German band to pump up Independence Day week

The Musikzug Starkenberg Heppenheim marching band from Germany will perform in Fourth of July parades in Dover and Smyrna as well playing a concert Tuesday night at the Smyrna Opera House. (Submitted photo)

The Musikzug Starkenberg Heppenheim marching band from Germany will perform in Fourth of July parades in Dover and Smyrna as well playing a concert Tuesday night at the Smyrna Opera House. (Submitted photo)

Sometimes it pays to go through your spam folder. Just ask Bob Merrill.

Mr. Merrill, the chairman of The Citizens Hose Company Band of Smyrna, put out an invitation to the Musikzug Starkenberg Heppenheim band in Germany a few years ago to come to the area and take part in area Fourth of July festivities.

Time passed and he hadn’t heard anything. Until he decided to do a little computer cleaning.

“I normally don’t read the stuff in spam but an email in German just caught my eye. I guess it was put in the junk mail because it was in a different language,” he recalled.

“I struggled to read it with the little German that I know but it said ‘You had invited us a couple of years ago. We’re going to be celebrating our 60th anniversary next year. Does the invitation still apply?’

“I came real close to missing it altogether.”

So a year and half of plans have commenced and the German band will be in Kent County next week to take part in the Smyrna-Clayton Fourth of July Parade on Monday and to give a concert Tuesday at night at the Smyrna Opera House.

The Musikzug was founded in 1956 by the volunteer fire company of Heppenheim, Germany. Over the years they have performed all over Europe, Canada and the United States. In 2014 they performed in Shanghai.

Best Bets logo -NEWThe band has won more than 150 trophies and medals in national and international competitions. Their repertoire includes marches, German folk music and contemporary selections.

After the 9:30 a.m. parade on Monday, the Smyrna and German bands will perform together in front of the old Clayton Train Station on Bassett Street, now home to All Aboard Exchange.

That area will be home to the activities associated with the Smyrna-Clayton Fourth of July celebration.

Should festivities be rained out, both bands will perform at the Clayton Fire House at 10 a.m.

“We sent them a YouTube video of our concert at the Smyrna Opera House earlier this year so the Germans had a chance to see us perform. We’ve sent them some of our arrangements also so we’ve been working together before they come here,” Mr. Merrill said earlier this week.

The German band will also march in Dover’s Fourth of July Parade on State Street later that day at 6 p.m.

A delegation of 43 were due to land at JFK Airport in New York City Thursday night, 28 of them musicians.

Mr. Merrill was going to be there to greet them and lead sightseeing tours over the weekend to Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, 9/11 Memorial and more.

The band has a show in Clark, New Jersey, Saturday night before heading to Smyrna.

On Sunday the two groups will get to know each other with an ice cream social and then don’t be surprised to see them marching around Smyrna Sunday night.

“We like to do those impromptu things quite a bit. It’s a wonder we haven’t gotten arrested,” joked Mr. Merrill, who is the longest-serving member of the Citizens Hose Co. Band at 55 years.

On Monday will be the Independence Day festivities followed by the Smyrna Opera House show on Tuesday.

Tickets for that 7:30 performance are $10, $8 for SOH members, senior citizens and military and $5 for children younger than 12.

They can be purchased at, by calling 653-4236 or by stopping at the box office at 7 W. South St.

They don’t leave until the evening of July 8 but that doesn’t mean they will be bored.

Mr. Merrill has a trip planned to Washington to see the White House, U.S. Capitol, Air and Space Museum and Arlington Cemetery, as well as the Delaware beaches for relaxing and discount shopping at the outlets.

They will also visit with area state senators and representatives at Legislative Hall in Dover.

Band members have put in a special request as well.

“They want to see an Amish farm so we arranged for that. Can you imagine? I’m taking them to the top of the World Trade Center and they want to see an Amish farm?” he remarked.

On Thursday night, the two bands will have a farewell reception in Clayton followed by another march around town in the evening.

They will cap their trip by seeing a Kent County landmark.

