by Terry Rogers
A Delaware tradition for more than 200 years, Return Day in Georgetown, held the Thursday after election day, was cancelled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One of the events held that day was the “Bury the Hatchet” ceremony. During the celebration, a ceremonial hatchet is buried in the sand to signify the end of the election period and to promote reconciliation between the opponents.
But on Thursday, the Bury the Hatchet Ceremony will be held. The Return will be read at noon by Sussex County Sheriff Robert Lee, with the hatchet burying held immediately after in front of the Sussex County Administrative Offices as the chairpersons of the Sussex County Democratic Party, Republican Party, Independent Party and Libertarian Party look on.
“Dozens of individuals have contacted me over the course of several weeks to see what could be done to keep the tradition of Return Day alive,” said Senator Brian Pettyjohn. R-Georgetown. “The divisive and caustic nature of the 2020 election season makes it especially important that we perform this act to show our constituents that we are ready to move past the election and govern for all people.”
Representative Ruth Briggs King, R-Georgetown, said the event was important to people in Sussex County and promotes how the Delaware legislature works together despite their party affiliation.
“The coming together to bury the hatchet is our reset to show that we are not enemies, and that regardless of our political differences, we are Americans, Delawareans and Sussex Countians.”
Georgetown Mayor Bill West said Georgetown has been the location for more than 200 years of a celebration to mark the end of the election. It also provides a way for people to meet their elected officials and start mending the fences that may have been damaged during the election process.
“With the turmoil that we have all faced in 2020, it’s important that we come together and move forward,” West said.
This year’s Return Day will be very different from the celebrations of the past. The parade, food and drink vendors and celebrations that lasted well into the evening were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The only other times the celebration has been canceled were during the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic and from 1942-1946 during World War II.
It is not known exactly when Return Day began but it is believed the first event was held in 1792. In the early years of the country, voters were required to travel to Georgetown, the County seat, to cast their ballots. Two days later, they returned to hear the results.
The town cryer was assigned the duty of reading the election results, a tradition that has carried on during each Return Day. Winners and losers of each race ride together in carriages, antique cars or convertibles to demonstrate the end of the acrimony that may have existed during the election process.
This year, all participants are required to abide by COVID-19 guidelines regarding face coverings and social distancing.
The Bury the Hatchet event is not endorsed, sponsored or authorized by the Sussex County Return Day Inc. Committee. The circle will be closed to traffic from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. for the event.
Detour Routes are as follows:
- Route 9 eastbound: South Front Street to West Pine Street onto South King Street to East Market Street.
- Route 9 westbound: North Race Street onto East Laurel Street to North Front Street to West Market Street.
The historic fire station in Georgetown will be open between 11 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Attendees must comply with the state’s COVID-19 guidelines, including wearing masks and social distancing. For more information, go to BuryTheHatchet2020.com.