Acontroversial Calvert County garden nursery closed for business last week after a judge ruled that it was operating in defiance of local law.

Kelly and Kim McConkey said the closure of their Dunkirk nursery will cost them $20,000 this month alone. "We're just trying to make a living and support our family, and they won't even let us work," Kim McConkey said.

A judge ruled Sept. 16 that Kelly's Tree and Landscaping Nursery must close for business until the McConkeys build a home on the property. A county law passed in October 2000 forbids tree and garden nurseries within most residential subdivisions unless the owner of the nursery resides on the same property as the business.

The McConkeys are in the process of building a home next to the nursery, but they said construction has slowed because county officials have tried to delay approval of building permits. Pamela Lucas, an associate county attorney, disputed that assertion and said the McConkeys were treated the same as any other people applying for a permit.

Lucas also said the nursery should have shut down after a judge ordered the closure Sept. 16. The McConkeys said they remained open until they were served with court papers Sept. 30. They spent the next seven days completing orders that had already been placed before closing for all business Friday.

The McConkeys have appealed the judge's ruling and hope to reopen their business soon.

"It's very unfair," Kim McConkey said. "We're losing money every day the nursery is closed."

Still No Teacher Contract

Fourteen hours of negotiations between Calvert County public schools and the teachers union failed to produce a contract for the county's classroom instructors.

The two sides met last Thursday for a marathon arbitration session that continued until 2 a.m. Friday, said Shannon Fitch, president of the Calvert Education Association.

Both sides are scheduled to return to the bargaining table Nov. 2.

Oyster Festival

Champions from at least 11 states will compete this weekend in the National Oyster Shucking Championship contest during the 38th annual St. Mary's County Oyster Festival at the fairgrounds south of Leonardtown.

The festival, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Lexington Park and 12 other civic organizations, features all things bivalve, and over the decades has grown to become one of the mid-Atlantic region's largest folk festivals. Organizers said they expect 17,000 to 20,000 people Saturday and Sunday.

The oyster shucking competition takes place on both days, with the finals scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. Sunday. The winner of the national title represents the United States in the international contest held in Galway, Ireland.

On Saturday, the festival is also host to the National Oyster Cook-Off. Twelve finalists from across the nation compete for prizes in four fresh-oyster cooking categories: main dish, hors d'oeuvres, soups and stews, and outdoor cookery and salads. Past winners and area chefs also will be on hand both days to prepare and demonstrate their favorite oyster dishes.

Two stages will present live musical entertainment throughout the festival. There will be carnival rides and games, pony rides, exhibits and free oyster shucking lessons. Local crafts and art will be on exhibit.

In addition to oysters, there will be a variety of other seafood, St. Mary's County stuffed ham sandwiches, barbecue, pizza, burgers, funnel cakes, beer and soft drinks.

More information about festival events is available at www.usoysterfest.com. The fairgrounds are off Route 5 across the highway from Leonardtown High School. Gates are open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Grand Militia Muster

The St. Maries Citty Militia will be in town Saturday for a day of competitions, drills and pageantry.

The Grand Militia Muster re-creates the sights, sounds and smells of a 17th-century militia assembly as "colonial" militiamen and their families set up camp at Historic St. Mary's City. In early Maryland, able-bodied male colonists were directed to arm themselves and be prepared to defend the colony against pirates, Virginians and others intent on plunder.

The St. Maries Citty Militia is organized as a typical English militia unit of the day, armed with musket and pike. As in 1634, there is no uniform. Each man wears clothing representative of his chosen trade or profession.

On Saturday, visitors can stroll through the encampments and talk to militia families or watch as unit members test their mastery of skills from fencing to cross-bow to musketry. This annual event is one of the largest assemblies of English Civil War re-enactors in the country.

Daytime muster activities will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and are included in the general admission price to Historic St. Mary's City: adults, $7.50; students and seniors, $6; ages 6-12, $3.50. In the evening, the public is invited to join the militia for 17th-century dance and live music on the State House lawn.

Charles Board Vacancies

The Charles County Board of Commissioners is seeking applicants to fill vacancies on the following boards and committees: the Charles County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center Board of Trustees, the Mental Health Advisory Committee and the Planning Commission.

There are two vacancies on the nine-member nursing home board, which conducts and manages the business of the Charles County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in La Plata. Terms are for four years. The board meets on the fourth Thursday of each month.

The several vacancies on the Mental Health Advisory Committee are for interested consumers and family members representing mental health needs. The committee reviews and make recommendations about services and facilities for mental health programs in Charles County. Members serve three-year terms. Meetings are on the third Wednesday of each month.

There is one vacancy on the Planning Commission to fill a four-year term that ends Dec. 31, 2006. The Planning Commission advises the county commissioners on plans for county development and resource use as well as supervises the Comprehensive Plan, zoning ordinance and subdivision regulations. Meetings are held on the first and third Mondays of each month.

Contact Linda Rollins, clerk to the county commissioners, at 301-645-0554 or 301-870-3000, Ext. 2554, or RollinsL@charlescounty.org for an application form. The form is also available at the county Web site: www.charlescounty.org/ boards/application.pdf.

Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. Oct. 29.