Things to be optimistic about
It’s February. The trees are bare, the temperatures hover near freezing, it’s dark by six in the evening, football season is over, and baseball is two months away. What’s more, we are coming off a year that was disquieting, to say the least. It was fraught with social and political upheaval, the passing of an extraordinary number of beloved celebrities, many at a relatively young age, continued violent crime in our city and our nation, along with unrest, war and terrorism throughout the world.
Yet there is always reason—make that reasons—for hope. In fact, when the staff of Out & About began putting together our list of things to be optimistic about, we found it relatively easy to come up with 100. And while 100 is a nice, round number, these are by no means the only reasons to be optimistic about 2017. Feel free to send us your list.
1 In 2015, approximately 700,000 volunteer hours were documented by Delaware’s Office of Volunteerism. The value of this continuing service is estimated at more than $15 million.
2 Through Meals On Wheels Delaware last year, 738,807 meals were delivered to approximately 4,000 seniors by more than 1,000 volunteers. That’s an 11 percent increase from 2015.
3 In 2016, 420 volunteers contributed 3,685 hours at The Delaware Center for Horticulture, helping the nonprofit continue its statewide mission of cultivating greener communities.
4 After years of fundraising, the folks behind Preston’s Playground are getting closer to achieving their goal of $500,000. The 8,400-square-foot space at the base of the Newark Reservoir will be outfitted with a rubberized base and handicap-accessible entrances and exits for kids of all abilities and disabilities. You can help them get there by donating at prestonsplayground.com.
5 The Delaware River is the longest undammed river east of the Mississippi, and it’s not just an important habitat for wildlife—it’s a major economic engine for our region, too. A recent study shows that the basin contributes $25 billion annually in economic activity and supports 600,000 jobs in our region.
6 Amazon announced last month that it will hire 100,000 new employees over the course of the next year and a half. That’s a 56 percent increase in its U.S. workforce (180,000 at the end of 2016). The New York Times reported that “Amazon fulfillment centers across the country stand to be among the biggest beneficiaries.”
7 Trying to stem high turnover in store jobs, nonprofit groups and chains such as Wal-Mart, Home Depot and the Home Shopping Network are launching a program to help people develop the skills to land entry-level jobs and advance in a retail career. More than 20 major retailers, including Neiman Marcus and Ashley Stewart, have pledged general support for the Rise Up program that was launched Jan. 15.
8 After looking at options in neighboring states, Chemours—the DuPont Co. chemical spin-off—announced it would remain in Delaware. Not only does this keep the long-standing DuPont family name in business in the First State, it also saves the jobs of some 1,000 workers who may have been otherwise laid off or forced to relocate.
9 About a year after DuPont laid off 200 Experimental Station employees (that’s the bad news), it announced last month that it would be investing $200 million into the facility (that’s the good news). Enhancements in the lab space won’t just benefit DuPont and Dow, which are merging to create three new companies, two of which will be based in Delaware. It also will be a boon for third-party science companies looking for business incubation space.
10 The Delaware Restaurant Association’s ProStart Program continues to teach life skills and create career opportunities for Delaware’s youth. It is currently in 18 high schools, reaches more than 3,000 students, and offers more than $100,000 in scholarship money.
11 There are upwards of 1,000 co-working spaces in the United States—and at least four in Wilmington: The Mill, coIN Loft, 1313 Innovation and Artist Ave. Station—fostering creative collaborations and community.
12 At the University of Delaware, the last three years have seen the most diverse entering undergraduate class in the institution’s history, with more than 25 percent coming from historically underrepresented and underserved communities.
13 Vice President Joe Biden returns home to Delaware for some well-deserved R&R. But he won’t be sitting still long. He plans to collaborate with the University of Delaware on economic and domestic policy, an effort that hopefully will spell great things ahead for both the country and the First State.
14 Delaware’s graduation rate is rising, according to the U.S. Department of Education. During the 2014-2015 schoolyear, the upward trend in Delaware graduation success (85 percent) mirrored the recently-released graduation data from the Department that showed the nation hitting a record high (83 percent) for high school graduation. The rise has been steady since 2010.
15 Community gardens are becoming more prominent. The Delaware Center for Horticulture currently supports approximately 20 throughout New Castle County.
16 Delaware is reducing food waste. Last year, Food Bank of Delaware redirected more than 2 million pounds of food destined for landfills to the tables of those in need. It expects to exceed that total in 2017.
