Sep 082015

Info Booth 1When visitors come to Salem MA in October, they do so armed not only with a printed map and an on-line set of references on cell phone or tablet, they also have direct, face to face contact with the Salem Main Streets (SMS) corps of volunteers whose goal is to get visitors where they want to go in town and enjoy the visit. We’d like you to join our team.

Last year alone the SMS volunteers assisted over 20,000 visitors during the weekends and holidays in October.

“We are looking for volunteers with enthusiasm for Salem to help greet visitors at the Downtown Salem Information Booth in October,” states Kylie Sullivan, Salem Main Streets Executive Director.

Volunteers will staff the booth which will sit at the beginning of the Essex Street Pedestrian Mall; they will hand out maps and provide information about Salem’s wide variety of attractions, events, and businesses.

All volunteers are asked to be available for a minimum of two shifts (each shift is for two hours) and will be required to complete a one hour orientation session. The orientation will take place on Saturday, September 19 at 9:30 am at the National Park Service Regional Visitor Center.

Volunteers will be updated on new October events and there will be time for returning volunteers to share insights and information with those new to the program. A free trolley tour will be available before the informational session, courtesy of Salem Trolley.

Info Booth 2Volunteers are needed for the following dates: October 1 (Parade night), 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 12 (Columbus Day Weekend), 16, 17, 18, 23, 24, 25, 30, 31 (Halloween Night), and November 1.

Adds Kylie, “We are also looking for multi-lingual volunteers to assist the many international visitors who come to Salem. If you have availability during some of these days, enjoy helping visitors by showing them your enthusiasm for our cultured and historic city, and want to make it fun and easy for visitors to explore all of Salem’s sites and attractions, please join us!”

For more information or to become a volunteer please contact Kylie Sullivan, Salem Main Streets’ Executive Director, at 978-744-0004 x15 or This program is a partnership between Salem Main Streets, the National Park Service, the City of Salem, Destination Salem, and the Salem Chamber of Commerce.

Jul 252015

Let’s repeat three words. LARGEST. SAILING. SALEM. Our seaport community was a key player in the early days of this country’s maritime exploration and trading. And it’s nice to see that our connection to the water continues as more than 400 junior sailors from around the country are expected to participate in the 2015 United States Optimist Dinghy Association (USODA) Optimist Dinghy New England Championship in Salem, Aug. 4-6 from Winter Island.

SailingThis is the largest junior sailing regatta in the United States, with sailors between the ages of 9 – 14. You noticed we didn’t say “sailors” to qualify the reference. These young people are every part of the word.

As an example just look at Sail Salem, which is the local host. It offers an educational program for children that promotes positive life skills and values through the sport of sailing. Founded in 2008, Sail Salem has introduced sailing to over 1,000 children from Salem and surrounding towns.

And it’s not just a one-time summer thing. Children have grown up through the program, from beginner, to intermediate sailor, to counselor in training, to sailing coach. The majority of a junior instructors are former students of Sail Salem.

According to Sail Salem, “Lessons are conducted in Salem Harbor off Winter Island to bring the love of sailing to many children who would not have had the opportunity to be on a boat.”

Adults are also encouraged to sail and evening lessons for all levels are available throughout the summer.

No wonder the 2015 Regatta is being held here. Previous competitions have been held in Newport, Rhode Island, and Portland, Maine

What does this have to do with the Downtown District, which is what we usually talk about? We expect a sizable percentage of those 400 sailors and families to explore Salem either before or after the regatta. We would like them to feel welcome. Spectators interested in watching the races from the water will find regatta tours at Sea Shuttle and Mahi Mahi Harbor Cruises.  Charter boats are available through McLaughlin Boat Works and Zim Sailing. Regatta accommodations options can be found at

One other thing. Sail Salem is still looking for volunteers to help with some of the on-land activities. Contact Pat Connolly-Atkins at if you would be interested in helping.

Sail Salem and the 2015 USODA New England Championship Regatta are sponsored by Cabot Wealth Management.

Complete regatta information can be found at

Jul 202015

Window Box 2015Windows have an artistic value beyond the utilitarian of keeping cold out and letting fresh air in. Walk down any street in Salem and you’ll see windows as the backdrop and support for creative & colorful flowered window boxes. To honor the businesses and homes that go the extra mile to help beautify Salem, the City has been holding an annual Window Box Competition since 1993.

Modesty aside, did you work hard on your window box design and placement? Then you deserve recognition and an award.  The Salem Beautification Committee, along with The Salem Garden Club and Mayor Kimberley Driscoll, have issued an open invitation for submissions.

Or if you are very creative, you’ve got time to make one very quickly for the Window Box Competition.

Wood of course is the traditional material with which to build a window box. But what kind of wood should be used? For example you might want to remove pine, which rots relatively quickly (and we do get a lot of rain & snow) from your options. And add cedar or redwood because of their rot-resistant qualities.

Of course people have gone away from wood totally with fiberglass, brick, metal, vinyl, and cellular PVC!

