A year of music, comedy and more in store for 2016

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Tennessee rock band Kings of Leon will headline this year’s Firefly Music Festival at the Woodlands of Dover International Speedway in June. (Submitted photo)

Just as we wrapped up saying goodbye to 2015, it’s time to ring in the new year by looking at what 2016 has in store for us on the local entertainment front.

Tuneful times

Central Delaware quickly is becoming known as a hub for nationally known music festivals and this year looks to be no exception.

The lineup already has been released for June’s Firefly Music Festival and the Big Barrel Country Music Festival, both on the grounds of The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway.

While perhaps lacking the star power of last year’s headliner Paul McCartney when 90,000 people paced The Woodlands, Firefly still promises a power-packed roster.

Best Bets logo CLEAR copyBritish folk-rockers Mumford and Sons, Southern rock band Kings of Leon, British indie group Florence + The Machine and electronic dance music artist Deadmau5 will be the headliners for the fifth annual festival set for June 16-19.

Kings of Leon, which has begun pre-production on its seventh album, is making a return Firefly try after last year’s set was rained out.

The lineup also includes Firefly returnees Ellie Goulding, Death Cab for Cutie and Chvrches along with Disclosure, Blink-182, M83, Tame Impala, The 1975, A$AP Rocky, Of Monsters and Men, Earth Wind and Fire and Major Lazer among the 100-plus acts.

Times and days for the performances have not been announced.

General admission passes start at $299. VIP tickets are $699 and Super VIP passes are $2,499.

Camping packages are also available.

As was the case for the first time last year, officials say there are no plans for single-day passes.

More information and tickets can be found at fireflyfestival.com.

A week later, Firefly producer Red Frog Events will roll out the second year of Big Barrel.

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Kristian Bush, of the country band Sugarland, will perform at this year’s Big Barrel Country Music Festival. (Submitted photo)

Set to take place June 24-26, the festival will feature 40 artists performing over two stages on one-third of the ground that Firefly covers.

Headliners are Brad Paisley June 24, Sam Hunt June 25 and Eric Church June 26.

Among the other performers will be Hank Williams Jr., Kristian Bush and Emmylou Harris, Martina McBride, Dwight Yoakam, The Band Perry and Travis Tritt.

General three-day passes cost $149, while VIP tickets are $499. Attractions like the Harvest Moon Dance Hall, The BBQ Pit and The Stable will return this year.

Last year’s event drew 35,000.

For tickets and more information, visit bigbarrel.com.

The other country festival to make the scene last year, Delaware Junction, on the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington, promised to come back at the end of last year’s inaugural get-together with a note on the website that says “Thanks for coming. We’ll see you next year!”

Previously announced plans are for the Junction to return on that same third weekend in August that it was held last year. However, no announcement of the lineup nor ticket information has been released.

Casinos cashing in

The area’s two casinos promise a mix of comedy, country and classic songs in the early part of this year.

At Dover Downs’ Rollins Center, Grammy Award-winning rock group America, featuring Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell, will visit Jan. 29 at 9 p.m.

The duo, known for hit singles such as “A Horse With No Name,” “I Need You,” “Ventura Highway,” “Don’t Cross The River,” “Lonely People,” “Tin Man,” and “Sister Golden Hair,” formed in 1970 and have recorded six albums certified at gold or platinum status. America’s first greatest hits collection, “History,” registered more than 4 million sales.

Wanda Sykes will perform her brand of standup comedy Feb. 26 at 9 p.m.

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Comedian Wanda Sykes plays Dover Downs Hotel and Casino’s Rollins Center in February. (Submitted photo)

She starred for five seasons on the CBS sitcom “New Adventures of Old Christine,” had her own late-night talk show for Fox, “The Wanda Sykes Show,” wrote, produced and starred in Fox’s “Wanda at Large,” and has appeared on HBO’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” She is currently featured in the ABC comedy “Blackish.”

Grammy Award-nominee Josh Turner, a multi-platinum MCA Nashville recording artist, will be in concert April 30 at 8 p.m.

Mr. Turner, a Grand Ole Opry member, has earned multiple Grammy Award, Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music nominations. His debut album, “Long Black Train,” was released in 2003. His latest album, “Punching Bag,” came out in 2012.

He was last around here for last year’s Delaware State Fair.

Bands are also featured on weekends at the casino’s Fire & Ice nightclub.

For tickets and more information, visit doverdowns.com.

Farther down U.S. 13, Harrington Raceway and Casino has two big shows scheduled so far in 2016 at Exhibit Hall.

Grammy award-winning group The 5th Dimension featuring Florence LaRue will perform Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. as part of the On Stage — Harrington series.

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Florence LaRue and The 5th Dimension will perform at Harrington Raceway and Casino’s Exhibit Hall later this month. (Submitted photo)

With more than 20 million records sold worldwide, 22 Top 40 hits, five No. 1 hits and six Grammys, Florence LaRue and The 5th Dimension’s classic songs include “Up, Up, And Away,” “One Less Bell to Answer,” “Last Night I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All,” “Wedding Bell Blues,” “Stoned Soul Picnic,” and the iconic “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine in.”

