Georgetown Oyster Eat returns; other local news

Georgetown Oyster Eat returns; other local news
Beer, bluegrass and oysters by the basket: The annual Georgetown Fire Company Oyster Eat in February 2020.

Here's a look at news and events from around southern Delaware this week.

The Oyster Eat is back on in Georgetown

The Georgetown Fire Company’s traditional oyster eat, which went drive-thru last year during the pandemic and was canceled earlier this year because of the indoor mask mandate, is back on for Friday night, Feb. 25.  

The event started in 1937. They’ve only missed one year since during World War II, company President Jake Ricker said. “We want to keep the tradition going,” he said.

It’s an event that’s difficult to conceive of as a drive-thru. The mostly stag affair brings men from all over the state, who cram into the firehouse for all-you-can-eat oysters, hot dogs, egg sandwiches and popcorn. The all-you-can-drink beer creates a distinctive atmosphere with a considerable amount of cheerfulness, good will, noise and creative dancing to a soundtrack of bluegrass music.

Dean Sapp and the Harford Express, the band responsible for that music for decades, has retired from the Eat this year. But Ricker said the band Old Town Flood will bring the bluegrass sound.

Buy tickets online or at the door. The event starts at 8 p.m., and the line to get in is always long.

Schools continue prep for the end of the mask mandate; Woodbridge holds off on decision

While the indoor mask mandate has been lifted, the statewide mask mandate in Delaware schools remains in place until March 31. A big part of the state’s rationale for that has been leaving time to prepare.

Thursday night at the Woodbridge School Board meeting, Superintendent Heath Chasanov said he would make a recommendation at next month's meeting for the board to vote on.

"At this point, I’m not prepared to make a recommendation because there's too many balls still up in the air," he said. He's waiting to get more guidance from the state on issues like quarantining, similar to what Lake Forest leadership said last week.

"I’m hopeful that we simply at the end of March or (in) April, we’ll just say we’ll go along with the governor's lead and DPH and be done with it. But I’m not ready to make that decision tonight," Chasanov said.

A couple of board members also expressed hope that the district would drop the mask requirement.

"It’s 42 days until maybe we’ll be rid of masks; I’m hoping for it," board member Jeffrey Allen said. "I hear it from my kids every day."

There weren't a lot of (non-board) parents at the meeting, but one did speak and said she was glad to hear board members saying they are ready for masks to come off. "So are my children," she said.

"I also recommend you ask students how they feel and ask teachers as well," she said.

Secretary of Education Mark Holodick said Tuesday in the governor’s regular press conference that he’s held many meetings in the past couple of weeks on the topic. He said he met with school leaders on Feb. 3 to get feedback, and heard the message that they needed time. Holodick said he is very comfortable with the March 31 date.

That will give the department time to give districts more guidance on issues like contact tracing and quarantining, and help them make their own local decision on whether to require masks, he said.

It will also give parents the opportunity to get their children vaccinated, Molly Magarik, secretary of the Department of Health and Social Services, said. They’d like to see the vaccination totals for children increase as the mandate ends, she said.

A number of schools have held vaccination events lately, and Gov. John Carney said states where schools are actively involved tend to have higher vaccination rates for children.

A child is vaccinated at an event at North Dover Elementary. Photo courtesy of Capital School District via the state of Delaware

The weekly press conference will be discontinued now that the winter surge is ending, and there were signals that the state may be considering an evolving approach to the virus in the months to come.

“We’re going to have to figure out how to live with this virus,” Magarik said. We can’t go back to 2019 when nobody had heard of COVID, she said, but “how each of us lives with the virus is going to be different” and will depend on age, health status, family situation, and individual risk tolerance.

Twelve House Republicans, most of whom are based in Kent and Sussex counties, sent an open letter to Gov. Carney before the press conference urging him to “promptly end all pandemic-related restrictions” and “restore normality for all Delaware citizens.” They argued that the evidence doesn’t justify the state’s current policies and that governments need to recognize the futility of believing they can fully eradicate COVID and eliminate every element of risk.

A new city manager gets started in Harrington

Longtime Harrington Police Chief Norman Barlow has had a lot of change lately. He retired from the force after 28 years, but he’s not resting on his laurels, instead taking on a new full-time gig as city manager for Harrington.

Barlow had been acting city manager, a role he’s familiar with as he’s held it several times in the past during times of transition in the city.

Harrington is a good place to work, raise a family and worship, he said. His main goal as he takes on the new role is to move Harrington in the right direction.

He’s now the second city manager since accusations of wrongdoing against the former mayor and city manager led to upheaval in the city government. He said he wants to look through the windshield, not the rearview mirror.

“I just want to focus on the future, not the past,” he said, and to focus on the positive. He wants city employees to know he has their back and “we’ll work hard together to succeed.”

