Q&A with the Late Father Roberto Balducelli, Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Wilmington

The Rev. Roberto Balducelli passed away on Friday, Aug. 9. Last December, DT interviewed the pastor at the site of one of his beloved projects: St. Anthony in the Hills in Avondale, Pa.


Published:

photograph by Anne Scorsone

The Rev. Roberto Balducelli, longtime pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Wilmington, passed away Friday, just hours before his 100th birthday.

Last December, we visited with Father Roberto at his beloved St. Anthony in the Hills, just over the state line in Avondale, Pa. Even at the age of 99, Father Roberto ventured to the camp almost daily to oversee the completion of the longtime project.

During our conversation, the retired priest described in great detail everything from the arrival of Italians in Wilmington to construction of the church, a grade school, Padua Academy and many other structures and programs.

Father Roberto stressed that the interview not be about him, but that it focus on the parish, its people and all of their accomplishments. He was most excited about the future use of St. Anthony in the Hills as a means to keep families of all races and religions as a strong unit.

—Drew Ostroski


DT: How did St. Anthony in the Hills come about?
RB: In 1959 I was named pastor at St. Anthony of Padua. And one day, about a year later, there were many kids playing inside and outside the church. It was summer. I said to one of my assistants, “We need a place for the kids to play.” He said, “You need a camp.” I said, “I know.” Before the war I was in Paris for three years. They had a camp there. So, in the evening, I met with one of our parishioners who was building new houses. I asked him if he could find a place to build a camp for kids. He said, “Tomorrow I will take you to see the place.” He picked me up and we traveled, traveled, traveled. I said, “Where are you going?” He said, “Pennsylvania.” I said, “Pennsylvania? I don’t want a camp in Pennsylvania.” He said, “It’s a nice place.” He said the only problem was, “I thought it was only 10 acres. I was going to buy it and give it to you because you have no money. But it’s 140 acres. They want $100,000.” I said, “Frank, let’s go home.” He said, “I want you to see it.” I went there and I see the place, all the trees. My god, I fell in love with it. But we had no money. So we didn’t talk about it for a year. I thought that if I talked to the bishop, he would say no. A year later I went to see the bishop. I said, “Bishop, we need a camp for kids.” He said, “What a great idea.” I said, “We have a place but it’s a forest.” He said, “Well, can you cut it down? The kids don’t want to play under the same tree for three months. Go ahead.” I expected to have difficulty. But he was pushing me. I said, “Bishop, it’s in Pennsylvania.” He said, “No problem.” So eventually we bought the place.

DT: I understand you were also involved with building a school around the same time.
RB: In the meantime we announced that we were opening Padua Academy, a high school for girls. We only had 12 girls. But when we made the announcement, we had demand from every parish. We had 70 girls right away. The grade school became too small. So we got permission to build Padua Academy.
One important point: When we built the church, then the grade school and the rectory, I realized that our men came from small villages in south Italy. They have a need of beauty. So we wanted to build a big, beautiful building. We had that in the grade school and we had that in the high school, too. It took seven years to build Padua Academy. We went to such a degree to build it beautifully, that at the end we wanted to have a really good decoration above the main entrance. We had bronze statues depicting the great women of Christianity. That thing cost $74,000. It was given by Ernie Delle Donne. We have a great interest in beauty. At Padua Academy in the floor, we have decorated the floors with all this.

DT: What was your vision for St. Anthony in the Hills?
RB: In 1974 we finished building Padua Academy. My question was now, “What are we going to do with the camp?” We hadn’t done anything at the camp because we were building Padua Academy. I remember during the presidential election that year that candidates from both parties said that if they were elected they would make a tremendous effort to strengthen the family unit because there was a sense of disintegration of the family at that time. The election was held and nothing happened. They did nothing at all. What is needed in society is more church. And family is the center of everything. So we wanted to build a camp and youth and family center—a place where the family can develop itself. We want facilities for everything. For instance, to have a playground for children from 1 to 5. The family can come there and have everything needed for small children. We would also have a place for older children: mini-golf, soccer fields, a swimming pool, etcetera. And at the end, we build a building for teenagers. That was the idea of what we wanted at the camp. We had no money, of course. No money whatsoever. So we could not even think that the church could pay for it.

DT: How did it become reality?
RB: Two people came up with the idea of having a fundraiser every year. Phil DiFebo of Feby’s came up with a crab feast. We did it and it made about $20,000 every time. Then another man, Harry Simeone, had the idea of having a golf tournament. We’ve had that for about 18 years now. So that raised about $60,000. It costs $40,000 a year just for insurance. All the construction of the camp was done with volunteer labor, machinery. The volunteer labor was done by companies like DiSabatino, John Julian building roads and things like that.

