BEST BETS: Turning the page to 2017 in local entertainment

The Guess Who will bring their many hits to Dover Downs’ Rollins Center in March. (Submitted photo)

As we get set to ring out 2016, it’s time to take a look at what we know is coming in 2017 for local entertainment fans.

We start with the big question mark that is the Firefly Music Festival. At this point last year, we had the lineup for the mega-event at the Woodlands of Dover International Speedway. The November announcement was the earliest that Firefly had ever tipped its hand in its five-year run.

They have sent word that they will announce early in 2017 but that’s about all we know so far.

The 2015 festival lineup was announced in the middle of February while the 2014 edition was announced in the middle of January.

Published reports have said that rapper Busta Rhymes and electronica duo Phantogram, who last played Firefly in 2014, are two of the acts on the bill, set for June 15-18.

Earlier this month, Firefly officials touted the fact that it will be the first fan-curated festival as surveys have been posted on its website where folks can vote on everything from talent to attractions and food to camping.

A holiday pre-sale of tickets to the festival closed Wednesday and will presumably reopen when the lineup is announced.

Another unknown so far is the concert lineup for the Delaware State Fair.

While some individual shows became known before Christmas in the last couple of years, this year’s announcement should come in early March “with hopefully the full lineup,” according to Delaware State Fair Assistant General Manager Danny Aguilar.

Last year was the first time the fair had a concert the night before gates officially opened with Jake Owen headlining. Mr. Aguilar said the fair is planning on doing that again in 2017 on July 19.

The fair will run from July 20-29 in Harrington.

Casino shows

At the two area casinos, concerts by comedians and music artists are starting to fill the docket.

Dover Downs Hotel and Casino’s Rollins Center will welcome comedian Steven Wright Jan. 13.

With his monotone delivery and his metaphysical one-liner, Mr. Wright has been going strong for more than 30 years, dating from his first appearance on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” on Aug. 6, 1982. Mr. Carson enjoyed the performance so much, Mr. Wright was invited to appear on the show again less than a week later.

His 1985 debut album “I Have A Pony,” earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album, and he appeared in his first HBO stand-up special, “A Steven Wright Special,” later that year.

In 1989, Wright received an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film for “The Appointments of Dennis Jennings,” in which he starred and co-wrote.

He was nominated for an Emmy Award as a producer for the hit FX series “Louie” for the 2014 and 2015 seasons and also appears on Louis CK’s new web series “Horace and Pete.”

Grammy-nominated singer Freddie Jackson will perform at Dover Downs Friday, Feb. 17.

R&B singer Freddie Jackson will perform at Dover Downs in February. (Submitted photo)

Mr. Jackson, ranked among Billboard’s top 20 R&B recording artists in the 1980s and 1990s, has recorded 12 Billboard No. 1 hits, has had 30 of his singles hit the charts and sold more than 50 million albums.

Among Mr. Jackson’s hits are “Rock Me Tonight (For Old Times Sake),” “Jam Tonight,” “Do Me Again,” “You Are My Lady,” “Love Is Just a Touch Away,” “Just Like The First Time,” and “Have You Ever Loved Somebody.”

In 1985, Mr. Jackson was nominated for two Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist and Best R&B Vocal Performance – Male for “You Are My Lady.”

On March 11, classic rock fans will get ready for The Guess Who at Dover Downs.

The Canadian musicians have more than a dozen Top 40 hits to their credit, including “These Eyes,” “Clap for the Wolfman,” “Hand Me Down World,” “No Time,” “Star Baby,” “American Woman,” “Share the Land,” “No Sugar Tonight” and “Laughing.”

Drummer/songwriter Garry Peterson and bassist/songwriter Jim Kale have performed as The Guess Who for more than 50 years. They will be joined on stage by keyboard player/flutist Leonard Shaw, lead guitarist Will Evankovich and lead vocalist/guitarist Derek Sharp.

For ticket information on these shows, visit or call 800-711-5882.

At Harrington Raceway and Casino’s Exhibit Hall, Three Dog Night kicks of the On Stage-Harrington Series on Feb. 4.

However, if you don’t have your tickets, you may be out of luck as the show is sold out.

Formed in 1967 and now in their fourth decade, Three Dog Night sold more records from 1969 through 1974 than any other group.

They had 21 consecutive Top 40 Billboard hits (including three No. 1 singles), 11 Top 10s, 18 Top 20s and countless gold albums.

On March 18, country performer Ronnie Milsap comes to Exhibit Hall in a show that is also sold out.

Ronnie Milsap

Mr. Milsap has garnered six Grammys, eight gold records and 40 No. 1 hits, which places him in the top three in that category among country artists behind Conway Twitty and George Strait.

His hits include “Pure Love,” “Please Don’t Tell Me How The Story Ends,” ”Smokey Mountain Rain,” “(There’s) No Getting Over Me,” “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It For The World,” “Any Day Now,” “Pure Love,” “Lost In The Fifties Tonight,” “Stranger In My House,” “(I’m a) Stand by My Woman Man,” and “It Was Almost Like A Song.”

