June will be jumping: First Friday to begin in Dover

DOVER — From a distance, it might appear as if a circus is taking place on Loockerman Street in downtown Dover Friday night.

While there won’t actually be a big top on the city’s main thoroughfare, Loockerman Street will be closed and a carnival-like atmosphere will take over as First Friday in Dover returns to warmer weather as Destination Downtown Dover (DDD) and the Downtown Dover Partnership (DDP), along with a grant from NCALL/Restoring Central Dover, combine to bring a host of activities to the event that will take place from 5 until 9 p.m.

Local bands Bad JuJu and The Brothers Stonesifer will provide the sounds and beats from the First Friday stage, while the event will also feature craft beverages, food trucks, vendors and numerous other entertainment options.

Todd Stonesifer, board chair for the DDD, said it’s always nice to be able to take the stage with his older brothers Craig and Mark. He said they play an eclectic setlist of rock and country music.

“When the weather is nice, people seem to really dig First Fridays in Dover and it brings a positive energy downtown and it’s always definitely good to see how many people come out to enjoy the event,” Mr. Stonesifer said. “My brothers and I love playing First Friday when we can.

“We don’t do it for money. This is something that we do strictly for the fun of it. It gives us a chance to hang out and do what we really enjoying doing, which is make music.”

The food and beverage options will be broad and there will be plenty of activities for kids, as well, including face painting by Fairy Paintbox, Union soccer demonstrations, performances by Epic Dance and more.

Residents and visitors alike are also welcome to bring a lawn chair just to sit back and enjoy the evening.

Picture yourself downtown
Acclaimed Seaford artist Jim Rehak will be offering free caricature art on a first-come first-serve basis at The Loocke at 123 Loockerman St. from 5 until 8 p.m. on Friday.

Mr. Rehak’s array of artistic skills include plein air (outdoor) landscape oil painting, comic book illustration, portrait and caricature art, art directing, teaching and freelance court illustration. His recent award-winning work has been featured in group and solo shows throughout Maryland and Delaware.

Diane Laird, executive director of the DDP, said they received funding from the Delaware Division of Arts and National Endowment for the Arts to provide caricatures at no cost for three hours.

“Jim Rehak is a plein air painting colleague of mine who I recently learned is also very skilled in caricature art,” Ms. Laird said. “People are typically thrilled to see fun images of themselves and their friends, each one only taking eight to 10 minutes, and these sketches often become nice mementos of a special evening for years to come.”

Event attendees should also keep an eye out for buskers outside of downtown shops, as musicians, poets and other artists will be appearing at

Jim Rehak

The Delaware Store, Dover Health Care Center, House of Coffi, Parke Green Galleries and Simaron Pizza and Steak Shop.

The Dover Public Library’s In Harmony Concert Series will feature The Bratcher Project, an evening of instrumental smooth jazz led by Vaughn Bratcher, to be held outdoors at Loockerman Way Plaza. In case of poor weather, it will be held at the library.

Ms. Laird said the busking program, unveiled a couple of weeks ago, has been warmly received.

“Shoppers and store owners have been delighted to see buskers, most often playing guitar and some also singing,” she said. “While we are piloting during lunch hours Wednesday through Friday each week, buskers can come downtown to play anytime.

“The House of Coffi will be hosting highly skilled saxophonist (and busker) Wesley Melvin on Friday and we anticipate several others to also be playing Friday night. We request that buskers sign up at Tinyurl.com/DoverBusking, but this is only so we can support and promote them.”

First Friday gives back
“First Friday Gives Back” will return in June with a portion of all sales from 5 until 8 p.m. being donated to one local charity each month. This month, Caring Hearts Helping Hands, Inc. will be the recipient of the donation. For a list of participating merchants, visit TinyUrl.com/DoverFirstFriday.

In case of poor weather, see Destination Downtown Dover on Facebook for updates.

Ms. Laird isn’t worried about the weather after the DDP put on the events throughout a wet and chilly spring season.

“We are so excited to welcome warmer weather and still have daylight at 8 p.m. and beyond,” she said. “Just like the seasons, First Friday definitely evolves throughout the year and allows us to provide much broader programming, both indoors and outside. People of all ages come to enjoy the live bands, arts, food, shopping and visit with their friends. It’s ‘community’ at its best.”

Mr. Stonesifer certainly agrees with that. He said he has enjoyed watching First Fridays grow in Dover in recent years.

“It’s certainly grown,” he said. “I remember the first one we had, about 100 people showed up and then we got it up to around 200 people and last year we got around 500 to 600 people to come downtown for First Friday.

“It’s always a very positive thing for downtown Dover, the city’s merchants and its residents.”

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

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