Dover’s ready for a fun-filled Fourth of July

Fireworks, music and a whole lot of history are in store for those who visit Dover over Fourth of July. (Delaware State News file photo/Marc Clery)

DOVER — When the wind blows through The Green and around Legislative Mall in downtown Dover, it’s almost as if one is able to breathe in some of the nation’s history.

It is that history that should attract visitors to Dover on the Fourth of July to celebrate Independence Day, according

Activities scheduled for The Green and Legislative Mall
12:30, 4:30 p.m. — Dover’s Heroes of the Revolution Walking Tour
Meet at the John Bell House on The Green
2 and 4 p.m. — National Bell-Ringing Ceremony
The Old State House on The Green
2:30 p.m. — Tales of Slavery and Freedom Walking Tour
Meet at the John Bell House on The Green
4 p.m. until 10 p.m. — Food and Craft vendors
Peruse and purchase from a variety of food and craft vendors on Martin Luther King Blvd.North.
5 p.m. until 9 p.m. — Free children’s activities
Moonbounces, pony rides and petting zoo on the west end of Legislative Mall, near the Liberty Bell replica and in front of the Biggs Museum.
6 p.m. — Old Fashioned Fourth of July Parade
Sponsored by the American Legion Fox Post No. 2, the route is along State Street, starting at Hazel Road and ending just past The Green.
6:30 p.m. — Smooth Sounds Dance Band
Jazz and big band standards by this offshoot of the Milford Community Band. Performing in front of Legislative Hall.
7:30 p.m. — Opening Ceremony
Featuring C-17 flyover, Pledge of Allegiance, and National Anthem, led by Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen in front of Legislative Hall.
7:45 p.m. — 287th Army Band of the Delaware National Guard
A concert of patriotic, pop and band classics in front of Legislative Hall, leading up to the fireworks show.
9:20 p.m. — Fireworks
The 2017 Dover Fourth of July fireworks show by Serpico Fireworks, set to music from the Broadway hip-hop phenomenon “Hamilton.”

to Mayor Robin Christiansen.

“This is where America started,” Mayor Christiansen said. “They wrote the paperwork in Philadelphia certainly and they signed it, but if it weren’t for Caesar Rodney riding to Philadelphia and breaking the tie, we would have never sent the Declaration of Independence to King George.”

Dover has a full day of activities on tap and something in store for everyone when it celebrates on Tuesday.

It also has something that could be very important after last year’s fireworks display was washed out by storms and postponed until Labor Day weekend – a rain date of Saturday, July 8.

And everybody knows who the biggest star is every year on Independence Day and what draws the “Oohs” and “Ahhs” from the crowd — the colorful, bursting and booming fireworks.

Dover has put on a Fourth of July fireworks show in the state’s capital since the United States’ bicentennial year of 1976.

Tuesday’s fireworks display by Serpico Fireworks is set to take place at dusk — around 9:20 p.m. The show will be set to music from the Broadway hip-hop musical “Hamilton.”

Historical happenings

There will also be plenty of other things to see and do leading up to the fireworks.

“It is one of our busiest days of the year,” said Sarah Zimmerman, superintendent for First State Heritage Park. “Everyone comes downtown and sets up camp for the parade and fireworks. While they are here, we love to be able to share with them some of the coolest pieces of our history.

“What makes it extra special this year is that The Green is celebrating its 300th birthday, so people who come and join us will be able to stand in a place that has witnessed 300 years of history.”

First State Heritage Park will have programs running on The Green and around Legislative Mall continuously from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m., including a historic Dover scavenger hunt.

Visitors are encouraged to begin their day at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center inside the Delaware Public Archives building adjacent to Legislative Hall by getting a scavenger hunt game.

They can then uncover secrets of Delaware history at different locations throughout the day and win a prize.

Tours will take place throughout the day at the Biggs Museum of American Art, The Old State House and the John Bell House.

From 9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m., visitors can tour Legislative Hall (photo ID is required for all adults), hear patriotic music on the original Victrola talking machines at the Johnson Victrola Museum at 375 S. New Street or watch “Thunder and Rain,” a feature film about Caesar Rodney’s historic ride for independence at the Old State House.