17 Last year, the Food Bank of Delaware received almost 9 million pounds of donated food.
18 Local farmers’ markets have surpassed $3 million in sales annually over the past couple of years and area family farmers are finding new markets by selling to local supermarkets, who recognize their value.
19 Every Delaware public school district buys directly from local farmers.
20 On Jan. 13, Panera Bread announced that it had removed artificial ingredients from its food menu and Panera at Home products in the United States. The company has said that by year end it would remove artificial flavors and colors, preservatives and sweeteners from the food served at its 2,000 restaurants.
21 You might recycle, drive an environmentally-friendly car—good. Next step? Composting for your garden. The state offers workshops, classes and demonstrations on composting throughout the year.
22 Delaware now diverts nearly 43 percent of recyclables from landfills to recycling operations. That’s nearly 8 billion pounds of trash.
23 Delaware’s municipal solid waste recycling rate has been steadily improving for the past decade. The rate is currently 42.6 percent, up from 23.2 percent in 2006. The state goal is 60 percent by 2020.
24 The U.S. Department of Energy has tapped the University of Delaware to be a key player in the new Rapid Advancement in Process Intensification Deployment (RAPID) Manufacturing Institute led by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (AIChE). RAPID’s role will be to develop breakthrough technologies and processes to boost energy productivity and efficiency and decrease environmental impacts, especially related to chemical manufacturing.
25 The United States continues to lead the world in number of patents filed, with 109,353 in the first half of 2016. It isn’t even close. Second-place Japan had 24,200. Proof that America has a lot of people with a lot of ideas.
26 More hybrid and electric vehicles are on the road. It seems the auto manufacturers are finally getting the hint that consumers not only want to save on gasoline, but also want to save the planet. Hybrids aren’t going anywhere and now it seems EVs (Electric Vehicles) are here to stay. There are now more than 20 plug-in models offered from more than a dozen brands.
27 The Chevy Bolt has been named top car in North America, an important milestone for a car General Motors hopes will finally get Americans hooked on electric vehicles. The honor was announced Jan. 9 in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show.
28 The first self-sufficient boat powered only by emission-free energy will start a six-year trip around the world in the spring. Energy Observer, a former multi-hull race boat converted into a green vessel equipped with solar panels, wind turbines and a hydrogen fuel cell system, will be powered by wind, the sun, and self-generated hydrogen. The boat, which is currently in a shipyard in Saint-Malo (western France), will set sail from the Brittany port.
29 Wind and solar are crushing fossil fuels. Clean energy investment now outpaces gas and coal 2 to 1. As renewable energy is becoming ever cheaper to produce, installations are booming. Recent trends show that wealthier countries are slowly phasing out coal out entirely.
30 In 2015, REI—outdoor outfitters Recreational Equipment Inc.—gave more than 72 percent of its profit to community projects (and generous employee bonuses). This generosity has a direct, positive impact on Delaware parks (see story, pg. 21).
31 While 2016’s stats aren’t released yet, DNREC’s Division of Parks & Recreation saw a 19 percent jump in camping throughout state parks between 2014 and 2015. Keep getting outdoors!
32 Families have only so many options at the beach when the weather turns bad: the outlets, the movies, and that’s pretty much it. But now there is Lefty’s Alley & Eats in Lewes, which opened in January. The joint offers bowling, laser tag, and an arcade, as well as a 110-seat restaurant and bar.
33 Beach-goers will now have a new, large concert venue come this summer, thanks to Highway One (Rusty Rudder, Bottle & Cork) opening a 4,000-capacity, amphitheater-style venue at Hudson Fields in Milton. The first concert— country music band Old Dominion—is set to christen the place on June 1.
34 Suicide Sunday, the Running of the Bull, an Orange (or Grapefruit) Crush, Kristen and the Noise; these terms are synon
ymous with summers in Dewey, and all dwell under the same roof. Yes, The Starboard Opening Weekend begins March 16, coinciding with the first day of spring (March 20).
35 Anyone can hit the outlets year-round, but getting a good deal in town can be a little harder to find. Your best bet for beach discounts is to hit the annual sidewalk sales in Rehoboth. There are two dates this year: the spring event the weekend of May 19-20 and the fall event from Oct. 6-8.
36 Firefly, perhaps the best Delaware music event ever, returns to The Woodlands in Dover June 15-18. Regardless of age, you owe yourself the experience.
