Beck has been writing scientific papers on the project and many others for decades.

Once written, a process that took less than a year, Beck decided to self-publish his novel through Outskirts Press. Like many first-time novelists, Beck found self-publishing to be a useful tool but also a challenging one. Out of pocket costs might discourage a lot of people, he said, and once the book is actually available, self-promotion and generating buzz is a labor in and of itself.

It was worth it, however, according to Beck. He added that new resources like Saltwater Media in Berlin will make self-publishing locally an attractive option for writers.

“I wish that Saltwater Media over here in Berlin had opened a month earlier. They’re dynamic,” he said.

Overall, Beck is happy with the novel, which he wrote as a tale of adventure, a love story, and a fact-rich account of golden lion tamarin monkeys and the struggles of conservation. Too many books paint conservation in a bleak light, he added.

“When we talk about environmental conservation, it’s usually depressing and we’re always quick to identify bad guys,” said Beck.

But Thirteen Gold Monkeys tries to show that positive results can happen when people get together and try to preserve nature. Though the battle is never really won, Beck revealed that the tamarin population has boomed since re-introduction began in the 80s. With the momentum from his first novel, Beck has begun a second book, which will focus on chimpanzees.

Thirteen Gold Monkeys is available at Amazon.com in both paperback and e-book editions. Likewise, it can be found at barnesandnoble.com, including an e-book for the Nook, iTunes, the Beanery, Salt Water Media, and the Barnes and Noble in Salisbury.

‘Super Playful’ Humpback Whale Fascinates

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OCEAN CITY — Passengers on a tour of Ocean City’s coast got a rare surprise this weekend when an energetic humpback whale approached a Paradise Watersports’ boat Saturday.

Though spotting sea life like dolphins, turtles and manta rays can be an almost daily guarantee when taking an ocean tour, encountering a humpback whale up close is decidedly less common, according to Paradise owner Tyler Barnes.

“We usually see a whale or two once during the summer season,” he said. “But usually off on the horizon. And we’re not usually able to identify what type of whale it is.”

There was no mistaking the identity of the whale that broke the water’s surface multiple times Saturday. It was clearly a humpback, a larger species than is usually encountered so close to shore near Ocean City. It was just luck, said Barnes, that one of his boats was so close to the whale when it decided to get some air.

“Two of my boats were out less than a mile from shore between 15th Street and 30th Street and they had their parachutes up and all of a sudden the whale was just breaching all around them,” he said. “It was just really cool. They were in the right place at the right time.”

The proximity allowed for some incredible close-up shots of the friendly mammal. Despite the large animal closing to within only 50 feet or so of a packed boat, no one seemed nervous, said Barnes, including the whale.

“It didn’t appear to be in distress. It was super playful,” he said. “We’ve heard that when they come in that close to shore around here that sometimes they’re on their last leg but this one in particular looked like it was just super playful, having fun.”

The only regret customers expressed to Paradise Watersports after the event, Barnes added, was that no one in the parasail had been able to snap any pictures.

“The customers just wished they had a camera up in the air,” he said. “That would have been unreal to get some aerial shots.”

The pictures that the boat was able to take of the whale have proven popular even without any aerials. The story has attracted traffic to their website, paradise-watersports.com, noted Barnes, and especially their Facebook page, where a collection of the whale pictures have accumulated over 400 likes and 160-plus shares. But that pales when compared to the over 3,600 likes and more than 1,300 shares that the pictures received after they were featured on the National Aquarium’s Facebook page Saturday.

Wintering in Hawaii during the offseason, Barnes is no stranger to encountering humpbacks in the wild. But finding one so close to the Ocean City beach and with so much energy is something that he said his crew and customers will never forget.

Softball World Series Brings 75K To Lower Shore

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OCEAN CITY — With the resort hosting opening ceremonies for the third and final leg of the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) World Series on Monday, the economic impact of the lower shore event was weighed this week and has been estimated at around $10 million.

