Happy New Year! Any chance your 2024 resolution involves more fun and less drudgery? More wandering and less sitting around? Get your calendar ready–I’m here to help!
But first, a public service announcement. If you had my book Shore Fun! The Delmarva Wanderer’s Guide, you’d be way ahead of this game. Half that book is a guide to 150-plus annual events on Delmarva, organized by season of the year. The other half of the book is filled with quick-hitting, need-to-know info on 125-plus destinations around the peninsula.
You can find that bottomless supply of fun day trips here.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming:
WINTER: Fire, Ice, ‘rats
• Bundle up and head out to Cambridge, Md. on Fri/Sat Jan. 12/13 for the Ice and Oyster Festival featuring ice sculptures on Eastern Shore themes, plus kids fun, carving demos, an outdoor oyster bar, fire pits, smores, live music, and lots more fun. Details.
• The Bethany Beach (Del.) Fire & Ice Festival returns on the weekend of Jan. 26 to 28 with events in Millville, Ocean View, and Frankford as well. Sculpting demos, sculpture tours, ice luge, bonfires, s’mores, kids inflatable fun, fireworks, pony rides, chili cookoff–the list goes on and on. Details.
• The Chesapeake Fire & Ice Festival in Easton, Md. is Fri/Sat Feb. 16/17. Live music, ice carvings, ice skating, a kid-friendly “icehouse,” and more. A “Stews and Brews” party is planned for that weekend, too. Details.
• On Sat., Feb. 17, the Crawfish Boil and Muskrat Leg-Eating World Championship returns to Dorchester County, Md. Great food, great music, great weirdness. Marketing teaser: “A former champion looks for redemption … and revenge! A champion looks to repeat. A Hall of Famer will be remembered!” The drama is top-notch. This is the Facebook page to follow for details on location, etc. as the big day gets closer.
• The Outdoor Show may unfold in the middle of marshland nowhere below Cambridge, Md., but its reach is global. The World Championships of Muskrat Skinning will be decided in a middle-school gymnasium on the Saturday night of this Fri./Sat. Feb. 23/24 event. Lots more leading up to that–a Miss Outdoors pageant, a slew of vendors, and an array of outdoorsy demos and competitions. Visit nearby Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitors Center before or after. Here is info.
SPRING: Sea Glass, Music Fests, Tea Time
• The 2024 edition of the Eastern Shore Sea Glass and Coastal Arts Festival is Sat/Sun April 20/21 at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md. Details.
• The four-day Springfest extravaganza in Ocean City, Md. kicks off the warm-weather beach season with live music, artsy shopping, and boardwalk strolling. This year’s dates: May 2-5. Details.
• In a Springfest weekend bonus, the fun Jazz, Blues, Wine, and Brews block party is Sat., May 4 just up the road in Berlin, Md., which boasts one of Delmarva’s prettiest old downtowns. Info on that.
The problem with Memorial Day weekend is deciding among three classic Delmarva events.
• At Art and Music on Farm in Machipongo, Va. on Sat., May 25, you will enjoy top-notch roots music–gospel, folk, bluegrass, and more–on the gorgeous, historic grounds of the Barrier Islands Center museum. Plus, fortysome regional artists will be showing off their work. Here is info.
• The Tea Party in Chestertown, Md. (Fri-Sun May 24-26) is a colonial-flavored block party on Maryland’s Upper Eastern Shore that’s chock full of fun—a big parade, strolling musicians, lots of street theater, storytelling, guided tours, music, and more. Plus, it’s all set along the waterfront and downtown streets of a sweet town chock full of colonial architecture. Here is info.
• The third holiday-weekend option involves brigands and wenches and bar fights and lost treasure. The Buccaneer Bash (Sat/Sun May 25/26) celebrates all things pirate in the salty atmosphere of Bowers Beach, Del. The 2024 event listing wasn’t up with details as I posted this, but this is the page to follow for info as it develops.
SUMMER: Ponies, Combines, and Daredevils!