37 The Wilmington Grand Prix has been named to USA Cycling’s national calendar for the 10th straight year and will bring an international cycling field to Downtown Wilmington May 19-20. The event has generated more than $3 million in economic impact since 2012.
38 Each year, the St. Anthony’s Italian Festival celebrates the culture of a particular region of the home country, and in 2017, Sicily is the focus. That means lots of dishes with eggplant and sardines, pignolata and almond cookies, and plenty of refreshing ice granita.
39 After hitting the $1 million mark in tickets sales last season for the first time in its 38-year history, Delaware Theatre Company continues to build its regional reputation by presenting two new plays in 2017 that will then move on to New York City: White Guy on the Bus and Hetty Feather.
40 Who says we don’t like opera? In 2016, 20,184 people attended a performance by OperaDelaware, the state’s only professional opera company and the 11th oldest opera company in the nation.
41 The Light Up The Queen Foundation continues its fundraising ways with its sixth anniversary show on March 4, this one titled Shine A Light on ‘77. Some of the best local musicians will gather at World Cafe Live to pay tribute to the year 1977, which saw the likes of Rod Stewart and Stevie Wonder topping the charts.
42 Wilmington’s arthouse cinema destination Theatre N reopened last fall under new leadership with fresh momentum. You go, local arts scene!
43 On the heels of setting the record for total number of Emmy awards (38, besting Frasier by one), Game of Thrones returns to HBO this summer. Date to be announced.
44 Netflix’s instant cult classic that premiered last August, Stranger Things, is returning for season two to drag us all—happily—back to the Upside Down.
45 Veep, nominated once again for Best Television Series—Musical or Comedy, returns in the spring. All hail Julia Louis-Dreyfus!
46 Aubrey Plaza, Delaware’s favorite funny girl, gets a shot at starring in Marvel Comics’ Legion this spring on FX. Plaza plays “Lenny,” the chatty, psychiatric ward counterpart to David Haller (Dan Stevens), whose schizophrenic nature forces him to question whether he’s human, mutant, or both.
47 Ladybug, Wilmington’s own little version of Lilith Fair, will be rocking Lower Market Street (LOMA) once again this summer. The female-driven music festival takes place July 20-21, and offers advantages over Firefly Music Festival: it’s a heck of a lot closer and a heck of a lot cheaper—in fact, it’s free!
48 It’s quite a scheduling accomplishment for The Grand Opera House as it brings one of the world’s greatest humorists, Dave Sedaris, back to Wilmington almost every year. Do yourself a favor and read one of Sedaris’ many best-selling books, then go see him on April 12.
49 Fueled by laugh-out-loud skits, a talented and diverse cast and a powerhouse line-up of hosts and guests, Saturday Night Live is enjoying a resurgence. Its 42nd season kicked off with its best premiere ratings in eight years.
50 The Trump administration will provide endless fodder for late night talk shows and especially Saturday Night Live, where Alec Baldwin will be assured of continued employment.
51 Trump will inspire progressives to be vigilant and vocal in opposition to attempts to roll back gains related to the environment, women’s health, marriage equality, religious liberty, civil rights, etc.
52 Per No. 51, there was the Jan. 21 Women’s March on Washington.
53 Donald Trump’s strategy of publicly shaming corporations for exporting jobs may prove effective in job creation and bringing U.S. companies back to America.
54 Facebook has taken steps to address its role in spreading fake news, such as enlisting the help of third-party fact-checkers, according to Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg. The social network was widely criticized for allowing false stories to circulate in the run-up to the U.S. presidential election.
55 Contrary to newsroom sensationalism, violent crime in the U.S. continues to decline and has been on a steady downward trend since 1991.
56 The employment report showed solid gains in December despite the narrowing supply of unemployed workers in the labor market.
57 Democrat Mike Purzycki won the election for Mayor of Wilmington in November, and already citizens of “A Place to be Somebody” are excited for their future. Purzycki chose a solid transition team, which included Out & About’s own Jerry duPhily as Cultural Affairs chair. Purzycki’s website (mikeformayor2016.com) includes an “ideas” button for citizens to submit suggestions on how to improve the city.
58 It takes a village. Two newly-elected leaders, New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer and Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki, have promised an unprecedented spirit of cooperation in addressing the county’s major challenges.
59 Dr. LaVerne Harmon will become the first black female college president in Delaware history when she assumes the reins at Wilmington University after Dr. Jack Varsalona retires on June 30.
