BEST BETS: Music, mirth on tap for local entertainment fans in 2018

The Oak Ridge Boys, from left, Joe Bonsall, Duane Allen, William Lee Golden and Richard Sterban, will play Harrington Raceway and Casibo’s Exhibit Hall in March.
(Submitted photo)

As we get set to sing 2017 on its way out of here, it’s time to turn our attention to what awaits local entertainment fans in 2018.

Before we get to the events that we definitely know about, we start with the unknowns associated with the Firefly Music Festival.

At this point, the only thing we are aware of is that the seventh annual event is set for June 14-17 at the Woodlands of Dover.

One act has been confirmed and that is the winner of the festival’s Big Break contest, Fly By Midnight. The retro-pop New York duo garnered the most votes in this year’s competition to add an up-and-coming regional band to the mix.

Pre-sale tickets sold out earlier this fall and the next batch presumably will go on sale when the lineup is announced. When that will be remains a mystery.

Last year’s lineup was announced on Jan. 27. The year before that it was announced in November, the earliest it had been unveiled in the festival’s history. The Firefly website just says to look for an announcement coming soon.

This year’s Firefly had a record five headliners — Muse, Bob Dylan, Twenty One Pilots, Chance the Rapper and The Weeknd. Although no official figures were announced, attendance was noticeably down from past years.

Fair shows

We do know some of the concerts coming to this year’s Delaware State Fair in Harrington.

Travis Tritt, shown performing at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino in 2010, will be on the bill at next summer’s Delaware State Fair in Harrington. (Delaware State News photo by Andrew West)

Country superstar Toby Keith will play the opening night of July 19; ventriloquist Jeff Dunham returns July 23; Christian artist Lauren Daigle plays July 24; and the Southern Uprising tour will bring in Travis Tritt, Charlie Daniels, The Marshall Tucker Band and The Outlaws on July 25.

Harness racing will take place July 26 with the rest of the dates for the fair, set to run July 19-28, scheduled to be announced in the new year.

There will be no pre-fair kickoff concert as was the case the last couple of years.

Delaware State Fair Assistant General Manager Danny Aguilar said last month that he expects next year’s lineup to be heavy on country acts along with the annual demolition derby and craft beer festival. The VIP Loft will also be available for fans in 2018.

Last month, Mr. Aguilar also said that the Quillen Arena on the state fairgrounds should soon see a couple of concerts outside of the fair time frame.

He’s hoping to have a show booked in the venue in late May or early June and another in late August or early September.

“We have offers out to two acts for the spring and fall. They are both very strong, up-and-coming artists and we’re hopeful it will work out,” he said.

Casino concerts

At the two area casinos, concerts by a comedian and well-known singing groups are starting to fill up the first part of 2018.

Grand Funk Railroad will perform at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino’s Rollins Center on Friday, Jan. 19 at 9 p.m.

The classic rock group is comprised of original members Don Brewer (vocals, drums) and Mel Schacher (bass) as well as Max Carl (vocals), Bruce Kulick (lead guitar) and Tim Cashion (keyboards).

Grand Funk last played Downstate Delaware in 2015 as the featured attraction at the Delaware State Fair Craft Beer Festival.

The group is best known for the songs “We’re An American Band,” “Locomotion,” “Some Kind of Wonderful,” and “I’m Your Captain (Closer To Home)” among 19 charted singles and eight Top 40 hits. The group’s two No. 1 hits, “We’re An American Band,” and “Locomotion,” each sold more than 1 million copies.

Billy Gardell

Also at Dover Downs, “Mike and Molly” fans should be excited to see Billy Gardell perform his standup comedy act on Feb. 16 at 9 p.m.

Mr. Gardell, a Pennsylvania native, is best known for his six-season stint on the hit CBS comedy, where he portrayed Officer Mike Biggs alongside Emmy winner Melissa McCarthy.

In 2016, Mr. Gardell earned an Emmy nomination for Best Game Show Host following his work with the show, “Monopoly Millionaires Club.”

This year, he is starring as Col. Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s infamous manager, in the CMT drama “Sun Records.”

