Got your calendar at the ready? Here are 21 great 2020 events on the Eastern Shore and in Delaware that you should pencil in right now.
A couple of preliminaries:
• Do you get the Month of Fundays newsletter? It’s a fun monthly guide to events on Delmarva. If you like this post, you’ll want to sign up. Do it through the pop-up window or at the lowest left corner of the Secrets home page
• Coming soon! The working title of the next Secrets of the Eastern Shore book is The Best of Times! 105 Fun Annual Events on Delmarva. It will be the fourth Secrets book—here are the other three.
1 TWO FIRE & ICE FESTIVALS
• Delaware’s Fire & Ice Festival is expanding beyond Bethany Beach this year to encompass stops in nearby Ocean View and Millville. Take nighttime tours of dramatically lit ice sculptures; enjoy a bonfire on the beach; watch a weekend-ending “Smash Party;” sample entries in a winter cocktail competition; and more.
When: Jan. 24-26, 2020
More info at https://fireandicede.com/
• A new addition to the Delmarva calendar, the Chesapeake Fire & Ice Festival in Easton, Md. will make its debut on Valentine’s Day weekend. Lots of similarities with the Bethany event above, but some different twists as well—including daytime tours in addition to nighttime ones.
When: Feb. 14-16, 2020
More info at https://discovereaston.com/fireandice/
2 DEATH BY CHOCOLATE
Where: Chincoteague, Va.
When: Feb. 14-15, 2020
We all gotta go, right? Might as well risk it by way of chocolatey goodness at this free festival that involves walking from place to place in downtown Chincoteague, sampling and socializing at every stop. A perfect little lovebird excursion for Valentine’s Day weekend.
More info at https://chincoteaguemerchants.com/our-events
3 THE MAGNIFICENT MUSKRAT WEEKEND
Where: Golden Hill, Md. (Fri./Sat.) and Cambridge, Md. (Sun.)
When: Feb. 28-March 1, 2020
• The old ways of trappers, hunters, and watermen are still running strong in the marshland of South Dorchester County, Md. This weekend begins with the Outdoor Show, a Friday/Saturday cultural extravaganza where you sit with locals on bleachers in a middle school gymnasium to cheer on competitors chasing the title of world champion muskrat skinner. See which local teen gets crowned “Miss Outdoors.” Watch duck-calling competitions, see hunting dogs do their things, and lots more.
More info at https://nationaloutdoorshow.org/
• The fun continues on Sunday in nearby Cambridge, where the Crawfish Boil and Muskrat Stew festival is an afternoon party full of libations, live music, and lots and lots of muskrat and Cajun victuals. Stick around for the Muskrat Leg Eating Contest—it’s quite the unforgettable hoot.
More info at https://www.facebook.com/crawfishboilandmuskratstewfest/
4 THE GREAT DELAWARE KITE FESTIVAL
Where: Lewes, Del.
When: April 10, 2020
Soar into spring at this high-flying, kid-friendly affair that ranks as the oldest kite festival in the country. Held the Good Friday of Easter weekend at Cape Henlopen State Park, it features a mix of Easter festivities, including a humongous egg hunt, and a slew of kite-flying contests and displays.
Detailed info should appear soon enough on the events calendar at https://www.leweschamber.com/. Or call 302.645.8073.
5 SPRING DELMARVA BIRDING WEEKEND
Where: Various locations in Southern Delaware and Maryland’s Lower Eastern Shore
When: April 23-26, 2020
The Delmarva Peninsula sits smack dab in the middle of the Atlantic Flyway, the migration route taken by a gazillion birds every spring and fall. During this four-day weekend of excursions, you can join expert birders as they venture out in search of beautiful, rare, and otherwise interesting avian creatures, both full-time residents and passersby. The event usually includes about a dozen tours—some by boat, some by kayak, some on foot, and some by car. You don’t have to sign on for everything. You can choose in a la carte fashion the tours that best fit your interests. Nightly “Tally Rally” events at local watering holes add a social aspect to the weekend.
More info at http://delmarvabirding.com/
PS: If the April window here doesn’t fit your birding calendar, no worries: The folks behind Delmarva Birding offer lots of other options through the year, as you’ll see at the link.
6 EASTERN SHORE OF VIRGINIA HOUSE AND GARDEN TOUR
Where: Various Eastern Shore of Virginia locations
When: April 25, 2020
Year in and year out, this tour of idyllic gardens and historic homes on the Eastern Shore of Virginia ranks among the most popular of the 30 different tours that make up Virginia Garden Week. The itinerary changes every year, but organizers always make room for Eyre Hall, where the gardens were laid out when Thomas Jefferson was president and might rank as the oldest continuously cultivated formal gardens in the country.
More info at https://www.vagardenweek.org/
7 TWO HORSESHOE CRAB FESTIVALS
Every spring, a natural wonder of the first order unfolds on the shores of Delaware Bay when hordes of prehistoric-looking horseshoe crabs clamber up on the beaches in droves as part of an annual migration ritual.
