Dissecting the Origins of Childhood Obesity

In Delaware, 40 percent of kids from ages 2 to 17 are overweight or obese.


Published:

Every morning, before George Datto III, M.D., puts on his white coat and heads to work at A.I. duPont Hospital for Children, he packs a lunch for his 10-year-old son Gregory.

“Usually, it’s a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread, a cheese stick, an apple and a bottle of water,” he says. “He gets pretzels two days a week.”

Datto is chief of the Division of Weight Management, a program dedicated to helping obese children achieve a healthy weight and avoid high blood pressure, asthma, joint problems and other illnesses.

“We see 10-year-olds who are diabetic and hypertensive,” he says. “These problems are nonexistent in children who are not obese.”

Nemours, A.I.’s parent foundation, established the first pediatric weight management program in the nation in 1988. A.I. also is a training ground for doctors who treat children with serious weight issues.

Datto is an advocate for providing kids with the support they need to maintain a healthy weight. That starts in his own home, making certain his son gets a balanced, nutritious lunch. He also would like to see mandatory gym class in schools, five days a week for 45 minutes a day.

“Kids need to run around,” he says. “Phys ed makes that happen.”

In Delaware, 40 percent of children ages 2 to 17 are overweight or obese, according to the Delaware Survey of Children’s Health, sponsored by Nemours. In children and adolescents, obesity is defined as having a body mass index greater than the 95th percentile.

While obesity rates for African-American boys and white girls declined slightly from 2008-2011, rates for white boys are on the rise. Hispanic children of both genders are the most likely to be overweight, the survey found.

So what makes kids gain more weight than is good for them? In most cases, it boils down to math. Children consume more calories than they burn.

The remedy sounds simple: a healthy diet and regular exercise.

But weight gain is a complex issue. Researchers now believe that kids who don’t get enough sleep produce more of the hormone that fuels hunger, so they eat more than they should.

“Sleep is crucial to a healthy metabolism,” Datto says. “If your child is over the age of 6 and takes a nap during the day, he is not getting enough sleep. And if you are up late at night you probably are eating late at night.”

Learning more about nutrition is essential for both parents and kids. For instance, many moms and dads think of fruit juice as a positive choice. Truth to tell, most juice contains added fructose and other sugars, while lacking the beneficial fiber found in fresh fruit.

“Children should have no more than one cup of juice a day,” Datto says. “Water or milk is best—and after age 2, nonfat milk is best.”

Skipping breakfast also has been linked to weight gain. Datto suggests stocking grab-and-go breakfasts for days when families are on the run, such as power bars, no-fat yogurt and single-serving boxes
of Cheerios. 

It’s up to moms and dads to make certain there is healthy food in the house.

“Your job as a parent is not to provide what a child wants,” he says. “A parent’s job is to provide what a child needs.”

Getting Kids Off to a Nutritious Start

Many of the children Lou Marshall teaches haven’t learned to read yet. But they are old enough to understand that strawberries are as sweet as candy and are much better for you.

Marshall is founder of Yummilicious, an interactive enrichment program that takes nutrition directly to kids at preschools and early education centers.

Marshall, an artist from Kennett, came up with the concept when she was commissioned to paint murals in schools and child-care centers.

“The kids wanted me to eat lunch with them—and I thought that was a great idea, too,” she says. 

She discovered that kids are hungry for information. 

“Children want to learn about food,” Marshall says. “How could I paint a message that fruits and vegetables are good for you? How could I teach a class that gives kids the knowledge they need to make good choices?” 

Soon her imagination sprouted a cast of characters who take a fun and fanciful approach to eating green stuff. 

There’s Granny Smith, who reminds us that apples are delicious and full of fiber. Broccoli Rob says raw veggies make a crunchy snack. Jack O’Lantern reminds us that pumpkin seeds are edible, too.

“If you talk about carrots that have super powers that are good for your eyes, it’s a lot more fun than saying, ‘You can’t leave the table until you finish your carrots,’” Marshall says.

The goal is to establish healthy eating habits that children can carry with them throughout life.

“We start with the kids because often the parents don’t know about nutrition,” Marshall says.

Children also learn what a healthy plate should look like. Half the plate should be fruits and vegetables, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines. The other half should be divided between proteins such as fish, skinless poultry or lean meats, and grains such as lentils, brown rice or barley.

“When kids go home, they can ask their parents to fix their plates like that,” she says. “It’s an opportunity to get the whole family eating healthier meals.”

From Fat to Fit

Andy Staton is buff and trim. He tests himself in Iron Man triathlons and other endurance events. Last year, he completed the Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, a grueling, 41.8-mile race in which runners cross the Grand Canyon twice.

At 41, he is a successful real estate agent in Rehoboth Beach and vice chair of the Delaware Real Estate Commission.

Yet every time he looks in the mirror, Staton sees the fat miserable kid he once was.

“No one enjoys being overweight,” he says. “As a fat person, people judge you wherever you go.”

Staton hopes to inspire youngsters who are overweight to embrace healthy eating and exercise. 

“Starting young means kids can avoid a lot of social misery, as well as health problems,” he says.