That revenue will be felt all over the Eastern Shore, but especially in Wicomico and Worcester counties, according to Kristen Conn, director of Marketing and Public Relations for the Wicomico Recreation, Parks, Tourism and Civic Center.

Wicomico is playing host to the USSSA tournament for the seventh consecutive year. The tourney began last month and wraps up this weekend. While much of the revenue generated directly and indirectly by the event will likely stay in Wicomico, Conn revealed that neighboring counties should benefit as well.

“Preliminary estimates suggest approximately one-third of the impact will be felt in Worcester County, including Ocean City,” she said. “This estimate is based on the number of Worcester County/Ocean City hotel rooms reserved through the county’s online reservation system, and it may be adjusted once additional information is analyzed regarding team accommodations.”

Dorchester County and Sussex County in Delaware will also benefit from the World Series, continued Conn. A survey given to teams revealed that players will seek accommodations in all four counties. Many of the players and coaches will also be commuting in and spending time on the shore while they are not playing, she said.

“Over the years, teams have traveled in from 19 different states in addition to Canada,” noted Conn. “For many of them, this is their first visit to the Eastern Shore, so on off days they like to explore the region.”

Ocean City especially hopes to cater to the teams and spent roughly $8,000 on an opening day ceremony at the beach this week for the third-leg of the World Series. This is the first year the resort has held opening ceremonies, but whether that will translate to more teams staying and shopping in Ocean City isn’t clear yet.

Susan Jones, executive director of the Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant Association, explained that numbers are not in yet as to whether players are staying in Ocean City.

The resort has always benefited to a degree from USSSA, however.

“We do get overflow rooms from that event because there are only so many rooms in Salisbury and it’s a very large event,” said Jones.

Malcolm Van Kirk, co-owner of the Sea Bay Hotel in Ocean City, has not seen any noticeable bump in business from the event so far this summer. It’s been pretty much steady in his hotel from last summer, he said, adding that this was still a good thing as the tournament provides a booster shot to business at the end of every July.

“We’re very happy and would like to make sure the event continues … we’re very pleased with the overall event,” said Van Kirk.

While Sea Bay may not have seen a specific increase in activity this summer, Conn expects that Ocean City as a whole will benefit from significant overflow.

“This year, over the course of the tournament, an estimated 16,000 hotel room nights were needed. This exceeds Wicomico County’s hotel room capacity, so stays spill over into the surrounding area with Ocean City seeing the largest number of rooms booked outside of Wicomico,” Conn said. “This works out well as teams preferring to stay close to fields of play opt to stay in Wicomico, while those interested in seeing the beach, ocean and Boardwalk select Ocean City.”

All counties involved are likely to see some increases simply due to the tournament’s growth, she added. Over the last seven years, the USSSA event has exploded in terms of popularity. More than 5,000 softball players ages 10 through 18 are expected to visit Delmarva because of the World Series with roughly 75,000 total attendees anticipated this year.

“The event has grown dramatically since it first came to Wicomico County in 2007.  Beginning with just 58 teams participating over the course of one week, the World Series expanded to two weeks last year and brought a record 292 teams together in competition.  This year, with the expansion to three weeks, the tournament grew even more to 400 teams,” Conn said.

Since it began in 2007, Conn revealed that the USSSA World Series has brought in more than $25 million to the area, with this year’s total nearly 40 percent of that. The event will hopefully continue to grow in Wicomico and spill over to neighboring counties every year, said Conn. The location of the 2014 tournament hasn’t been announced yet, she added, but Wicomico is optimistic about playing host for an eighth consecutive year.

The USSSA World Series runs through Aug. 3.

Published Author Brings Salt Water Media To Berlin

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BERLIN — While Berlin has grown recently in terms of opportunity for artists and musicians, there haven’t been quite so many resources for writers. That changed this spring when Salt Water Media opened shop in town and the past few months have been more than encouraging, said owner Stephanie Fowler.

