History, parade help Dover celebrate Fourth of July

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

DOVER — The Fourth of July brings families and friends together to celebrate America’s most patriotic holiday.

Downtown Dover will continue to carry on that tradition during its annual day-long celebration on Wednesday.

“People love the tradition of celebrating Independence Day in the capital of their state,” said Sarah Zimmerman, director of First State Heritage Park. “I know that I came to these fireworks as a kid and it is fun to see how families continue to come and have this event as a family tradition.”

The day kicks off with the “Capital Challenge” hosted by First State Heritage Park. Ms. Zimmerman is excited by the new adventure for everyone who attends the celebration.

“We have experimented in the past with creating scavenger hunts for groups. But this is the first time that we have an interactive experience with puzzles, clues and challenges for whatever group wants to try it,” Ms. Zimmerman said.

“We have taken the idea of an escape room and adapted to use at all of the sites at First State Heritage Park.”

Teams will start at the First State Heritage Park Welcome Center and Galleries, solve puzzles to get clues and travel around the park, getting to see and do things that they might not otherwise experience, said Ms. Zimmerman.

She said it’s a great activity for families or groups of friends.

“It’s focused on Delaware’s history and what makes Dover special, but it is done in a non-traditional way, so those that don’t like history will still have a great time participating,” Ms. Zimmerman said. “We have incorporated a social media component as well so people are able to share their experience online if they so choose.”

One of Delaware’s most prominent Revolutionary figures, Caesar Rodney, is of course involved during the celebration. A short film entitled “Thunder and Rain,” depicting his famous ride for independence will play at the Old State House every hour between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.

Romy Calloway, rides a pony during the city of Dover’s Fourth of July last year. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

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

The National Bell Ringing Ceremony 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.

Each year, the members of the Walter L. Fox Post No. 2 of the American Legion coordinate a Fourth of July parade through downtown Dover.

The parade will begin at 6 p.m. The route is along State Street, from Hazel Road to The Green, with the reviewing stand on The Green.

“Last year the parade was canceled due to rain,” said Bret Scott, Walter L. Fox Post No. 2 parade chairman. “The weather looks fine so far for this year’s celebration. So we’re excited to give the people a chance to get what they missed last year.

“It feels like it wouldn’t be a proper celebration without the parade,” I’m honored and privileged to be a part of this. The parade has always had a pretty good turnout. We’re trying to mix it up this year by having a nice mix of participants. I can’t wait. It should be an exciting time for everyone.”

Ms. Zimmerman said one of the most complicated components of planning for the celebration is the weather.

Johanna Verdes plays the Water Gun Fun game at Dover’s Fourth of July event last year. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“It’s impossible to predict what the weather will be,” Ms. Zimmerman said. “The weather may change on the day of the event. We have learned over the years to make sure that we have back up dates in place, so we can promote and inform people of the change.”

In case of rain and high winds, the planned fireworks at dusk on Legislative Mall will be rescheduled for Saturday, July 7.

Down on Legislative Mall, food and craft vendors will open at 4 p.m. From 5 to 9 p.m., free children’s activities, including moon bounces, pony rides and a petting zoo will be on the west end of Legislative Mall, near the Liberty Bell replica and in front of the Biggs Museum.

The 287th Army Band of the ​Delaware National Guard will perform at 7 p.m. followed by the opening ceremony at 8 p.m. in front of Legislative Hall, featuring a C-17 flyover, pledge of allegiance and “The Star-Spangled Banner,” led by Mayor Robin Christiansen.

Then at around 9:30 p.m. the fireworks celebration will cap off the celebration.

“This year’s festival will be a lot like it has been in the past,” Ms. Zimmerman said. “We have determined what people like and make sure that those things are there for people to enjoy as a part of their Independence Day traditions.

“The turnout is always great, so we want to make sure that we make it an enjoyable and special holiday.”

For more information and a schedule of events, visit Dover4thofJuly.com.

Arshon Howard is a freelance writer living in Dover.

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