• The Horseshoe Crab & Shorebird Festival is a two-site affair usually held on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. At Municipal Park in downtown Milton, Del., there will be live music, nature education tents, vendors, food trucks, and kids’ activities. Shuttle buses take folks from there out to Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge for nature walks, guided canoe trips, and nature-themed activities such as bird-house building.
When: May 23, 2020 (tentative)
Detailed into should appear soon at https://www.facebook.com/HistoricMilton/ and/or https://www.historicmilton.com/
• At the Peace, Love & Horseshoe Crab Festival at the DuPont Nature Center near Slaughter Beach on the Delaware Bay, there will be lots of family-friendly nature activities, including an Estuary Eco-Challenge passport game where you win by accomplishing tasks like identifying shorebird species. Expert guides will be out on deck to help folks learn about horseshoes and identify birds. Food vendors, too.
When: A Saturday TBA in mid-May, 2020
Info should appear soon at https://www.facebook.com/DupontNatureCenterMispillionHarbor. Or call 302.422.1329.
8 CRABBY BLUES FESTIVAL
Where: Cape Charles, Va.
When: A Saturday TBA in May or early June, 2020
Get your summertime groove going early at this afternoon of steamed crabs and hot blues in Central Park. The crabs served up here are delivered to the event straight from the boats of supportive local watermen and then steamed on site. In recent years, Crabby Blues has featured water slides, hula hooping, a petting zoo, and a bounce house. Local artists and craftspeople, too.
Info should appear soon enough at https://www.cccsesva.org/ and/or https://www.facebook.com/CapeCharlesChristian. Or call 757.331.1717.
9 BOWERS BEACH BUCCANEER BASH
Where: Bowers Beach, Delaware
When: May 23-24, 2020
Organized by the Bowers Beach Maritime Museum, the Buccaneer Bash is a Memorial Day weekend affair where rowdy pirate re-enactors roam this sweet old fishing village, showing off skills in sword fighting, musketry, cannon firing, and comedy. Craftspeople, pirate-flavored live music, more.
Info at https://www.facebook.com/events/543347679849297/
10 OCEAN CITY AIR SHOW
Where: Ocean City, Md.
When: June 13-14, 2020
Celebrate Father’s Day by watching the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds perform along the shoreline in this top-notch beach resort town. Other aerial acrobats are usually on the bill, too, with recent years seeing demos by the likes of commando parachute teams and high-tech search-and-rescue units. Historic old planes will also soar over the show grounds on the Boardwalk at 16th Street.
More info at https://ocairshow.com/
11 THE BERLIN BATHTUB RACES
Where: Berlin, Md.
When: June 19, 2020
Laughter abounds at this bit of midsummer madness in which local teams assemble vehicles by tacking axles and wheels onto the underside of antique tubs and adding steering mechanisms and braking systems. The course runs right down Main Street, where the sidewalks are packed five or six deep with laughing, cheering onlookers. The event has grown from ramshackle beginnings into a block-party affair that stretches from afternoon into the nighttime.
More info at https://berlinchamber.org/events/bathtub-races/
12 CHINCOTEAGUE ISLAND PONY SWIM
Where: Chincoteague, Va.
When: July 25-31, 2020
Watch the childhood dreams you had whle reading Misty of Chincoteague come to life before your eyes at this weeklong affair. Over the first few days, local “Saltwater Cowboys” round up wild ponies and herd them into corrals. Then comes the big swim—the ponies paddle across Assateague Channel during a no-current “slack tide” and clamber onto Chincoteague Island. After a rest, the ponies parade over to the carnival grounds, where the auction unfolds the following morning.
More info at http://www.chincoteaguechamber.com/pony-penning/pony-event-schedule/
PS: Prime viewing spots for the swim are at such a premium—tickets to get on charter boats are sold out many months in advance—that the swim is broadcast live on a supersized TV screen in Veterans Memorial Park.
13 THE CHESAPEAKE BAY BALLOON FESTIVAL
Where: Near Easton, Md.
When: July 31-Aug. 2, 2020
This photogenic extravaganza drops a colorful array of hot-air balloons into the sprawling farm country of Talbot County, Md. Get up early to watch a mass balloon ascension at the crack of dawn—or sleep in and wait until that event repeats in the evening. Reserve early if you want to sign up for a full-bore airborne trip over the countryside or a “Tethered Ride” that rises 80 or so feet up in the air while attached to terra firma by a lifeline. When night comes down, a gorgeous “Balloon Glow” illuminates the countryside. Vendors, libations, and activities, too.
More info should appear soon at http://chesapeakebayballoonfestival.com/
14 BLESSING OF THE COMBINES
Where: Snow Hill, Md.