The Time Jumpers featuring Vince Gill, Kenny Sears, and “Ranger Doug” Green are scheduled to perform at Exhibit Hall April 8 at 8 p.m.

The current lineup includes Mr. Gill (vocals, electric and acoustic guitars), Mr. Green (vocals, acoustic rhythm guitar), Mr. Sears (vocals, fiddle), Brad Albin (upright bass), Larry Franklin (fiddle), Paul Franklin (steel guitar), Andy Reiss (electric guitar), Dawn Sears (vocals), Joey Spivey (fiddle, vocals), Jeff Taylor (accordion, piano) and Billy Thomas (drums, vocals).

The casino’s weekly Gold Room entertainment continues on weekends when there is no show in Exhibit Hall.

Through the end of February, the schedule includes tributes to Neil Diamond, The Temptations, Willie Nelson, The Platters and Stevie Wonder. A comedy night will also be held Jan. 29.

For tickets and more information on all of the shows, visit harringtonraceway.com.

Fairly fun

This year’s Delaware State Fair is set for July 21-30, promising all of the fun and entertainment that Downstate folks have enjoyed in previous decades.

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Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham brings his “Perfectly Unbalanced” Tour to the Delaware State Fair in July. (Submitted photo)

So far, only two concerts have been announced for the M&T Bank Grandstand.

Ventriloquist Jeff Dunham brings his “Perfectly Unbalanced” tour to Harrington July 23 at 8 p.m. He previously performed at the fair in 2013.

In November of 2014, Mr. Dunham and his sidekicks began their six-month residency at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. By popular demand, he was held over through October 2015.

Alabama will journey through its country music legacy on Monday, July 25 at 7:30 p.m.

The group has had 43 No. 1 singles, including 21 in a row.

Before the fair gets going, the Harrington grounds will also host the third annual Triple Threat BBQ, Beer & Music Festival on April 9.

For tickets and more information all of it, visit delawarestatefair.com.

Festival fervor

Local festivals will continue to draw thousands in 2016.

The biggest of them all, Dover Days, will take place May 6-8.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of the National Historic Preservation Act. To commemorate the act, Dover Days is working with community partners, including the Division of Historic & Cultural Affairs, First State Heritage Park, the Biggs Museum of American Art and the Dover Public Library to bring a week of historic preservation-related activities to Kent County beginning April 30 before Dover Days with a Preservation 50 workshop open to the public.

“In Delaware, we are focusing on the importance of, and the future of, historic preservation and why these places matter,” said Lorraine Dion, director of Public Relations and Special Events for Kent County Tourism, producer of Dover Days.

Kent County Tourism’s 30th annual Amish Country Bike Tour is set for Sept. 10 while the date for the seventh annual Delaware Wine & Beer Festival is still to be determined.

For more information, check out visitdover.com.

A lineup has not been announced, but the annual June Jam charity music festival will rock G&R Campground in Houston on June 11.

Tickets and camping go on sale Feb. 1. For more information, visit junejam.com.

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Just like last year, the crowds will surely return to Houston for this year’s June Jam. (Special to the Delaware State News/Gary Emeigh)

A third year of the popular Smyrna at Night music festival is being targeted for June 10. Last year’s event brought 13 acts to various venues around town. Festival organizer Jeremy Hebbel said the ink isn’t quite dry on final plans but should be soon.

At Dover’s Fordham and Dominion Brewing, its annual R2Hop2 music and beer festival will be April 23 from noon to 5 p.m. and Cheestoberfest is set for Oct. 8 from 1 to 5 p.m.

The Delaware Friends of Folk will present its 25th annual Delmarva Folk Festival Sept. 23-24 at Fields Farm near Hartly with blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Roy Bookbinder as headliner.

The Friends of Folk’s popular Old State House concerts continue Jan. 8 with Chapel Street Junction. Driven Women follows in February and Sandcreek in March.

Their monthly coffeehouses will kick off 2016 with the duo of Dan and James Jan. 16 at the Wesley College Chapel in downtown Dover.

For more information, visit the Friends’ website at delfolk.org.

The Central Delaware Blues Society has music fests planned for the latter half of the year.

On July 16, the third annual Roadhouse Blues Festival will feature six acts on an outside stage with food, barbecue, beverages and vendors.

Mid-October will feature the third annual International Blues Challenge competition and mid-December will be the third annual IBC fundraiser to assist in sending the winner of October’s competition to Memphis. Specific dates have not been officially confirmed.

Special shows include national acts Coco Montoya March 10 and J.P. Soars April 7. Thursday night jams also will continue throughout the year.

All events take place at Jonathan’s Landing clubhouse in Magnolia.

For more information, visit centraldelawareblues.com.

Stages to shine

Area performing arts centers promise a wealth of shows in 2016.

Dover’s Schwartz Center for the Arts recently released its list of performances for the new season that lasts through May.

