Evening Reception and Book Launch

Goat cheese on endive spears, port wine prunes with Stilton and walnuts, and lumpia with assorted dipping sauces were just a few of the tasty appetizers offered
The exhibit hall inside the visitor center at Soldiers Delight Natural Environment Area was bustling with activity on a recent Saturday as members of the board of Soldiers Delight Conservation, Inc. covered surfaces with pretty, autumn-colored tablecloths, arranged plates, cutlery, napkins and glassware, set up a lectern and coffee service, and decided where the jazz duo hired for the evening would sit. An urn filled with spiced cider was plugged in and soon the cavernous chamber filled with the aroma of apples and cinnamon, clove and lemon peel.

Devoted Soldiers Delight patron and artist Donna Shoemaker was responsible for most of the delectable pastries and other sweets offered
Eventually the room was ready for an elegant cocktail reception to celebrate the launch of a new book by renowned author Jack Wennerstrom, whose latest work is a gorgeous compilation of photographic interpretations of fauna and flora on the serpentine barrens for which the Soldiers Delight conserve is known, taken by talented photographer and Jack’s good friend, Frank Wisniewski, and accompanied by Jack’s exquisite prose.

The two men became friends in the spring of 2014, when Frank began to explore the area and became fascinated with its history. In reading about the unusual ecosystem, Frank noticed that several historic references cited a certain Jack Wennerstrom as their source. Frank decided to get more information about Soldiers Delight NEA from the source itself, and contacted Jack directly. Frank bought one of Jack’s earlier books and the two became friends. Before Frank knew it, he and Jack were going fishing together.

Author Jack Wennerstrom inscribed books for his fans throughout the evening
Twenty-five years ago, Jack Wennerstrom wrote his first book about Soldiers Delight. He named it Soldiers Delight Journal, and in it he detailed observations of beautiful panoramas and intricate natural minutiae as he wandered the serpentine on his daily walks. Last year, Jack and Frank decided to collaborate on a new journal about Soldiers Delight. As Jack supplemented his earlier prose with exciting new interpretations of life on the oak savanna, Frank set about capturing incredible scenes in his camera lens to inform the text. For a year, the two men gathered words and images through the seasons to depict the dramatic terrain in its changing habiliments. They named the stunning result Soldiers Delight Journal Revisited: A Photographic Ramble. The coffee table-worthy compendium was just released on Saturday, November 12 at an author’s reception and book launch in our visitor center.

Jack Wennerstrom's many admirers listen intently as he gives remarks at his reception and book launch 
As friends and fans of Jack and Frank gathered with members of the public to celebrate the book launch, the atmosphere inside the visitor center’s exhibit hall was glowing with good cheer. Homemade sangria, spiced cider and other beverages accompanied a plethora of home baked treats and savory appetizers. Jack and Frank inscribed books for their adoring fans at a steady pace, as a slideshow of extraordinary photographs from the book played on a laptop nearby. The mood was cheerful and the music lively. At $45 each, every book from this first printing was sold by the end of the evening, and prepaid orders were taken for the next printing, which is expected to arrive well before Christmas.

Frank Wisniewski, left, and Jack Wennerstrom at the launch party for their new book, Soldiers Delight Journal Revisited: A Photographic Ramble, in 2016
As SDCI president Laura Van Scoyoc gave introductory remarks, followed by Jack’s comments about the history of the area and his intimate relationship with Soldiers Delight over several decades, we were reminded that this is also the 25th anniversary of the opening of our visitor center. Operating under the auspices of Patapsco Valley State Park, a dedicated group of nature lovers and conservationists has volunteered for many years to staff the front desk on weekends and provide muscle power for various conservation projects on the property throughout the year, most notably to stem the ever-encroaching tide of invasive species of plants and animals which constantly threaten to overrun this special place.

It’s not too late to buy your copy of Soldiers Delight Journal Revisited: A Photographic Ramble and other books about the area in our collection. Call SDCI board vice president Lynell Tobler at 410-922-9690 to place your pre-paid order for this limited-edition art book now, and you, too, can enjoy your own photographic ramble through Jack’s (and our) favorite nature conserve.

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