Dover Days Festival off due to coronavirus concerns

DOVER — Ever since the first Dover Days Festival was held in 1933, the first weekend in May has been the city of Dover’s time to sparkle and pay homage to its colonial-flavored past.

That is the day when the city welcomes visitors from all over to celebrate all things Dover at Legislative Mall, The Green and spots in between, with the traditional Dover Days celebration.

However, concerns with the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) has led the Dover Days Committee, Inc., to make the decision to cancel this year’s 87th annual Dover Days Festival, which was scheduled to take place on May 2 in historic Dover.

Dover Mayor Robin R. Christiansen is a member of the Dover Days Committee and he said it was a difficult decision, but one that had to be made in the interest of public safety.

“As you may well understand, my heart is broken that we had to cancel one of Dover’s premier and fun events which since 1933 has showcased the history, heritage and beauty of our city,” Mayor Christiansen said. “Having said this, we have the obligation to provide for the safety and well-being of our citizens and visitors not only to this event, but other public gatherings as well.

“We are in full compliance with the orders of the president and our governor and will continue to follow their recommendations until this crisis has passed.”

The Center for Disease Control has advised all public events beyond 50 people be canceled for the next eight weeks. As a result, the Dover Days Festival Committee, along with the city of Dover, decided to cancel this year’s festival to aid in the mitigating of any possible exposure. All vendors and sponsors will be issued a full refund.

Earlier this week, NASCAR announced that the spring tripleheader race weekend at Dover International Speedway was postponed, also scheduled for the May 1-3 weekend. The races will be made up at a date to be determined.

History, Heritage and Hops, another event scheduled to take place on Loockerman Street in downtown Dover on May 16, was also canceled this week due to concerns with coronavirus.

Fordham and Dominion Brewing’s R2Hop2, set for April 18, has also been postponed for a date to be determined.

But to lose Dover Days, the city’s premier community festival, was a difficult one to swallow. After all, it is one of Delaware’s largest and longest-running free events.

This was the first year the Dover Days Committee was going to operate the festival, after being run by Kent County Tourism since 1995. The committee is made up of groups and individuals with more of a stake in the direction of downtown Dover.

Even with the change in organizers, visitors to Dover Days were eager to see the biggest parade in Kent County, traditional maypole dancing, games, tethered hot air balloon rides, dozens of craft and food vendors, music, a colonial artisans’ village and historic re-enactments.

The new Dover Days Committee consists of community leaders who want to preserve the tradition of the event, while also introducing festival-goers to the many things to see and do year-round in downtown Dover. Proceeds from the new Dover Days Festival will benefit downtown Dover projects, which the committee hopes will help make positive impacts to the heart of the city.

Diane Laird, executive director for the Downtown Dover Partnership (DDP), said even though the festival won’t go off as scheduled this year, her organization is still committed to help downtown businesses.

“While it is unprecedented to not hold Dover Days on the first weekend in May, downtown merchants and restaurant owners can be assured that the DDP continues to seek and prioritize ways to support their success, both now and once we are relieved of the confining parameters that we are all faced with at present,” she said.

The Dover Days Festival Committee is already beginning to plan next year’s Dover Days Festival, scheduled for May 1, 2021. The committee said it looks forward to creating a first-class event with the support of its vendors, sponsors, volunteers and entertainers that have made the annual festival a truly great experience.

“I will make this promise that Dover Days and all the other events that are fabric of our city will be back next year … bigger and better than before,” Mayor Christiansen said. “P.S. The tulips and other flowers will still bloom, and they will be spectacular!”

For more information on the Dover Days Festival, visit

Milford’s Bug and Bud Festival

The threat of spreading coronavirus also led Downtown Milford Inc. (DMI) and Milford Parks and Recreation to cancel the 17th annual Bug and Bud Festival that was scheduled to take place on April 25 in downtown Milford.

Trish Gerken, executive director of DMI, said the disappointment of having to cancel weighs heavy on her heart, but was done in the interest of public safety.

“This would have been our 17th year celebrating this event,” Ms. Gerken said. “We are beyond disappointed. Not only is this a fun family event people look forward to every year, but a joint fundraiser with DMI and Milford Parks and Recreation.

“The money raised from this event allows us to do many of our other programs such as Milford in Bloom, the Holiday Stroll, and the Santa House – all free to the public, and helps Parks and Recreation with their outreach program for our youth.”

The Bug and Bud Festival was created to celebrate the ladybug designation to the official state bug that was led by the efforts of a second-grade class from Milford’s Lulu Ross Elementary School in 1974 and the city’s designation to an Arbor Tree USA status.

“This year’s costume and pet parade were slated to be led by Lifecycle bike shop owners, Ben Jones and Jenn Rowan,” said Ms. Gerken. “Bug and Bud (traditionally) celebrates the arrival of spring weather and encourages outdoor recreation with free paddle boat rides and a full kid zone.

“While the Bug and Bud Festival is canceled, our Mispillion Riverwalk is still open to the public and we encourage people who are well to enjoy our mile-long walk to Goat Island, but please use caution and practice social distancing. We apologize for the disappointment to our community and vendors, but the safety and health of everyone is priority at this time.”

Additionally, the city-wide community clean-up scheduled for April 4 has been canceled. The event is a joint effort by DMI, the city of Milford, Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford, Keep America Beautiful, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works. They look forward to planning the clean-up for a future date.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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