60 From July 2015 to July 2016, Delawareans checked out more than 360,000 STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) books. That’s a lot of educational material being read—and shows that libraries are still relevant and thriving.
61 Some recent studies have shown that being optimistic can decrease your risk of heart attacks and strokes and increase longevity.
62 After decades of increasing, the national childhood obesity rate has leveled off and the rise in obesity among adults is beginning to slow, according to the Center for Disease Control. Obesity remains one of the biggest threats to the health of our children and our country, putting millions of Americans at increased risk for a range of chronic diseases and contributing to more than $147 billion dollars in preventable healthcare spending. At least its progress.
63 Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States, accounting for more than 480,000 deaths every year, or one of every five deaths. But according to the CDC, smoking has declined from nearly 21 of every 100 adults (20.9 percent) in 2005 to about 15 of every 100 adults (15.1 percent) in 2015.
64 According to a recently published article in the journal Pediatrics, the use of physical discipline is decreasing and enthusiasm for alternative forms of discipline is increasing among mothers of all socioeconomic backgrounds. (Delaware is good at being first: In 2012, we became the first state to pass a law that effectively outlawed the corporal discipline of children by their parents.)
65 Drug advances to look for in 2017 include: a vaccine for HIV beginning Phase II trials, the use of the dissociative anesthetic ketamine to target treatment-resistant depression, new drugs and therapies based on the microbiome and even a new female libido booster that’s up for approval.
66 Expect further improvements in robotic surgery. In addition to the currently available da Vinci Surgical System, look for competition from the new surgical robot system developed by the partnership of Google and Johnson & Johnson. These systems will allow for minimally invasive surgeries on the most delicate elements of human anatomy.
67 In 2016, according to the journal Science, the discovery of gravitational waves launched a new branch of science. Think black holes, dark matter, seeing further back in time…some pretty intense stuff.
68 Space exploration is back in vogue. Last March, Commander Scott Kelly completed his one-year mission in space, providing tons of data on what it’s like to live in the weightless environment. NASA’s Juno satellite arrived at Jupiter in July and continues to provide the most precise data that the agency has ever collected on the giant planet. And in August, an international team of astronomers confirmed the discovery of another Earth-like planet in a habitable zone four light years away from us.
69 Twenty percent of all international tourists—that’s 200 million people—are millennials, according to a United Nations study, and that’s now the fastest-growing age segment in terms of the money spent on travel. What does this translate to? Increased open-mindedness, understanding of different cultures, and new perspectives for the world’s future leaders.
70 People are interested in visiting us. More than a half-million people visited VisitWilmingtonDe.com, the official tourism website for New Castle County, in 2016.
71 Be sure to thank your visiting in-laws. Thanks to tourism, each Delaware household will pay approximately $1,360 less in taxes this year.
72 For the first time in years, Wilmington will see at least four major ground-up new construction sites in Downtown and Riverfront Wilmington.
73 While it’s still years away from breaking ground, a direct rail line from Wilmington to the Philadelphia Airport has inched closer to approval. Federal officials gave their stamp of approval on a proposal for upgrades to the Northeast Corridor, but it would need financial backing from state or local government. Fingers crossed, commuters.
74 The Brandywine YMCA is scheduled to start a 16,000-square-foot expansion this spring. It will include adding adaptive fitness equipment for patrons with limited mobility and renovated preschool classrooms.
75 In 2017 there will be 450 more new apartments in the Downtown and Riverfront Wilmington districts than existed only three years ago.
76 Main Street Wilmington opened 2017 in conversation with 15 businesses looking to locate Downtown.
77 Downtown Wilmington will see at least six new food and beverage destinations open this year.
78 You can now get a cup of coffee in Downtown Wilmington on Sunday. In fact, it’s a Starbucks, located on Market Street.
79 DiFonzo Bakery, a Wilmington institution since 1945, is returning to Little Italy after a 13-year absence.
80 Delaware’s restaurant industry, the largest small business employer in Delaware at 11 percent of the total workforce, expects to add 1,000 jobs each year for the next 10 years. The majority will be at the managerial level.
81 Cajun Kate’s New Orleans Market has been a staple at the Booths Corner Farmers Market for about a decade, but a trip to Pennsylvania during the limited hours of operation wasn’t exactly ideal for Delawareans. Now we can all get our Cajun and Creole fix from Kate and company a little closer to home, thanks to the second location that recently opened in Bellefonte. The dine-in area seats 30.
