CAMPnote: A new feature in Letters from CAMP Rehoboth, LEWES Lips is the creation of a troika of residents of Lewes, Delaware, the "First Town" in the "First State."
Towns across America commemorate the 4th of July with marching bands, war reenactments and cookouts. In Lewes we look at this important day differently. It is still about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It still has plenty of red, white and blue. But the "First Town in the First State" has had lots of time to refine traditions. We combine our distinguished past with our less-than-distinguished present.
Therefore, in Lewes, the July 4th celebration is like the Boston Tea Party meets Rip Taylor's $1.98 Beauty Contest.
We have a parade. Well, actually, we have two parades. Both display freedom of expression. Both have lots and lots of red, white and blue.
First, at 3 p.m., comes the Lewes Harbor Parade. The participants motor and sail (and, occasionally, paddle) down the canal to the Savannah Road Bridge, most of them draped in festive decor. It includes a contest for best decoration and theme. So along with bunting and banners, boats may include costumed children singing God Bless America (we still teach it in our schools) or other songs of yore. There may even be an errant revolutionary ordare we say ita scarlet pimpernel or two.
There are also speedboats with bikini clad locals. The gals in bikinis are particularly skilled boaters: They can navigate a fast-moving vessel with a cocktail in one hand and a cigarette in the otherand manage it all with swaying breasts big enough to throw a yacht off course. Speaking of the gals: We hope to see the return of the Lesbian Mermaids on their 28-foot outboard. They were the highlight of the parade of '98!
The Harbor Parade is Lewes-sized, so you won't have trouble finding space to stand. The "crowd" cheering from the bridge could be outnumbered by those in the boats! By the way: Don't blink or you'll miss the bridge, which is just past the ONLY stoplight in town.
Although some watch the parade from the bridge, there are better places. You can lunch at Gilligan's on a boat that no longer sees the high seas. Or have a leisurely cocktail at its outside bar, which sits in the hull of this dry-docked antique. (Try the grilled pork and shrimp appetizers, which are just a couple of reasons that we're glad owner Patrick lured the former chef of Sedona to Gilligan's this year.) If you prefer to go "down-market" (we never use the words "slumming" in Lewes) you can have beer and fried fish at Anglers. And then there's the Lighthouse, which is somewhere in between. All are on the canal.
Alas, you can no longer pick up a sandwich from the latest incarnation of Taste of Heaven. Sexy owner Bill Raney has changed it yet again! Just catering and design, for now. This is Lewes, after all. Hours and offerings may vary based on the owner's whimsor, sometimes, whether he got into trouble the night before!
Regardless of your vantage point, when the Harbor Parade ends, just remember, celebrations have just begun! This is NOT the last you will see of the parade vessels, and it is NOT the last parade you will see today. Another begins at 6 p.m.!
There is plenty to do between about 3:15 (did we mention the Harbor Parade is pretty quick?) and 6 p.m. You can shop the quaint town, of course, or cool off at the "Original Kings Ice Cream" store. Or do what the locals do: Prepare for the $1.98 Beauty Contest with cocktails!
Happy Hour at the Rose and Crown begins at 4:00. At 5:00, stumble a few doors down to The Buttery. There, you must try one of Bartender Betty's special Margaritas. If you're new to the bar, Betty will make sure you meet everyone, including our local stars of note. Elizabeth, the original Darla from the "Little Rascals," is a regular. (OKit's Lewes. We didn't say they were BIG stars!) The L-shaped bar at Second Street Grille is another great meeting spot, though we miss seeing Justin as bartender there. (We hear he's gone off and gotten pregnant.)
The $1.98 Beauty ContestAKA "The Unofficial Doo-Dah Parade"starts "somewhere near 6 p.m., somewhere near Savannah and Manila Streets." Last year it was delayed, as usual. We were told the delay last year was because Mayor Smith, used to supper at 6, had to finish his meal before leading it. (Keep in mind, we're on Sussex County time here.)
Doo-Dah proceeds down Manila to Kings Highway, to Second Street, then Market Street, and then back up Savannah to Manila. To be front and center (whatever that is!) you might search for seats early. Try for a table outside at the Buttery. (The locals, still inside, may have forgotten about the parade. Those Margaritas ARE unforgivable!) But even if you're late, we guarantee that there's plenty of space curbside.
If you saw them in the Harbor Parade, you'll see 'em again in Doo-Dah. Same red, white and blue. Same costumes and bunting. For this one, though, the boats are riding high on trailers and, after three hours of "preparations," many participants are justwellriding "high." But there are always a few new (if not fresh) parade-goers, who didn't get their boat permits on time. Our personal favorite each year is Georgia, the Statue of Liberty, with her Royal Captain of the Sweet Lice. "Her flowers may be wilted, but no more wilted are they than She!"
As the parade ends (some might say "fizzles"), lawn parties start throughout town. You'll probably be invited along to one of them, if you're good. (An invitation is even more likely if you're not TOO good!)And at the end of the day, you might feel that Rip Taylor himself couldn't have orchestrated it better. So in his own words, we close: "You win the prize, you take the cake, you've won the crown and a dollar ninety-eight..."
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 10, No. 8, June 30, 2000.