Back when I had a full-time job and a toddler, Wilmington’s “festival season” was a great excuse to take what is now called a staycation. Since some of the festivals overlap, and because many of them offer rare late-night opportunities to keep the whole family out past dark, I burned some vacation days for weekday lie-ins and morning cartoons after a night of festivity and music.
Whether or not your family fits the same description, June is a good time to consider identifying a few weekdays on which you can sleep in or nap – which we hope you do on the weekends, as well. Saddle up for a month packed with food, wine, beer and music under the stars.
Holy Trinity Greek Festival ~ June 5 – 9: For 42 years, Wilmington’s Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church has allowed guests to imagine themselves in a Greek village for an annual panigýri. Although the gyro line is always long, shorter queues can be found for souvlaki kebabs and spanakopita, and a visit without honey-coated donuts (loukoumades) is incomplete.
Guests are encouraged to join in on the dancing after the Greek Terpsechorian Youth Folk dance group shows how it’s done.
Broom Street’s “Greek Fest” stands out from other local ethnic festivals because on weekdays, you can grab lunch in person or via curbside pickup, and even catch a shuttle, running every ten minutes from 9thand Market from 11 am to 2 pm. Indoor food service continues through 9:30 pm, with outdoor food service starting at 5 pm, and music starting shortly thereafter. This festival ends at 11 pm, so you’ll find the party’s average age is a little higher in the later hours. It’s free, and for a few bucks, kids can bounce in one or more inflatables, and play other carnival-like games. Find info at greekfestde.com.
Jasper Crane Rose Garden Party ~ June 7 from 5 to 8 pm in Brandywine Park: Come out to a great party and help support the programs and projects of Friends of Wilmington Parks.
This special evening will feature delicious hors-d’oeuvres by Caffe Gelato, amazing desserts by De La Coeur Café et Pâtisserie, an assortment of artisan wines and champagnes by Moore Brothers Delaware, craft beers from Dogfish Head Brewery and Twin Lakes Brewing Company and live music by the Skip Barthold Trio. This year’s Honoree is renowned artist Eunice LaFate, renowned artist and entrepreneur.
Guests are invited to enjoy antique horse-drawn carriage rides through scenic Brandywine Park. Children are welcome, and are sure to be delighted by free face-painting by Dori Fostok of Party Business, fun activities and kid-friendly food.
Organizers have added an exciting new feature for this year’s party – an inaugural “Garden Party Hat Contest” for ladies, gentlemen and young friends. Prizes will be awarded. Judges include Bette Purzycki, Greer Firestone, Mike Dodson, and Martha Morgan of Morgan’s of Delaware.
And WhyFly Wilmington will be making the Rose Garden a superfast WiFi hotspot.
Big Noise Music Festival ~ June 8 – 9: Bromberg’s Big Noise Music Festival returns for a second year on Friday, June 8 and Saturday, June 9. When the headliners are David Bromberg, Los Lobos and Railroad Earth, and Bettye Lavette, Dumpstaphunk, Amy Helm (daughter of Levon Helm), David Wax Museum and The National Reserve get lower billing, you know this festival is nothing to sneeze at.
They wisely moved their year two date so as to not conflict with a major downtown cycling event, plus they’ve added a second day, and the result is that June is even more rockin’ than ever before.
Food trucks, artisan vendors and craft beer will keep you moving around Tubman Garrett Riverfront Park. Tickets start at $28 for the first night and $44 for the long Saturday schedule (noon to 10 pm).
Although there is no posted policy about children, first-year attendees report seeing kids, and having re-entry privileges is certainly a family-friendly feature. Info: bignoisefestival.com
St. Anthony’s Italian Festival ~ June 10 – 17: For 85 years, St. Anthony’s of Padua church has brought a taste of Italian culture and a sense of community to Wilmington’s Little Italy area centered on 9thand DuPont. St. Anthony’s Italian Festival is now considered the largest Italian-American festival in the region.
You can enjoy a wide variety of authentic Italian food specialties, dance to American and Italian pop, rock and traditional music, and even take the kids on the midway. From the first Sunday through Saturday, the festival is open until 10:30 pm, and the final Sunday – which happens to be Father’s Day – the festival ends at 8:30 pm.
You have to be skilled to score a free parking spot, but many businesses in the area offer $5 and $10 parking options. The admission price has stayed steady for several years now at $5 (ages 14 to 60) for this charity event that supports the grade school. Check stanthonysfestival.com for early bird pricing on midway ride tickets.
Clifford Brown Jazz Festival ~ June 17 – 24: Named after an esteemed Wilmington trumpeter who died in a car crash at age 25, the Clifford Brown Jazz Festival honors the young man’s legacy by shining a bright light on the city.
The festival kicks off its free Rodney Square concerts on Wednesday, June 20, with a lineup of four acts that includes 17-year-old Matthew Whitaker, an American jazz pianist who happens to have been blind since birth, and opened for Stevie Wonder at age ten.
Thursday night brings three performances, including one by Arturo Sandoval, whose entire second album after escaping Cuba was an eponymous tribute to Brown. All of the Thursday artists perform either Latin or Afro-Cuban influenced music, and Jane Bunnett and Maqueque is also an all-female band.
Friday brings Deva Mahal, an indie R&B/soul singer who is the daughter of American Blues artist Taj Mahal, as well as Brian McKnight for more R&B. The Lao Tizer Band featuring Chieli Minucci, Eric Marienthal and Karen Briggs has so many awards and nominations among them, it seems a miracle that they’ll all be on stage performing multi-genre songs everybody can sing along to.
Saturday is a daytime party with Sidewalk Chalk, bringing hip-hop, jazz, and soul to the stage, as well as Grammy-nominated Sammy Miller and The Congregation’s “joyful jazz,” and Sara Lazarus. Food trucks and beverages are available, and lawn chairs and blankets abound. Rodney Square concerts typically wrap up around 10 pm. Full lineup: cliffordbrownjazzfest.org