It’s the end of an era in Bethany, with this week’s demolition and removal of the old Bethany Beach bandstand. The old stage was getting pretty ragged around the edges, but many longtime residents are still probably a little sad to see it go.
“It’s bittersweet,” admitted Gloria Farrar, entertainment director for the town. “I don’t really know how old it was, but everybody seemed to love it,” she said. “I just hope everyone loves the new bandstand even more, and enjoys it for as many years.”
Phil Boesch, who headed up the Beautification Committee tasked with designing the new bandstand, recognized there’d been a few objections, but they’d tried their best to accommodate everyone.
Perhaps a greater loss than the dilapidated structure, progress called for the removal of some fine old evergreens. However, as Boesch assured, the new Bethany Beach Bandstand would be a vast improvement for the area at the head of Garfield Parkway.
“First off, the old bandstand was rotten and would have needed major, major repairs,” he pointed out. “Second, the old bandstand sort of occupied the whole space, and we only use it 40 nights a year. So rather than trying to rebuild it, we thought we’d try to do something nicer with that area.”
Not to say it wasn’t nice before. “The bandstand draws a crowd,” Boesch agreed. “Gloria (Farrar) does a really great job booking some acts.”
Farrar noted some of her favorites from the past year. Bobby Martin, who does a Sinatra tribute — spellbinding, she called him — Clear Space Productions duo Doug Yetter and Ken Skzesz’s American Songbook was very good.
Southern Delaware School of the Art’s Steel the Show steel drum band earned her highest accolades, though — Farrar applauded band director John Syphard. “And the kids from (Trinidad and) Tobago were an added treat — they weren’t in the line-up,” she recalled.
Construction notwithstanding, Farrar said she planned to start booking acts for next summer by January, same as always.
Boesch said they’d planned to initiate the work last year. However, they couldn’t find a crew that was able to start before January — and therefore couldn’t guarantee they’d finish by Memorial Day.
Not acceptable. The show must go on. So, the town delayed one full year, until they could secure construction crews a little earlier.
“Finally, today, it’s under way,” Boesch said Nov. 16.
The new design will position the bandstand toward the southwest corner, facing northeast, and incorporate: 1) a “town square,” where residents can read, or sit and chat and 2) a better connection between Garfield Parkway and the ocean.
People approaching the beach from Garfield Parkway still won’t be able to see the ocean until they near the boardwalk, but the new design would open up the approach, Boesch said.
As for those fine old evergreens — Mayor Jack Walsh and his wife, Jeri, noted last week long-term concerns about the dangers some of the trees had posed for children who couldn’t resist climbing them, sometimes by the dozen. So, while some will miss the trees, there are a few sighs of relief, as well as pride in a project so long in coming to fruition.