Located on Broad Street, Salt Water Media is a “one-stop shop” for writers interested in independent publishing, said Fowler. The facility has its own on-site printing press, the aptly named “Espresso Book Machine” which is able to produce a bound paperback book about every five minutes. There are only 40 Espresso presses in the country and just 80 worldwide. Fowler can also help prospective authors produce an e-book and can manage hardback manuscripts as well, though those are outsourced.

What sets Salt Water apart, she explained, is that it provides nearly every related service to independent publishing.

“If the writer needs cover design work, I have graphic designers, photographers, different people that I can tap to help create the cover art,” said Fowler. “If they need illustration, I have people that are available to me to help with that.”

Salt Water Media can also provide editing and copywriting and less conventional assistance with things like website design, social media networking and teaching a self-published author how to reach and engage their target audience.

“When you are an independent author, part of the big thing is that you have to become a brand,” said Fowler.

An independently published author herself, Fowler has personal experience trying to build that brand. In fact, one of the major motivations behind her decision to open Salt Water Media was to help other writers navigate the self-publishing process as it can be complicated and frustrating to enter into blindly.

It was an experience that Fowler went through only a few years ago when she independently published her book, Crossings, a collection of creative non-fiction stories set on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Before deciding to publish the book herself, Fowler had sought to go the traditional route with an agent and a mainstream publisher. However, despite winning the Sophie Kerr Prize, the country’s largest undergraduate writing award, in college, Fowler was frustrated by publishers categorizing Crossings as “too regional” to pick up.

This led to Fowler’s decision to go forward on her own, an endeavor that was both rewarding and challenging, especially for a first-time author.

“I had a lot of control in the process and I went through the process and I realized that, wow, this is a really difficult process,” she said. “It can be very cumbersome, there aren’t a lot of answers, and it is just really dense. You kind of just step here and hope it works then step here and hope it works.”

With Salt Water, Fowler hopes to streamline that route for new authors by offering highly customized plans for how to independently publish as well as some guidance and advice on how to get the most out of the process.

So far everything seems to be going well in that direction, noted Fowler. Since this spring, several authors have already worked with Salt Water Media to design and create their books. And it’s not just Salt Water’s clients that have been welcoming, but the entire town, according to Fowler.

“As far as the local merchants and the business community go it has been like a neighborhood,” she said. “I like to joke that we’re the new kids on the block but nobody made us feel like we couldn’t sit at their table.”

Salt Water Media has fit in nicely with the arts and entertainment vibe in Berlin. The town holds several music festivals every year as well as monthly visual art events.

“Berlin is very big in arts and entertainment. They have the 2nd Friday [Art Stroll] going on and it seems to be very alive,” said Fowler. “There definitely seems to be a sense of community with the business people.”

Salt Water looks to make Berlin its home for many years ahead, with Fowler hoping that the company, and the others like it that are cropping up across the country, will help add legitimacy to the independent publishing industry. For many years, self-published authors have been marginalized, said Fowler, and often considered lacking in talent because they aren’t represented by major publishers.

But those publishers don’t find every single talented author and others simply want to pass the traditional route and retain control of their work through independent publishing, said Fowler.

“It would be my hope that in the next couple of years we start moving towards something in the middle between thinking that traditional publishing is the only way and that self-publishing is bad,” she said.

Fowler compared the situation to an unknown band signing with an independent record label. In those situations, the bands tend to be respected and viewed with a degree of legitimacy; something she believes will soon start to take place in the self-publishing industry.

For more information contact Salt Water Media at 443-513-4422 or stephanie@saltwatermediallc.com

Modern Brew Pub Now Open At Old Melvin’s Site

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OCEAN CITY – de Lazy Lizard has stretched its tail across downtown Ocean City, adding a new brew pub to its operation that offers a variety of the restaurants own brand of craft brew and tavern dishes.

The new de Lazy Lizard Brew Pub is located in the former Melvin’s Steak House at 25 N Philadelphia Avenue in downtown Ocean City. The brew pub is about 200 feet away from de Lazy Lizard’s original location on the west end of 1st Street on the bay.