• Warning: This event is out of chronological order. Ordinarily, the Ocean City Air Show is on Father’s Day weekend, but this year they are moving it to Sat/Sun Aug 24/25 in order to take part in a rare American tour by the Italian aerial daredevils known as Frecce Tricolori. I am not an aviation buff, but buffs I know are very excited about this turn of events. Details.
• The biggest fair of them all in our neck of the woods is the Delaware State Fair, with 2024 dates of July 18-27. It’s a glorious mix of big-time headliners (country superstars, Grammy-winning pop stars) and small-town carnival charms. Details here.
Brief public service announcement: If you want to a heads up about the various county fairs and fire company carnivals that bring so much summer fun to Delmarva, you’ll need to either buy my aforementioned “Shore Fun!” book or subscribe to my free Month of Fundays newsletter, which you can do by either (a) finding the sign-up box by scrolling all the way down to the bottom left of this page or (b) sending an email to SecretsoftheEasternShore@gmail.com.
And now back to our regularly scheduled programming:
• Have you crossed the Chincoteague (Va.) Pony Swim & Auction (Wed/Thu July 24-25) off of your bucket list, yet? This affair occupies a spot on that before-I-die priority list for countless folks with fond memories of reading the Misty of Chincoteague books as children. The swim-auction combo comes smack dab in the middle of a week that’s chock full of other pony activities and things to do around the island. Here is info. (A word of advice: If you need lodging or have your heart set on securing a spot with a view of the swim, get to work on nailing down the details right now.)
• Celebrate our agricultural traditions by heading to pretty Snow Hill, Md. on Sat., Aug. 3 for an all-American classic, the Blessing of the Combines. The affair kicks off with a parade of humongous, brightly colored farm vehicles rumbling through a downtown where the sidewalks are full of folks waving little flags and cheering our farmers on. The somber-but-hopeful blessing follows. After that, it’s time for a big ol’ block party. The 2024 details are still a work in progress, but here is a Facebook page and here is a website where all will soon be clear.
• Say goodbye to summer by taking in a pair of Somerset County classics. The National Hard Crab Derby in Crisfield, Md. dates its history back 77 years. Crab races, crab-picking contests, pageants, parade, fireworks, and more on Fri-Sun Aug. 30-Sept. 1. Hard Crab details haven’t been updated for 2024, but this is where they will appear. Meanwhile, out on nearby Deal Island, the big Skipjack Races happen on Labor Day itself–Mon., Sept. 2–with festivities happening on Saturday and Sunday as well. Race and event details for the 65th annual race will appear here when they’re ready to share them.
FALL: Folksy, Scrapple, Merengue
• The Maryland Folk Festival at Salisbury (Sept. 20-22) brings in fabulous musicians specializing in styles from around the country–and the world. Plus, a special spotlight on our own Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay arts, crafts, and traditions. Here is info.
• Towns all over this land look for ways to celebrate their unique heritage and charms, but not many come up with ideas as close to pure genius as the people of Bridgeville, Del. devised back in the 1990s. The Apple Scrapple Festival, which should fall on Fri/Sat Oct. 11/12 (though that hasn’t been officially announced as I’m posting this) celebrates two pillars of the local economy–expect scrapple slings, skillet tosses, cooking contests & demos, car shows, a street dance, and scads of vendors. Details on the 2024 event will appear soon on this website and/or on this Facebook page.
• Every autumn Festival Hispano brings big-name national and international touring acts specializing in cumbia, merengue, bachata, norteño, punta, reggaeton, and other styles to Georgetown, Del. The event–Sun., Sept. 15 this year–can draw 10,000 or more attendees with the right combination of star power and good weather. Stroll away from the stage and you’ll likely find more than 100 vendor tents, many featuring ethnic street foods and traditional arts and crafts. Proceeds support community outreach to newly arrived immigrant families. Info here.
Happy 2023 wandering!
–posted by Jim Duffy for Whimbrel Creations LLC/Secrets of the Eastern Shore on Dec. 26, 2023.