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First State works toward celebrating nation’s 250th anniversary

Katie Tabeling
Cantwell's Tavern in Odessa is one of many places that will be featured in the "Travels with Darley" episode about Delaware's role in the Revolutionary War.

Cantwell’s Tavern in Odessa is one of many places that will be featured in the “Travels with Darley” episode about Delaware’s role in the Revolutionary War. | PHOTO COURTESY OF KATIE TABELING

WILMINGTON — While Delaware tourism officials forge on with classic events throughout the year, they also are starting to think big as the United States of America prepares to celebrate a momentous anniversary.

In the Philadelphia region, plans are starting to gear up to step into the national spotlight as the U.S. will mark the 250th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In 2026, major events are already planned for Philadelphia, such as the Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game at the Citizen Bank Park that year as well as FIFA World Cup matches.

Other organizers are soft launching festivals to spotlight Philadelphia’s central role in the Revolutionary War, like the upcoming Red, White and Blue To-Do in July. But here in the First State, tourism and state officials like Greater Wilmington Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Jen Boes and others are starting to plan how to shine a light on the Brandywine Valley’s role in American history.

“With the 250th anniversary, there’s an opportunity to draw a large visitation to the area, so it’s a perfect chance to leverage what part Delaware played, not just with history buffs,” Boes said. “We’re also hoping to leverage this with Separation Day, making it a big event in the future.”

Just like it sounds, Separation Day is an annual celebration in historic New Castle that commemorates Delaware’s separation from Britain and Pennsylvania, establishing the state as the First State in the Union. As one of Delaware’s longest running traditions, it includes a Colonial inspired parade, complete with musket firing, and ends with fireworks over the Delaware River.

Boes noted that there are plenty of hidden gems in Delaware that symbolize the state’s role in the Revolutionary War. For example, the Grand Opera House in Downtown Wilmington was used as a hospital by both sides of the war. The Hale Byrnes House in Newark was the site of the Council of War five days before the Battle of the Brandywine and Delaware’s only battle of the war was at the Cooch Bridge, marked by a memorial off Old Baltimore Pike.

These sites and many more throughout the First State will be featured in a 2025 PBS travel documentary, “Travels with Darley.” The host Darley Newman took a statewide tour in April as part of a larger effort to highlight the region’s Revolutionary road trips within driving distance of Philadelphia.

In the meantime, Delaware is also looking to elevate new programs that may spotlight the state’s role in the historic time. Last year, the Delaware Heritage Commission announced it had hired Margaret Hughes as the state’s 250 Coordinator to bring public and private parties together on educational and tourism related events on the semiquincentennial.

Delaware 250, a commission tasked with bringing stakeholders together, is also offering grants to museums, libraries, non-profits, historic sites and others to develop programs to help commemorate Delaware’s history in 1776 and beyond.

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