History comes alive at this weekend’s Dover Days

Linzi Hamilton, left, and Christian Olson, both of Dover, wore period dresses to last year’s Dover Days Festival throughout downtown. Folks should be in their finest this weekend as the event takes place for the 83rd year. (Submitted photo)

Linzi Hamilton, left, and Christian Olson, both of Dover, wore period dresses to last year’s Dover Days Festival throughout downtown. Folks should be in their finest this weekend as the event takes place for the 83rd year. (Submitted photo)

DOVER –– The 83rd annual Dover Days Festival happens in downtown Dover this weekend with events and activities for everyone to enjoy.

The festival was to get off the ground tonight at 6 with a vinyl-era-themed musical performance on Legislative Mall by the musical group 33 1/3 and fireworks afterward but a rainy forecast has forced the cancellation of those events.

“There’s a Party in the House” at the Old State House on The Green will still go on, however, with a 40th anniversary of The Old State House restoration at 6 p.m. Attendees are asked to come dressed in 1970s clothes. Music, refreshments, dancing and tours will be included in the free event.

Saturday’s festivities will be ushered in with the annual Dover Days Parade at 9:30 a.m.

When the parade, which will wind through downtown Dover disperses, more than 350 artisan, craft and food vendors will be open, surrounding all of Legislative Mall.

True to tradition, children in colonial garb will be Maypole dancing on The Green and historical re-enactors will be settled nearby but some

The Delaware State University Marching Band takes part in last year's Dover Days Parade. This year's parade starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

The Delaware State University Marching Band takes part in last year’s Dover Days Parade. This year’s parade starts at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

new additions will also embody the colonial spirit.

One of the most notable is the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, which will make its Dover Days debut on Saturday at 1 p.m. on Legislative Mall.

The musicians of the Fort Myer, Virginia-based unit will take spectators back in time with their American Revolution uniforms that are replicas of those worn by musicians of George Washington’s Continental Army.

They will use period instruments to perform music of the Revolution while dressed in their tri-cornered hats, white wigs, waistcoats, colonial coveralls and distinct red regimental coats.

“This is a very prestigious group and we’re proud to have them this year,” said Wendie Vestfall, executive director of Kent County Tourism, producer of Dover Days.

In years past, the festival has focused almost exclusively on the colonial period and has been characterized by people dressed in 18th and 19th century clothing, but this year the festival will take a look at local history in a wider perspective.

“This year we are following a preservation theme that coincides with the 50th anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act,” Ms. Vestfall said.

“We are trying to focus on the importance of historical preservation whether it be from the 1700s or just a few years ago.”

Throughout this past week, events were held across the city at locations such as the Dover Public Library, the Old State House, the Public Archives and various museums, offering a look into the history of art, music, theater and even postcards.

One area of history not taught in the average book or presentation will be featured Saturday –– the history of skateboarding.

The One Stunts Team, a Philadelphia-based group will explore the history of skateboarding beginning with the basics of the 1950s to the tricks of today with an elaborate performance.

“We thought this would be a cool thing for teens to check out,” Ms. Vestfall said. “And like every year, Kent County Tourism works to find events and activities so every member of the family will have something to enjoy.”

One Stunts will perform at 11 a.m. on the corner of Federal Street and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard.

At 3 p.m., the always-popular Celebrity Peach Pie Eating Contest sponsored by Fifer Orchards will commence on the Legislative Mall Stage, which will also be the site of entertainment throughout the day.

“Fifer’s donates the peach pies and this year, I think there will be some steep competition,” Ms. Vestfall said.

The festival will wrap up Sunday with an 18th-century cricket game on Legislative Mall from noon to 3 p.m. Cricket was considered Colonial America’s favorite pastime before baseball and football came along.

Bringing together all the moving parts of the Dover Days Festival isn’t an easy task and takes the effort of everyone at the Kent County Tourism office for months every year.

Ms. Vestfall has only been with Kent County Tourism since January and was immersed in Dover Days’ planning on day one.

“It’s been an intense learning curve but it’s also been a great way to get to know the city, what goes on here and who’s who,” she said.

“So much work goes into this one event, but at Kent County Tourism, we’re committed to making it an excellent event.”

For more information about this weekend’s festivities and any other changes that may result due to weather, visit doverdaysfestival.com.

This year’s official Dover Days program, produced by the Delaware State News, can also be viewed online by visiting DelawareStateNews.net and clicking on the Special Sections tab.

Reach staff writer Ashton Brown at abrown@newszap.com. Follow @AshtonReports on Twitter.

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