Here's a look at news and events from around southern Delaware this week.
Ring in the new year
If you are the sort of person for whom the year is not complete without watching things drop, there are a few New Year’s Eve options in southern Delaware.
Dewey Beach will hold its annual drop Friday night at Route 1 and New Orleans Street Oceanside. Traditionally, they drop a skimboarder instead of a ball. This is a free event with free parking.
In Lewes, they drop an anchor (weather permitting) at the Lightship Overfalls, a restored ship that’s a national historic landmark. The event features hot chocolate, fires and seasonal music.
Traditionalists who insist on an actual ball drop can find that just across the state line in Salisbury. Their all-ages event is 9 p.m. to midnight, with live music and food and drink from vendors.
For free spirits who reject ball drops but still need to observe some kind of tradition, Georgetown will raise the ball with a celebration from 9 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. in the county courthouse parking lot at the corner of Race and Pine streets. There will be music, a photo booth and fire pits, along with food vendors and adult refreshments from the Dewey Beer Company.
Enthusiastic customers of the Dewey Beer Company on Friday night can clear their heads on Jan. 1 with the Dewey Dunk at noon. This is when people who could do virtually anything to ring in the new year choose the option of jumping in the water at Dagsworthy Street Beach. This event features hot chocolate and bloody Marys, a DJ and a bonfire.
Cost is $25 cash for ages 21 and over, and $15 cash for those under 21. Yes, they charge people money to jump into the ocean in the dead of winter (this seems like a good time to point out that for only $5 a month, you can get complete access to this news site without jumping in the ocean at all).
An alternate way to mark the calendar change is by taking a hike. The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is encouraging people to get outdoors as part of the national First Day Hike movement. There are no adult beverages or bonfires, but you can explore a corner of Delaware you’ve never seen or visit an old favorite. If you haven’t hiked at Trap Pond State Park yet, for example, do yourself a favor and try it out.
If you have another local hiking gem you’d like to recommend, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A list of participating state parks, where people can sign in to mark their participation, is available at destateparks.com/firstday.
While we’ve largely avoided the shutdowns like those earlier in the pandemic, one local city announced this week it's returning to online-only public meetings as COVID cases surge in Delaware and hospitals fill up. The city of Rehoboth Beach said only the committee chair and required staff members will be allowed in the meeting room and they all must be masked.
“We’re taking this measure out of an abundance of extreme extra caution,” Mayor Stan Mills said in a statement, saying the city felt it’s necessary to ensure the safety of officials, staff members and the public.
Residents can still watch the meetings live or via recording through the city’s Legislative Portal. They can also pre-register to speak virtually by emailing city Secretary Ann Womack at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting.
Municipalities had taken a patchwork approach to returning to public meetings after the earlier statewide shutdowns. Bridgeville is another one still observing precautions. It only recently reopened Commission meetings to limited in-person attendance and still has a Zoom option.
DNREC also announced it's making changes because of the increase in cases. State parks and wildlife areas will still be open, but nature centers, interpretive centers and museums will close starting Monday, Jan. 3. Indoor programs will either be held virtually or canceled, the department said — contact the office at the park or location where the program is scheduled with questions.
State officials are sounding the alarm that the highly contagious omicron variant is now spreading through the state. They warned in a Thursday press conference that vaccination alone without other precautions isn't enough to protect people completely. They emphasized that people should wear masks when they're indoors in public places and take precautions during New Year's celebrations.
"If you are gathering indoors right now, someone COVID positive is in there with you," Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Molly Magarik said.
Vaccine fraud attempt
State officials warn they are getting reports of text message scams contacting people for purported vaccine validation. The texts link to a fraudulent webpage referencing DHSS and the Department of Motor Vehicles in the URL and ask for personal information, the department of health said.
“This text message is NOT legitimate and is NOT associated with DHSS or any other state agency,” the department said. The state will not ask for private information such as a social security number or driver’s license number by text message. The department advised people not to respond and to report the text to law enforcement.
Beach dining in the spotlight
The Cooking Channel’s Casey Webb of Man vs. Food visits Dogfish Head Brewings and Eats and other sites at the Delaware beaches in season 5, episode 2. The show aired Tuesday night, but will re-air Sunday, Jan. 2 at 6:30 p.m. and Tuesday, Jan. 18 at 7 p.m.
Speaking of seafood ...
Restaurants won’t be able to get fresh local shellfish from the Rehoboth Bay for a while after a sewer line spill. The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control announced an emergency closure of the shellfish harvest there this week after a plumbing contractor cut a sewer line in Mariner’s Cove mobile home park, sending thousands of gallons of untreated wastewater into the bay.
Shellfish like oysters and clams act as natural filters cleaning up the water, which is good for the bay and has obvious downsides for consumers right after a septic spill.
The closure for both commercial and recreational harvesting was put into effect Tuesday, the 28th, for 21 days.
There are aquaculture leases in the area, and DNREC said the shellfish industry has cooperated to keep consumers safe.
Free GED, ESL classes in Laurel
The Laurel Public Library is teaming up with Sussex Tech Adult Education to offer free GED classes for those working on earning the equivalent of a high school diploma, and also free English as a second language classes.
The classes begin Monday, Jan. 3. Registration is required: Call 302-856-9035 or email Kim Banks at email@example.com. The ESL classes are Tuesday and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the GED classes are Monday and Wednesday from 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Finish 2021 with a laugh
One of my year-end traditions is reading Dave Barry’s year in review. For decades, his, um, sophisticated humor made for one of the funniest newspaper columns out there. He has a talent for poking people on all sides of the political spectrum in the eye and getting away with it, and although semi-retired still cranks out his annual look back at the major events of the year. If anyone can make you smile or even laugh out loud about horrible and stressful events, it’s Barry. Read that column here.
In case you missed it:
Earlier this week, reporter Tony Russo looked into a proposal to more than double the allowed development on several large land parcels near Delmar. State officials have objected to the plan.
The developer said he envisioned a community of people attracted to the Salisbury metro area for work opportunities and argued that the comprehensive plan didn’t take into account how close Salisbury was when it designated the area for low density growth rather than high density growth.
In Seaford, the debate continues over a new ordinance requiring that aborted fetal remains be buried or cremated (it also applies to some miscarriages). I spoke with backers of the new law, as well as opponents, on how they see it.
The latest development is that the Seaford law has been, in essence, put on hold. The Council voted to stay enforcement at a special meeting Thursday night.
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