DT: Do you still have peacocks here?
RB: I do. Before I let them loose. I cannot anymore because the cars go by and the peacocks stand in the middle of the road and they don’t want to move. (He laughs.) But I built a place for them. We also have 40 rabbits. But they were disappearing. I said, “My god, who is taking my rabbits?” One day I was there and a big bird came down, grabbed a rabbit and flew away. So I said, “You cannot have them.” I built an immense cage. And I mean immense. It’s 100 feet long and 18 feet high. Inside I have goats and chickens and that’s where we have the peacocks. They are protected. The foxes cannot get in.

DT: How did you get the materials to build all of these buildings?
RB: Every building is done with recycled material. For instance, even the roads. The bottom of the road was dirt. At that time, they were rebuilding Route 7 and breaking the old concrete. I got all that concrete, mountains of it, and built the bottom of the roads. At that time, when they were paving Route 7, they didn’t know what to do with the leftover blacktop. I was getting them. People were saying, “You’re crazy.” People were saying, “Father Robert is getting all this junk. He’s ruining the camp.” But now you can’t get the concrete anymore. The state wants it. Same with the blacktop. They want it. I was doing it before them. And I was condemned for it. (He laughs.)

DT: How close are you to finishing the project?
RB: At this moment, the construction is more or less over. We have to finish the children’s playground and maybe one building. The idea is now to take care of the families. My idea that we’ve not done yet is to create an association of families—a membership. Because now people think they are a stranger. Can we come in? We use the camp now from Monday to Friday for children. Saturday and Sunday, nothing. We do have some people come to swim. So during that time we could have a family festival. This is important to me. To me, the family is the greatest necessity for the future both for the church and the states. We want a place with something that goes for father, mother and children. A place where they can go and be together and share with one another. A place to celebrate the family. That would be the interest in the future. That is the idea. And if we do that, then building the camp will have been worthwhile.

 

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Website »

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TACIT 2019 Friends' Juried Exhibition May 21 - September 26, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, June 7, 2019 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop Juried by Cynthia Hawkins...

Cost: FREE

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

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Commemorate the prolific artistic achievements of two distinguished Delaware artists at the Historic Odessa Foundation’s exhibit, The Keepers of Color: Paintings by Marilyn Bauman and Edward...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Historic Houses of Odessa
201 Main Street
Odessa, DE  19730
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Sponsor: Historic Odessa Foundation
Telephone: 302-378-4119-
Contact Name: Jennifer Cabell Kostik
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cusp The University of Delaware 2019 MFA Thesis Exhibition May 3 - May 30 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, May 3, 2019 | 5 - 9 PM during Art Loop In a joint venture with the...

Cost: FREE

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

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From the dazzling gold of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation robe to the simple sophistication of Princess Margaret’s wedding dress, from the majesty of royal crowns and tiaras to the comfort...

Cost: $6-$20

Where:
Winterthur Museum, Garden & Library
5105 Kennett Pike
5105 Kennett Pike
Winterthur, DE  19807
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Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
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Thursdays  Storytime at the Brandywine Zoo, 10:30 am. - 11:15 am Enjoy fun animal stories read by our own zoo story-telling team! Story Time may include a craft, activity, or live animal...

Cost: Adults $7, Seniors $5, Kids $5; free for under 3yrs and for Zoo members.

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Telephone: 302-571-7747
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Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
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Start your Sunday on the water with our delicious brunch cruise. Enjoy a mouth-watering brunch buffet, then begin a two-hour cruise along the beautiful Christina River out to the Delaware, complete...

Cost: $45 for Adults, $22,50 for Children 15 and Under

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-425-4890
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Relax and unwind after a long day with the Museum’s popular Happy Hour series. Mingle with friends and enjoy live music on the terrace or tour the galleries indoors. Special themed nights...

Cost: Museum Admission is Free

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Start your weekend early on the Queen! Enjoy all the sights of our River Cruise from the ship’s deck with a summer cocktail! Our Happy Hour Cruises take you down the Christina and provide weekly...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids: $12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-425-4890

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Book your party of 10+ people on The Patio & receive 10% off for everyone in your group, in addition to a reserved table! Offer available only when prearranged. The Patio at Market Kitchen...

Cost: Free admission

Where:
Market Kitchen & Bar at the Hilton Christiana
100 Continental Dr.
Newark, DE  19713
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Join the DelArt Readers, a community-led book club passionate about art-inspired literature. RSVP encouraged, but not required. Email ejarvis@delart.org. 

Cost: Free

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 KentemereParkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
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Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

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You’re Invited! Kind to Kids Foundation’s 8th Annual Spring Celebration Awards features Governor John Carney and U.S. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester, on Friday, May 31st, 7:30 am...

Cost: $40/ticket

Where:
Hotel du Pont Gold Ballroom
42 W 11th Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: Kind to Kids Foundation
Telephone: 302-654-5440
Contact Name: Colleen Aungst
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Plein Air, an exhibition of local landscape paintings by Jim Rehak, will be on view in the Mezzanine Gallery from May 3-31, 2019. The artist will host a free opening reception on Friday, May 3 from...