When: Aug. 1, 2020
Honor our farming families and celebrate the region’s agricultural heritage by heading out to this one-of-a-kind street festival in a historic Worcester County town. Your day will kick off with a parade that reaches its grand finale when a brightly colored array of humongous farm vehicles arrives at the party by crossing the Pocomoke River along Washington Street. The sidewalks will be thronged with onlookers, and most everyone will be waving little American flags in a heartwarming scene of small-town Americana. The big block party that follows unfolds in the shadows of giant combines parked smack dab in the middle of downtown’s Greene Street. Visit with farm animals, enjoy gospel and country music, shop long rows of food and crafts vendors, enjoy a vintage car show, and much more.
More info should appear soon at http://blessingofthecombines.org/new/ or https://www.facebook.com/Blessing-of-the-Combines-273911632703227/
15 THE DEAL ISLAND SKIPJACK RACES
Where: Deal Island, Md.
When: September 5-7, 2020
Take a road trip to a remote watermen’s community for this faith-filled festival highlighted by a race of sailing skipjacks. The Skipjack Races Festival traditionally kicks off on Saturday evening with a gospel concert at Deal Island Harbor. After outdoor church services on Sunday, you’ll get to enjoy more music, a big car and motorcycle show, and lots of kids’ activities. Race day is Labor Day Monday, when there will be a fishing tournament and a boat-docking competition as well.
More info should appear soon at http://dealislandchancelionsclub.org/
BONUS EVENT: The National Hard Crab Derby happens that same weekend in the nearby town of Crisfield, Md. Crab-picking and other fun contests, boat races, carnival rides and more.
Info at https://www.nationalhardcrabderby.com/ or 410.968.2500
16 THE NATIONAL FOLK FESTIVAL
Where: Salisbury, Md.
When: Sept. 11-13, 2020
Downtown Salisbury serves as the stage for top musicians and dancers performing styles representing cultures from all over the globe in a festival that also shines a strong spotlight on our own regional traditions. Plus, fun street performers and fascinating artists and craftspeople from all over the region and points far beyond. There are seven performance stages, a folk traditions center, an artisans’ marketplace, a family activities zone, and much more.
More info at https://nationalfolkfestival.com/
17 FESTIVAL HISPANO
When: Sept. 13, 2020
Where: Georgetown, Del.
You might want to brush up on your Latin dance steps in advance of this music-oriented festival on the streets of the seat of Sussex County, as organizers bring in big-name touring acts specializing in cumbia, merengue, bachata, norteno, punta, reggaeton, and other styles. Festival Hispano can draw as many as 10,000 attendees with the right combination of star power and weather. You’ll be able to wander among more than 100 vendor tents, with many featuring traditional arts and crafts.
More info at http://festivalhispano.org/
18 THE APPLE SCRAPPLE FESTIVAL
Where: Bridgeville, Del.
When: October 9-10, 2020
This brilliantly named festival celebrates two pillars of the local economy in the Delaware heartland—agriculture and mystery meat. More than 20,000 revelers will crowd into this little town to enjoy a big car show, browse 500-plus crafts and vendor tents, and take in live music and other performances. Local politicians and celebrities face off in a big Scrapple Sling. The Skillet Toss is a ladies-only competition. The rules for Scrapple Chunkin include this comforting disclaimer: “No RAPA Scrapple will be harmed during this event.” Carnival rides and a Friday night street dance street dance, too.
More info at http://applescrapple.com/
19 THE SEAWITCH FESTIVAL
Where: Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach
When: Oct. 23-25, 2020
The region’s biggest celebration of Halloween encompasses scores and scores of different events, highlighted by a Saturday morning parade, a Haunted Bonfire Beach Party, and a Children’s Fantasy Trail featuring trick or treating along a path populated by storybook characters. Vendors, arts activities, beach games, broom tossing, pony rides, pumpkin-seed spitting, and much, much–and much again–more.
Info will appear soon enough at https://www.beach-fun.com/sea-witch-halloween-fiddlers-festival.html
20 DOWNRIGGING WEEKEND
Where: Chestertown, Md.
When: Oct. 29-Nov. 1, 2020
Experience the romance and adventure of the age of sail at the one of the largest annual gathering of tall ships on the eastern seaboard. There will be bands playing, experts talking, local distilleries and wineries pouring, and fireworks exploding on the waterfront. But the big draw here is the chance to get up close and personal with the tall ships of days gone by as they sit dockside and sail on the historic Chester River.
More info at https://downrigging.org/
21 THE WATERFOWL FESTIVAL
Where: Easton, Maryland
When: Nov. 13-15, 2020
Celebrate the outdoorsy traditions of the Chesapeake Bay in this long weekend of art exhibits, fishing demonstrations, hunting-dog showcases, and more set in various locations around Easton’s postcard-pretty downtown. Food tents, live-music stages, wine-tasting pavilions, beer gardens, and more will dot the streets as you walk from event to event. Plenty of diversions for kids, too, including waterfowl-calling lessons, a fishing derby, and storytelling sessions.
More info at https://www.waterfowlfestival.org/
• Posted by Jim Duffy on Dec. 29, 2019. Copyright Secrets of the Eastern Shore/Whimbrel Creations LLC. All rights reserved.
• Thank you for reading this!