Feeling Festive? This Summer, Wilmington Sure Is!

The area’s festival season stretches from June into the fall

Summer’s coming, and that doesn’t just mean perfecting your bathing suit bod and planning your glamping trip to Firefly (See page 71 for that). It’s also time for Wilmington to party like it’s…Festival Season!

Here’s a rundown of all the “Best Fests” to indulge in this summer.

The “Traditions”

Greek Festival (June 7-11), 8th & Broom Streets, Wilmington
Known as the Delaware Valley’s largest Greek Festival, the 41st Annual Holy Trinity Greek Festival truly launches Wilmington’s festival season, opening the week prior to the Italian Festival. Not only does it serve up a mouthwatering menu, Greek Fest also offers everyone’s favorite lunch option—free shuttle pickup at 9th and Market every 10 minutes from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, June 7, through Friday, June 10. Each night, DJs kick off live music at 5:30, followed by Greek music and performances by the Terpsichorean Dancers of Holy Trinity. Get full details at greekfedstde.com.

Italian Festival (June 12-19), 9th & Dupont Streets, Wilmington
This year, the Festival turns its focus to the beauty and richness of Renaissance art and culture, taking inspiration from masters of the time, including Botticelli and Vespucci. And this year welcomes back an event I enthusiastically endorse—the Home Winemakers Competition on Sunday, June 12. Entries in categories of red, white and cordial (think limoncello) will be accepted, at just $5 per entry. Musical performances highlight each night of the Festival—including First State Ballet and Wilmington Ballet, Delaware Youth Symphony Orchestra, Italian Festival Orchestra & Chorus and more—starting with the Gala Concert on Sunday. Admission is $5 for ages 14-61. Those under age 14 (accompanied by parent/guardian) and over age 61 are free! Obtain passes and more details at stanthonysfesival.com.

New Castle County Ice Cream Festival (June 25-26),
Rockwood Park, Washington Street Extension
We all scream for this annual County festival, billed as Delaware’s largest family picnic. For a nominal $5 admission (kids 12 and under are free), you can seek out wares from loads of craft vendors and artisans, dance the weekend away to live music, and enjoy delectable treats from local restaurants and creameries, including faves like Woodside Farm and UDairy Creamery. Find out more at rockwoodicecream.com.

CityFest’s Fests

Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (Photo by Tim Hawk)
Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, Tuesday, June 16, 2015. (Photo by Tim Hawk)

DuPont Clifford Brown Jazz Festival (June 21-25),
Rodney Square, Wilmington
This is the 28th anniversary of the festival recognized as one of the largest free musical festivals in the region. This year, the lineup also includes nationally known artists Nicholas Payton, Myles Jaye and Robert Glasper, along with local favorites like Nadjah Nicole, Maya Belardo, the Clifford Brown Tribute Band and the Clifford Brown Super Group. “Sax in the City” returns as the official after-party for the over-21 crowd, held at the Chase Center on the Riverfront from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. and featuring live music, food and premium beverage tastings. Friday, June 24, will see the annual Silver Trumpet Block Party take over the heart of Wilmington on Market between 8th and 10th Streets, immediately following the mainstage performances. The free, family-friendly block party will offer live music, refreshments and an energetic atmosphere. Get full artist lineups and more details at cliffordbrownjazzfest.com.

July 4th Celebration, Rodney Square Summer Stage & Riverfront Blues & Bar-B-Que (July & August),
Various Wilmington Locations
Additional summertime events sponsored by Wilmington’s CityFest include the 4th of July Celebration on the Riverfront, presenting live music and fireworks; the new Rodney Square Summer Stage, which brings free music to downtown for three weekends in July—Fridays and Saturdays, July 15 and 16, 22 and 23 and 29 and 30; and the Riverfront Blues & Bar-B-Que Festival, running the weekend of Aug. 5, 6 and 7, featuring artists like Mr. Sipp, the Alexis P. Sutor Band and the Selwyn Birchwood Band. For full details on these festivals and more, visit cityfestwilm.com.

The Season’s Staples

2015 Ladybug Music Festival (Photo by Joe del Tufo)

Ladybug Music Festival (July 21), 2nd & LOMA, Wilmington
As Ladybug and Gable Music Ventures both celebrate their fifth anniversary, they continue to shepherd excellent live music into Wilmington. This year, the all-female artist Ladybug presents 50 acts and an expanded footprint—a main stage near Fourth and Market and a new venue at Bobbi Rhian’s Executive Lounge. “We challenge ourselves to add more each year,” says Jeremy Hebbel, co-owner of Gable Music Ventures. “Attendance has nearly doubled, with 3,000 people attending last summer. We encourage everyone—kids, parents, adults, from Boomers to Millennials—to enjoy free live music from all along the East Coast in the beautiful LoMa neighborhood.” Caroline Rose from Burlington, Vt., will headline the event, with Delaware’s own Nadjah Nicole as the additional headliner. Genres from jazz, hip-hop, rock and singer-songwriters will be represented by Andrea Nardello, Aziza Nailah Music, Cecilia Grace, Kitty Mayo and the Emperess Band, The means, Midnight Mob, Rachael Sage and Sharon Sable. Check out details at theladybugfestival.com.

