Dover Days Festival welcomes thousands, dodges rain

 


DOVER — Although the forecast called for a chance of rain the 84th annual Dover Days Festival dodged the precipitation-laden clouds Saturday — save for a few short drizzles.

The celebration that is one part tour through historical Dover and another part family entertainment festival got the day started with the well-attended Dover Days parade that marched from Central Middle School to the city’s historic Green.

Ben Hicks and his father, Terry, were posted at the intersection of Loockerman and State streets downtown to catch the action.

“My favorite thing in the parade was Wally the Work Zone Warrior!” cheered 8-year-old Ben as the parade concluded.

Wally, the DelDOT mascot, is a large creature assembled from traffic drums and cones that the department showcases in the parade.

“Even though it looked like it would rain, we didn’t want to miss out — we try to make it out to Dover Days every year.” said Mr. Hicks, a Dover resident. “It’s a great chance to sort of hang out downtown because it’s family friendly and there are lots of activities going on, but they also do a lot of really interesting historical tours too.

“Dover is a really neat backdrop. The festival is just a chance for everyone to come together and remember why Dover truly is a cool little city.”

The event, which originated as a home and garden tour in 1933, is often called the largest festival in Kent County and one of Delaware’s longest running. It’s billed as a celebration of history, heritage, culture and the arts.

Wendie Vestfall, executive director of the Kent Count Tourism Corporation, noted the many features her organization wrangles together for the day.

“The parade featured over a hundred floats, bands and marching groups decked out in their 300th Dover Birthday decorations,” she said. “The festival features over 250 spaces filled with jewelry, crafts, outdoor living items and lots of food.”

The event features more eclectic fare, too. Visitors were able to enjoy the performance of Pennsylvanian street performer Evan Young while he juggled and balanced on a tall stack of wheels and skate boards.

They also had the opportunity to observe an extra-large sand castle being built by Darrell O’Connor and Delaware State News’s own editor Andy West. This is the fifth year Mr. West stopped out to Dover Days to publicly build a sand sculpture. He noted that Pioneer of Dover donated the sand and the city delivered it.

“It’s not often we get nine tons of sand dumped in the street for our enjoyment,” he said. “This is always big fun since so many folks never get to see what we do on the beach all summer.”

On The Green, Civil War and Revolutionary War encampments featured muzzle-loading rifle shots, an authentic steam car sputtered around giving free rides and dozens of elementary school children dressed in period appropriate clothing performed a traditional maypole dance.

During Dover Days, multiple tours of historic buildings such as Legislative Hall, Woodburn (the Governor’s House) and The Old State House throw their doors open for tours.

“You just don’t realize how many stories there are behind every little thing in this area is until you start kicking around, asking questions and going on these tours,” said Smyrna resident Greg Archuleta as he stepped out of the John Bell House on The Green.

“I mean, just imagine that this Green was put together in the early 1700s and still looks roughly the same. It’s seen a lot of history.”

Although Saturday night marked the end of the Dover Days festival, the city plans on celebrating its 300th Birthday throughout the year across a gamut of events on its calendar:

  • June 24 — “Positively Dover” Festival (African American Festival)
  • July 4 — Dover’s Fourth of July Celebration
  • July 8 — The Happiness Project @ the Schwartz
  • July 14 & 15 — 50th Anniversary of the Johnson Victrola Museum; A Jazz Tale
  • Aug. 18 & 19 — Comic Con
  • Aug. 26 & 27 — Thunder Over Dover: 2017 Dover AFB Open House
  • Sept. 22 & 23 — Delmarva Folk Fest
  • Sept. 23 — OktDover Fest
  • Nov. 4 — 18th Century Market Fair
  • Dec. 31 — New Years Eve Celebration

City officials say they’ll add more celebrations and events to their rolling calendar that can be found at dover300.com.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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