Return Day: A time to make peace … and move on

 

GEORGETOWN — Rick Kinnikin, of Laurel, looked out at the Return Day festivities from inside The Circle in downtown Georgetown on Thursday and wondered why other places around the country can’t have similar events.

It was Mr. Kinnikin’s first time attending Return Day – which was celebrating its 102nd edition – and he certainly didn’t leave disappointed.

“This is my first time. I think they did pretty good,” he said. “I enjoyed the parade and I got to watch it from the top of the Brick Hotel.

“This is something that I really wanted to see.”

Return Day featured a day full of activities, including a nearly two-hour long parade, the reading of the 2016 election results from the state and Sussex County races by Town Crier Kirk Lawson and offered a chance for political opponents to “bury the hatchet.”

Mr. Kinnikin said he watched on TV Wednesday night as thousands of people in several cities across the United States were protesting the results of Tuesday’s election in which Republican Donald Trump won the presidency.

“I can’t believe it,” he said. “It’s over. The people have voted and it’s over. It’s not going to help anybody by protesting it because it’s not going to change anything. They could learn something from what is taking place here.”

William West, the mayor of Georgetown, implored the crowd gathered within shouting distance of the main stage in The Circle to come together.

“To the people that are here [Thursday], this is a great day,” he said. “This is a day that all parties come together and decide that the politicking is done. We’re going to put an end to it and we’re going to work together as one.

“How about it, are we all one? Have we got the same goals in common to make this a better place?”

The Return Day ceremonies in downtown Georgetown got started at 8:45 on Thursday morning with a ribbon-cutting rededication at the Old Sussex County Courthouse at 10 S. Bedford Street.

That was followed by a Mayor’s Hatchet Toss competition, entertainment provided by the youth of Sussex County, a performance by Delaware State University’s Approaching Storm Marching band and a ceremony presented by the Nanticoke Indian Association.

All of the events were surrounded by food trucks with their tasty smells wafting through the air, several dozen vendors offering goods and services and a fair-like atmosphere.

Then, the parade marched in, led by the Delaware State Police Pipes and Drums unit, which Delaware’s election winners and losers rode together in horse-drawn carriages and cars.

Gov.-elect John Carney, a Democrat, was there along with his opponent, Republican Colin Bonini. U.S. Rep.-elect Lisa Blunt Rochester, the first woman and first African-American to represent Delaware in Congress, also attended, as did Bethany Hall-Long (lieutenant governor-elect) and several other winners from Sussex County races.

There were high school marching bands – including Sussex Central, Sussex Tech, Indian River, Seaford, Smyrna, Cape Henlopen and Delmar – playing so`ngs such as “America the Beautiful” and “My Delaware,” as well as beauty queens, floats, classic automobiles, police cars, fire trucks and local dignitaries.

“I think it’s great,” said Patty Brown, who moved to Rehoboth Beach from her hometown of Baltimore. “I’ve been to it before and I think it’s neat to see everybody coming together and this event just kind of seems to take things back to the way it was.

“The first time I came was in 1982 when I was going to DelTech [in Georgetown] and I heard about it. My grandparents are both from Delaware, so evidently they did this back when they were living, so it has to be a long-time tradition.”

Following the parade, Matt Barlow, of the Georgetown Police Department, delivered a stirring performance of the National Anthem and Pastor Chuck Reynolds gave the invocation.

Town Crier Lawson read the results from the Sussex County courthouse balcony, but one thing was missing – the reading of local results from Kent and New Castle counties.

That was no mistake, Mr. Lawson said.

“These are the election results from Sussex County,” he said, after reading his list. “Why? Because around here that’s all that matters.”

Mr. Lawson did read the presidential election results, in which President-elect Trump received the loudest cheers throughout the perfect autumn day.

Steve Hammond, broadcaster for WBOC, served as the Master of Ceremonies for the burying of the hatchet. “Delaware, as it always is, is setting a great example, a shining example for the nation after a difficult campaign season, of shaking hands, burying the hatchet and moving on,” Mr. Hammond said.

With the shadows growing longer in the afternoon, Sussex County party chairmen Billy Carroll (Republican), Mitch Crane (Democrat), Done Ayotte (Independent Party of Delaware) and James Brittingham (Libertarian) each placed their hands on a hatchet before it was buried in sand that came from Lewes, which was the original Sussex County seat before it moved to Georgetown.

With that gesture, the 2016 election had come to a peaceful conclusion.

Well, at least in Delaware.

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

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