Jen Haugh fondly remembers the Delaware City Days of her childhood.
Family and friends gathered for barbecues, cousins and people who moved away came back for the day, everybody loved the small town parade and the fireworks over the river that ended the day.
When Haugh’s hometown decided to revive the annual celebration after canceling it because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she jumped on board and volunteered to coordinate the parade.
It’s not a passive job.
“I’m pretty much the one rounding people up and inviting them to be in our parade,” she said. “We ask town businesses and organizations like the Lions Club, the library, the PAL Center.”
Haugh expects an hour-long parade for Delaware City Day, which is Saturday, Oct. 7 this year.
She aims for a small town feel for the parade.
“I feel like Delaware City Day is for the residents of Delaware city to celebrate our small town uniqueness and our history of the waterfront,” she said.
Her parents always look forward to running into old friends, like people they’ve gone to high school with, who will come back for Delaware City Day.
“It’s a day where the town’s people and the people who grew up in the town kind of all come together and just celebrate our community,” she said. “I think it’s very different living in a small town than living in a development. Delaware has many developments, but I think small town living definitely has its charms.”
The Delaware City Fire Department always says yes to being in the parade, bringing its trucks. Last year, its auxiliary marched, too, and is expected to this year.
The parade will include historic cars, Boy Scouts, Miss Delaware, police mounted patrols and the Duffy Sring Band, a Mummers marching band that the city hires for the occasion.
Haugh remembers big floats being in the parade when she was a child and working on her high school senior class float.
Today’s floats tend to be a truck or golf cart pulling a decorated trailer of some kind.
“This year I know we’ll have some Star Wars characters, and they’re going to have a trailer with a replica Death Star throne and emperor Palpatine on it,” she said.
This year’s grand marshal will be David Baylor, who recently left the city manager position to helm the Delaware Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Delaware City Day history
Delaware City Day began in 1980 as a way to celebrate small town life.
It started in the summer, usually July, but so many people complained about how brutally hot it was — it was often accompanied by a 100-plus heat index — that the town moved it to the fall, said Mayor Paul Johnson.
Events will include:
- A Walk for Autism at Fort du Pont in the morning
- Food and craft vendors in Battery Park from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
- Children’s Area at the library from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
- Live music at the park gazebo with Tookany Creek at 11 a.m; The Old Crispy Minstrels at 2:15 p.m.; Sweetice at 4:30 p.m. and Raising Cain at 5:15 p.m.
- A 1 p.m. parade along Clinton Street from 5th Street to Battery Park
- Boat rides on the river from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
- A dunk tank fundraiser for Broken Break Food Closet at 2:30 p.m.
- Fireworks at 7:30 p.m.
“What we tried to do this year is add more kids games and family-oriented activities that we’ve kind of spread out,” Johnson said. “In the past most of the activities have been down in the Battery Park area. The last couple of years, we’ve split them up between Battery Park and the community center, with a lot of the kids’ activities at the community center and more of the vendors and adult activities down in the park.”
The town believes its parade is one of the largest of its kind in the state, and Haugh said the fireworks are a non-stop 30-minute extravaganza that includes fireworks on the ground and in the sky.
Delaware City has been experiencing growth, with the Delaware City Refinery running and new faces from the Fort du Point housing development.
Even so, turnout last year was lighter than before the pandemic began, when about 12,000 people turned out.
“We’re kind of rebounding right now, so I’m kind of curious what this year is going to look like,” Johnson said.
Johnson said Delaware City Day began when he was 9 years old.
“It was all games and run around with your friends and stuff like that,” he said. “Now I just enjoy seeing the community out as a whole getting to know each other better and spend time together.”
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience.
Share this Post