By Terry Rogers
Milford celebrated hometown heroes, the Riverwalk and first responders during the 16th Annual Riverwalk Freedom Festival on Friday and Saturday, September 9 and 10. The event began Friday with food trucks opening at noon and lasted until around 5 PM on Saturday.
“It was a fantastic weekend,” said Angela Dorey, Chairman of the festival which is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Milford. “The setup of the new layout of the festival went very smoothly thanks to many volunteers! I actually cannot count how many people stopped me during the festival to tell me how much they loved it.”
In years past, vendor booths have been set up on along Walnut Street, but some downtown merchants felt that the booths distracted from businesses. This year, in an effort to provide more access and visibility to businesses downtown, the festival committee decided to move the car show to Walnut Street and spread vendors throughout town, encouraging visitors to see more of Milford’s downtown area. The changes to the layout were well-received, according to Ms. Dorey.
“This was our first time attending the festival,” Nicole Kirmes said. “It was so fun to go out and do it with my friends. We are going to do it again next year. I love that it happens each year around September 11.”
Friday night, Mr. Barbecue, Dolce, Dorey Insurance and Bruce Johnston of Subway sponsored Operation Giveback. Current and past members of the military were provided a free meal while their families were offered discounts at food vendors. As part of Friday night festivities, Hometown Heroes were recognized for their service to the community, state or country. The late Bob Connelly, who passed away after battling cancer in December, was named for his outstanding service to the community as well as his career as a firefighter in Arizona. Friday’s event ended with a fireworks display that has been called one of the best in the area. Many people attend the festival on Friday in order to enjoy the fireworks at the end of the night.
“The fireworks show was amazing!” said Jenine Nathalia. “We go every year and we are never disappointed.”
Saturday, vendors were situated throughout the downtown area, offering samples, information and craft items. Bayhealth held a “Healthy Living Expo” in Bicentennial Park, offering screenings for blood pressure and other chronic illnesses. One addition to the festival for 2016 was the Petriotic Park, a small area with pet pools, pet-related vendors, speakers and demonstrations. A Petriotic Parade was held at noon.
Another new event added for this year was the Pokemon Go Fishing Tournament and Hunt, sponsored by Technogoober and Delaware Surf Fishing. Players of the popular phone app game could win prizes for catching the largest “Magicarp” or for “holding” the gym located in Kids Corner at the top of the hour.
“I feel so lucky to live in Milford and even more so to work side-by-side with so many enthusiastic volunteers, city and school officials, fellow business owners and children that love Milford as much as I do,” Ms. Dorey said. “I welcome anyone with comments, suggestions or want to help with the festival in the future to reach out to me at email@example.com or call my office at 424-8459.”