82 Most sushi lovers were sad to see Kooma leave the Wilmington Riverfront in 2016, but all foodies are excited to see Del Pez reinvigorate the old space. The Newark-based Mexican gastropub got its second location at 400 Justison St. in December, and so far, reviews are positive.
83 Although a location hasn’t been selected or approved yet, we have on very good authority that Grain, one of Newark’s best and brightest new
restaurant stars, will have a sister restaurant in the next year. A second Grain (perhaps in the Wilmington area?) would be something special for fans of great pub fare and a polished craft beer selection.
84 Craft beer lovers can rejoice as they have more choices than ever. The number of breweries has been steadily increasing since Prohibition (when there were none), and as of the end of November 2016 there were 5,005. Ninety-nine percent of them are small and independent craft breweries.
85 Iron Hill locations started canning their beers a few years ago, and now the regional chain’s resolution for 2017 includes canned beer available at all times at every location. That includes appearances by the Ore House IPA and seasonals like the Rising Sun IPA, with Sorachi Ace hops.
86 Amid the new restaurant, expansion, and canning program, let’s not forget why Dogfish Head put Delaware on the craft beer map: the beer! This year, there will be three new brews, including Saison du BUFF, a collaboration with Stone Brewing Co. and Victory Brewing Co.
87 Odds are you’ve passed the old Bull’s Eye more than a hundred times over the 23 years it’s been open for business. But after a change in ownership, the place is getting a makeover. Craft beer options, carefully prepared comfort food, a refurbished interior and a sparkling new red-and-white sign make this somewhat forgotten stopover a new neighborhood destination.
88 Delaware’s growing fleet of food trucks will get another member this spring when Wheely’s Café starts roaming the streets of Old New Castle. A “carbon-neutral mobile café,” Wheely’s will serve locally roasted, fair trade, organic coffee, cappuccino, espresso and tea. Follow them on Facebook for a list of locations where they’ll be setting up shop.
89 On July 22, the Newark Food & Brew Festival will celebrate its 14th anniversary. The Food & Brew, now a rite of summer in Newark, is one of the state’s first craft beer-focused festivals.
90 Delaware’s biggest costume party, the Halloween Loop, returns for its 38th year on Saturday, Oct. 28. How many Donald Trump look-alikes do you think we’ll see?
91 Sounds like it will be a good year for local music. This month will see new albums from Davey Dickens Jr. and The Troubadours and Ringleader, plus a video of the new single from Gozer. Look for Gozer to follow up with a full release, “Sick of Waking Up,” on cassette this spring. Over the summer, count on The Joe Trainor Trio to deliver Three, followed by albums from both The Cocks and Grace Vonderkuhn in the fall.
92 There are rumors of a 2017 Phish Europe tour—or a “baker’s dozen” run at Madison Square Garden.
93 According to BuzzAngle Music’s first-ever yearly report, vinyl album sales in 2016 were up more than 25 percent from 2015, despite the fact that physical album sales were down 11.7 percent and subscription streams (a competing format) rose nearly 125 percent. This is good news for independent record stores such as Rainbow and Jupiter Records. The numbers also give credence to the notion that vinyl is still alive and growing, and that the format offers up-and-coming bands the opportunity to make more money than via streaming options, which—although popular—generally pay peanuts.
94 Chris Berman is retiring from most of his duties at ESPN. It was time. One more “back-back-back-back-back” at the MLB home run competition would have been one too many.
95 Phillies pitchers and catchers report to spring training Feb. 13—the first precursor of spring.
96 Carson Wentz will be in his second year as the quarterback (and the future) of the Eagles, and Coach Doug Pederson also will be in his second year. No more rookie mistakes?
97 Blue Hens football admits it laid an egg with the licensing fee for season ticket holders and ends the policy for the 2017 season. For good measure, new University of Delaware Athletics Director Chrissy Rawak has brought in a new head coach, Danny Rocco, who led Richmond to playoff appearances in each of the past three seasons.
98 The Flyers are moving in the right direction. As they celebrate 50 years this season, a young team proves they have deep talent and could squeak into the postseason (Hopefully that doesn’t change by the time this is published).
99 Joel Embid is the real deal. Ben Simmons will be on the court soon. The 76ers are returning to relevance.
100 Print media: It’s still here!