Laurel School District grapples with quick growth

In a recent letter to parents in the Laurel School District, superintendent Shawn Larrimore said because of incredible enrollment growth, he is recommending that sixth graders at Laurel Middle High School be moved to Laurel Elementary next year.

Since 2014-15, he said, enrollment has grown 21 percent and it’s particularly acute at the middle high school, which is 27 students over its capacity of 1,400. The elementary school is at only 79 percent capacity, he said.

The board will consider his recommendation at its March meeting. The district currently has a little over 2,600 students, Larrimore said.

Electricity costs will go up for many in the area

Citing inflation and increased costs, Delaware Electric Cooperative is raising rates by about $10 a month, or an 8 percent increase, for the average user. The change comes in the “power cost adjustment” portion of the bill, which the co-op uses to react to shifts in the cost of producing electricity. It’s an increase of a penny per kilowatt hour.

The Cooperative board approved the rate change unanimously at a virtual members meeting Wednesday night.

Prices for natural gas, which the utility uses to generate power, have gone up 60 percent in the last year, it said in a statement. Materials have gone up 12 percent, and fuel for vehicles is also up, as everyone has likely noticed at local gas stations.  

The cooperative said, “We know this will come as unwelcome news. We will do everything we can to keep rates as affordable as possible.” It also said its rates will remain some of the lowest in the region.

Greg Starheim, the president and CEO of Delaware Electric Cooperative, said Wednesday he wanted to assure everyone that they don’t take an increase like this lightly. “It’s never easy to pass along increased costs to our members.”

The Cooperative serves much of southern Delaware, with a coverage area in large portions of Kent and Sussex counties.

Train to fight wildfires

With record-setting wildfires in the West, everyone has seen the photos of firefighters battling blazes in wilderness areas. The Delaware Forest Service is offering the chance to be in the photo. If you’re over 18, in shape, willing to learn and able to travel for at least two weeks, the Service is looking for recruits to take its wildfire training classes and serve around the country. The classes are free and no previous experience is necessary. To be certified for out-of-state assignments, students have to pass a fitness test. Learn more here.  

Delmar teen killed in weekend crash

An 18-year-old Delmar teen died in a single vehicle crash on Sunday morning, Delaware State Police said.

Dylan M. Rodriguez, a former athlete at Delmar High School, was driving a pickup south on Seaford Road between Seaford and Laurel around 7:15 a.m. Sunday when the truck left the road and struck a wooden fence. The truck then sideswiped a large tree, went airborne, and crashed into a parked truck in a driveway, police said.

Rodriguez was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected. He was pronounced dead at an area hospital.

The Facebook page for the Delmar Wildcats football team posted, “Our Delmar community is hurting right now with the sudden passing of former Wildcat Dylan Rodriguez. We will always remember Dylan for being a great teammate and having that infectious smile that made everyone's day a little brighter.”

Teens killed near Milford after vehicle crashes into a creek

Two Dover-area teens died early Thursday when their Jeep crashed into Cedar Creek south of Milford, state police said.

The driver was a 17-year-old Dover boy and his passenger was a 17-year-old boy from Camden. Their names had not been released Thursday pending notification of family.

Police said the Jeep was heading north in the south lanes at about 12:39 a.m. The driver failed to make a turn and went into the median, struck a grass berm and vaulted between the two bridge spans into the creek. The vehicle was nearly submerged, and when dive teams and a towing company removed it they found the bodies inside.

Police are still investigating the crash.

Elections in Farmington

The town of Farmington has an upcoming election for two Council seats on Saturday, March 26.

People interested in running have until Feb. 24 to mail a letter of intent to 98 School St., Farmington, 19950. Candidates must be at least 18, have lived in town for at least a year before the election, and have a record free of felonies or “crimes of moral turpitude.” (That term basically means depraved actions that shock the community.)

The election will be held from 12-4 p.m. at the Farmington Volunteer Fire Company.

Dish of the week

By Edgar Diaz

Elbow macaroni, white cheddar mornay sauce, hickory smoked bacon, green onions. Photo by Edgar Diaz

You ever make homemade mac and cheese, stick the leftovers in the fridge, and the next day it's just a solid block of pasta? And then you have to add a ton of milk and butter and cheese and heat it carefully to bring it back to life?

Well, what if we skip that step, and instead cut that block of pasta into sticks? And then take our milk/butter/cheese plus a little bit of flour, and make a cheese sauce out of that.

Then pan fry the mac and cheese sticks until browned, plate it with our new cheese sauce, and add some bacon and onion on top. Wouldn't that be amazing?

Well ... so I tried this, and it is TOTALLY amazing! And somehow super fancy. And definitely not healthy, so don't @ me. But it is delicious.

Follow Edgar Diaz on Instagram @diptoe

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