By Zach Sparks
Life, it seems, is often a reflection of two states: continuity and change. Pasadena celebrated plenty of both in 2018. Longtime community linchpins enjoyed milestone anniversaries — Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company with its 100th, Kurtz’s Beach with its 85th and Lake Shore-Severna Park Rotary with its 70th. Local events like the Taste of Pasadena and Family Fun Day continued to enthrall families. But the year also saw a sea of change with new elected representatives, first-time accomplishments, and people making a significant impact in their neighborhood for the first time.
Join us in a look back at 2018 — a year when continuity and change both made Pasadena a better place.
For many parents and teachers, the beginning of 2018 was a time to applaud looming school improvements suggested by Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent George Arlotto in his budget proposal. The plan highlighted the last leg of construction for High Point Elementary, which later got 28 new classrooms, a kitchen, a cafeteria, two music rooms and a renovated gym.
“This school has been over capacity for years, so certainly the new building is going to alleviate overcapacity issues,” High Point Elementary Principal Timothy Merritt said.
Solley Elementary School was allocated funds for six new classrooms, and Riviera Beach Elementary was slated to get three kindergarten classrooms and one pre-K classroom.
Elsewhere in the community, older kids made headlines. On January 22, Northeast High student Jake Ellencamp received a GOTCHA! award from the Department of Recreation and Parks after diving into the pool at the North Arundel Aquatic Center in Glen Burnie when he saw a woman having a seizure in the pool.
“Her aid was yelling, and I just let the training kick in,” Ellencamp recalled. “Everything went as it was supposed to. The paramedics were there in a matter of moments.”
In February, nationally ranked racer Connor Sheffield went to Daytona International Speedway in Florida for Race Week, a United States Auto Club event. The 13-year-old proved that incurable gastrointestinal medical issues weren’t going to slow him down.
As for racing at Daytona, Connor said, “I only get a little nervous when I pull up to the starting line. Once the race starts, it’s really thrilling and I just focus on winning.”
Another Pasadena male earned a big win on February 20. At the Maryland 4A/3A state championship meet, Davon Carroll’s banner day for Northeast included a pair of state titles in helping the Eagle boys to a fifth-place finish out of 29 teams. Carroll started his meet by winning the 300 in 35.5 seconds and followed by running a personal-best 6.459 seconds to win the 55-meter dash.
At the state level, Pasadena legislators in the Senate and House of Delegates worked with their colleagues to modify the Maryland tax code so families would benefit from the federal tax cuts.
While students across the country walked out of their schools on March 14 to honor the 17 victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, one month prior, Northeast students had a walk-in. At Northeast, teens brandished signs with phrases like “We are not afraid” and “Fear has no place in our school,” and they also engaged in 17 minutes of silence for the 17 lives lost in the shooting.
“This event is meant not only to support the school who faced the shooting and campaign for bringing an end to school shootings all over the nation, but also address some of the threats that our own school received with a period of complete unity among our students and staff,” said Alison Clark, who planned the event along with fellow students Noah Whiteman, Matt Doyle and Rushil Savalia. “This event has no connection to political matters; it is simply a demonstration of our school's unity and togetherness.”
Chesapeake High School’s a cappella group, Evolve, was invited to New York City in late March, when they performed at Total Vocal with Deke Sharon. The presentation celebrated a cappella with choirs and individual singers from all over the globe.
“A cappella singing is a complex style of music,” said Evolve member Alexis Andrew. “We are singing all parts and creating all instrumental elements. This requires us to be constantly in sync with one another. Getting to work with Deke, we were able to get to work with the music in a different way than we would with our own director.”
Back at home, Chesapeake’s campus was the site of chalk walks in March and April, as people drew inspiring messages on the school’s sidewalks to prove their community would not tolerate the racial incidents that had been making headlines throughout the school year.
Even though unseasonably cold precipitation on April 7 meant some festivities had to be delayed, Pasadena’s youth recreational baseball and softball teams were able to start their seasons with Opening Day ceremonies and parades on April 15.
Elsewhere in the community, the culinary artistry of Pasadena’s best restaurants and caterers was on full display on May 1, when locals convened at Kurtz’s Beach for the ninth annual Taste of Pasadena. The food festival, which is organized each year by the Pasadena Business Association, combined good food with good atmosphere for an overall satiating night.
On May 7, the seven-member county council unanimously passed a temporary moratorium to halt the acceptance of rezoning applications. They also passed Bill 27-18, which changed the review process for modifications, which relieve developers from meeting specific requirements of the code. Applicants now have to prove that the modification was discussed at a community meeting or that all property owners within 300 feet of the affected property were notified.
The county council was hard at work in June, making minor changes to County Executive Steve Schuh’s budget proposal. When Schuh presented his $1.59 billion Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal in May, he highlighted pay increases for police and teachers, major investments in roads and a property tax cut. The county council tweaked the budget to add 42 teachers to Schuh’s proposal, for a total of 86.
Pasadena Republican Derek Fink said, “While we certainly can’t fund everything the Board of Education has asked for, because that would essentially take up everything – we’re still responsible for the police officers and the fire departments and the roads and everything else we do – I do think this is a good balance.”
Speaking of fire departments, Lake Shore saw a six-year pursuit of a new station come to an end on July 31. The new $6.8 million station spans more than 12,000 square feet at 4642 Mountain Road, near Galilee Lutheran Church.