“I’m taking them to see Miles the Monster at the (Dover International) Speedway. But all I’m telling them is that I’m taking them to see a monster. It is 40,000 pounds and 46 feet tall and he’s strong enough to lift a car over his head,” Mr. Merrill said.

“And I told them if he’s in a good mood, he will take a group picture with us.”

Mr. Merrill said he and the band are looking forward to the group’s visit.

“We’ll have to use some hand signals but we’ll communicate a lot through music I’m sure,” he said.

“They wrote me this morning to say they are a bit nervous about the trip. But I think that’s more the language barrier than anything. I’ve arranged to have some translators on hand from the German-American Club in Dover to help with all that.”

This will be the sixth time a European marching band has taken part in the Smyrna-Clayton July 4 celebration.

The Dublin All-Stars Marching Band from Ireland has marched in three July 4 parades. The City of Coventry (England) Corps of Drums and the Romford Drum and Trumpet Corps from Romford, England, have also participated in the Smyrna-Clayton event.

“All of the bands we have had here have traveled to numerous places all around — New York, Chicago, Disney World, San Diego,” Mr. Merrill said.

“Every single band director has told me that coming here to Smyrna was the best trip they have ever taken.

“The Irish band director told me ‘When we go to the big cities, we see buildings. When we come here, we meet people.’

“That makes all the difference in the world.”

Longest-running observance

Most of the Smyrna-Clayton events will take place in Clayton this year except for the annual fireworks display, which will be at Smyrna Little League Park on Duck Creek Parkway opposite Smyrna High and Smyrna Middle schools.

The carnival, which has been a Smyrna Fourth of July staple for the last 20 years, has gone out of business.

“After the parade, we didn’t want people to have to drive over to Smyrna just for a hot dog or something, so we decided to keep much of it in Clayton this year,” said Mr. Merrill, who is also the longest-serving member of the Smyrna-Clayton Fourth of July Committee at 44 years.

The 9:30 a.m. parade begins at Main Street and School Lane at Clayton Elementary School, proceeds east on Main

The Citiznes Hose Co. Band of Smyrna marches in last year's Smyrna-Clayton Fourth of July Parade. (Delaware State News file photo)

The Citiznes Hose Co. Band of Smyrna marches in last year’s Smyrna-Clayton Fourth of July Parade. (Delaware State News file photo)

Street, past the reviewing stand at Main Street and Railroad Avenue to Reed Street north to Industrial Boulevard.

About 100 units are expected to take part.

After the bands play, the day in Clayton will feature food, games, a patriotic dog contest and more.

You should also start to see patriotism in full bloom around Smyrna and Clayton.

About 5,400 30-inch flags are being put up in yards across the two towns. Residents donate $10 to help the committee pay for the fireworks and in turn get a chance to show off Old Glory.

“It’s a lot of work but it is beautiful,” Mr. Merrill said.

“We’ll be putting out the flags and someone will run out of their house with their 10 dollars saying ‘Don’t forget about me?’”

The Smyrna-Clayton event is the longest-running Fourth of July event in the state.

“It goes at least 160 years back,” Mr. Merrill said.

“We’ve seen reports of it going back to the Civil War, where they would have one event for Union sympathizers and one event for Confederate sympathizers.

“It’s been a big deal around here for generations.”

Honey Badgers ‘In Harmony’

As part of the Dover Public Library’s monthly In Harmony series, The Honey Badgers will perform on Loockerman Way Plaza on Loockerman Street at 6:30 p.m.

The Honey Badgers’ folk/Americana sound has been likened to that of The Civil Wars and The Swell Season. They are known for their unique harmonies, and their lyrics and melodies.

Former Smyrna resident Michael Natrin plays guitar, mandolin and the occasional banjo while Dover native Erin Magnin is on violin, glockenspiel, and harmonium. More information on the band can be found at
If weather is inclement, it will be held at the library at 35 E. Loockerman St.

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is “The Legend of Tarzan 3D,” Steven Spielberg’s animated “The BFG 3D” and the horror sequel “The Purge: Election Year.”

New on DVD and download is “Kung Fu Panda 3” and “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” with Tina Fey.

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