Best Bets: Music plays on at Delmarva Folk Festival

Singer/songawriter ellen cherry will perform at the Delmarva Folk Festival Saturday at 5 p.m. (Submitted photo/Bonnie J. Schupp)

As with most events these days, John Kidd and the Delaware Friends of Folk had some long discussions about holding this weekend’s Delmarva Folk Festival in light of the ongoing pandemic.

“We talked about all possibilities and, like DelDOT, no-build is always a possibility. But we talked about it and we decided that it was far enough away that we thought ‘Well, there’s a good chance that things will be normal.; But obviously that didn’t work out,” said the group’s president.

“But we limited it to 250 (attendees) and we think we can do this with that kind of limit. And so, we are.”

The 29th annual Delmarva Folk Festival gets underway tonight with the finals of the 14th annual Delmarva Folk Hero contest and then continues Saturday with a full day of music, all on the festival grounds on Downs Chapel Road near Hartly.

Although the 250-person limit is the maximum allowable capacity for an outdoor limit without having to receive special approval from the state in this COVID-19 status of ours, Mr. Kidd said the festival has never had to appeal to the state for approval.

“Here’s the weird thing. We have never had either a permit or license for this because we’re in unincorporated Kent County. So, we do get a gathering permit from the Delaware ABC so we can market beer and a part of getting that permit is they get up with the Department of Public Health, and they review what we’re supposed to do,” he said.

“We did get a follow-up permit application. And we answered the questions apparently to everyone’s satisfaction, so we got our gathering permit. We have a support grant from Delaware Division of the Arts, It’s an arts access grant supporting the festival. So we have state approval, as far as it goes, to do this.”

Mr. Kidd said all of the necessary precautions have been put in place and things will have a new look this year.

“The seating’s going to be a bit different. We’ve got to keep at least 20 feet between the stage and our audience. We’re going to set out pods to accommodate six or eight people that have been traveling together. And you’ll be sitting in your pod and you can take your mask off. But if you’re up and moving about, it’s mask on and that’s part of the COVID thing. That’s what we can glean from everything we’ve read,” he said.

“We’ve got sanitizers all around and all that sort of thing and we’re doing our best to comply. On stage, most of the artists are bringing their own microphones this year. We’re a lot more spread out backstage. And it’s outdoors. From everything we’ve read, if you spread out enough, it’s all going to work.”

As for the music itself, tonight’s Delmarva Folk Hero contest begins at 7.

Current Delmarva Folk Hero Rick Hudson begins the festival as he hosts the finals. He will perform with the previous year’s winner Tom Hench to kick off things.

Five acts who signed up for the evening’s open mic will perform, and the audience will vote to select the new Delmarva Folk Hero.

Contestants performing in this order will be Josh Brokaw, Mikel Campbell, Lenny Smoot, Mike Weyrauch and The Luscious’s. Mr. Hudson will also perform as the votes are being counted.

Gates open at 11 a.m. with the music resuming at 1 p.m. with a set from the newly minted Delmarva Folk Hero. Sussex County resident Captain Blue will take the stage at 2 p.m. with his own brand of jamgrass and the afternoon continues with a 3 p.m. set of folk, blues and Americana from Kent County’s Mother’s Highway Junction.

The festival’s 4 p.m. artist is multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Tyler Sjöström, a Chicago native who recently relocated to central Virginia. At 5 p.m., Baltimore-based and Emmy-nominated singer-songwriter ellen cherry takes the stage, mixing equal parts of pathos and humor throughout her songs. At 6 p.m. Delaware acoustic jam band Stone Jack Ballers will perform.

Judy Sings the Blues, led by Judy Mangini, will perform a rare electric set of blues and soul. The 8 p.m. set belongs to the Nate Clendenen Steel Trio, an American roots-rock band based on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Closing the 2020 festival at 9 p.m. will be the return of Eastern Shore legends, the Swamp Weasels. Playing together for 35 years, Billy Breslin, Ed Solomon, George Harvey and Ossi Becke bring their mix of originals and covers to close the curtain on another Delmarva Folk Festival.

“Over time we’ve had a few people drop out but we’ve managed to replace them and I’m really happy with the lineup we’ve got,” Mr. Kidd said.

“I think we have four or five new artists, people have never been here before. So this is a good audience to introduce to these guys and these guys to everybody. So it’s cool. We have local people like Stone Jack Ballers and Captain Blue, C.J. Cutsail, he’s from down in Bethel in Sussex County. So we really do have some local people that maybe we wouldn’t have had if this had been a normal time.”

There will also be craft and food vendors. Activities will be limited to field games with no close-contact activities this year. Wooded tent camping ($20 per tent) and dry RV spots ($50 per RV) are available with late-night jamming around the fire.