Sixties pop group Herman’s Hermits starring Peter Noone will return to Exhibit Hall on Saturday, April 1.

Their classic hits include “I’m Into Something Good”, “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got A Lovely Daughter”, “I’m Henry VIII, I Am”, “Silhouettes”, “A Must To Avoid”, “Listen People”, “There’s a Kind Of Hush” and many more.

They previously appeared in Harrington in 2015.

For tickets, visit, call 888-887-5687, Ext. 5246 or stop by the Casino Gift Shop.

Festival frenzy

Lots of festivals are on tap for 2017.

The biggest one of the bunch is the annual Dover Days Festival, this year set for May 5 and 6 throughout downtown.

Friday, May 5, will see fireworks and a concert on Legislative Mall, weather permitting.

Saturday, May 6, will start off with the traditional parade followed by the usual assortment of maypole dancing, re-enactments, crafts, contests, music and more.

This year’s theme will be the 300th anniversary of Dover and serve as the kickoff to the city’s celebration.

The Amish Country Bike Tour, also produced by Kent County Tourism, is set for Saturday, Sept. 9.

A date and place for the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival has not been finalized, according to Kent County Tourism officials.

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will take to the Dover skies in August. (Submitted photo/U.S. Air Force)

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds will take to the Dover skies Aug. 26-27 during a Dover Air Force Base Open House from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The annual June Jam charity music festival is set for G&R Campground in Houston on Saturday, June 10.

Tickets go on sale Jan. 5 at

Acts booked so far are the Rush tribute band kRush, the Philadelphia country group Philbilly and local favorite Mike Hines and The Look.

At Dover’s Fordham and Dominion Brewing, their annual R2Hop2 music and beer festival is set for April 22 while Cheesetoberfest is slated for Oct. 7.

The first Friday of every month the brewery will release a new beer with music and a specialty glass for each beer released in 2017. The release nights will run from 5 to 8 p.m. at their facility off of Horsepond Road.

In Marydel, Harvest Ridge Winery has events planned including a chili cookoff on March 25, a food truck competition on March 31 and April 1, the Rebel Seed Fall Festival on Sept. 30 and its Rebel Seed Cider second birthday event on Oct. 15.

Going back to the Delaware State Fairgrounds, the Beer On Ice Craft Beer Tasting event returns this year on Feb. 25.

This is a non -skating event. The ice will be covered with carpet, so no public skating will take place.

Curling, broom ball and food is included. Patrons must be 21 and over.

For more information, visit

Delaware State Fair officials have announced that the Triple Threat BBQ, Beer and Music Festival will not be back in 2017.

The Delaware Friends of Folk Delmarva Folk Festival is set for Sept. 22 and 23 near Clayton. No acts have been announced yet.

The Friends continue their series of free Old State House concerts with Americana and folk musician Charlie Zahm on Jan. 13, bluegrass act Me and My Friend Phyllis on Feb. 10 and Celtic harpist Mike Nielsen on March 10.

All shows are at 7:30 p.m. and are a joint production of Delaware Friends of Folk and First State Heritage Park.

Their monthly Coffee Houses at Wesley College’s Bennett Chapel on Division Street in Dover resume Jan. 21 as Mike Liddicote hosts an open mic night.

After one on Feb. 18 comes a March 18 date featuring Jay Ungar and Molly Mason.

These internationally acclaimed musicians are famous for their writing, playing and vocals. Mr. Ungar is best known for composing “Ashokan Farewell,” which Ken Burns used in his “Civil War” series on PBS.

April 15 will feature Martin Grosswendt and Susanne Salem-Schatz.

All Coffee House concerts start at 7:30 p.m. and are usually $5 to $7 with the March 18 show expected to be more.

For more information, visit

The Central Delaware Blues Society has its annual Roadhouse Bluesfest scheduled for July 22 featuring nationally known blues musicians.

Aside from its usual Thursday night jams that get underway at 7, shows scheduled include Albert Castiglia on March 23.

All events take place at the Jonathan’s Landing clubhouse in Magnolia. For more information, visit

Local stages set

Area performing arts centers are steadily filling their lineups for 2017.

The Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover will host A (Gene) Wilder Weekend by showing “Blazing Saddles” at 7 p.m. Jan. 21 and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” Jan. 22 at 3 p.m. All tickets cost $5.

The Battle of the Schwartz Lip Sync Contest to benefit the Schwartz is set for Feb. 11.

There will be a pre-game happy hour, then the show, then an after party with the band Crazy in Stereo. A VIP ticket gets access to all three events with a show ticket getting only the contest, which will feature notable area residents.

Zydeco-A-Go-Go will bring their funky Cajun music as part of Mardi Gras Mayhem on Feb 18.

Acclaimed jazz group Pieces of a Dream will play the Schwartz Center for the Arts in Dover in 2017. (Submitted photo/John Secoges)

Internationally acclaimed jazz group Pieces of a Dream will perform March 4. Direct from Ireland, Caladh Nua hits the Schwartz stage March 10.

