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Delaware's Annual Gridiron Dinner

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When members of the local press, elected officials and attendant gawkers meet May 7 for the annual political send-up known as The First State Gridiron Dinner & Show, they will gather for the 25th time—“which we find amazing,” says Lynda Maloney, one of the founders. “We have come a long way.”

Loosely based on the annual dinner and political roast hosted by the journalists of the Gridiron Club of Washington, D.C., the local version started humbly. Planned by Maloney, her husband, Tom (the late mayor of Wilmington), and a few others on the Maloneys’ front porch, the first event was a dinner, held at the state’s Buena Vista conference center in Llangollen and attended by no more than 200 guests. 

Subsequent years saw the addition of a few satirical musical numbers, always one written by Maloney to the tune of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina,” that over the years have lampooned everything from political patronage and mismanagement of public agencies to college admissions policies and a few past Wilmington mayors. Before anyone knew it, the event evolved into an evening of roasting with song-and-dance routines, video skits and the governor’s annual State of the Gridiron address—one recently delivered by “Badass Jack” Markell, who sported two full-sleeves of tattoos for the occasion.

Along with the fun came scholarships for local journalism students and other civic or philanthropic efforts. “Every year, as we’ve improved, audience members say, ‘That was the best show ever,’” Maloney says. “We have every hope and expectation that that will be the opinion after this year’s show.”

As far as anyone involved can tell, the Gridiron is the only local event of its kind in the country. Notch another first for Delaware. See it at the Chase Center on the Riverfront. Check www.degridiron.org for more.

“Badass Jack” Markell prepares to
deliver the annual State of the
Gridiron address.

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