During the economic boom years in the 90's, Americans lost touch with small town America. Gigantic box stores began to proliferate and replace Main Street. While most of America was thriving, Main Street and the Mom and Pops of America fell off our radar because we became too engaged in gigantic consumption the newer box stores offered. To a large extent, we're still enamored with these box stores today.
There is, however, a spot on Maryland's Eastern Shore that is truly experiencing a renaissance along their Main Street. And that place is Berlin, Maryland, recently crowned America's Coolest Small Town by BudgetTravel.com. If you have never visited Berlin, Maryland, you have no idea what you're missing. Go for a walk down Main Street in Berlin today and you will feel like you're smack-dab in the middle of Norman Rockwell illustration. And while there are many folks that are responsible for this economic turnaround in Berlin, a large presence among them is the current Mayor Gee Williams.
I drew an assignment from the Daily Times in Salisbury to cover a Berlin Main Street fundraiser at Burley Oak Brewery. The fundraiser was hoping to raise money for the town's annual Christmas decoration fund. And if you've never been to Berlin, the Victorian Christmas celebration the town puts on is a fantastic time to visit. After the fundraiser was over, Mayor Gee Williams was going to monitor the voting for America's Coolest Small Town. And if the current numbers were to hold, he would raise a pint of Burley Oak beer at midnight and toast the town. My assignment was to shoot video and stills of the toast and subsequent celebration of Berlin taking the crown of America's Coolest Small Town.
When I arrived, I found the Mayor giving an interview to the Editor of a local weekly newspaper. Like any other assignment, I always survey the situation and scope out possible interesting shots. And trust me when I say this, Burley Oak is one of my favorite hangouts, but a dark brew pub at 11 pm at night doesn't offer many exciting photo opportunities. It was around 11:45 when the Mayor asked the Worcester County Social Media Coordinator Mark Huey how the voting was going. It was at that moment that my favorite photo of the night happened. An iPhone 5 provided just the right amount of light to illuminate the Mayor as he was checking on voting results:
I shot this photo using my Nikon D800 with a Nikkor 50 1.8 lense. I managed to get off a few images before the moment was gone. And I had just one image that didn't have any motion blur in the image. Every day I'm thankful that we live in the digital age of photography with the most amazing sensors because I'm a firm believer this image and the quality it contains wouldn't have happened if I were shooting film. I wanted to get this image up somewhere because the reality is, this image didn't accomplish my assignment's goal, which was showing a celebratory atmosphere after Berlin was crowned America's Coolest Small Town. I don't know if it even ran the next day in the paper as a shot of Mayor Gee Williams giving the toast ran on the front page.
Here's the video I shot of the event, make sure you view it in HD:
Congratulations to the Town of Berlin, Maryland!