Summer Brings the Best Fests

Michelle Kramer-Fitzgerald

From June through August, there’s Greek, Italian, jazz, ice cream and more

 

Summer is mere weeks away, and that means the onset of Delaware’s Festival Season (second only to the start of Arts Season for me). Here’s a rundown of some of my favorite upcoming fests…hope to see you there!

JUNE – Festival Season in Bloom

The Feminist Flea Market & Craft Fair | The Queen | June 1

The Feminist Flea Market & Craft Fair is making its debut here on Saturday, June 1, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Festival organizer House Cat’s all womxn* flea market & craft fair has boasted more than 100 vendors and 2,250 people and has raised some $7,000 for Women Against Abuse & WOAR (Women Organized Against Rape) in Philadelphia. Now, for the first time in Delaware, there will be more than 60 vendors and artists who identify as womxn, whose identities include womxn, femmes, and those women-aligned (queer, butch, non-binary and trans people are all welcome). Vendors include sellers and creators of ceramics, jewelry, knitted wear, skincare and holistic remedies and crafts—Adira Jenner Art, Deja Jewels, Heart & Sold Creations, Herb-N-Medicine, Laurel Tree Bindery and Molly Bee Studio, to name a few. Tickets are $3 at ticketleap.com or cash at the door. Proceeds benefit the YWCA Delaware’s Sexual Assault Response Center.

*In the word “womxn,” the “x” extends inclusivity to individuals who identify as trans, genderfluid, genderqueer, gender non-conforming or non-binary.

Greek Festival | Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church | June 4-8

The Holy Trinity Greek Festival heralds the arrival of Wilmington’s “festival season” from Tuesday through Saturday, June 4-8. It’s one of the city’s most popular outdoor parties and places to see and be seen. For five days, Wilmingtonians fill up on authentic food (Pastichio! Moussaka! Dolmades!), lively ethnic music and dance. Festival bonuses include a lunchtime shuttle from 9th & Market streets and the online order/curbside pickup running simultaneously. For full details, visit greekfestde.com.

Separation Day features a colonial-themed parade. Photo Joe del Tufo

Delaware Separation Day | Historic New Castle | June 7 & 8

This is actually a full weekend (Friday, June 7, 6-9:30 p.m. and Saturday, June 8, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.) celebrating Delaware’s 244th year of independence from Pennsylvania and the British crown. On Friday, historic New Castle will be bursting at its colonial seams for the kickoff party with food trucks, live music by Big Package, and craft beer set in front of the New Castle Court House. Saturday starts with a parade (11 a.m.) followed by a festival (noon) in Battery Park featuring a Colonial BBQ Competition, kids rides and attractions, crafters and more. Mainstage music includes The Chesterfields, The Bullets, Blue Cats Blues, Brad Newsom & Friends and Club Phred. Fireworks at dusk. For full details, visit separationdayde.com.

Brimming Horn Meadery Viking Festival | Milton | June 7-9

Milton’s second annual “Party Like It’s 793” brings heavy metal music and “Viking culture” back to town. The Brimming Horn Meadery, launched in 2017 by former Dogfish Head employees Jon Talkington and Robert “J.R.” Walker, is the only Viking-themed meadery in Delaware. In fact, most of its meads are named after Northern European gods and goddesses or characters of Norse mythology. This year’s event will again feature mead, Vikings, and metal music, craft demos, and more. The musical lineup includes legendary metal vocalist Matt Barlow with his band, We Are Sentinels. For full details, visit brimminghornmeadery.com.

Smyrna At Night | Downtown Smyrna | June 8

Smyrna at Night returns to light up the streets of this New Castle County hamlet on Saturday, June 8, 3-10 p.m. It’s a free day of incredible live music across multiple stages and venues, with food trucks, family-friendly fun and much more. The lineup includes headliner Robert Randolph & the Family Band; Delaware faves Hoochi Coochi and Nalani & Sarina; The Susquehanna Floods; Stacia LaChole, and Chaplin The Kid. There will be food trucks, a beer garden and a Kids’ Zone with plenty of fun stuff to do. For details, visit smyrnaatnight.com.

St. Georges 8th Annual Blues Festival | Fort DuPont | June 8 & 9

This is two days of non-stop blues, harmonica workshops, food, beer and wine. Saturday, June 8, includes performances by Tommy Alderson Group with Alicia Maxwell; The Amanda Fish Band; Robert Kimbrough, Sr.; Shawn Holt & the Teardrops and headliners The Bob’s Of The Blues. Sunday, June 9, welcomes performers Nuthin’ But Trouble; Bobby Kyle & The Administers; Christone Kingfish Ingram; Selwyn Birchwood; and headliners Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials. Gary Cogdell’s Session Tent also provides live music between mainstage sets. Tickets are available at bluehorizonpromotions.com, onsite or by purchase at the Saint Georges Country Store. You can also purchase by phone at 420-3058 (Blue Horizon Promotions) or 836-8202 (Saint Georges Country Store).