Tickets can be purchased at Howard’s Guitars in Magnolia and If Heaven Had a Flavor coffee shop in Clayton.

Tickets at the gate on Saturday will be $30 for everyone and admission for tonight’s Folk Hero contest will be $7 for all.

Online ticket sales are closed but more information can be found at

Coast Day online

The Delaware Sea Grant College Program at the University of Delaware invites people interested in learning more about coastal scientific research and how Sea Grant engages with the community in a meaningful way to join the first virtual Coast Day taking place from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

Since 1976, UD’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment and Delaware Sea Grant have held the event at UD’s Lewes Campus but this year, because of COVID-19, the event will be held online.

Despite being virtual, Coast Day will still feature a number of interactive elements, from at-home science demos to craft projects for families to complete and share on social media. Learn more about the projects at

Coast Day will also have presentations that follow two tracks: an Exploration Track and an Investigation Track.

The Exploration Track includes talks for families and teachers, follow-along activities and information about possible career fields in marine science with topics such as “Working on the Ocean,” “Pathways in Marine Science” and “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Marine Science: A Perspective from NSF. “

The Investigation Track will highlight marine science research and ways people can get involved, with topics including “Cleaning Up Ghost Pots in the Inland Bays,” Oysters, from Rehoboth Bay to Raw Bar” and “Assessing Microplastics in the Delaware Bay.”

Attending sessions on Coast Day and seeing participants’ completed projects will require registration. Register and get a preview of what kinds of materials will be available at

The theme of Coast Day 2020 is Planet by Numbers and the popular essay and photo contests follow this theme.

The Fifth-Grade Essay Contest asks participants to write about a virtual data set and what the dataset shows, what trends they see, how scientists or communities could use these data, and what actions the student could take that would influence these data in the future.

The photo contest asks participants to take pictures of Delmarva’s natural landscape that feature sequenced, fractal, or other numeric patterns, such as those observed in certain leaves, pinecones, and plant structures, insect and animal anatomies, as well as other subjects.

For more information and to stay up to date on a list of speakers, visit the Coast Day website at

First Friday

Arts and jazz will come together today from 4 to7 p.m. as live music and 15 acclaimed artists exhibit artwork of downtown Dover that they have painted since just Wednesday of this week. The local four-piece band, The Fig Tree, will bring their lively jazz fusion style to Forney’s Too in the midst of the plein air art exhibit, with the entire event spread out “COVID-style” on Loockerman Street between State Street and South Governors Avenue.

The Paint Dover! outdoor painting exhibit will also be complemented by a mini-mural exhibit marketing the collaborative efforts of Wesley College, Delaware State University and NCALL/Restoring Central Dover — a cooperative garden that grows vegetables for the local community and flowers for pollinators, offers workshops for kids and adults, and helps local residents start gardens of their own.

Other activities today will include free sidewalk painting for children within the art exhibition blocks and “sidewalk strolling” to shop and view downtown merchant windows as downtown merchants have again come together to decorate for the fall window contest in an Arts & Harvest theme to highlight the Paint Dover! arts activities.

The community is invited to participate in a People’s Choice award for both the window displays as well as vote for their favorite pieces of art by Paint Dover! artists that will be inside shops and windows from Oct. 6 to 20. The artwork will also be available for purchase.

Musical programming also includes:

•Samuel Mace on keyboard accompanied by singer Rashawn King as they play jazz to more popular tunes in their acoustic style, at Maxine’s Fashions.

•Grady O’Connor, saxophonist, player playing jazz music along with a backing track at Parke Green Galleries on State Street, next to The Green.

• Bluegrass fiddler Nate Grower, who tours internationally with David Bromberg and has mastered the art of bluegrass fiddle with his fiery solos and rhythmic backup, at the House of Coffi on Loockerman St., across from City Hall.

• Sol Knopf, the award-winning singer/songwriter and solo performer, will perform at the Grey Fox Grille & Public House.

As we told you last week, Paint Dover! is a second-year event and is being offered in conjunction with monthly First Fridays in downtown Dover at the Big Draw Festival DE. All activities will be held rain or shine.

A variety of awards will be given, including “Iconic Loockerman (Street)” and “Dover Heritage” the City of Dover Mayor’s Choice, a Small Works (under 200 square inches) award and several others.

A People’s Choice award, voted on by artists and the public, will begin tonight and continue virtually, Oct. 6-20. Due to COVID restrictions, artist and their paintings will be in several “nodes” on Loockerman Street sidewalks extending east and west of the Dover Art League. Awards will be placed on the artwork tonight at 6 and art will be available for purchase.

More information may be found at