It’s Festival Time!

Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald

The festival season gets off to a fast start this month, then kicks into high gear in July and continues into August and even September. Here’s a quick guide to help you plan your festive tour through the summer.

June

St. John’s Carnival, June 5-10
Milltown Road, Pike Creek
This summer marks St. John the Beloved’s 51st carnival—the longest running carnival in the state, with more than 20 rides and games, carnival-style food and drinks (including beer and wine for the adults), and nightly live music by the Juveniles, The Unforgiven, Chalice, Best Kept Secret, Secret Sauce and HELIXX. Family Night is Tuesday, June 6, and Alumni Night is June 8. The Hall offers poker and blackjack Thursday through Saturday, a $3,000 raffle on Saturday, June 10, and silent auction items available for bidding every night. The grounds are open 6 to10 p.m. during the week and 5-11 p.m. on Saturday. Admission is free. For details, visit sjbde.org.

Greek Festival, June 6-10
Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Wilmington
The 42nd annual Holy Trinity Greek Festival heralds the arrival of Wilmington’s “festival season,” and it’s one of the city’s most popular outdoor parties. For five days, Wilmingtonians fill up on authentic food, ethnic music and lively dance from the Greek Terpsichorean Youth Folk group. Festival bonuses include a free lunchtime shuttle from 9th and Market Streets, running from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and the online order/curbside pickup running simultaneously. For details, visit greekfestde.com.

Summer Music Festival, June 9
Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington
The art museum’s outdoor Copeland Sculpture Garden comes alive from 6 to 10 p.m. as it welcomes the sights and sounds of a partnership with the People’s Festival that will feature live reggae, Latin, hip hop and special dance performances from Ginger Coyle, Spokey Speaky, Hockaday and Danza Azteca. Throw in food trucks, cocktails, live artist demonstrations and an army of vendors, and it’s a family-friendly party at a very affordable price. Tickets are $5 for museum members and $10 for non-members; free for youth members and $5 for youth non-members. For details, visit delart.org.

Delaware Chamber Music Festival, June 16, 18, 23 & 25 Wilmington Friends School
For its 32nd season, the region’s premier chamber music celebration brings you Strings & Keys: A Brahms Mini-Celebration. As the title suggests, each concert includes a master work from Johannes Brahms, as well as works from Schubert, Mozart, Stravinsky and more sprinkled throughout the four-performance series. This year, the festival moves to a new venue at Wilmington Friends Lower School and adds a free jazz-themed performance at the Church of Saints Andrew and Matthew in downtown Wilmington. The jazz concert features guest artists Julie Nishimura, piano; Douglas Mapp, bass; Tina Betz, soprano, and the young musicians/composers of the Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency Program, directed by Jonathan Whitney. For details and tickets, visit dcmf.org.

Delaware Separation Day, June 9 & 10, New Castle
A full weekend (Friday from 5 to 10 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.) celebrates our 241st year of independence from Pennsylvania and the British Crown. Historic New Castle will be bursting at its colonial seams with food trucks and craft beer stations, an arts and crafts fair, amusement rides like the Coconut Tree and Flying Dragon, as well as pony rides and a petting zoo. A parade down Delaware Street begins Saturday at 11 a.m. And don’t forget about the Beautiful Baby Pageant and live music and entertainment from the likes of the 1st Delaware Regiment, Big Package Band and DJ American Pie Entertainment. A fireworks display closes out the celebration on Saturday night. Details: sepdayde.com.

St. Anthony’s Italian Festival, June 11-18, Wilmington
This year’s festival-goers will experience the charm of Sicily. Italy’s semi-tropical island paradise will be the theme, with accents of lush foliage, volcanic soil surrounding a Mt. Etna volcano, and vibrant artisanal traditions throughout the grounds. The Il Mercato marketplace will feature a variety of Sicilian items, and vendors will include Sicilian specialties such as arancini, a fried rice treat native to the island. The opening Gala concert will fill the air with classical Italian musical selections and a performance by four youth orchestras from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. In front of St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church patrons can enjoy a captivating light installation provided in partnership with LightAction, Inc. Admission for ages 14-61 is $5; patrons under age 14 (accompanied by parent or guardian 18 or older) and over age 61 are admitted free. For details, visit stanthonysfestival.com.

