Confederate re-enactors get shut out of Dover Days Festival

DOVER — One side of the Civil War’s combatants won’t be represented at the 85th annual Dover Days Festival this year, but hopes to tell its story again in 2019.

Since the Mason-Dixon Guards Camp 2183 couldn’t confirm its nonprofit status to Kent County Tourism Corporation’s specifications, the Confederate re-enactors weren’t permitted to take part without registering instead as a vendor.

That wouldn’t work for the Ellendale-based organization, according to Camp Commander Robert Eldreth, since the living history area needed could not fit into the asphalt area that organizers offered for the May 5 event.

“Our display was not conducive to what was being offered,” Mr. Eldreth said. “There would be no place for the tents and everything that comes with the camp scene, so being in a vendor spot wasn’t possible.”

John Doerfler, Dover Days event manager, said he offered the Mason-Dixon Guards Camp the lowest rate possible of $150 as a vendor. He said the group could not complete the process of confirming its status as a 501(3)(c) nonprofit for several weeks following the initial application.

Mr. Eldreth said his group presented Kent County Tourism a letter from the IRS confirming the status, but was requested to show further proof online. The IRS reporting system hadn’t yet updated that status and it wasn’t available, he said.

“The IRS didn’t post our current status and we’re being penalized for it,” Mr. Eldreth said. “Kent Tourism referred to our claim as unresearchable because it couldn’t be shown online.”

According to Mr. Doerfler, re-enactors for the Union side Second Regiment Delaware Volunteers expressed concern that the Mason-Dixon Guard Camp would not be able to take part to balance the perspective of the War between the States.

Inviting the 7th Tennessee, Company D Infantry Rebel re-enactors was proposed, he said, but came on too short notice.

Kent County Tourism Corporation President Wendie Vestfall said “We did not exclude (the Mason-Dixon Guards Camp) in any way. They tried to participate as a nonprofit but the process of approval could not be completed.

“We will accept anyone as long as they meet the guidelines and would absolutely take their request for entry next year to take part.”

That still leaves historians of the Rebel’s cause disappointed this year. The organization has taken part in past Dover Days and knows the opportunity it’s missing out on.

“We’re a non-political, non-secular, educational organization,” Mr. Eldreth said. “We’re out there like many other veterans groups that’s teaching the true presence in history of who we represent. We have a history of being at Dover Days and it’s always been a positive experience and we’ve never had any problems with taking part and explaining our part of the tale.”

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