He established the Andy Staton Foundation, which has donated more than $50,000 to programs that promote nutrition and fitness for kids, including Girls on the Run and the Sussex County Health Promotion Coalition.

“It is my personal mission,” he says. 

As a kid, Staton ate a steady diet of pizza, cheeseburgers, cookies and cola.

“My parents were not overweight and didn’t understand the implications of having bad food in the house,” he says.

By the time he was in high school, he weighed 285 pounds. His mom tried to help by taking him to a doctor, who prescribed diet pills. 

“I tried it for a month and it didn’t work, so I quit,” he recalls.

He was 15 when he looked out his bedroom window and saw three burning letters on the front lawn: F-A-T.

“Fat kids are bullied every single day,” he says. “I was that fat kid.”

After college, Staton continued to put on pounds. He was 5-feet, 9 inches tall and weighed 320 pounds. His waistline measured 54 inches.

He tried various diets and weight-loss programs. He would lose a few pounds, then gain them back.

Staton was 30 when he hired a personal trainer who stressed both nutrition and exercise. That proved to be a winning combination.

He occasionally indulges in a cheeseburger, but he has learned to burn those excess calories by putting in more time at the gym.

“My message to parents and kids is that you just can’t change what you eat,” he says. “You have to work out, too.”

He still enjoys pancakes, but instead of flour pancakes topped with butter and sugary syrup, he starts the day with pancakes made with fat-free cottage cheese, egg whites and a packet of sugar-free, maple-flavored oatmeal. 

“It’s quick, easy and tastes great,” he says. 

Today Staton weighs 170 pounds. He has a 32-inch waistline. He is energetic, working hard, playing hard and devoting time to community service.

“I can truthfully tell every fat kid that you can change your lifestyle,” he says. “If I can do it, so can you.”  

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Cost: Free

Where:
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark
420 Willa Road
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: UUFN
Telephone: 302.368.2984
Contact Name: Richard Field
Website »

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Tuesday, April 24, 8:00 p.m., part 1 Wednesday, April 25, 8:00 p.m., part 2 Gore Recital Hall   Performing the complete Bach Cello suites is an epic milestone in the artistic life of a...

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

More information

Living in Mythology, an exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Jean Diver, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from April 6-27, 2018. A free opening reception to meet the artist will be...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Try practicing yoga in a beautiful garden setting, strengthening your body and spirit. Our yoga class is open to all levels. We will practice slow, easy motions to get into the rhythm of nature....

Cost: $10

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

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TRANSIT by Maryanne Pollock January 27 - April 26, 2018Opening Reception: Friday, February 2, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop On Art:  Wednesday, February 21, 2018 | 5:25 - 6 PM Maryanne...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE ALUMNI INVITATIONAL A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop, Artist talk at 7:30 PM The...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE UNIVERSITY OF DELAWARE LYNN HERRICK SHARP AWARD EXHIBITION A Group Exhibition March 31 - April 26, 2018 OPENING RECEPTION: Friday, April 6, 2018, 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop The Delaware...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

Thursday, April 26, 8:00 p.m. Gore Recital Hall David Rose was born in Regina, Saskatchewan and there began his early musical education and violin study. At the suggestion of his first teacher,...

Cost: $15 adults; $10 UD faculty/staff/alumni & seniors; $5 students

Where:
Gore Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

More information

Living in Mythology, an exhibition of paintings and works on paper by Jean Diver, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from April 6-27, 2018. A free opening reception to meet the artist will be...

Cost: Free!

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
Carvel State Office Building, 2nd Floor
820 N. French St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Division of the Arts
Telephone: 302-577-8278
Contact Name: Roxanne Stanulis
Website »

More information

Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Glory of Stories introduces young visitors to art and the Museum through a story reading followed by an interactive tour of relevant works of art and a studio art project. This program encourages...

Cost: Free to Members, $5 per child and one adult free for Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »

More information

Calling all Doodles!  Pack up your owners and head for Dewey Delaware for the Annual DoodlesinDewey ~ a fun filled time on the beach at a low-key "funraiser" for Food&Friends, a DC based...

Cost: $10-25 suggested

Where:
Dewey Beach
Saulsbury St
Dewey Beach, DE  19971
View map »


Sponsor: Food&Friends
Telephone: 301.467.5523
Contact Name: Amy Scott
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
View map »


Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

More information

Our thoughts and our stage turn to music, mayhem and marriage with the multi-Tony nominated "The Wedding Singer". Shows are at 8pm on April 27 and 28, and May 4 and 5.  There are 2pm...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-1172
Website »

More information

Night Ranger, the band that invented the power ballad of the 1980s, brings its classic sound to the SugarHouse Casino Event Center on Friday, April 27, at 9 p.m. Tickets for the band’s 35th...

Cost: $29-49

Where:
SugarHouse Casino
1001 N. Delaware Ave
Philadelphia, PA  19125
View map »

More information

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East Coast Garden Center presents: The Spring Festival!  We love celebrating the Spring season, and we invite you to join us! The weather warms, plants break dormancy, and Sussex County becomes...

