Dover Days Festival to be run by downtown committee

DOVER – The annual Dover Days Festival is set to return to its roots.

Starting with 2020’s spring celebration, it will be managed and produced by the soon-to-be formed Dover Days Committee, Inc.

Dover Days, a tradition that pays homage to Delaware’s history and heritage and the city’s colonial-flavored past, has been run by Kent County Tourism since 1995.

This year’s 86th annual Dover Days Festival, one of Delaware’s largest and longest-running free events, will take place on Saturday, May 4.

Next year’s move to having a Dover Days Committee organize and manage the festival means that the event will now be operated by groups and individuals with more of a stake in the direction of downtown Dover.

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

Making up the board members for the new committee are: Mayor Robin R. Christiansen, Gary Camp, John Doerfler, Chris Cooper, Lorraine Dion, Diane Laird, Mary Mason, John Martin, Donna Mitchell, April Morehouse, Thomas Smith, Todd Stonesifer and Sarah Zimmerman.

“The board needs some passionate members who believe in Dover and the Dover Days tradition,” Mayor Christiansen said. “I know I certainly do and am excited to be a part of this.”

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

Even with the change in organizers, visitors to Dover Days can still expect to see the biggest parade in Kent County, traditional maypole dancing, games, tethered hot air balloon rides, dozens of craft and food vendors, music, a colonial artisans’ village and historic re-enactments.

The committee will be comprised of downtown Dover organizations and e community partners. 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.

“It’s gone full circle,” said Mr. Camp, chairman of Kent County Tourism’s board of directors. “A tradition that started 86 years ago with the Friends of Old Dover, and grew with guidance from Kent County Tourism Corporation, is now evolving into a complete collaboration by all stakeholders to benefit historic Downtown Dover.”

The Dover Days Festival started in 1933 when the Dover Garden Club hosted “A Day with the Storied Houses and Gardens of Old Dover” to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the founding of Dover in 1683 by William Penn.

Since then, the festival grew under the guidance of the Friends of Old Dover to include carriages, parades, garden tours, crafts and games. Kent County Tourism took over production and management of the annual event in 1995.

Mr. Doerfler, sales and event manager for Kent County Tourism, said it was time to put the festival back in the hands of the Dover community.

“It’s been an exciting process to see the community become more and more involved with Dover Days in recent years,” Mr. Doerfler said. “We thought the time was right to reimagine the festival’s direction with the renewed interest we’ve seen. This collaboration sets the stage for continued growth.”

For more information on the Dover Days Festival, visit www.DoverDaysFestival.com. Anyone with an interest in joining the Dover Days Committee should contact Mr. Doerfler at jdoerfler@visitdelawarevillages.com or call 302-734-4888.

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

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