The Whispers will bring their brand of R&B, disco, jazz and pop hits, to Dover Downs Friday, April 13 at 9 p.m.

The Whispers formed in 1964 in California and were the first group to be signed to SoulTrain Records. Later, the group earned many of their top hits with Solar Records. Among their top singles are “Seems Like I Gotta Do Wrong,” “And the Beat Goes On,” “Rock Steady,” “A Song for Donny,” and “Lady.”

The Whispers include Walter Scott, Wallace Scott and Leaveil Degree, who replaced Gordy Harmon in 1973. Longtime fourth member Nicholas Caldwell passed away in 2016.

Harrington Raceway and Casino welcomes two country acts to its Exhibit Hall in 2018.

Lonestar will perform Feb. 10 while The Oak Ridge Boys come to town on March 31.

Lonestar burst on the music scene more than 20 years ago in 1995. With over 10 million albums sold and 10 No. 1 hits, the group’s songs include “No News,” “Come Cryin’ To Me,” the inspirational ballad “I’m Already There,” and their crossover smash hit “Amazed.”

Known for their distinctive four-part harmonies, The Oak Ridge Boys have had a string of chart-topping hits including “Elvira,” “Bobbie Sue,” “Dream On,” “Thank God For Kids,” “American Made,” “I Guess It Never Hurts To Hurt Sometimes,” “Fancy Free,” “Gonna Take A Lot Of River” and many others. The Oak Ridge Boys, which played the Big Barrel country music festival in Dover in 2015, bring over four decades of music to their fans.

They’ve scored 12 gold, three platinum and one double-platinum album with more than a dozen No. 1 singles and over 30 top 10 hits.

Harrington’s Gold Room Premiere Series rolls on with a string of tribute shows.

Hotel California celebrates The Eagles Jan. 27; The Purple Xperience brings a tribute to Prince Feb. 3; March 17 sees a tribute to country music’s Alan Jackson, George Strait and Brooks and Dunn; and Presley, Perkins, Lewis and Cash commemorates the music of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash on April 28. Shows are at 6 and 8:30 p.m. for all four programs.

Festivals featured

The list of festivals is starting to take shape as we move into 2018.

The biggest one in Kent County, Dover Days, will just be one day this year, on Saturday, May 5.

Museums and attractions will once again run special programs the week leading up to it.

Rob Healy, 45, of Dover, grabbed a ribbon when the fourth-graders of North Dover Elementary School came up one person short for the traditional maypole dance on the Green. He teaches physical education at the school. (Delaware State News/K.I. White)

Children dance around the maypole at the Dover Days Festival. (Delaware State News file photo)

There will be no Friday night events and Sunday events were discontinued last year.

“With NASCAR being the same weekend, there are limited resources and volunteers to go around,” said Wendie Vestfall, executive director of Kent County Tourism, producers of Dover Days.

“We have a lot of respect for the heritage and history of the festival and elected to keep the festival on the first weekend of May and work with the resources we can get.”

Also produced by Kent County Tourism, the Amish Country Bike Tour is Sept. 18 throughout the Kent County countryside and the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival will be Oct. 13 at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington.

The June Jam charity music festival will celebrate its 40th year June 9 at the G&R Campground in Houston.

To mark that milestone, June Jam is doing the “Best of June Jam.” Every band will be one that was a fan favorite or has a member that has been a longtime favorite.

The groups Hyde Park and Furious George will reunite along with 1980s favorite Tommy Conwell, who still plays in the Philadelphia area.

Local bands lower case blues, Kategory 5 and Triple Rail Turn will also perform.

Tickets go on sale Feb. 1 at midnight at

At Dover’s Fordham and Dominion Brewing Company, the annual R2Hop2 music and beer festival will be held April 21 while Cheesetoberfest is set for Sept. 29, a week earlier than usual due to NASCAR being in town the week after.

The brewery off Horsepond Road is open for $5 tours on Fridays from 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturdays from noon to 5 p.m. The only day it will be closed will be on Jan. 12 for a release party at Frazier’s on the Water in Dover where the Millennium Ale will be toasted.

