Dover’s First Fridays initiative aims to warm up winter blues

DOVER — Business owners in downtown Dover are always looking for a spark in the cold, barren winter months that will entice shoppers and the community to come into their stores and eat at their restaurants.

The Downtown Dover Partnership, under the leadership of new Executive Director Diane Laird, has stepped up to answer the challenge this year and will be coordinating First Fridays in the downtown district from January through May, starting at 5 tonight.

It will be more of a spotlight role for the DDP, which has always supported more behind-the-scenes in Destination Downtown Dover’s First Friday events in the past, along with NCALL’s Restoring Central Dover initiative.

“Basically, we are taking on the role of indoors and cold-weather months and D3 (Destination Downtown Dover) will be the warmer weather, outdoor months for First Friday,” Ms. Laird said.

“We’re doing First Fridays from now through May and they will be doing June through December, but we’ll continue to program artists and musicians inside shops (in warm weather), so the event doesn’t get canceled and it’s not as dependent on the weather.”

Mayor Robin Christiansen will help launch the First Friday of 2019 with a 15-minute loop around the city’s downtown district aboard the Jolly Trolley bus — yes, the same one from Rehoboth Beach — that will begin at the Dover Public Library at 5 p.m.

“There is no need to look further than our own business district for an event-filled evening on the first Friday of every month,” Mayor Christiansen said. “Downtown shops will feature fun, colorful and lively demonstrations and performances by artists, musicians, dance and theatre artists, literary and culinary arts year-round.”

Lucy Findlay, DDP vice president and owner of Partners in Design in downtown Dover, said she is confident that the community will enjoy visiting the stores and hearing from local and regional artists and musicians.

“Indoor and outdoor programming will ensure an ever-changing variety of things to do in each of the 12 months, and the free trolley bus will make enjoying all First Friday activities convenient and comfortable, no matter what the weather,” Ms. Findlay said. “We are encouraging community members of all ages to participate as artists, shoppers, or simply to enjoy walking from shop to shop to take in the variety.”

Ms. Laird stressed that the DDP is aiming to get students from Wesley College, Delaware State University, Wilmington University and Delaware Tech-Terry Campus involved in the First Friday events. It would allow the students to get some experience in their field of expertise.

She said that anyone interested in volunteering to be a Downtown Ambassador, Trolley Narrator, Roving Event Photographer, or to participate as an artist or volunteer can contact her at 302-678-2940 or by email at or visit

Program volunteer Jean Francis coordinated programming of artists for the downtown shops in January and is already programming for February and beyond.

There will be 10 artists/musicians scattered inside stores up-and-down Loockerman Street tonight, including:

•Rick Hudson at Dover Health Care Center — Singer/Songwriter on guitar and harmonica with a focus on blues, old time country and contemporary pieces.

•Mike Nielsen at Bel Boutique — Harpist/Songwriter with a soothing Celtic, Classical sound.

•Earl Reed at Simaron Pizza & Steak Shop — Acoustic guitar blend of classic rock & pop.

•Tom Hench at Bayard Pharmacy — Singer/Songwriter on guitar/harmonica, mixed folk-type storytelling, with a variety of humorous to serious overtones.

•Nancy and Jerry Maliwesky at Zuha Trend — Duo, Acme Anvil Company, primarily original eclectic acoustic Americana on guitar, dulcimer and percussion.

•Bob Frazier & Friends at BLUvintage — Sings and plays guitar and ukulele with a focus on an eclectic mix of songs and tunes.

•Mollie Raley Hall — Singer/Songwriter on guitar, ukulele and mandolin, an eclectic mix of mostly folk and pop.

•Bobby Grimmett at The Loocke — Wood Carver of wild life generally in natural settings as well as small items.

•Rick and Tish at My Roots — Singers/Songwriters on acoustic guitar and drums with a focus on late 1960’s/early 1970’s and original pieces. Ambient background restaurant sounds.

•The Dover Public Library will feature Robert Dopira as part of its’ In Harmony Concert Series, as well as works of local artists Shanserah Soon Kim, photographer/artist and Maria Ruffin Aekyung, acrylics in the Art Gallery.

While there promises to be an abundance of things to see, hear and do around the city tonight, the Jolly Trolley will provide something a little bit different.

It is the wintertime Jolly Trolley, which is more of a mini-bus that seats up to 18 people, and will feature six stops in its loop, which will begin at the Dover Public Library. Visitors are welcome to jump on or off the trolley at any of its stops. The trolley is being sponsored by Dover’s Rotary Clubs: Dover Capital City, Dover Colonial and Dover Downtown.

The free Jolly Trolley bus will make numerous stops on a continuous loop that will include: Wesley College, Parke Green Galleries at The Green, west to Simaron’s Pizza and Steak Shop on Loockerman, eastward to House of Coffi and the Dover Public Library.

Deb Edwards, a volunteer for the DDP and a representative for WSFS Bank, will provide informative trolley narration for the loop.

“Increasing fun and playfulness downtown, while providing more customer opportunities for our downtown businesses is a win-win,” said Ms. Edwards.

Ms. Findlay has tried to get First Fridays to work in the colder months before, only to see them fizzle out. She said there is a different energy this time around.

“It’s gotten very exciting and I think that reviving it for the winter is just going to be a wonderful asset for Dover,” she said. “We have tried it in the past and fell flat. We couldn’t get the enthusiasm going. Now we have the enthusiasm, we have everybody working really hard on it.”

Ms. Findlay said not to laugh, that the trolley is an attraction all its own.

“I have friends that have lived (in Dover) for 25 years and ho-hummed about First Friday in the wintertime, but they heard about the trolley and they’re like, ‘Oh, we’re going to come down and take a look at that,’” said Ms. Findlay. “People can ride the trolley who aren’t even familiar with downtown and just look out the window and see what all is down here to come back to.

“It’s all very exciting — and it looks like it’s going to be a perfect night for all of it.”

Amy Mullen, Events Compliance Coordinator for Destination Downtown Dover, said her group of volunteers is thrilled the DDP will be handling the First Friday cold months.

“We’re really happy that the DDP has taken over this role,” Ms. Mullen said, about the winter and spring First Friday events. “It’s kind of a perfect fit on the collaboration that we have with them and Restoring Central Dover.

“It will certainly benefit the merchants and add some interest into what is happening downtown, even in the cold weather, and that’s always a good thing. I’m excited with what they are doing.”

Facebook Comment