Nature rains on Dover’s celebration, but not history

Students with the First State Club dance with Dover residents Alayna, 12, and Chris Gigliotti in front of the John Bell house on The Green in Dover on Monday Fourth of July. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Students with the First State Club dance with Dover residents Alayna, 12, and Chris Gigliotti in front of the John Bell house on The Green in Dover on Monday Fourth of July. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Those people who ventured out to The Green on Monday might not have been rewarded with a brilliant display of Independence Day fireworks or a patriotic parade, but they did get a chance to touch some history.

A weather forecast for heavy rain showers in the afternoon and the potential for evening thunderstorms pulled the plug early on the traditional parade and fireworks, the annual headliners of Dover’s Fourth of July celebration.

A student with the First State Club, Oviyanna Umoh, 12, anticipates dancing on The Green in Dover on Monday Fourth of July. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

A student with the First State Club, Oviyanna Umoh, 12, anticipates dancing on The Green in Dover on Monday Fourth of July. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

However, many events still took place in recognition of the holiday as several people milled around The First State Heritage Park throughout the day.

Greg Patterson, president of Dover’s Fourth of July Celebration Committee, said a decision on Monday’s anticipated festivities had to be made early. The fireworks have been rescheduled for Sept. 3, the Saturday night of Labor Day weekend.

“There were concerns for safety and there was the fact there might be thunderstorms arriving around the time we were scheduled to set the fireworks off,” Mr. Patterson said.

“Realistically, we need about eight to 10 hours of relatively clear, dry weather to get everything set up and build the firework rack and drop fireworks into tubes.

“We definitely didn’t want to destroy our fireworks with so much rain in the forecast. It’s a decision that has to be made with all day weather considerations in mind.”

Crystal Meredith dances with Matthew Knight in front of the John Bell house on The Green in Dover on Monday Fourth of July. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Crystal Meredith dances with Matthew Knight in front of the John Bell house on The Green in Dover on Monday Fourth of July. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Mayor Robin Christiansen posted on the city’s Facebook page mid-morning Monday that the weather forecast of rain and thunderstorms had forced the cancellation of the evening fireworks and the parade, which was scheduled to step off at 6 p.m.

“Our apologies for the cancellation, however, the safety of all citizens and participants in all festivities are our number one concern,” Mayor Christiansen said on Facebook. “Please have a safe and Happy 4th of July!”

Janette Bowen, who recently moved to Magnolia, took the time Monday to check out all of the tours and sites along The Green and Legislative Mall.

With her grandson in tow, she got to tour such historic sites as Legislative Hall, the Visitor’s Center, the Old State House, the Johnson Victrola Museum and the John Bell House – with no big crowds to fight through.

 Rosemary Staniszewski sweeps in front of the John Bell house on The Green in Dover on Monday Fourth of July. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Rosemary Staniszewski sweeps in front of the John Bell house on The Green in Dover on Monday Fourth of July. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“It’s a little bit of a bummer because we didn’t get around to see any of the other fireworks [in the area] but my grandson and I are here and it’s kind of nice to have no one else here,” Ms. Bowen said. “I’ve taken the tours and have learned a lot about my new town. I didn’t know anything about Caesar Rodney … and now I do.”

Rosemary Staniszewski, of First State Heritage, directed youth volunteers on traditional 18th century dancing outside the John Bell House. Colonial-era games were also set up on The Green so that people could take their best shot.

The day was far from a total bust, said Deanna Rishell, the interpretive program manager for First State Heritage Park.

“We’ve got plenty of people out here and we’re expecting more,” Ms. Rishell said Monday morning. “It may rain later, but that’s OK. It may encourage people to come earlier and get a chance to see what we have to offer.

“We’re out here and it’s not raining, so we might as well have fun.”

First State Heritage Park employees also mapped out a scavenger hunt for visitors, laying out clues from all over historic sites at the capitol complex. Those who managed to complete the feat got to pick out prizes at the John Bell House.

Spectators listen to the reading of the Declaration of Independence in front of the Old State House on The Green in Dover on Monday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Spectators listen to the reading of the Declaration of Independence in front of the Old State House on The Green in Dover on Monday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Delaware youth performed a spoken word performance on the subject of Independence Day at the Old State House, which also rang its bell in honor of freedom in the afternoon and the Declaration of Independence was read.

As for those fireworks, Mr. Patterson said they will still take place, but on Sept. 3, because that was the most viable date the Fourth of July Celebration Committee could find.

“Unlike some of other fireworks events in parks that will be free and clear out on Tuesday, our event takes place on city streets and around city buildings and businesses, so the logistics around all that was a little daunting when we were have conversations about this possibility,” Mr. Patterson said. “We looked at having them next weekend but the fireworks vendor has another event booked then.

“So, the next best thing we could come up with was Labor Day weekend.”

City spokeswoman Kay Sass is hoping all of the other events will return to Legislative Mall on Sept. 3, as well.

“The event committee will work to restore other activities as well,” Ms. Sass said in a statement. “A full schedule of events for September 3 will be announced in August.”

Chris Hall reads the Declaration of Independence in front of the Old State House on The Green in Dover on the Fourth of July. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Chris Hall reads the Declaration of Independence in front of the Old State House on The Green in Dover on the Fourth of July. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

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

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