Owner Todd Hays explained he and his business partner, Wayne Odachowski, decided to open the brew pub when 90-minute waiting times became the norm at the original de Lazy Lizard during the summer months.

“No matter how great the city is in granting us more and more tables because we keep acquiring more and more parking, it is never enough, so I thought it would be great to have another place particularly when it rains because we have hundreds of unhappy people when they can’t get a seat and then when it starts raining,” Hays said.

The original de Lazy Lizard offers both indoor and outdoor seating, but the brew pub is all indoor dining with 132 seats and 40 bar stools.

Upon walking into the brew pub, the brewery is visible behind a glass wall with a new square bar positioned in front. There is plenty of seating, including large tables for family seating. There is an outdoor “smoking deck”, and there are plans to add a humidor in the near future.

The brew pub offers 40 craft brews, 20 on tap and 20 in cans or bottles with intent to eventually serve six of their own beer recipes at all times, and Hays plans to add another 12 taps in the future to have a total of 32 handles.

de Lazy Lizard received its federal brewery license three months ago followed by a license from the State of Maryland and a Worcester County liquor license. They began brewing their own brand of craft brews once construction had been completed.

Currently, the brew pub is selling three of its own craft beers, a Copper Ale, Blonde Ale and Double IPA.

“We have already sold out of Copper Ale, and our Blonde Ale is killer … it is the hottest thing right now,” Hays said. “It is the coolest thing. My original intention was to have another restaurant to scoop up the dinner demand but what is happening is people are so interested in craft brews that they are coming in for that, which is great.”

de Lazy Lizard Brew Pub along with its “Brew Lizard” Rodney Hillman from Baltimore has plans to come out with a seasonal ale in the off-season, which will most likely be a pumpkin recipe. They are also coming up with a caramel porter and a light crisp lager.

“It is such a cool industry … everyone is really clubby and friendly. We have had Burley Oak and EVO in our place constantly helping us with the equipment and coming up with cool recipes. They have virtually been consultants for us … they are great,” Hays said.

de Lazy Lizard brewery currently consists of a large copper tank and four fermenter tanks. A copper tank makes at least 14 kegs per batch. A batch then goes into one fermenter, so the brewery could have 4 batches fermenting at a time, which takes 14 days. Hays wants to add at least 8 more fermenters.

“I see a much heavier demand,” Hays said. “Our two restaurants can sell all the beer we produce right now.”

Besides selling de Lazy Lizard’s own brand of beer in their own two restaurants, Hays is looking to distribute the beer in states that are least five hours away from Ocean City.

“The strategy is to take de Lazy Lizard brand, which is becoming very popular, and make it available in a bar and/or restaurant in your neighborhood so that when you are planning your vacation you will have de Lazy Lizard and Ocean City in your plans,” Hays said.

The brew pub will ultimately be a show place where we make the product and serve overflow customers but it will be a great off-season restaurant, Hays added.

de Lazy Lizard Executive Chef David Mikozzi from Baltimore has created an expanded tavern menu to debut in the off-season for Ocean City locals. Currently the brew pubs menu shares some of the same dishes with the original location, such as the Twin Stuffed Lobster Tails entrée and a list of other appetizers, soups, salads and sandwiches but the pub offers unique tavern specialties.

A popular appetizer at the brew pub is the Tater Tot Buffalo Chicken with diced buffalo chicken, 3 blend cheese, and drizzled with ranch dressing or the Brats Sausage Sampler served with dark ale mustard and horseradish mustard accompanied with garlic bread.

A couple of entrees that stand apart from the rest are Banger and Mash with Natty Boh Bratwurst, mashed potatoes, German kraut covered with nut brown ale gravy, or the Fish N Chips with hand dipped Guinness and Harp battered cod with fires and coleslaw.

Both locations will remain open in the off-season. On top of an expanded beer and wine menu, the brew pub will be offering NFL specials throughout the football season. Hays proclaimed the new pub to be the next downtown Baltimore Ravens bar.