At the Blue Earl Brewing Co. in Smyrna, its three-year anniversary party is slated for May 12; the summer Red White & Blues Party will be on July 7 featuring the Blues Reincarnation Project, Dirty Deal and Nothin’ But Trouble; the second annual Food Truck Throwdown on Aug. 4; the third annual Beers Rims & Notes on Sept. 1, featuring a car show, food trucks and live music; and the fourth annual Blue Soul Fest featuring national and regional bands on Oct. 13.

Also coming to Blue Earl in 2018 is Blue Earl’s Juke & Cafe. A fundraising campaign will start soon on Indiegogo to help construct an outdoor patio and cafe at the brewery.

Also in Smyrna, Painted Stave Distilling announced late last month that a 4,800-square-foot building for aging and warehousing whiskey along with an outdoor cocktail garden will open at its 106 Commerce St. location. The warehouse should be open in February with a spring date eyed for the cocktail garden.

Smyrna at Night will be back for another year of food and music around town on June 29.

Music mavens

Area music organizations have a busy 2018 planned.

The Delaware Friends of Folk have slated their 27th Delmarva Folk Festival for Sept. 28 and 29 at Fields Farm near Hartly.

The Friends’ free Old State House concerts on The Green in Dover will feature local musicians Sol Knopf (Jan. 12), Trini Lima (Feb. 9) and Single Origin (March 9).

Monthly coffeehouses at Bennett Chapel on Division Street in Dover will be highlighted by Charlie Zahm (Jan. 20), Delaware songwriters Butch Zito, Jim Rezac and Ed Shockley (Feb. 17), Chapel Street Junction (March 24) and the Joe Baione Trio (Oct. 20).

Monthly pick-in sessions are set for the first Saturday of every month from 1 to 4 p.m. at Blue Earl. Musicians and listeners are welcome to attend.

The Central Delaware Blues Society will hold its annual Roadhouse Bluesfest on July 21.

Aside from its weekly Thursday night jam sessions, special concerts booked so far include Peter Harper and the Midwest Kind on March 29 and the Albert Castiglia Band on April 19. Mr. Harper will also play the Bluesfest.

All events are held at Jonathan’s Landing on Ponderosa Road in Magnolia.

The Dover Symphony Orchestra’s Spring Classical Concert will be held on March 18 while the Pops Concert is set for April 29. Both are scheduled for Dover Downs’ Rollins Center at 3 p.m.

The Delaware Choral Society and the Delaware Youth Chorale have scheduled “Curtain Up, a Concert of Show Tunes” for April 21 at Dover High School.

Stages set

While we wait to see what becomes of the now-defunct Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover, other area performing arts centers are scheduling shows.

At the Smyrna Opera House, Stanton’s 4th Wall Players will present “Off the Wall,” a tribute to television comedy, on Jan. 26 at 7 p.m.

The opera house’s 14th annual Arts Cotillion fundraiser will be held Feb. 10 starting at 6 p.m. with a book festival scheduled for Feb. 17 from 1 to 3 p.m.

Judy Mangini fronts Judy Sings the Blues, a band performing at Smyrna Opera House in April. (Submitted photo)

March 25 will see the return of the very popular Songwriters and Storytellers series, this time featuring Mr. Knopf, Nashville Hall of Fame songwriters Tony Arata and Thom Schuyler and hit songwriter Craig Bickhardt at 3 p.m.

Blues group Judy Sings the Blues returns to the Smyrna Opera House April 7 at 7 p.m.

The opera house’s annual Dessert Theater production takes place April 27-29 with more information coming soon.

The Ardensingers present Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Patience” on May 12 at 7:30 p.m.

The Wilmington Handbell Ensemble performs May 18 at 7:30 p.m.

A Happy Hour Season Preview Party will take place on Jan. 18 at 5:30 p.m. at the opera house on West South Street.

Down at the Milton Theatre, that venue has a jam-packed schedule through November. It is heavy with tribute acts including The Rock Orchestra playing Bruce Springsteen’s first three albums in their entirety on Jan. 27.