Last year's DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival. (Photo by Jay Diaz)

Last year’s DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival. (Photo by Jay Diaz)

Dupont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, June 21-24
Rodney Square, Wilmington
Named in honor of Wilmington’s own Clifford Brown—a brilliant trumpet player, unforgettable composer and dynamic entertainer—the first festival was held in 1988 and has since grown into the largest free jazz festival on the East Coast. The multi-day celebration of the music, culture and art of jazz features artists from all over the world in addition to regional and local talent on the dazzling Rodney Square stage. Details: cliffordbrownjazzfest.org.

Smyrna at Night, June 23
Smyrna at Night is returning to light up the downtown. This free, all-ages celebration kicks off at 5:30 p.m. with live music across multiple stages, including artists Big Ric Rising, Bryan Russo, Lauren & Tinto, Trap Rabbit and Megan Knight; restaurant specials and 16 food trucks (including 302 BBQ, The Plum Pit, Mojo Loco, Benson, Rebel Cove and more); craft vendors and family-friendly fun. For details, visit facebook.com/smyrnaatnight.

New Castle County Ice Cream Festival, June 24-25
Rockwood Park, Wilmington
Billed as Delaware’s “largest family picnic,” this festival allows you to get your scoop of fun for children of all ages along with samples of some of the best frozen treats in the state. It features a variety of vendors, live music, local restaurant samples, crafters and local creameries. Details: rockwoodicecream.com.

July

Pirate Festival, July 8
Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard, Wilmington Riverfront
Ever wonder what it was like to sail the high seas pirating and smuggling, braving dangerous storms and strong currents? Climb aboard the Kalmar Nyckel and learn the real history of pirate life, enjoy re-enactments from the ship’s crews, enter the costume contest or check out model shipbuilding while taking in live music and tasty treats in the park. For details, visit kalmarnyckel.org.

Free Reign Hip Hop Festival, July 14-16
Rodney Square, Wilmington
Formed around the arts education offerings of Street Xpressions, an organization that empowers and educates our community through hip hop culture, music, visual art and dance, this fourth annual event will host daily giveaways, art and dance workshops, group mural painting, emcee and breakdance battles, concerts and more, honoring the legacy of hip hop, the culture that contributed to its rise and the artists it has influenced. It’s free to attend, but donations are appreciated. Proceeds will benefit the Street Xpressions scholarship fund. For details, visit streetxpressions.org.

Delaware Shakespeare, July 14-20
Rockwood Park, Wilmington
“Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more!” “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers!” The Bard’s most thrilling speeches will fill the “wooden O” of Rockwood Park this July, as Delaware Shakespeare presents its 15th summer festival with Henry V. Featuring some of the most famous and glorious language in all of Shakespeare, this vigorous examination of leadership tells the ultimate against-all-odds victory story. Tickets are $18 for adults, $16 for seniors and active military, and $14 for students. Sundays at DelsShakes are Family Nights, where children 12 and under are admitted free. In addition, a fine selection of wines by the bottle will be available for purchase during the festival. For details and tickets, visit delshakes.org.

Shady Grove Music Festival, July 15, Arden
Get shady in the cozy, leafy Village of Arden at the area’s premier festival of local and original music. It began in 2002 as the Arden Music Fest, and has evolved into the first Delaware event to solely promote original talent from the tri-state area. One of the headliners this year is Dover’s Hoochi Coochi. The daylong (noon to 9 p.m.), family-friendly, rain or shine festival is great for kiddos (but, sorry, leave pups at home). Bring a lawn chair or blanket and settle in. Tickets are $20 in advance or at the gate, and children under 12 are admitted free. Food and beverages will be available for purchase. Proceeds benefit the Arden Club’s Gild Hall Restoration Fund. For details and tickets, visit shadygrovemusicfest.com.