Long-Time Commissioner Recovering From Broken Neck

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OCEAN CITY — Less than a week after a fall left her in the hospital with a broken neck, Worcester County Commissioner Louise Gulyas is on the road to recovery.

“We received the results of the Myelogram yesterday and it appears that the break in C2 is a straight line and yet her neck is still aligned,” wrote her son Thom Gulyas in an email to local media and friends of the commissioner. “This is really good news for sure.”

It was only last Friday that Louise Gulyas, who was elected as a commissioner in 1998, slipped in her Ocean City condo after lunch with some friends. The fall left her unconscious through that afternoon and she was found the next morning by her son after she failed to appear for a scheduled outing. The commissioner spent more than 18 hours on the floor of her condo.

In the hospital afterwards, Louise Gulyas learned that the fall had actually broken a vertebra in her neck.

“We spent about five hours at AGH [Atlantic General Hospital] with them getting her stabilized, X-rays and CT,” Thom Gulyas reported. “After the doctors had read the results, they came in to inform us all that mom has in fact broken her neck. She has broken C2 upper vertebra.”

Thom Gulyas said that his mother never showed signs of paralysis and could move extremities the entire time. Her spirits remained high as well, he added, even though the fall kept her hospital bound on her birthday Monday.

Commissioner Judy Boggs commented on her friend’s consistent
show of perseverance.

“You know, you never hear any complaints from Louise and she’s had so many ups and downs,” said Boggs. “More downs than ups, lately. But she does not complain. She’s always upbeat and positive and with that attitude I’m sure she’ll come through this.”

That positive outlook, as well as an outpouring of support from the community, has helped his mother recover, according to Thom Gulyas.

“Her spirits are up mainly as a result of the many emails, posts, phone calls, flowers, etc.,” he wrote.

Thom Gulyas also thanked any in the community who have taken a few minutes of their time to put the commissioner in their thoughts and prayers.

“To all of you who shared prayers, placed her on prayer lists, stopped by, called, emailed, etc…thank you,” he wrote. “It meant so much to her and it obviously worked. As a family, we wholeheartedly believe in the power of prayer.”

Louise Gulyas has been moved to the Chesapeake Health South in Salisbury and is currently seeing visitors, answering calls and emails. She will need to wear a neck brace once she leaves the facility, likely for at least three months. But she is definitely heading in the right direction, said Thom Gulyas.

NEW FOR WEDNESDAY: Long-Time Commissioner Recovering From Broken Neck

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OCEAN CITY — Less than a week after a fall left her in the hospital with a broken neck, Worcester County Commissioner Louise Gulyas is on the road to recovery.

“We received the results of the Myelogram yesterday and it appears that the break in C2 is a straight line and yet her neck is still aligned,” wrote her son Thom Gulyas in an email to local media and friends of the commissioner. “This is really good news for sure.”

It was only last Friday that Louise Gulyas, who was elected as a commissioner in 1998, slipped in her Ocean City condo after lunch with some friends. The fall left her unconscious through that afternoon and she was found the next morning by her son after she failed to appear for a scheduled outing. The commissioner spent more than 18 hours on the floor of her condo.

In the hospital afterwards, Louise Gulyas learned that the fall had actually broken a vertebra in her neck.

“We spent about five hours at AGH [Atlantic General Hospital] with them getting her stabilized, X-rays and CT,” Thom Gulyas reported. “After the doctors had read the results, they came in to inform us all that mom has in fact broken her neck. She has broken C2 upper vertebra.”

Thom Gulyas said that his mother never showed signs of paralysis and could move extremities the entire time. Her spirits remained high as well, he added, even though the fall kept her hospital bound on her birthday Monday.

Commissioner Judy Boggs commented on her friend’s consistent

show of perseverance.

“You know, you never hear any complaints from Louise and she’s had so many ups and downs,” said Boggs. “More downs than ups, lately. But she does not complain. She’s always upbeat and positive and with that attitude I’m sure she’ll come through this.”