Cost: free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd.
Millsboro, DE  19966
View map »


Sponsor: Cordrey Companies
Telephone: (302)945-3489
Contact Name: Christine Justice
Website »

More information

Rosemary Castiglioni – Still lifes and interiors painted with a subtle palette; Jim Gears – Vibrant, impressionistic landscapes in oil applied with a palette knife; Richard Hoff – Detailed...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Girl Scout Junior Not just a pretty face! With the Winterthur Garden as a laboratory, earn the Flowers badge while discovering how flowers function and recording your experience in a garden...

Cost: $12

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington , DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

More information

THE FIGURE: THE INDICATIVE AND THE ALLUSIVE Group Exhibition  April 1 - August 26, 2018 Opening Reception: Friday, April 6, 2018 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop with Panel Discussion: 6 - 7 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

Water is Life Kenya is hosting its annual Water Walk fundraiser Saturday, April 28th at the Newark Reservoir. Funds raised will help complete Water is Life Kenya's clean water project in Kuku, a...

Cost: 10.00-25.00

Where:
Newark Reservoir
Old Paper Mill Road
Newark, DE  19711
View map »


Sponsor: Water is Life Kenya
Telephone: (302) 894-7335
Contact Name: Colleen Leithren
Website »

More information

GUARDIANS OF THE IMAGE MAKER Group Exhibition & Programs Commemorating The 1968 Riots April 6 - June 29, 2018 Opening reception: Friday, April 6, 2018                      5 - 9 PM...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-656-6466
Website »

More information

A needle's eye in a pond, a Greek temple in the garden, an Ottoman tent sitting on a hill—these are just a few of the inspirations for our upcoming, first-ever outdoor exhibition Follies:...

Cost: Included with general admission ($5-20)

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 800.448.3883
Contact Name: Information and Tours
Website »

More information

Maker Fest Enjoy a family-friendly festival of invention, creativity, and resourcefulness, and a celebration of the Maker movement. This event features demonstrations from area makers showcasing...

Cost: Admission is $10 for Adults, $5 for Hagley Members and Youth 6-18; under 6 free

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
Website »

More information

This community-curated exhibition brings together three painters—Alan Soffer, Brian Dickerson, and Moe Brooker—who are attuned to harmonies and contrasts in abstract forms. Each artist...

Cost: Free with Museum admission

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Girl Scout Daisy Take a step on your Flower Garden journey during this fun-filled exploration of the Winterthur garden. $10 per girl.

Cost: $10

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
Telephone: 180-044-83883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

More information

Discover the thrill of printmaking inspired by nature. Using spring plants and simple materials, students will explore the possibilities of organic and geometric compositions with layered shapes...

Cost: $80 Members, $100 Non-Members

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Website »

More information

Calling all Doodles!  Pack up your owners and head for Dewey Delaware for the Annual DoodlesinDewey ~ a fun filled time on the beach at a low-key "funraiser" for Food&Friends, a DC based...

Cost: $10-25 suggested

Where:
Dewey Beach
Saulsbury St
Dewey Beach, DE  19971
View map »


Sponsor: Food&Friends
Telephone: 301.467.5523
Contact Name: Amy Scott
Website »

More information

Saturday, April 28, 2018 6:00 pm – 10:00 pm Wilmington Country Club 4825 Kennett Pike Wilmington, DE   Guests will enjoy a four course seated dinner prepared by award-winning chefs...

Cost: Call for sponsor opportunities.

Where:
Wilmington Country Club
4825 Kennett Pike
Wilmington , DE  19807
View map »


Sponsor: Meals On Wheels Delaware
Telephone: 302-656-6451
Contact Name: Jennifer Halliday

More information

38th Annual Rare Plant Auction® at Longwood Gardens A benefit that enriches urban neighborhoods through the power of plants. Join us at the 38th Annual Rare Plant Auction® on Saturday, April...

Cost: $125-$600

Where:
Longwood Garden
1001 Longwood Road
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: Delaware Center for Horticulture
Telephone: (302) 658-6262
Contact Name: Lenny Wilson
Website »

More information

Clark Wilson from East Liverpool, Ohio, is a favorite and master with silent films.  He is the house organist at the Ohio Theater and has recently been appointed to the Music Department staff of...

Cost: $20 Adults, $10 Students, Groups Call 302-995-2603

Where:
John Dickinson High School
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
View map »


Sponsor: Dickinson Theatre Organ Society
Telephone: 302-995-2603
Contact Name: Bob Dilworth
Website »

More information

Saturday, April 28, 8:00 p.m. Loudis Recital Hall Cap off the day-long Steel Band Festival (in Puglisi Orchestra Hall beginning at noon) with the featured festival concert.   There is no...

Cost: Free

Where:
Loudis Recital Hall
110 Orchard Rd
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: University of Delaware Department of Music
Telephone: 130-283-12578
Contact Name: Megan Everhart
Website »

More information

Our thoughts and our stage turn to music, mayhem and marriage with the multi-Tony nominated "The Wedding Singer". Shows are at 8pm on April 27 and 28, and May 4 and 5.  There are 2pm...

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-1172
Website »

More information

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