“The Cannery - Embracing Nature and History” By Denise Lew
2524 Key Wallace Drive, Cambridge, MD 211613
Photography By: Coty Jones Photography - cotyjones.com
Nestled in the beautiful Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Dorchester County, the Cannery is a new wedding venue for nature loving enthusiasts. Nicknamed the “Everglades of the North,” the Refuge is a popular destination for tourists. Kayaking, biking and exploring the vast landscape of wetlands, forests, and wildlife are just some of many possible outdoor activities. The Refuge is the largest breeding ground for American bald eagles on the East Coast, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Cannery was born out of Blackwater Paddle and Pedal Adventures (Blackwater Adventures), a popular outfitting business founded in 2002 by husband and wife team Jay and Susan Meredith. In nearby Bucktown, Jay’s ancestors had owned farmland, a schooner and a general store since the 19th century.
“Jay and I rode by the Cannery for years dreaming of our first location on the Little Blackwater River and envisioning family, friends and lovers exploring these quiet and peaceful rivers and roads, being captivated by the serine animal calls and beauty of the marshes,” said Susan. “This is a place where wildlife is abundant, humans are few and adventure is waiting, whether it is a guided or self-guided bike, kayak tour or a guided fishing excursion.”
In 2002, Jay and Susan finally embarked on their lifelong dream of re-establishing their roots in Bucktown.
“They rented bikes and kayaks out of an old general store in Dorchester County that was owned by my great, great, grandparents and now, generations later, my parents,” said Matt Meredith, their son and the operations manager. “Over the years our commitment to the area has blossomed into several other business opportunities, including The Cannery. The old general store happened to be a historic site, where female abolitionist Harriet Tubman was severely injured while defending another slave from an overseer. The Merediths restored the store into a museum, which will be open to visitors daily this spring.
Eventually, The Cannery emerged out of Blackwater Adventure’s flagship location on the Blackwater River. The distinct, white building had begun as a tomato cannery in the 1930s. Today, it consists of two large adjoined warehouses and offers couples the flexibility to host small to large weddings both inside and outside.
“With the building’s location on the waterfront, west facing views of the sunset, and open space industrial architecture, the use as a wedding venue just came naturally,” said Matt.
“Our realization of The Cannery being an event venue started with my daughter Kacey’s wedding. Seeing the beauty of the surroundings — the river, fields and forests made for a very beautiful backdrop and did not require all of the expenses of trying to create a theme for the day,” Susan explained.
A few adventurous couples have already wedded at The Cannery with great success. For Ginni Wingate, it was love at first sight. While driving by the location one evening, she was awestruck by the large rustic hall.
“Located on the Blackwater River, with a small pond that cuts into the property, beautiful trees and the building is rustic with a commercial feel with a giant covered porch area… it is absolutely gorgeous. The greatest thing was the exposed wood rafters of the ceiling,” said Ginni.
Impressed by the simple yet picturesque location, Ginni and her husband Matt tied the knot at the Cannery last October.
“My favorite memory was the few spare minutes I had prior to getting ready and swinging (on the swing) under the tree right by the pond,” Ginni said. “The water was sparkling, the wind was blowing my hair, and I had just those few minutes to stop and just enjoy my time there.”
Even though Mother Nature did not cooperate, the couple was able to hold their ceremony and reception at the main hall.
“Any bride would be lucky to get married at this venue. There are a lot of ‘barn’ style wedding venues around the area nowadays, but we wanted something with more history, more personalization, a family feel, and that’s exactly what we got,” said Ginni. “We received so many compliments.”
In November, Hannah and Elijah Bethel also wed at The Cannery. The venue embraced their East Coast roots with its rich history and naturesque setting.
“Our favorite spot is the small beach,” Hannah recalled. “We both said our forever vows with the sunset and river as the perfect backdrop.”
The Cannery is versatile in providing guests with a variety of options. Bridal parties can use the building’s rooms to get ready prior to the ceremony. Decked with magnificent exposed wood rafters, the main hall affords ample space for a ceremony, reception and dance floor. A large awning covers an expansive patio with a full-sized vintage sailboat.
Down by the waterfront, couples can also exchange vows or take photos.
“The location has a small duck pond that cuts into the property and comes to a point, which makes for beautiful sunset photos,” Ginni described.
This year, Blackwater Adventures celebrates its 20th anniversary over Memorial Day weekend. The Cannery is available for bookings through 2023.
As life comes full circle, co-founder Susan and her daughter Kacey Meredith are excited about what lies in store for The Cannery.
“Our family sees great value in life in making memories with family and friends,” she said. “We are committed to providing a beautiful landscape for couples and their loved ones to start their new lives together.”
“My hopes for the future of The Cannery is that it will be a place where cherished memories are continued to be made and visions become reality for every bride that chooses this one of a kind, breathtaking venue,” Kacey said.
For more information on booking a wedding reservation or visiting The Cannery, visit https://blackwateradventuresmd.com/