That positive outlook, as well as an outpouring of support from the community, has helped his mother recover, according to Thom Gulyas.

“Her spirits are up mainly as a result of the many emails, posts, phone calls, flowers, etc.,” he wrote.

Thom Gulyas also thanked any in the community who have taken a few minutes of their time to put the commissioner in their thoughts and prayers.

“To all of you who shared prayers, placed her on prayer lists, stopped by, called, emailed, etc…thank you,” he wrote. “It meant so much to her and it obviously worked. As a family, we wholeheartedly believe in the power of prayer.”

Louise Gulyas has been moved to the Chesapeake Health South in Salisbury and is currently seeing visitors, answering calls and emails. She will need to wear a neck brace once she leaves the facility, likely for at least three months. But she is definitely heading in the right direction, said Thom Gulyas.

NEW FOR MONDAY: ‘Super Playful’ Humpback Whale Fascinates

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OCEAN CITY — Passengers on a tour of Ocean City’s coast got a rare surprise this weekend when an energetic humpback whale approached a Paradise Watersports’ boat Saturday.

Though spotting sea life like dolphins, turtles and manta rays can be an almost daily guarantee when taking an ocean tour, encountering a humpback whale up close is decidedly less common, according to Paradise owner Tyler Barnes.

“We usually see a whale or two once during the summer season,” he said. “But usually off on the horizon. And we’re not usually able to identify what type of whale it is.”

There was no mistaking the identity of the whale that broke the water’s surface multiple times Saturday. It was clearly a humpback, a larger species than is usually encountered so close to shore near Ocean City. It was just luck, said Barnes, that one of his boats was so close to the whale when it decided to get some air.

“Two of my boats were out less than a mile from shore between 15th Street and 30th Street and they had their parachutes up and all of a sudden the whale was just breaching all around them,” he said. “It was just really cool. They were in the right place at the right time.”

The proximity allowed for some incredible close-up shots of the friendly mammal. Despite the large animal closing to within only 50 feet or so of a packed boat, no one seemed nervous, said Barnes, including the whale.

“It didn’t appear to be in distress. It was super playful,” he said. “We’ve heard that when they come in that close to shore around here that sometimes they’re on their last leg but this one in particular looked like it was just super playful, having fun.”

The only regret customers expressed to Paradise Watersports after the event, Barnes added, was that no one in the parasail had been able to snap any pictures.

“The customers just wished they had a camera up in the air,” he said. “That would have been unreal to get some aerial shots.”

The pictures that the boat was able to take of the whale have proven popular even without any aerials. The story has attracted traffic to their website, paradise-watersports.com, noted Barnes, and especially their Facebook page, where a collection of the whale pictures have accumulated over 400 likes and 160-plus shares. But that pales when compared to the over 3,600 likes and more than 1,300 shares that the pictures received after they were featured on the National Aquarium’s Facebook page Saturday.

Wintering in Hawaii during the offseason, Barnes is no stranger to encountering humpbacks in the wild. But finding one so close to the Ocean City beach and with so much energy is something that he said his crew and customers will never forget.

OC Council Supports Bond Tax Exemption

OCEAN CITY – The Ocean City Mayor and Council last week approved a measure of support for the preservation of tax-exempt financing.

City Solicitor Guy Ayres presented the Mayor and Council a resolution opposing any efforts by Congress to eliminate or limit the federal tax-exemption on interest earned from municipal bonds.

The resolution states, “Congress is considering many options available to reduce Federal Deficit, and one option Congress is evaluating would reduce or eliminate the exemption on municipal bond interest.”

The federal tax exemption has been in place since the first federal income tax was enacted in 1913, and as a result, state and local governments save, on average, two percentage points on their borrowing to finance investments in public infrastructure. The exemption has generated trillions of dollars of investment in public infrastructure and has saved taxpayers hundreds of billions in interest cost.

Investors in municipal bonds are generally tax-exempt from paying income tax on bond interest payments so even a partial income tax on otherwise tax-exempt interest would cause investors to demand higher returns on their municipal bond investments to make up for the tax they would have to pay.