One of the highlights for Ms. Zimmerman is the National Bell-Ringing Ceremony that will take place at the Old State House on The Green at 2 and 4 p.m.

Every Independence Day, bells ring across America’s 13 original colonies to jointly celebrate the birth of the nation. The Declaration of Independence will be read during the bell ceremony.

“It is an awesome feeling to be able to watch the people of Dover hear those words in the exact same spot today,” Ms. Zimmerman said. “Our interpreters are always excited to share our history, but July 4 is always a special time because it has such significance in our nation’s history.

“Whether they have lived here their whole lives or are just visiting, we look forward to sharing our passion, and making history fun for all our visitors.”

Reading the Declaration of Independence in front of the Old State House on The Green last Fourth of July are, from left, Chris Hall, Dennis Fisher, Tom Welsh and Tom Pullmano. It will be read again Tuesday during ceremonies at 2 and 4 p.m. (Delaware State News file photo/Marc Clery)

Parades, concerts heat up

9 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.
• Simple Pleasures: 18th Century Games and Amusements
John Bell House on The Green
• Biggs Kids — Star Spangled Baton
Biggs Museum of American Art, 406 Federal St.
• Guided Tours of Legislative Hall-Delaware’s Capitol
411 Legislative Ave.
Photo ID is required for all adults entering the building
• Guided Tours of The Old State House
25 The Green
• Stars and Stripes
Johnson Victrola Museum – 375 S. New St.
Original patriotic music recorded by the Victor Record Company played on authentic talking machines.
10 a.m. until 3 p.m. (Last tour leaves at 3 p.m.)
• Dover’s Heroes of the Revolution Walking Tour
Meet at the John Bell House on The Green
10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
10:30 a.m. — Pickett’s Charge
Delaware Public Archives, 121 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
This program explores the climax of the Battle of Gettysburg, which prevented a Confederate victory.
11 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. — “Thunder and Rain”
The Old State House on The Green
Feature film presentation about Caesar Rodney’s historic ride for independence.
1:30 until 4 p.m. (Last tour leaves at 4 p.m.)
Tours of Courtroom No. 1 in the Historic Kent County Courthouse
Meet at the front steps of the old courthouse at 38 The Green

Things really start to heat up downtown when a patriotic parade sponsored by the American Legion Fox Post 2 takes to the streets at 6 p.m. The parade route is along State Street, starting at Hazel Road and ending just past The Green.

The opening ceremony for Independence Day will take place at 7:30 p.m. in front of Legislative Hall, featuring a C-17 flyover, Pledge of Allegiance and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” led by Mayor Christiansen.

The 287th Army Band of the Delaware National Guard will perform a concert of patriotic, pop and band classics at 7:45 p.m. on Legislative Mall, leading into the fireworks show.

Independence Day is one of the more special days of the year to Mayor Christiansen. It is a day that hammers home the dramatic reality of Dover’s place in the nation’s history.

“In 1787, they wrote the Constitution, but it was 30 guys in Dover in a tavern, and that might not be such a good thing, but they were in a tavern because they didn’t have any place else to meet,” said Mayor Christiansen of the former Golden Fleece on The Green, which is now the site of Parke Green Galleries.

“America started here. They ratified the Constitution. Two blocks from (City Hall), that’s where America started.

“They wrote the papers in Philadelphia, then they signed them and we became the First State, but this is the place where we want to celebrate the Fourth of July.”

Beat the crowds

Every First Saturday of the month, First State Heritage Park presents special thematic programs at all of its’ sites, called First Saturdays in the First State.

This will enable many people the chance to get a sneak peek of the Fourth of July activities on Saturday, with the promise of smaller crowds.

“For this First Saturday, we will have all kinds of programming celebrating our American heritage,” said Ms. Zimmerman.

“Children of all ages will be able to play games just like they did when the Declaration of Independence was being written.

“They will also be able to participate in a bucket brigade and put out pretend fires (water is always a fun way to cool off in July’s heat). The only difference between Saturday and July 4 will be the fireworks, parade and vendors.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at

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