But time is running out! Registration for the Window Box Competition concludes Wednesday, July 22, 2015. Judging will take place July 25-31. Then the Awards Ceremony & Reception will be held during Heritage Days on Thursday, August 6th at 5:30 pm. in the garden of the Brookhouse, which is located at 180 Derby St.

For more information, rules and to register, call 978-619-5676. Or email: with the subject: Window Box Competition registration. Please include your name, street address and telephone number.

The mission of the Salem Beautification Committee is to assist the City in developing and pursuing initiatives that promote the beautification of the City.  The goal of the Committee is to create civic pride and to motivate the City’s diverse population to participate in the beautification process.

(Photo courtesy of the Salem Beautification Committee Facebook page)

Jul 132015

hitchbotIf you’ve driven a vehicle for enough years or miles, then you’ve seen all kinds of hitchhikers. Young, old, attractive and scarey. One thing they had in common was that they were all human. But setting off across America soon will be hitch-Bot, a robot hitching its way across America (he made it through Canada last year). And the launch party will be on Thursday, July 16, 6-9pm at our own Peabody Essex Museum during PEM/PM, the museum’s monthly evening party series.

In celebration of the season, the theme for July is Take Back Summer, with an opportunity to rediscover classic and wild ways to have fun, while also taking advantage of after-hours access to museum exhibitions. And what better tie-in is a summer road-trip?

On Thursday, July 16, the party-going public will also hear from hitchBOT’s co-creators. The next day hitchBOT will bid them farewell on a nearby highway as it begins its adventure by putting up its thumb to ask for a ride. The final destination is the Exploratorium in San Francisco.

hitchBOT is an outgoing and charismatic robot that began hitchhiking in July 2014. In less than four weeks, hitchBOT charmed its way into rides across Canada, depending on the help of kind strangers. hitchBOT cannot move by itself — except for its hitchhiking thumb — but can converse thanks to Cleverscript speech technology, which allows it to answer questions about where it comes from or its favorite pastimes.

hitchBOT’s family consists of a collaborative, interdisciplinary team of researchers from the fields of visual arts, engineering, computer science and communication. The project was originally co-designed by Dr. David Harris Smith, assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University (Hamilton), and Dr. Frauke Zeller, assistant professor in the School of Professional Communication at Ryerson University (Toronto), to see whether robots could trust humans.

People picked HB up and took it to bars, diners, concerts and then left it on the side of the road for someone else to take it further on down the road.

For example, hitchBOT hung out with the British Columbia rock band The Wild, which took it to their next performance. Another time it was taken to a wedding.

No one broke it, defaced it or stole it.

“hitchBOT was very well received as it made its way across Canada, Germany and the Netherlands – proving that robots can indeed trust humans,” said Dr. Zeller. “Given that hitchBOT is built out of a bucket, we thought it would be only natural if we let it have a bucket list for this exciting new adventure.”

hitchbot bucket listThe list includes Times Square in New York City, Millennium Park in Chicago, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

In the PEM blog Connected, the creators commented “In the case of hitchBOT, we have launched a type of robotic proxy, set forth not to explore the surface of Mars, but to explore a cultural terrain here on earth that is underwritten by evolved human curiosity, empathy and altruism. hitchBOT literally rides from place to place on a tide of goodwill, developing a personal history of face-to-face interpersonal interactions and a trail of social media participation. ”

Fans are encouraged to follow hitchBOT’s journey at, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. hitchBOT also invites users to share their hitchhiking stories and pictures using #hitchbot on Twitter and Instagram.

PEM’s evening parties, with music and dance performances, lectures and art-making stations take place on the 3rd Thursday of the month. Admission is free to PEM members and Salem residents (with ID), while nonmembers pay $10 at the door. There will be a cash bar and special small plates menu items available courtesy of the Hawthorne Hotel.

(Cover photo courtesy David Harris Smith)

Jun 222015

Salem FMWe came across an interesting article in Reader’s Digest that advised on “13 Things You Should Know About Farmers’ Markets.” Thirteen, really? That’s so Salem, Ma!

While we can’t list all 13 without infringing copyrights, a few are obvious no-brainers such as get there early for the freshest of the fresh, and it can’t hurt to ask for a sample if it’s something you’ve never seen.

We also found #8 out of the 13 to be worthy of re-posting as it speaks from the vendor’s side of the table. Something you may not have thought about.

8. Standing out in the summer sun is nice, but the job isn’t easy.
Up early, loading trucks with heavy produce, being mindful of money, home late. Plus, when it rains, customers stay away and bad weather can easily damage products.

BreadThe vendors who take the time to participate in our Farmers’ Market are not paid representatives of corporate monoliths. They ARE the lifeblood of the products or services on the Derby Square tables that you see Thursdays. Every minute they are here is a minute taken away from tending to crops or producing a product (for example, bread does not grow on trees…). Any size purchase or positive comment is welcome.

Take the time to read the Reader’s Digest article for more tips and insights.

The Salem Ma Farmers’ Market operates now through Oct. 22nd on  Thursdays from 3-7 pm on Derby Sq. as it intersects Front Street.

(Cover photo courtesy John Andrews at Social Palates Photography)