St. Anthony’s Italian Festival | Wilmington’s Little Italy | June 9-16

This year’s festival-goers will enjoy all that makes Italy and the Italian lifestyle the envy of much of the world, with the Best of Italy! Throughout the festival will be regional culinary highlights from cafés and vendors; handcrafted Italian décor at Il Mercato marketplace, and the finest Italian classical and contemporary music on the festival stages. 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 full details, visit stanthonysfestival.com.

Clifford Brown Jazz Festival. Photo Javy Diaz

Clifford Brown Jazz Festival | Rodney Square | June 19-22

Named for Wilmington’s own Clifford Brown—brilliant trumpet player, unforgettable composer, dynamic entertainer —this festival has grown into the largest free jazz festival on the East Coast. This Thursday-through-Saturday celebration of music, culture and art of jazz features international, regional and local talent on the open-air Rodney Square stage. This year, the festival expands with new events, like the Clifford Brown Listening Garden—an afternoon of performances, games, food, and fun for the entire family—on Sunday, June 16. Musical partnership events are also on the roster. On Saturday, June 22, Christina Cultural Arts Center presents “The Connection: Jazz, Folk music, and African Griot in the music of Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield,” where The Arpeggio Jazz Ensemble will take audiences on an interactive musical journey. In addition, Wilmington Library presents “Hands On Jazz,” allowing children to “touch” jazz music in a hands-on jam session with the same ensemble. Capping off the week is the Boysie Lowery Living Jazz Residency Graduates Concert at The Queen on Sunday, June 23. For full festival details, visit cliffordbrownjazzfest.org.

Serafin Summer Music | The Music School of Delaware | June 20-30

Serafin Ensemble, in partnership with the University of Delaware Department of Music and The Music School of Delaware, announce this 10-day festival, featuring eight scintillating performances by 18 accomplished artists. For local chamber music lovers, this new festival fills a void left by the Delaware Chamber Music Festival (which closed in 2017). The artists include performers from University of Delaware and the Music School along with accomplished artists from around the country. Performances will be held at The Music School of Delaware’s Wilmington Branch. For details, visit brownpapertickets.com.

Old Fashioned Ice Cream Festival | Rockwood Park | June 29

Known as Delaware’s “largest family picnic,” this Saturday festival is fun for all ages. It offers a seemingly endless delectable selections of gelato, water ice and straight up “old fashioned” ice cream, as well as a variety of craft vendors, live music, kids’ activities, historical demonstrations and an equally appetizing “adult” food court. For details, visit nccde.org.

Wilmington Pirate Festival | Kalmar Nyckel Shipyard | June 29

Grab your peg leg and eye patch and shout a hearty “Arrrrrr, Matey!” as the fifth annual Kalmar Nyckel Pirate Festival comes ashore on Saturday, June 29. This free family-friendly fest invites you to climb aboard Delaware’s Tall Ship, learn the real history of pirate life, and enjoy re-enactments and tours from “salty” crew members, as well as pirate-themed musical performances, games, crafts, and face painting. Food trucks, a beer garden and other tasty treats await you in the surrounding park. For full details, visit kalmarnyckel.org. 

Water Lantern Festival | Bellevue State Park | June 29

Held throughout the United States but new-to-Delaware this year, the Water Lantern Festival is presented by One World LLC. The family and environmentally-friendly festival brings community people together to “light the water” with thousands of handmade floating lanterns. It’s billed as a magical night that begins with food trucks, vendors and music; continues with stations where you design your own lanterns; and concludes in an official lantern launch, creating a breathtaking display reflected on the water. Event organizers assure us that all lanterns will be cleaned up afterward by their team, and all are made with 100 percent eco-friendly wood and rice paper. Tickets are $30 until June 15; $35 until June 28; $40 day of event. For details, visit waterlanternfestival.com.

JULY – Festival Season Heats Up

Shady Grove Music Fest. Photo Joe del Tufo

Shady Grove Music Fest | Arden | July 13

Shady Grove Music Fest (one of my personal favorites) is set for Saturday, July 13, in the cozy, tucked-away spot in Arden. The festival will be headlined by Dentist (New Jersey) and Hoochi Coochi, with additional performances by Pennsylvania-based Sixteen Jackies and Lazy Eye; PA/DE hybrids Chvnce; and Tetra, Wasted Arrows, Glass Doors, and Bad Eyesight— all from Delaware. Gates open at 11 a.m., and the music starts at noon. Also available throughout the day: free parking, wine and beer, soda and water, food truck delights and special pricing for the Arden Pool. Tickets are $15 in advance or $20 day of show; children under 12 are free. Bring the blankets and chairs, but leave the pups and coolers at home. Proceeds benefit the Gild Hall Restoration Fund. For details, visit shadygrovemusicfest.com.

