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87th Dover Days canceled, focus is now on 2021

Andre Lamar * Delaware
andre.lamar@doverpost.com
Dover Post

Dover Days Festival, one of the state’s largest free fests, has become the latest victim of coronavirus.

The 87th festival May 1 has been canceled, according to a press release from the Dover Days Committee on Thursday, March 19.

“The Dover Days Festival has enjoyed 87 years of tradition during the first weekend of May celebrating Dover and the First State. Given the COVID situation, the Center for Disease Control has advised all public events beyond 50 people be canceled for the next eight weeks,”the press release stated. “All vendors and sponsors will be issued a full refund.”

Dover Days has charmed Kent County for nearly a century, celebrating the state’s heritage and history with colonial-themed festivities.

Some of the festivities showcased include a parade, maypole dancing, games, hot air-balloon rides, moon bouncing, over 100 craft and food vendors, music, colonial artisans’ village and historic re-enactment groups for the Revolutionary War, WW II and the Civil War.

This year’s festival was supposed to be the first run by the new Dover Days Committee, comprised of community partners and downtown Dover organizations that want to preserve the tradition of the event, while also introducing festivalgoers to the great things to see and do year-round in downtown.

Proceeds from Dover Days are to benefit downtown Dover projects.

Diane Laird, executive director for Downtown Dover Partnership, said Dover Days is one of many events aimed at helping small businesses in downtown.

Although the festival is canceled, Laird said her organization is still on a mission to help small businesses.

“In response to the current unprecedented situation, we are heavily promoting Dover’s open businesses through social media,” Laird said. “Hour by hour we are exploring with our resource partners both current and emerging ways to help our downtown merchants, and sharing the information with them.

She added, “Meaningful support includes training, technical and financial assistance from federal, state, private and local sources, including [Small Business Association] and Small Business Development Center, the DE Division of Small Business, Facebook, private consultants and others.” 

Meanwhile, Laird said there’s something the community can do right now to help small businesses.

“We strongly encourage the community to visit local merchants online and do some gift-buying and early Christmas shopping to keep merchants afloat.”

The Dover Days Committee is already beginning to plan the 88th festival, scheduled for May 1, 2021, according to a press release from the committee.

“The committee looks forward to creating a first-class event with the support of its vendors, sponsors, volunteers, and entertainers that have made the annual festival a truly great experience.”