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NBC’s Brian Williams on Return Day: “A big tradition in a small place”

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NBC’s Brian Williams closed his “the 11th Hour” newscast last night with a story about Delaware’s Return Day

“Do not put an S on it.”

So says NBC anchor Brian Williams, referring to the 200-year-old Sussex County tradition of Return (not ReturnS) Day.  The biennial First State fest was featured on Williams’ 11th Hour MSNBC show Thursday night, complete with photos of marching bands and hatchet-burying local pols.

Williams called Return Day “a big-hearted tradition in our second smallest state,” lauding the event as an exercise in old-fashioned communal togetherness.

Return Day - Brian Williams
Willams seems to enjoy Delaware’s Return Day tradition

He went on:

It has nothing to do with retailing and everything to do with civics and a civil society.  Since about the start of the 1800s people of all parties have made a tradition of flocking to Georgetown, Delaware, county seat and the most southern and most conservative Delaware county. 

They parade through the streets, they eat and drink, businesses are closed for the day. And it’s really a great American political tradition. The results of the election are read aloud and the winning and losing candidates take part in the parade. 

Return Day - MSNBC
Veterans take part in Delaware’s Return Day

And while it’s meant to celebrate the political process, this is politics after all. So the losing candidates do have to sit backward in the parade carriages that take them through town.  That, along with some teasing, some light booing and an occasional scattered hissing, is about as rough as it ever gets. 

They even bury the hatchet – meaning they bury an actual hatchet in the sand every year to symbolize coming together.  The local constable is there to be sure people don’t over celebrate. 

 And clearly Williams has some kind of uber Delaware insider whispering in his ear, as he correctly points out something many of us who actually live here may not fully grasp:

But worse than being rowdy or drunk in public there’s one unforgivable offense: you don’t call it “Returns Day.” Do not put an S on it.  In Delaware, today was Return Day.

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