Photo courtesy of Kent County Tourism Corporation
Music, food, beverages, history, pop culture. If you can think it up, there’s probably a festival for it in Kent County.
“We call it something for everybody,” says Bob Hartley, a June Jam festival organizer.
While the most famous festival held in the county is the Firefly Music Festival, it’s not the only event that has fans camping out to hear music. June Jam, a one-day music festival held every June for the last 42 years, takes place at G&R Campground in Houston. The festival features rock, country and blues music with seven bands playing throughout the day. Funds raised from the Jam go to local charities.
Some people—OK, maybe only a couple—say they can trace the founding of the Firefly Music Festival to June Jam in Houston.
One of the original organizers of June Jam moved to Tennessee in the 1990s and started a music festival called the Itchicoo Park Music Festival based on the June Jam concept. That festival inspired the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival that took the place of Itchicoo in Manchester, Tennessee. Firefly was modeled after Bonnaroo, ergo June Jam inspired Firefly.
Even the few admit the Jam/Firefly connection is tenuous, but fun.
“It’s a little bit of a stretch,” says one of June Jam’s founders, Bob Hartley while laughing. “You have to connect the dots.”
But you don’t need to head into the woods to enjoy live music in Kent. Smyrna at Night in June; OktDoverFest in downtown Dover in October; or the Ladybug Festival in Milford in September all offer more urban settings.
Smyrna at Night features nine stages playing throughout the day and sees an attendance of about 6,000 people. The day ends with smaller stages closing down so everyone can make their way to the main stage to hear a nationally known act.
“It’s wonderful to see everyone running around,” says event coordinator Mike Rasmussen. “It’s great to showcase to others who don’t live here all we have to offer.”
At Milford’s Ladybug Festival, the music is about girl power. The event was created to showcase talented local and regional female artists. In 2019, it featured 41 bands on 11 stages in a huge block party. While the festival was named long before it came to Milford, the coincidence is that Milford is the reason the ladybug is the state bug. A group of Milfordian second graders lobbied for it in the early 1970s.
“Like it or not, we might be the bug town,” says Trish Gerken, director of Downtown Milford Inc. Besides the Ladybug festival, the city also hosts the annual Bug and Bud Festival in May.
Not bugs, but beer is the inspiration for OktDoverFest, Dover’s take on the traditional Octoberfest in Germany. While local craft brews take a prominent role in this festival, it’s a family event, featuring live performances by local bands; street food from local restaurants, pubs, and food trucks and a craft fair put on by local artisans.
If you can’t wait until October, the Delaware Beer and Wine Festival in August should help boost your spirits, literally. It’s the industry’s only state-wide festival and offers tastings, meet-the-brewer opportunities, special demonstrations and a mechanical bull. Event goers can also attend a guided tour of the Agricultural Museum and Village to learn about life in a farm community in days past.
Speaking of the past, Kent is full of history and likes to celebrate it, whether it’s life in the 18th century at a market fair on The Green in Dover in November, a pirate’s life at the Bowers Beach Buccaneer Bash in May or rural life at the Harrington Heritage Day in August.
“People come back for Heritage Days,” says Bill Falasco, who helps organize the event for the town’s Parks and Recreation department. Harrington Heritage starts with a 5K color run, has a parade, inflatables for kids, tours of the town museum, food and music. Falasco said it’s a favorite place for people to catch up with each other. “They’ll talk for hours.”
For more information on festivals and events held in Kent County, visit delawarevillages.com and click on the menu for events and festivals.
Over 25 Can’t-Miss Kent County Festivals
Harvest Ridge Winery’s Food Truck Competition & other events
Fordham & Dominion Brewing Company’s Cheesetoberfest & R2Hop2
Riverwalk “Freedom” Festival
Bud & Bug Festival
Lady Bug Festival
Destination Downtown Dover
Dover Comic Con
History Heritage & Hops
Bowers Beach Buccaneer Bash
Fifer Orchards’ Strawberry Festival
June Jam Festival
Dover Fourth of July
Delaware State Fair
Firefly Music Festival
Wyoming Peach Festival
Fifer Orchard’s Peach Ice Cream Day
Harrington Heritage Day
Amish Country Bike Tour
Delaware Beer, Wine & Spirits Festival
Leipsic Oyster Festival
18th Century Market Fair
Capital Holiday Celebration
Light Up The Holidays Marketplace & Parade
Big Draw Festival
Bowers Heritage Day
Published as “Festival Frenzy” in Delaware Today‘s 2020 Kent County Guide.