Kent County offers options for families to ring in 2018

Balloons drop from the ceiling at the Kent County Public Library on the afternoon of New Year’s Eve in 2015. This year’s balloon drop is set for noon with the celebration to begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday. (Delaware State News file photo)

DOVER — It won’t actually be New Year’s Eve and it won’t be midnight when many Dover-area kids and their families celebrate the start of a new year this weekend.

That’s OK, they will surely enjoy their fun-filled celebrations at a couple of different places in Kent County just the same.

The Friends of Kent County Public Library will be celebrating their always popular annual Winter Carnival on Saturday from 9 a.m. until noon at the library, located just south of Dover off U.S. 13 at 497 S. Red Haven Lane.

Meanwhile, the Kent County Recreation Center at 1683 New Burton Road in Dover will be getting in on the New Year’s action with its inaugural New Year’s event on Saturday from noon until 4 p.m.

Tickets to both celebrations can be purchased for $5 each and can be bought at the sites of the events during regular business hours. No tickets will be available at the door.

“This year New Year’s Eve is on a Sunday, so we will be celebrating on Saturday,” said Jeremy Sheppard, director of the Kent County Recreation Center. “What we’re trying to do is we have a fantastic facility here at the Recreation Center and we’re trying to create more community events to bring the public out to see what all we have to offer here.”

Deb Lawhead, of the Friends of Kent County Public Library, said there was a void in things for families to do in Dover when it comes to New Year’s and they were happy to take the reins.

“We do this once a year because we decided that there wasn’t anything for the children to do during New Year’s Eve since First Night went away,” Ms. Lawhead said at last year’s Winter Carnival. “So we decided to pick up the ball and run with it and provide some entertainment so parents can bring their kids out to celebrate New Year’s Eve.

“Every year we’ve sold out. It’s very well attended and I think the parents really love bringing out their kids because it gives them all something to do.”

Winter Carnival an annual hit

The Kent County Public Library’s Winter Carnival has already established itself as a popular place for children and their families to celebrate the new year.

This year’s sixth annual event will feature a “Every Hero Has a Story” theme, not only celebrating superheroes but also everyday heroes such as first responders and military personnel. Family-friendly hero-themed costumes and T-shirts are welcome.

“Children need heroes to look up to. Don’t we all?,” said Dr. Hilary Welliver, director of Kent County Division of Libraries. “And our community is full of heroes. We live near a major military base and we are proud of our local heroes.

“That is why we invited first responders to kick off the event. We have paramedics, firefighters, the Kent County sheriff and military re-enactors coming, as well as the DAFB Honor Guard performing a flag ceremony. We’ve decorated the library with superheroes, but not every hero wears a cape.”

The Winter Carnival is an event and annual fundraiser that the Friends of the Kent County Public Library take very seriously.

“The Friends of Kent County Public Library love the annual Winter Carnival, now in its sixth year,” Dr. Welliver said. “They begin planning for the next one even before the current carnival begins.

“For example, this year’s theme is ‘Every Hero Has a Story’ and next year’s theme will be ‘Enchanted Forest.’”

A parade of first responders will kick off the event at the Kent County Library and visitors will have the opportunity to meet astronaut “Sally Ride” (portrayed by actress Mary Ann Jung), catch a show by the Rehoboth Children’s Theatre and a martial arts demonstration by Rigby’s Karate Academy, along with singing “Auld Lang Syne,” accompanied by bagpipes played by the Delaware Fire School’s Joey Moran.

There will also be plenty of activitities, games and craft booths and attendees will have the chance to win a one-year membership to the Dover YMCA, in addition to hourly door prizes.

It all culminates with the countdown to noon balloon drop.

“I love the balloon drop at noon. It is so exciting to have the countdown leading up to it and the thrill of the horns, sirens, lights and confetti,” Dr. Welliver said. “I also enjoy the live performances, arts and crafts tables, hourly door prizes and the meet-and-greet costumed characters.

“Who doesn’t want to meet the 501st Legion from Star Wars? I love how youngsters’ eyes widen when they experience the bagpiper playing ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ It is wonderful to see families sharing a terrific time and making memories together that will last a lifetime. We always tell our guests to be sure to bring a camera.”

A new tradition begins

While the Kent County Library has already established many traditions, the Kent County Recreation Center will be looking to create some of its own on Saturday.

Guests at the Recreation Center will be able to enjoy all of the sports the facility normally offers, as well as family-friendly activities such as inflatables, arts and crafts, noisemakers, a disc jockey and dance floor, concessions for purchase and a balloon-drop finale at around 4 p.m.

“We’re just attempting to do something that will be fun for everyone,” Mr. Sheppard said. “We will have all of our regular sports for guests to play, as well as things like a DJ and bounce houses.

“We just want to give people a chance to experience the Kent County Recreation Center and see what kinds of things we have to offer.”

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