Lake Shore VFC Chief Tim Hall said the building was sorely needed. “The old station was outdated,” Hall said. “We had old equipment, the floor is collapsing, the walls are old. There wasn’t enough space for all of the equipment.”
Pasadena residents got to interact again with first responders in August when National Night Out came to Earleigh Heights Volunteer Fire Company. Attendees learned about the services provided by law enforcement and they listened to music and played games like ring toss and basketball.
On a more somber note, John Polyniak of McCully-Polyniak Funeral Home passed away in August after a battle with cancer. For countless families in the Pasadena community, Polyniak was a voice of comfort and compassion during a time of grief. For members of the Pasadena Business Association, he was an active volunteer and uplifting friend. And — most importantly — for his family, he was a father and husband who showed love, kindness, patience and humor in everything he did. No matter how they knew him, all agreed that when he passed away, Pasadena had lost someone truly special.
Displaying special athletic talent in August was Zeke Turner, who made the Arizona Cardinals football roster as an undrafted free agent. The safety-turned-linebacker became an underdog story as a player who was never offered a scholarship from a Division 1 college.
“Just put your head down and block out the outside noise because there are going to be doubters from every corner,” Turner advised other aspiring athletes. “People aren’t going to think that you’re going to be able to make it, but just stay focused on what you want to get done and I promise it will come true.”
After 44 years of business, Pasadena Roller Skating Center closed its doors on September 5. Families lost a place to skate, but later that month, they enjoyed pony rides, swimming, a petting zoo, carnival games, face painting and a moon bounce during Family Fun Day, Lake Shore-Severna Park Rotary’s annual event at The Y in Pasadena.
Sports were a hot topic throughout the fall. Cheerleading won its 12th state championship on November 10. Chesapeake field hockey, three-time region winner, had its back against the wall in its quest for a fourth straight region crown, down 1-0 to a punchy Mount Hebron team during the 3A East region championship on October 31.
The Cougars scored two second-half goals in the span of a minute, first an equalizer by Shelby Bennoit, then a go-ahead score by Hannah McKeon. Chesapeake won the region, but their season came to an end in the 3A state championship as they fell to C.M. Wright, 3-0.
Cristian Moreno, a 17-year-old Chesapeake High student and Food Lion cashier, scored some recognition after performing chest compressions and CPR to resuscitate a man in the store’s parking lot on October 6. “I feel like I helped him for sure, because he wasn’t blue anymore, and I’m really proud I could do that,” Moreno said.
Northeast High School had much to be proud of after coming away with a thrilling 28-27 come-from-behind victory over the rival Cougars in the 2018 Dena Bowl on November 2. Stepping in for the injured Riley Pitt, Northeast quarterback Billy Katzenberger threw the go-ahead touchdown pass to Josh Krcik with 24 seconds remaining.
The Cougars earned their revenge a week later with a 38-13 win over Northeast on November 9 in the first round of the 3A East playoffs. It was the first playoff win in program history for Chesapeake, which had made its first two playoff appearances in 2015 and 2017 but hadn’t broken through for a win.
The following week, Chesapeake trekked to Salisbury to hand J.M. Bennett a 36-21 defeat and deliver the program and school its first region championship. Despite a disappointing end in the state semifinals against the Linganore Lancers, a 45-6 rout on November 21, Chesapeake reflected proudly on its 9-4 season.
“It’s a hardworking group,” Chesapeake head coach Rob Elliott said of his team. “They’re not the biggest kids, they’re not all the fastest kids, but … I’ll take a group that just grinds and works, and I think that’s what we have, is a group of grinders.”
After grinding each day to make Riviera Beach Elementary a better place, Principal Jason Anderson left his position on November 16 to become executive director of school performance, equity and accountability for Carroll County Public Schools.
“I’ll miss the kids the most,” Anderson said. “In my new role, I’m excited to have more of an impact on a larger scale. But there’s no substitute for working with the kids every day and working with their families every day.”
While Riviera Beach got a new principal with John Wojtila, the former assistant principal at Freetown Elementary in Glen Burnie, Pasadena as a whole got some new political representation alongside longtime public servants Nic Kipke and Bryan Simonaire.
Replacing the term-limited Derek Fink on the county council was Nathan Volke. Brian Chisholm won the House of Delegates seat vacated by Meagan Simonaire. Democrat Steuart Pittman beat incumbent Republican Steve Schuh to become the next county executive.
“People, I think, really want to have a voice in local government,” Pittman told the Voice. “They are irritated about what’s going on in Washington — people have always been that way — but local government is a place where neighborhood organizations and business groups, the little originations, they feel, ‘This is where we can have a voice.’ I think they felt as if I was offering them that.”
Mass amounts of people convened at the polls to vote for their preferred politicians and they also showed up in hordes to the Pasadena Business Association’s annual Caring & Sharing Parade in November. The Pasadena Boat Parade treated guests to iridescent, festive displays set against the black backdrop of the Chesapeake Bay on the night of December 2.
Pasadenians officially counted down to the start of the holiday season at the Lakeshore Plaza tree lighting ceremony on December 4, when hundreds of people flocked to the shopping center to enjoy live entertainment, activities, refreshments, and visits with Santa. “It seems like it gets bigger and bigger every year,” said Brian Gregg, chief of the Rivera Beach Volunteer Fire Company, one of the organizations that helps with the PBA-sponsored event.