DelShakes. Photo Alessandra Nicole

Delaware Shakespeare | Rockwood Park | July 12-28

Mark your calendars for the summer’s “must-do event”—DelShakes’ annual Summer Festival at Rockwood Park. This year, the company presents The Merry Wives of Windsor, a ridiculously bold comedy that has brought us one of the Bard’s most legendary characters: Falstaff. He fancies himself a suitor of two women—both married—fueled in his bravado and vanity by booze and ego. But the merry wives prove more than a match with their wit and ingenuity. This play’s trickery ranges from stinky laundry pranks to faerie dress-up. While Delaware Shakespeare performs year-round, this is its signature production, picnic-friendly and under the stars. “We shall drink down all unkindness!” with them this July. Details are at delshakes.org.

Free Reign Hip Hop Festival | Newark | July 13

The festival, now in its fifth year, is an all-day Saturday, family-friendly celebration of hip hop culture. This year, the event will be hosted at Street Xpressions Dance Studio on Pencader Drive in Newark and will include adult and youth dance battles, food vendors, live art and music, and a hip hop vintage market. For details, visit streetxpressionsstudio.com. 

The Ladybug Music Festival | Downtown Wilmington | July 18 & 19

The lively, female-focused block party is now a full-blown, two-day festival, running nearly the full length of Market Street and bolstering downtown’s summer music destination cred. It also delivers the country’s largest celebration of women in music in a free, family-friendly event. Ladybug (named in honor of Delaware’s state bug) returns Thursday, July 18, to the LOMA section of Market Street from 5 to 10 p.m. All female-fronted acts will perform on two outdoor stages and several indoor venues along the block. Food trucks, beverage stations, and arts & craft vendors will line the street as well. On Friday, July 19, from 5 p.m. to midnight, Gable Music introduces the “Bug Crawl”—a fun twist on a typical pub crawl—where artists perform inside restaurants, bars, and businesses along Market Street, from Chicky’s Pizza Pub all the way to the Hotel du Pont. For details, visit theladybugfestival.com.

Newark Food & Brew Fest | Downtown Newark | July 20

This Saturday fest is all about celebrating the relationship between culinary arts and brewing skills. The noon to 7 p.m. “restaurant crawl”-type event showcases craft beers from your favorite breweries—Two Roads, Victory, Dogfish Head, Crooked Hammock, Evolution, Big Oyster, Tröegs and many more —paired with creative nosh from nearly 20 Newark-area restaurants. Of note: The first 3,000 guests will receive a Food & Brew Fest commemorative 5-oz. tasting mug. Out & About will be hosting a root beer tasting stand for kids on the Academy Lawn until 5 p.m. (or until supplies run out). For details, visit newarkfoodandbrewfest.com.

The Peoples Festival | The Queen | July 20

This year marks a quarter-century for the signature Wilmington festival that celebrates, commemorates and honors one-time city resident and music icon Bob Marley. Festival co-founder Genny Pitts started the event in 1993, and it has since welcomed such notable music icons as Damian Marley (and “all the Marleys,” as Pitts noted), SOJA—Soldiers of Jah Army, Bamboo Station, Culture, Third World and Morgan Heritage as well as the local talents of Spokey Speaky and Richard Raw.  For details on this Saturday event, visit peoplesfestival.com.

AUGUST – Festival Season Still Burns Hot

Riverfront Blues Festival | Tubman Garrett Park | Aug. 3 & 4

This annual affair returns to the Riverfront with two glorious weekend evenings. At press time, this year’s lineup hadn’t been released, but we assure you, it’s always incredible. And no matter what, it will surely be brimming with all the blues you can possibly digest! For details, keep an eye on riverfrontbluesfestde.com.

Fortify Festival | Fort DuPont | Aug. 10

On Saturday, Aug. 10, 1-9 p.m., Delaware City welcomes the Fortify Music Festival and some of the original members of Little Feat as this year’s festival headliners. Paul Barrere (guitar, vocals), Fred Tackett (guitar), and Kenny Gradney (bass) are joined by longtime Feat drummer Gabe Ford, all appearing as Funky Feat. Completing the Fortify lineup are The Susquehanna Floods, Lovebettie, High Noon, and Countdown to Ecstasy. The Fortify Tent will have summer beverages and a community stage featuring several up-and-coming Delaware Bands. Fortify IPA also will be back by popular demand, along with brews from Big Oyster and Blue Earl and Yards, while Painted Stave’s bar serves up a custom-made cocktail. For more, visit fortdupont.org/fortifyfest.

August Quarterly Festival | Tubman-Garrett Park | Aug. 18-25

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. 18, with opening worship services and wreath laying, and continues throughout the week with multiple revival services and a Youth Day and Gospel Explosion on Saturday, Aug. 24. Culminating with “The Big Quarterly” on Sunday, Aug. 25—commemorating the founding of the Union Church of Africans, which was the first African-American Church independently incorporated in the United States in 1813—the celebration features numerous talented local and regional artists. For details, visit augustquarterly.org. 

So, what do you think? Please comment below.