Other shows pay tribute to artists such as Andrew Lloyd Webber (Feb. 17), Simon and Garfunkel (March 9), Tony Bennett (March 17), The Rolling Stones (April 21), John Denver (May 5), Grateful Dead (May 11), The Beach Boys (May 25), Jimi Hendrix (June 8), Black Sabbath (June 23) Heart (July 14), Buddy Holly (July 14), Joan Rivers and Don Rickles (July 21) and The Beatles (Aug. 4).

The Milton Theatre will also welcome young magician Kadan Bart Rockett for two shows Feb. 11. Kadan and his sister Brooklyn, who will also appear, competed on the “America’s Got Talent” TV show in 2016.

An additional assortment of movies, comedy shows, plays and other concerts are also on tap in Milton.

Curtain up

Local theater groups have a busy year planned.

The Kent County Theatre Guild has five shows slated for the Patchwork Playhouse stage on Roosevelt Avenue in Dover that will each run for six performances over two weekends.

The Stephen Sondheim musical “Putting it Together” starts Feb. 9; the Irish romantic comedy “Outside Mullingar” premieres April 20; the Wendy Wasserstein comedy “The Sisters Rosensweig” opens June 22; the French farce “Don’t Dress for Dinner” begins Sept. 14; and the Peter Pan-based fantasy musical “Peter and the Starcatcher” starts Nov. 30.

Several concerts are on tap for the Patchwork Playhouse, including Mr. Knopf and Friends in February, Toney Rocks in May and Mr. Rezac and Friends in July.

Patchwork Whoopee, a night where you can bring your 10-minute play to be performed by the Guild’s stable of actors, will continue next year as a monthly event. The next one will be Jan. 12 at 7:30 p.m.

A comedy version of Alfred Hitchcock’s “The 39 Steps” starting Jan. 26 and running for two weekends tops the year for Second Street Players’ Riverfront Theater on South Walnut Street in Milford.

Other shows will be “The Elephant Man” beginning April 13; “Shrek: The Musical” starting July 13; the scary “Night of the Living Dead” opening Sept. 7 and the holiday classic “Miracle on 34th Street” warming hearts starting on Nov. 23.

A new season of Second Street children’s shows begins with “The Elves and the Shoemaker” the weekend of Feb. 23, “The Frog Prince” the weekend of May 11 and “Rumplestiltskin” the weekend of Oct. 5.

With the Schwartz Center unavailable, The Children’s Theatre switches to its new home at Wells Theater on the campus of Wesley College in Dover for “Night at the Wax Museum” Jan. 20 and 21; a musical to be announced set for March 24 and 25; and “Lady Pirates of the Caribbean” on March 26 and 27.

And finally …

The Biggs Museum of American Art in Dover will celebrate its 25th year in 2018 with a special Silver Gala on May 12.

The gala will coincide with the opening of the exhibit “Rembrandt Etchings: States, Fakes and Restrikes.”

This exhibition examines the problem of authenticating this renowned artist’s etchings. It includes etchings printed during Rembrandt’s lifetime as well as restrike prints made after his death and well into the 20th century. It will run until July 8.

Other exhibitions at the Biggs will include the work of Lewes’ Aina Nergaard-Nammack (Feb. 2-March 25); silversmith Michael Galmer (April 6-May 20); and John James Audubon (Aug. 3-Nov. 25).

Dancing with the Delaware Stars is set for Jan. 27 at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino’s Rollins Center. (Delaware State News file photo)

Dancing with the Delaware Stars is set to go for a ninth year on Jan. 27 at Dover Downs’ Rollins Center.

This year’s Southern Delaware Heart Ball is slated for April 21 at Harrington Raceway.

Next Gen South’s annual Chowdown for Charity will be held at Maple Dale Country Club in Dover on Feb. 24.

That’s what we know so far. Keep an eye on this space for more details on these and other activities as they pop up throughout the year.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is the kidnapping thriller “All the Money in the World.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the Tom Cruise action film “American Made,” the Billie Jean King-Bobby Riggs sports movie “Battle of the Sexes” and the religious drama “A Question of Faith.”

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