Many people flocked to Georgetown last Thursday to take part in the unique tradition known as Return Day.
Back in 1791, state law moved the Sussex County seat from Lewes to Georgetown, as the municipality was a more central location within the county. Residents would “return” to Georgetown two days following the election to hear the election results.
That tradition has been kept alive, and every two years, Sussex Countians return to Georgetown to hear the reading of the election results for the county, read by the town crier from the balcony of the Sussex County Courthouse.
This year, festivities began during the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 9, with music and a street fair around Georgetown’s Circle.
On Nov. 10, mayors of Sussex municipalities participated in a hatchet toss among seven competing mayors, which was won by Ocean View Mayor Walter Curran.
Members of the Nanticoke Indian Association performed a variety of dances, including the fancy dance and grass dance.
In another Return Day tradition, a parade was held in which elected officials and their opponents rode together in horse-drawn carriages and cars. Area marching bands and organizations also participated in the parade. Attendees were able to wave to Gov. Jack Markell, Gov.-elect John Carney, Lt. Gov.-elect Bethany Hall-Long, and others.
A surprise to many, former Delaware Gov. and U.S. Rep. Mike Castle walked the parade route with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.).
Following the parade, Town Crier Kirk Lawson read the election results for the county, in period garb, from the courthouse balcony.
“This is a great day — this is the day that all parties get together and decide that all the politicking is done. We’re going to put it to an end, and we are going to work together as one,” said Georgetown Mayor Bill West. “Everyone has the same goal: to make this a better place.”
Debbie Jones, president of Sussex County Return Day, welcomed everyone to the event and took a moment to thank Rosalie Walls, the parade’s grand marshal, who had served as president of the organization for 27 years.
To cap the day, Billy Carrol, chairman of the Sussex County Republican Party; Mitch Crane, chairman of the Sussex County Democratic Party; Don Ayotte, chairman of the Sussex County Independent Party; and James Brittingham, chairman of the Sussex County Libertarian Party; gathered together for the ceremonial burial of the hatchet.
The four men gathered around and, each with a hand on the ceremonial hatchet, placed it in a box and buried it in sand from Lewes beach as the crowd cheered.
“I hereby declare campaign 2016 officially over,” said Master of Ceremonies Steve Hammond of WBOC-TV.