History on parade at Dover Days

Welch Elementary School pupil Jillian Fisher performs the maypole dance with her classmates on The Green during last year’s Dover Days Festival. This year’s traditional maypole dance is set for 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

DOVER — The Dover Days Festival is one of Delaware’s largest and longest-running free events and it doesn’t plan to slow down anytime soon during this year’s 86th annual celebration on Saturday.

Each year’s Dover Days activities showcase the state’s history and heritage with traditional maypole dancing, colonial artisans’ village and historic re-enactment groups for the Revolutionary War, World War II and the Civil War as well as highlights from more contemporary times such as the parade set for 9:30 a.m., games, tethered hot air balloon rides, moon bounce village and over 100 craft and food vendors and music.

Kent County Tourism will be producing this year’s event with the help of multiple downtown organizations and the city of Dover, said John Doerfler, sales & event manager of Kent County Tourism Corp.

Last year, the event introduced a new layout to put a bigger emphasis on downtown Dover businesses and to open more parking by moving most of the festival’s vendors and entertainers to State Street, The Green and down Legislative Mall.

The move turned out to be a success as they plan to use the same layout again this year.

“We heard so many comments from attendees who loved the way The Green was presented last year,” Mr. Doerfler said. “We were surprised to hear how many people discovered new things to see on The Green alone.

“Since the new footprint was such a dramatic change last year, we decided to keep the footprint relatively unchanged so festivalgoers could navigate the festival with more confidence this year. We’re continuing to recruit new artisan vendors as well as historical re-enactments to grow the festival’s unique qualities.”

Michael Martin goes on the attack against a medieval soldier at the Dover Days celebration last year.

Mr. Doerfler said the reason for last year’s change was to highlight the culture and heritage of downtown Dover.

“We saw a dramatic change in foot traffic with exploring Loockerman Street and The Green last year than we had in the past,” Mr. Doerfler said. “When we announced the change to the footprint last year, I think a lot of people were eager to see how it would work out.

“I think the change was a good transition and we were happy to hear many of the merchants and festival goers embraced last year’s new layout.”

Mr. Doerfler said there will be a few new activities this year as well.

“We’re excited to be introducing more historical components to the Dover Days Festival including performers, re-enactors, and interpreters,” Mr. Doerfler said. “We’re working with various organizations to help recruit new talent to this year’s Dover Days.”

“We’ll be featuring a new magic show near The Green as well as some other new performances,” he added.

The corners of Loockerman and State streets in Dover were crowded with parade watchers for last year’s Dover Days Festival. This year’s parade steps off at 9:30 a.m. Saturday.

New entertainment includes two pirate shows, “Pirates of Approaching Storm Show” and “Pirates of Fortunes Folly Show”. In addition, there will be a new magic show located on The Green, “Magic by Charlie,” and re-enactors including “For Woodness Sake”, 1st Delaware Regiment, Bedlum Bones, and Lady Aimee Sewing.

Hot air balloon rides will be making a return, as they seemed to be a fan favorite amongst attendees.

“If you didn’t have a chance to ride last year, make sure you get in line early,” Mr. Doefler said. “The hot-air balloon is tethered and will go 150 feet into the air, giving riders a birds-eye view of downtown Dover.”

Festival-goers can take a ride in the balloon for $5 per person from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The parade, which is always a highlight of the day, is expected to be the same again this year, kicking off from State and Loockerman streets.

“The magical moment for me is seeing festival-goers line up along the roads to watch the parade and then seeing them enjoying the festival afterwards,” he said. “We’re expecting over 100 vendors and over 100 parade floats.”

“It’s easily the biggest parade in Kent County, with Gov. John Carney serving as the grand marshal,” Mr. Doerfler added.

Dover Days once again coincides with NASCAR weekend at Dover International Speedway, but Mr. Doerfler said that benefits both events.

“Dover International Speedway was a great Dover Days partner last year and is working with us again this year,” Mr. Doerfler said.

“We viewed the NASCAR spring races as a great amenity celebrating our city’s heritage while they saw Dover Days as a great festival for their fans to enjoy.”

A tethered hot air balloon will again be one of the highlights for this year’s Dover Days Festival.

“We had about 9,000 to 12,000 festival-goers last year,” Mr. Doerfler added. “We saw many NASCAR fans during the festival. We hope those fans continue the tradition enjoying Dover Days before the green flag goes down at the Monster Mile for this year.”

Mr. Doerfler said he continues to be excited about the growth and participation within the community each year.

“Since taking over the planning of the festival, it was our goal to include the community and downtown partners more than they had been in the past,” Mr. Doerfler said.

“What’s not to love about a free, family-friendly event celebrating history, culture, and festival food right in the capital of the First State?

“Dover Days is truly a celebration of what makes the capital of the First State so great.”

For more information see the Delaware State News guide to Dover Days online at DelawareStateNews.net.

New committee

Next year, planning will go to the Dover Days Committee, Inc., a soon-to-be-formed 501(c)(3) that will be made up of community members and organizations.

The Dover Days Committee was formed in conjunction with the city of Dover and downtown Dover organizations to help produce, fundraise and manage the annual Dover Days Festival.

The new committee consists of community leaders who want to preserve the tradition of the event while also introducing festival goers to the great things to see and do year-round in downtown Dover. Proceeds from the Dover Days Festival will benefit Downtown Dover projects, making positive impacts for the heart of the city.

Downtown Dover organizations include the City of Dover, Downtown Dover Partnership, Chesapeake Utilities, Destination Downtown Dover, First State Heritage Park, Friends of Old Dover and Kent County Tourism. Each organization will have a seat on the board, allowing for additional members to be recruited and get involved.

H3 also Saturday

After Dover Days, H3 (History, Heritage, and Hops) will take place Saturday from 3 to 9 p.m. on Loockerman Street from State Street to Governors Avenue in Dover.

The event will feature three live bands, food trucks, 15 alcohol vendors, (craft beer, wine, cider, mead, spiked tea, and spirits) kids activities and more.

Bands will be At Risk, Bad Juju and Glass Onion.

Food trucks will include Mojo Loco, Woody’s on Wheels, Kapow , 33 West, Zaikka on Wheels and Haass’ on the Go.

Sweets will be sold by White and Associates Treats (funnel cakes and fried Oreos and honey buns), Sarah’s Italian Ice and Smart Concessions (kettle corn).

Merchandise vendors will include Joyeuse Syn Designs, Devine Paws, Clings, Bling, and Things and Harpster Designs.

Other fun activities include Mobile Cloud Game Truck with a climate-controlled gaming area for kids and adults; Fairy Paintbox with face painting; and Magic by Charlie.

Admission is free. Unlimited pour wristbands will be available for sale the day of the event for $47.

Produced by Destination Downtown Dover, proceeds benefit downtown beautification projects.

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