Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team

Snakes, knots and love

Snakes, knots and love was written by Staff Writer Mary Markos and featured in the September 3, 2017 issue of Gloucester Daily Times Newspaper. Check out the photo of Mary Markos with one of our not-so-furry friends below!

From snakes and knot tying to a community outreach looking for love, Maritime Heritage Day was bustling with activities. 

Since vernal pond shows are mostly out of season in the summer, the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team brought its "Snakes of New England and the World" show to Harbor Loop on Saturday. 

"I have 65 snakes," Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team Executive Director Rick Roth said, snake in hand. "I get them from all over the place. I buy them, I catch them, I trade them."

As part of the CAVP program, members of the non-profit volunteer organization brought around 30 snakes with them for brave people to hold and for the less adventurous to look at from afar. They have been doing the show at Maritime Gloucester for several years now. 

Under the tent was a display of the 14 species of snakes found in Massachusetts, including the two venomous snakes, the copperhead and the rattlesnake.

"They're both state endangered so you're not likely to find one unless you really look," Roth said of the poisonous reptiles. 

In Gloucester, Roth has seen milk snakes, black racers, garters and ribbons. 

Onlooker Melinda Conrad of Gloucester noticed a snake she had seen in her own back yard. When growing up on Perkins Street, Conrad saw a ringneck and tried to catch it but was ultimately unsuccessful. "I saw it a million years ago," Conrad said. When asked what she planned to do when she caught him she said, "Just hold onto him, check him out."

Tying the knots

Charlie Olson, a Gloucester native, mans a knot tying booth every year at Maritime Heritage Day. "I've had enough boats to know how to run into some problems," he said. "I know the knots I needed to use to get around on boats but I'm not very formal with knowing knots."

"They're teaching me," Olson said of festival goers. "It's sort of collective. People get together and just explore."

Fred Sterner, who was working a booth raising money for Massachuestts' official vessel and National Historic Landmark, the schooner Ernestina-Morrissey, down the pier, was showing Olson how to make a jug sling knot. 

"You can put your jug of alcohol in there," Olson said of his knot. "Wine, usually," Strerner interjected. "The jug is here and you hang it over the cleat of the boat and let it drag through the water to cool off your wine."

Sterner picked up his knot-tying skills from working on the Ernestina-Morrissey for years before retiring. 

Ernestina-Morrissey crew members were at the free festival in an attempt to raise the remaining $300,000 needed to complete the schooner's $6 million renovations. Ernestina-Morrissey, launched in 1894 in Essex, is in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, Shipyard for a multiyear rehabilitation.

The Love Fest, a local community outreach project, has been traveling all over the city since May creating banners to display at Town Hall the week of Sept. 18, and made an appearance at Maritime Heritage Day.

"It's a very simple question, 'What does love mean to you?'" organizer Karen Pischke said. "But it becomes very introspective and profound."

Pischke thought of the idea when she want to Chicago's O'Hare Airport, where she saw a wall with the question, "What does love mean to you?" and travelers writing down answers in marker. "I thought that would be really great to bring back to Gloucester," Pischke said.

The large paper banners have been placed all over the city all summer, including at the Lanesville Community Center, the Rocky Neck Cultural Center, the Gloucester Writer's Center, Cape Ann Veterans Center, Pathways for Children, the Senior Center, Cape Ann Animal Aid and the Folklore Theatre during the "Greasy Pole" musical.

"Every venue has a different essence, which wasn't something that I expected but I'm seeing it, and I don't say anything except please share a message of love," she said. 

Because it was Maritime Heritage Day, Pischke noticed that many notes had to do with the sea. When she went to Cape Ann Animal Aid a lot of the messages focused on love for animals, love regarding the country was notable with the Cape Ann veterans, and so on depending on where the love board was displayed.

"It's about having people focus on more positive things and focus on love," Pischke said of the project.

Project organizers have been posting their events on Gloucester TEASE, Together Everyone Achieves Something Extraordinary. Pischke says that Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken has been supportive throughout the process. "This has the whole community supporting it," she added. 

She said her hope is that people will come to see all the banners on display between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. at Kyrouz Auditorium in City Hall from Sept. 18 through Sept. 21, which is the UN International Day of Peace. Pischke said she is looking to get some viewing time scheduled in the evening as well. 

"It's all the different neighborhood banners coming together to be displayed in the auditorium," she said. "That display symbolizes the community joining together in love and peace."

Mary Markos may be contacted at 978-675-2708 or

Mary Markos
having fun with
at the
Maritime Heritage Day festivities.

Thanks for writing a nice article about us Mary Markos.

Thanks for taking such a great photograph of the 
Skeletor pair Desi Smith.

  Photograph by Victoria Rolf

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