The Ladybug Festival, July 20 & 21, Downtown Wilmington
This is how Gable Music gets big things started. One year, it’s a one-night showcase of undiscovered talent. Suddenly, it’s a full-blown, two-day festival, taking over LOMA and the 800 block of Market Street, transforming our city into a legitimate summer music festival destination. This year’s lineup includes heavy-hitters and audience favorites Nadjah Nicole, Angela Sheik, Sweet Leda and Nalani & Sarina, with more exciting artist reveals to come. For details and tickets, visit theladybugfestival.com.

Newark Food & Brew Fest,
July 22, Downtown Newark
This fest is all about celebrating the relationship between culinary arts and brewing sciences. The noon to 7 p.m. event showcases more than 40 craft beers—Flying Dog, Heavy Seas, Troegs, Dogfish Head, Oskar Blues and more—paired with creative offerings from 18 Newark restaurants. Patrons travel from restaurant to restaurant sampling dishes designed to complement featured brews. Music includes performances by two Philadelphia acts—Jason Ager and the Steve Oakley Band—and Elkton’s TreeWalker. Details: visit newarkfoodandbrewfest.com.

August

Riverfront Blues Festival, Aug. 4-6
Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park, Wilmington
This annual affair returns to the Riverfront for its 17th year with three glorious evenings of music spread across two stages. At press time, this year’s lineup hadn’t been released, but we assure you, it’s always incredible. And no matter what, there will be all the delicious barbecue you can possibly digest. Details: riverfrontbluesfestde.com.

August Quarterly Festival, Aug. 20-27
Tubman-Garrett Park
Wilmington’s August Quarterly is the nation’s oldest African-American festival, celebrating more than 200 years of religious freedom, freedom of speech and the right of assembly. This year’s festival begins on Sunday, Aug. 20, with opening church services and continues throughout the week with multiple revival services and a Children & Youth Day and Gospel Explosion on Saturday, Aug. 26. Culminating with “The Big Quarterly” on Aug. 27—commemorating the 1813 founding of the Union Church of Africans, the first African-American Church independently incorporated in the United States—the celebration features the August Quarterly Festival Celebration Choir directed by Wayne Carter, as well as local and regional gospel artists. The evening closes with a performance by the Gospel Music Workshop of America. For details, visit augustquarterly.org.

September

Polish Festival, Sept. 18-23
Wilmington Riverfront
Count us in when the 61st annual St. Hedwig’s Polish Festival hits the Riverfront in mid-September. It’s a fun-filled week of music, dancing, rides, belly-busting food and drink, crafters and more. Who doesn’t enjoy a heaping plate of pierogi, golobki and kielbasa topped off with chocolate babka and chrusciki? For complete info, visit sthedwigde.org.

Fourth Annual Odessa Brewfest, Sept. 9
Historic Odessa
Just south of the canal, a fundraising event for the Historic Odessa Foundation fills the town’s streets on the first Saturday after Labor Day. Crowds enjoy an unlimited sampling of regional and national craft beers as well as locally produced wine and spirits, a variety of food and merchandise vendors, live bands including Spokey Speaky, and more. Festival gates open at noon for the VIP tasting and the regular fest begins at 2 p.m. For more info, visit odessabrewfest.com.

Last year's Taste of Trolley Square. (Photo by Anthony Santoro)

Last year’s Taste of Trolley Square. (Photo by Anthony Santoro)

Taste of Trolley Square, Sept. 30, Trolley Square
This annual trip invites you to “sip, savor, shop and stroll” your way through one of Wilmington’s busiest neighborhoods and nightspots. From 1 to 5 p.m., guests can sample food and drink pairings at nearly every Trolley-centric venue. From Featuring Two Roads & Scotch at Kid Shelleen’s to Oskar Blues, Twin Lakes, Weyerbacher, 20+ Craft Spirits and 30+ Wines at Frank’s Wine to 16 Mile at Trolley Oyster House, there’s surely something to please every food and drink palate. When you’ve had your fill, spend some time (and money) at one of the participating Trolley retailers like Petal Pushers, Bloom or Fabrizio Salon. Admission is free, but you must be 21 or older for alcohol-related tastings. For details, visit tasteoftrolley.com.

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