One proposal being discussed would apply to interest on bonds already issued by governments and purchased by investors.  This would represent a violation of the basic assumption of investors that Congress will not change the terms governing the taxability of interest for bonds already outstanding.

The resolution positions the Town of Ocean City’s in opposition against any efforts by Congress to eliminate or limit the federal tax exemption on interest earned from municipal bonds.

According to Ayres, bonds that are typically tax free allow the town to go into the financial markets and borrow money at least 2 percent lower than the interest rate in the total market that is taxable. The advantage to this is the investor receives a safe investment with a guaranteed rate of return that is not subject to taxation.

The council voted unanimously to approve the resolution.

“When we do issue new bonds if you are a state resident in Maryland the bonds are what they call triple free meaning there is no tax, state, federal or local, so it is an excellent investment in your own community and the rewards of investing in your own community is two-fold, it’s good for the community and its good for you,” said Councilman Brent Ashley, who first broached the topic in May,

A New Direction For Crabcake Factory Express

OCEAN CITY – Armed with this month’s approval of a beer and wine license and a new family direction, the Crabcake Factory Express on 25th Street has reinvented itself.

In December of 2011, Crabcake Factory USA founder and CEO Johnny Brooks bought the Crabcake Factory Express property on 25th Street and Coastal Highway with the intentions to franchise the business. His original location, Crabcake Factory USA, has been located on 120th Street since 1996.

In July of 2012, the restaurant opened as a franchise but following complications Brooks decided to go in a different direction and placed Crabcake Factory Express under the Brooks family business with his wife, Krista Brooks, serving as CEO and president of the family’s new corporation, Crabcake Factory Downtown.

Last week, the Board of License Commissioners approved Brooks’ request to sell beer and wine after being turned down previously.

“We are a valuable part of the community, always have been, and now that we are running it, it is going to have the same quality as uptown,” Brooks said. “But to be honest we were losing business without beer and wine.”

Now with a license in hand, Johnny and Krista Brooks are looking to expand the beer menu, adding a wide variety of craft beers.

“We are going to establish a basic beer and wine menu at this time but it will really start to transpire in the off season. We are really going to experiment with the craft beers. We want to add 24 taps,” Brooks said.

Crabcake Factory uptown is known for its Crab Bloody Mary, Shrimp Bloody Mary and Bacon Bloody Mary. Brooks said they will still be offered downtown but with a vodka that falls under the beer and wine category.

“Uptown and downtown I am learning are two different worlds. I have been in business for 20 years one way or another in Ocean City and I am just learning the ropes downtown. It is a whole different story,” Johnny Brooks said.

The crab cakes offered at both locations will be the same as will other popular menu items. A larger selection of Beignets is offered downtown, which is a New Orleans traditional hot donut, along with an expanded coffee selection. The downtown location also offers authentic milkshakes made with real milk and ice cream.

“The biggest thing we have going down here besides the beignets is fish tacos with beer battered cod. We make our own pico de gallo, mango salsa with our famous boom boom sauce. We also have a shrimp taco and a pork carnita,” Brooks said. “Downtown people like to grab food and go on the Boardwalk. We are only a block from the Boardwalk tram, so you can come here, grab a cold beer and have dinner, then jump on the tram and ride down and back.”

The Brooks family plans on keeping the downtown location open the same times as the uptown location, which starts to close during the week around Thanksgiving but remains open on the weekends offering NFL specials, such as two Crabcake dinners, drinks and two home-made beignets for dessert for $25.

“I am from the Washington D.C. area,” Krista Brooks hinted to what team the downtown location will claim, as the uptown location has claimed the Baltimore Ravens.

The couple is excited about the new venture’s direction and its potential.

“This is really exciting for us. It is really exciting to be working with my wife now hand-in-hand … and my kids are having a great time where now we are near the beach and I can take them to the Boardwalk,” Johnny Brooks said.