Dover to celebrate Tricentennial birthday

DOVER — The city of Dover is celebrating its 300th birthday this year. Get that straight — birthday. Anniversary sounds much too reflective while birthday signals a celebration.

That’s according to Something LLC, an upstart marketing and branding company that has been charged with trying to bring all of the city’s 300th birthday events together under one umbrella.

“There’s so much going on throughout the community as it is and we really needed to try to bring a group of people together to be able to bring cohesiveness to such a large event,” said Kay Sass, Dover’s Public Affairs and Emergency Management Coordinator. “When you’re talking from May until December, there’s a lot going on.

“It’s a huge celebration and a very distinct landmark for Dover. We’re hoping to be able to commemorate that with a plaque or something for Dover as well.”

The Tricentennial party, which is expected to last three-quarters of a year-long, will get kicked off with the 84th annual Dover Days Festival on May 5-6.

Reuben Salters talks about the June 24, 2017 Positivel Dover Festival during the City of Dover’s 300th press conference at City Hall on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mayor Robin Christiansen and other city officials are hoping the city’s milestone year will end with a festive community gathering and fireworks at Legislative Mall on New Year’s Eve.

In between, there will be a long list and wide array of events to keep even the most devout Doverite busy. Just a few of them were highlighted at a press conference at City Hall on Tuesday.

“I won’t be here for the 350th (birthday), so I want to make sure that we have a great celebration,” Mayor Christiansen said, with a laugh. “It should be really cool.

“My vision is that we celebrate what makes Dover, Dover, and that we celebrate the people that came before us, the people that live here today and the people that hopefully will live here in the future.”

Event kicks off celebration

Wendie Vestfall, right and Danielle Jonigan with Kent County Tourism talk about the 84th annual Dover Days during the City of Dover’s 300th press conference at City Hall on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Wendie Vestfall, executive director of Kent County Tourism Corporation, said the start to Dover’s 300th birthday couldn’t come at a better place than the Dover Days Festival.

“I’m glad we are serving as the kickoff to the 300th birthday for Dover,” Ms. Vestfall said. “We’re excited to be holding a big birthday party for the city with a birthday cake from La Baquette Bakery. We’ll also have the mayor and city council coming to help us in the celebration.”

The cake presentation will take place at 8:20 p.m. on May 5 at Legislative Mall, followed by a community-wide orchestra of kazoos playing Happy Birthday for the city along with other fun songs and fireworks.

The annual Dover Days parade will step off at 9:30 a.m. on May 6 and will feature more than 100 floats that will all be decorated in the birthday theme.

The Kent County Tourism Corporation is also asking Dover businesses and organizations to get involved on May 4 and the weekend by wishing the city a happy 300th birthday on their signs and marquees.

Nena Todd, of Delaware Historical and Cultural Affairs, said Dover’s milestone is more significant than a lot of people might realize.

“According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 35,000 cities and towns (in the country) and less than 100 of them have ever turned 300,” she said. “So this is a big, important anniversary.

The city of Dover started out with conflict, people had to fight to keep it, people had to stand their ground to keep it, and 300 years later, we’re still doing the same thing. So the citizens of Dover should be incredibly proud that they have kept this city going for 300 years and here’s to 300 more.”

Historical and Cultural Affairs will be busy during Dover Days by hosting the 50th anniversary of the Johnson Victrola Museum at 375 S. New Street on May 6, as well as a theater production titled “William Penn vs. Lord Baltimore: Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” at the Old State House at 25 The Green that same day at 1 p.m.

‘Greatest city I’ve ever lived in’

Reuben Salters, of Dover’s Inner City Cultural League, said Dover should be proud of its past accomplishments and excited about its future.

“In my years (in Dover) I’ve seen growth, I’ve seen progress, and this is the greatest city that I’ve ever lived in and I’ve lived in a lot of them,” Mr. Salters said. “I’ve been all over the world.

“The people and children are the greatest. We feel compelled to be a part of this great event by doing everything that we can.”

Mr. Salters said the Inner City Cultural League’s facilities will be open throughout Dover Days if “anybody would like to take a walk off the beaten path.”

He said the Inner City Cultural League serves more than 150 children, mainly at its Sankofa Cultural Arts Center on West Street.

The Dover Public Library has an exciting array of events lined up this summer, culminating with the fourth annual Dover Comic Con on Aug. 19.

Margie Cyr, the director of the library, said they are anxiously awaiting the arrival of traveling exhibition “Explore Tech: Engineers Make a World of Difference,” starting June 7.

The program will showcase how engineers create new technologies to better meet human needs and develop sustainable innovations for the future. The Dover library is one of only 14 sites in the nation selected to host the Explore Tech exhibition.

Thunderbirds, time capsule

Dover Air Force Base Chief of Community Relations Dawne Nickerson-Banez said the base will be hosting its first Open House since 2009 on Aug. 25-26, featuring the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team and many other attractions.

“We’re really excited to be able to open our doors and let everybody come in and get the full base experience,” she said. “This year we’re moving it back old school to the main ramp, so people will actually be coming onto the base through the main gate and parking on our main ramp where our aircraft are usually parked.”

There undoubtedly are a lot of events to be excited about throughout the rest of 2017 for Dover.

So much so that Tina Bradbury, operations and program manager for the Dover Downtown Partnership, wants it to leave a lasting impression.

“When we were mulling around ideas of what we can do to celebrate our great history of Dover, what better thing to do than a time capsule?,” Bradbury asked. “So that is our mission of what we are going to be setting forth this year.”

The DDP will be reaching out to its community partners to help us create the time capsule.

“Throughout this celebratory year we’re going to be looking for memorabilia and contributions from everybody in the community,” she said. “This should give people in the future a great representation of our celebration.”

The time capsule will be buried, hopefully, as part of the tentative New Year’s Eve celebration — a fitting end to a memorable year.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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