It kicks off Jan. 16 at 7:30 with “A Tribute to the Lady Legends of Jazz” with singer Denise King and acclaimed trumpeter Duane Eubanks.

The shows will pay homage to greats such as Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald in pop and jazz standards with touches of the blues, soul and gospel.

Jan. 29 sees the return of A Night of Standup Comedy that proved popular last year and an improvised awards show called “Broadway’s Next Hit Musical” should bring laughs on Feb. 13.

Area bands will perform throughout the season with Elwood Bishop & The Funky Cats (Feb. 12), Celtic Harvest (March 18) and Love
Seed Mama Jump (April 2).

Theatrical productions will dominate the weekend of Feb. 26-28 with a national touring production about Rosa Parks Feb. 26 and St. Thomas More

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Popular local Irish and Scottish band Celtic Harvest will play Dover’s Schwawrtz Center for the Arts in March. (Submitted photo)

Academy staging the musical “Thoroughly Modern Millie” Feb. 27 and 28 with a live orchestra.

Habana Sax comes in from Cuba April 5 and Rhythm in the Night, an Irish dance group, commands the stage on March 29.

Smyrna’s Sol Knopf brings one of his Songwriters and Storytellers shows to the Schwartz April 1, featuring Nashville Hall of Fame songwriters performing their hits and talking about them.

A live 3-D show (glasses included) hits the Schwartz April 8 with “Mark Nizer 4D: Expect the Impossible.” Another visual extravaganza sees Barrage 8, a string octet, performing April 30 with a rhythmic LED backdrop.

Folk singer John McCutcheon will perform on April 22. His show was previously scheduled last year but was postponed due to bad weather.

Dover’s James Napier performs two shows May 13 and 14. On May 13, he’ll host an “A Night at the Apollo”-like talent competition and the next night he will perform a Sam Cooke tribute.

A new website is also in store at the Schwartz very soon. For more information, visit schwartzcenter.com.

Up at the Smyrna Opera House, not much has been revealed about its upcoming season but you can find out details first at its Happy Hour Season Preview Party Jan. 15 at 5:30. Admission is free.

A few shows we do know about include An Evening of Standup Comedy headlined by Tommy Pope Jan. 22, local band Country By Night with Melissa Alesi Jan. 30 and An Evening of Musical Comedy with Wilmington’s Hot Breakfast!, Mean Wendy Band and Todd Chappelle on Feb 6.

All shows are at 7 p.m. For more information, visit smyrnaoperahouse.org.

Local theater premieres

Community theater will be front and center this year as it has been for some time around here.

Dover’s Kent County Theatre Guild has a full season planned. It’s a season that will look a bit different in years past as each show will run six times over two weekends as opposed to seven times over three weekends.

“By going to two weekends, we save a little money on royalties by doing six shows, instead of seven, we may encourage more people to participate. No fear of the three-weekend commitment,” said board president John Muller back in August.

“And we shift the people that were coming on that seventh show to the other shows, which gives us more butts in seats for a fuller house. There was a lot of thought and research put into the change.”

The Tom Stoppard comedy “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” begins the 62nd season starting Feb. 26. The comedy-mystery “Design for Murder” steps off April 22; the musical “Funny Girl” opens July 15; the classic courtroom drama “Twelve Angry Men” starts Sept. 16 and the holiday family show “Best Christmas Pageant Ever” wraps up the year beginning Dec. 2.

For more information on the Kent County Theatre Guild, visit kctg.org.

In Milford, The Second Street Players open their season with the Agatha Christie mystery “A Murder is Announced” for two weekends starting Feb. 12.

The musical “Fiddler on the Roof” starts May 6; the physical comedy “Drop Dead!” perks up July 22; the Noel Coward comedy “Blithe Spirit” debuts Sept. 9 and the holiday classic “A Christmas Carol” ends the year on Nov. 25.

Second Street’s Children Dessert Theater presentation of “Snow Queen” will take place March 11-13.

More information can be found at secondstreetplayers.com.

The Children’s Theatre Inc. continues its season of performances at the Schwartz Center also with Hans Christian Andersen’s “Snow Queen” Jan. 23 and 24. “Alice in Wonderland” (March 19-20) and “My Name is Rumplestilskin” (May 20-21) finish the slate.

You can check their shows at thechildrenstheatre.org.

Dancing with the Stars

Last but not least, the extremely popular Dancing with the Delaware Stars, featuring local celebrities in a dancing battle, will take place Jan. 30 at Dover Downs.

This year’s event benefit Mom’s House of Dover and the Boys & Girls Club.

VIP tickets are sold out but you can still purchase event tickets, which includes the reception, hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, 10 votes, seating for the dance competition and the dance party, for $55.

This year will include celebrity judge Gov. Jack Markell.

Order online at dancingdestars.org or call (302) 678-8688.

Happy New Year!

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is Quentin Tarantino’s western “The Hateful Eight.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the thriller “The Visit” and the crime/drama “Sicario.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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