The People’s Festival (July 30), Tubman-Garrett Park, Wilmington Riverfront
This festival is a music and arts tribute to reggae legend Bob Marley, who called Wilmington his home after coming to the U.S. from Jamaica. The 22nd annual family-friendly event boasts headliners such as Ky-Mani Marley (one of Marley’s children), Dumpstaphunk, Alika, Quino Sol and our own Richard Raw. General admission tickets are $25 and VIPs are $75. More artists will be announced soon, so stay tuned to the website: peoplesfestival.com.

Shady Grove Music Festival (July 16), Arden Shady Grove
One of my go-to summer “hangout” fests is held in the tranquil hamlet of Arden’s (literal) shady grove. Originated in 2002 as the Arden Music Fest, the event has evolved into Delaware’s sole music festival focused on promoting local original talent. Proceeds benefit the Arden Club’s Gild Hall Restoration Fund. Bring your family, kids and a comfy blanket or lawn chair (but no pups or outside food/drink, please), and settle in for an afternoon showcase of some of our diverse local music scene’s best. Food truck fare and beverages are available onsite. Look for full lineup and ticket details at shadygrovemusicfest.com.

2015 Delaware Burger Battle (Photo by Les Kip)
2015 Delaware Burger Battle (Photo by Les Kip)

Delaware Burger Battle (Aug. 27), Cauffiel House, 1016 Philadelphia Pike
Also celebrating its fifth “birthday” this year is everyone’s favorite Homage to Hamburger. Last year, more than 30 restaurants competed for six trophies and statewide bragging rights, including Critic’s Choice (selected by “DELebrity” judges) and People’s Choice. The competition gets fiercer every year, so don’t miss your chance to taste Delaware food history in the making and support a worthy cause in the process. The Delaware Burger Battle supports the Ministry of Caring and has raised more than $28,000 for the Ministry’s Emmanuel Dining Room. Tickets will be on sale this month, so watch the Battle’s website for details: deburgerbattle.com.

New Fests on the Block

Richard Raw Week (June 4-11), Various Wilmington Locations
This weeklong celebration of arts, culture and community was created by local hip-hop artist/educator/activist Richard Raw to, he says, “…give our city a different experience.” Raw partners with an array of arts organizations and entrepreneurs—Christina Cultural Arts Center, The Delaware Art Museum, Levitea, Artist Ave Station and the City of Wilmington to name a few—to present programming for everyone to come together, be educated and entertained. Things kick off with the Park Jam in Rodney Square on Saturday, June 4, featuring live performances, vendors & food. The remainder of the week includes an entrepreneur mixer, documentary screening, family fun day and a panel discussion on the Black Arts Movement. The week will culminate in the release concert for Raw’s new album, Word Warrior. For details, visit richardraw.com.

Delaware Taco Festival (June 25), Frawley Stadium, 801 Shipyard Dr.
This new festival has gotten major local buzz, and why not? But why tacos? “The simple response would be, who doesn’t love tacos?” says festival organizer Rob Brazas. “They’re one of the hottest food items right now, so our goal is to put together amazing samples from 40-plus of the area’s best restaurants and food trucks.” Brazas assured me there will be options for vegetarians and vegans too. Silver level tickets are $40, Gold level are $60, and each comes with a number of taco samples. Kids under age 6 are admitted free. Brazas recommends buying tickets in advance, so get over to the website: delawaretacofest.com.

Heading into Fall

Arden Fair (Sept. 3), Arden
The 109th annual Labor Day Weekend fair has something for everyone: the Antiques Market; live and local music in The Grove; Shakespeare Gild’s children’s games and rides; food vendors; the Library Gild Book Sale and Gardeners’ Gild Plant Sale.

Wilmington Hispanic Festival (Sept. 9-11), Wilmington
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Wilmington Hispanic Festival and Parade, celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and the accomplishments of our Hispanic community, leaders, organizations and supporters.

Brandywine Festival of the Arts (Sept. 10 & 11), Brandywine Park, Wilmington
Fall’s arrival (to me, anyway) is marked by this festival, featuring hundreds of artists exhibiting one-of-a-kind works in nearly every medium, live music, children’s activities and local food vendors.

Analog-A-Go-Go (Sept. 17), Bellevue State Park, Wilmington
The celebration of all things indie craft will move to Bellevue State Park with six live bands, a cask beer festival and distillery garden, an artisan marketplace and food trucks from throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.