“Come Fly With Me” on March 11 is a musical journey around the world performed by the 83-member CAMP Rehoboth Chorus.

On March 19, Rhythm in the Night brings its Irish dance spectacular back to the Schwartz after a sold-out show in 2016.

The jazz/Americana group The Bumper Jacksons play on March 31.

Delaware Dance Alliance will present “Hansel and Gretel” April 7 and 8.

“The Civil War” musical will run two weekends, April 21-23 and 28-30. Directed by Tommye Staley, this is part of Dover’s 300th anniversary celebration.

Local musician Sol Knopf brings his “Songwriters and Storytellers” show back to the Schwartz Center May 12. This year’s show, which featured national singer/songwriters, was performed in front of a hugely enthusiastic audience.

On June 24, “Alive! 55+Kickin’” returns from its off-Broadway run. The musical had two performances this year in front of sold-out crowds.

For ticket information on all of those shows, visit, call 678-5152 or visit the box office at 226 S. State St.

Heading north, the Smyrna Opera House is busily filling out its slate for 2017.

On Friday, Jan. 13, a Happy Hour Season Preview Party will present an overview of the winter/spring season. Admission is free, there will be a cash bar and light hors’doeuvres. RSVP to 302-653-4236 or by emailing

Saturday, Feb. 11, the 13th Annual Arts Cotillion with the theme of “Boots and Bling” will take place.

The Cotillion is the biggest fundraiser of the year, consisting of a live auction, music by On The Edge, dancing, open bar, a “wine pull” raffle and hearty hors d’oeuvres.

On Saturday, Feb. 25, local band Judy Sings the Blues will perform.

On Friday, March 3, Ovation Dinner Theatre presents “Joey & Gina’s Italian Comedy Wedding,” which includes dinner and a three-course meal.

Sunday, March 19, and Sunday, May 7, brings a classical piano series featuring University of Delaware piano students.

On Saturday, March 25, the play “Love, Loss, & What I Wore,” a play written by Nora and Delia Ephron, will be performed.

Friday, April 7, and Saturday, April 8, the Young Actors Guild presents the Sondheim musical “Into the Woods.”

From April 28 to 30, the Smyrna Opera House Dessert Theatre will present “Lend Me A Tenor,” a comedy by Ken Ludwig.

Following the performance, the audience is invited to a dessert reception and mingling with the cast.

On Sunday, May 21, Melomanie returns to the Smyrna Opera House for a spring performance with guests Chris Hanning, percussion, and Naomi Gray, cello.

For ticket information, visit, call 653-4236 or stop by the box office at 7 W. South St.

The curtain rises

Dover’s Kent County Theatre Guild starts its 2017 with the Neil Simon comedy “Fools” Feb. 10-12 and 17-19, followed by “Johnny Guitar: The Musical” April 14-16 and 21-23, the comedy “Over the River and Through the Woods” June 16-18 and 23-25, the musical version of “Sister Act” Sept. 15-17 and 22-24 and “Strictly Murder” Nov. 10-12 and 17-19.

The guild’s Patchwork Playhouse also will see more concerts in 2017, including Jim Rezac and Friends on Friday, Feb. 24, Toney Rocks with special guest Melissa Alesi on Friday, April 28, and a showcase of local musicians on Friday, May 5.

For more information, visit

Milford’s Second Street Players present the Neil Simon comedy “The Sunshine Boys” Feb. 10-12 and 17-19, the musical comedy “Nunsense: A-Men!” May 5-7 and 12-14, the musical “Grease” July 28-30 and Aug. 4-6, “The Canterville Ghost” Sept. 15-17 and 22-24, ending the season with Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 24-26 and Dec. 1-3.

Their Children’s Theatre slate includes “The Adventures of Robin Hood” March 10-12, “The Neverending Story” June 2-4 and “Dorothy in Wonderland” Oct. 6-8.

For more information on the Second Street Players, visit

The Children’s Theatre Inc. continues its programming with “Pollyanna” Jan. 14 and 15, “The Sound of Music” March 25 and 26, “Robin Hood” May 20 and 21.

All shows are staged at the Schwartz Center for the Arts. For more information, visit TheChildren’

Also …

The Biggs Museum of American Art’s 2017 schedule will be highlighted by an exhibition of famed photographer Ansel Adams’ early works May 5 – July 30.

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Jessica Moyer and Shannon Morris won last y year’s Delaware Dancing with the Stars competition (Delaware State News file photo)

Dancing with the Delaware Stars will go round for another year Jan. 28 at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino’s Rollins Center.

The annual event to benefit Mom’s House and the Dover Boys Club is always a highlight of the local entertainment scene.

Premium and VIP tickets are sold out but tickets to the competition itself and the after party are still available.

For more information, visit

That’s a wrap on what we know so far. Keep an eye on this space for word on what else is to come in 2017. And most importantly, get out and enjoy all that the area has to offer.

Happy New Year!


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