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Delaware delivers: Patriots aplenty

Courtesy Kent County CVB

Dover, Delaware’s capital, is not only in the heart of the state, but also at the heart of the nation’s formation.

“Dover is pretty much where the country started,” said Robin Coventry, director of public relations for the Kent County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “On the green in downtown Dover is where Delaware ratified the Constitution, making it the first state in the nation. Earlier, in July 1776, Caesar Rodney rode north to Philadelphia through a thunderstorm when he was very sick to cast one of Delaware’s votes for independence.”

“The green is the heart of our historic district. American patriots walked the ground here.”

             Courtesy Kent County CVB

The green is one of several historic sites that are part of the unusual First State Heritage Park, a “park without boundaries,” that includes the brick Legislative Hall where the Legislature meets and the recently restored first state Capitol that dates from 1792.

One of the most interesting museums in the First State Heritage Park is the Johnson Victrola Museum.

“It is the only one of its kind in the country,” said Coventry. “There are more than 75 Victrolas, from tabletops to lavish floor models. Some of the horns are hand painted.”

The second floor has a large collection of Nippers, the dog in the iconic RCA Victor logo listening to his master’s voice coming from the speaker horn of an early Victrola. “They have more than 150 Nippers in the museum,” said Coventry, “from tiny thimble size to one that is more than 6 feet tall.”

Nipper would not have any trouble hearing the artifacts on display at the Air Mobility Command Museum at nearby Dover Air Force Base. “They have more than 21 planes, from small to very, very large,” said Coventry. “There are two flight simulators like the ones pilots actually use, and you can try your hand at flying different types of planes.

“When you step off the bus, you are jettisoned back into time. There is World War II music playing outside, which gives you that [nostalgic] feel immediately.”

Speed of another kind is featured at NASCAR’s Dover International Speedway, called the Monster Mile.

“We can do behind-the-scenes tours of the speedway,” said Coventry. “It is not a flat track; the banks are pretty steep. You walk up that steep incline, and it’s one of those ‘whoa’ moments.”

               Courtesy Kent County CVB

The adjacent racino at Dover Downs with its combination harness racing and slot machines makes the complex, which also includes a resort hotel, one of a kind.

“It’s the only one like it in the United States, with horseracing, NASCAR and a casino,” said Coventry.

There is also a racino at Harrington in Kent County.

The pace is decidedly slower in Kent County outside Dover. “We have a healthy Amish population west of Dover,” said Coventry. “We take groups out into that area, and they can get into a woodworker’s shop, a quilt shop and a shop where the Amish buy cloth for their clothing and bonnets.

“There is a man who gives groups buggy rides. Everyone gets a kick out of that.”