Cost: Free

Where:
Mezzanine Gallery
2nd Floor, Carvel Building
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
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Helena van Emmerik-Finn  “Anything Goes” ~ Pastels & Oil Paintings Opening Reception to Meet the Artist – Friday, May 3, 5 – 8 PM   Helena’s...

Cost: free

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

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March 23 – August 4, 2019 Edward Loper, Sr. is one of Delaware’s most celebrated artists, having lived his entire life in the state and taught generations of local artists. His son,...

Cost: Free with admission.

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentmere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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TACIT 2019 Friends' Juried Exhibition May 21 - September 26, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, June 7, 2019 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop Juried by Cynthia Hawkins...

Cost: FREE

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


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

Commemorate the prolific artistic achievements of two distinguished Delaware artists at the Historic Odessa Foundation’s exhibit, The Keepers of Color: Paintings by Marilyn Bauman and Edward...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Historic Houses of Odessa
201 Main Street
Odessa, DE  19730
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Odessa Foundation
Telephone: 302-378-4119-
Contact Name: Jennifer Cabell Kostik
Website »

More information

From the dazzling gold of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation robe to the simple sophistication of Princess Margaret’s wedding dress, from the majesty of royal crowns and tiaras to the comfort...

Cost: $6-$20

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


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

Where:
The Delaware Contemporary
200 South Madison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

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Every Friday | 10:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.   Read a story fromFairy Tales to Nursery Rhymes, explore art, and create. Ages 2+. Family Friendly.  

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

Where:
Delaware Art Museum
2301 Kentemere Parkway
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

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The Milton Farmers’ Market is held each Friday from April 19th until October 4th  (except September 27th) from 3:00 pm to 6:00 pm at 6 Village Center Boulevard, Milton, DE  19968.

Cost: Free

Where:
Grounds of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery
6 Village Center Boulevard
Milton, DE  19968
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Sponsor: Milton Farmers' Market
Contact Name: KA Jordan
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Join us for a 1.5 hour sightseeing tour along the historic Christiana River. View the city from this unique vantage point, and enjoy picturesque scenes crossing over the Brandywine River out to the...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids:12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 302-425-4890

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Kick off the summer at the Museum’s annual community festival in the Copeland Sculpture Garden. Tickets available at delart.org or at the door.Family Friendly.    

Cost: $10 Members, $15 Non-Members. Free for Youth Members, $5 for Youth Non-Members.

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

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
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Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

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Experience the city like never before on this special evening version of our tour! The city's lights make this a romantic evening along the water. Enjoy a full-bar and delicious snacks while you...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids: $12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-425-4890

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Please join the Western Sussex Chamber of Commerce for the 8th Annual Broad Creek Bike & Brew! We offer 15-mile, 25-mile, 50-mile, metric century and century routes. Rides include historic...

Cost: $25-$50

Where:
North Laurel Elementary School
300 Wilson Street
Laurel, DE  19956
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Sponsor: Western Sussex Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 302-629-9690
Contact Name: Casey Johnson
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10th Annual Car Show for The Shriners Hospital for Children presented by Endeavor Lodge No. 17 AM&FM of Milton De...

Cost: free

Where:
Rt.1 & Rt.5
Rt. 1 (Coastal Hwy) & RT 5 (Union Street Extension)
Milton, DE  19968
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Sponsor: Endeavor Lodge No. 17 AM&FM
Telephone: 302 354 1232
Contact Name: Bruce McKinney
Website »

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Delaware Pride is pleased to announce that the 2019 Delaware Pride Parade and Festival is moving from August to a brand new date in June!!  This year’s annual Pride festival is set...

Cost: FREE ADMISSION

Where:
411 Legislative Ave Dover De.
411 Legilative Ave
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: DELAWARE PRIDE
Telephone: 302-265-3020
Contact Name: Steven Newman
Website »

More information

Helena van Emmerik-Finn  “Anything Goes” ~ Pastels & Oil Paintings Opening Reception to Meet the Artist – Friday, May 3, 5 – 8 PM   Helena’s...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

TACIT 2019 Friends' Juried Exhibition May 21 - September 26, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, June 7, 2019 5 - 9 PM during first Friday Art Loop Juried by Cynthia Hawkins...

Cost: FREE

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


Sponsor: The Delaware Contemporary
Telephone: 302-656-6466
Contact Name: Tatiana Michels
Website »

More information

Commemorate the prolific artistic achievements of two distinguished Delaware artists at the Historic Odessa Foundation’s exhibit, The Keepers of Color: Paintings by Marilyn Bauman and Edward...

Cost: Free with admission

Where:
Historic Houses of Odessa
201 Main Street
Odessa, DE  19730
View map »


Sponsor: Historic Odessa Foundation
Telephone: 302-378-4119-
Contact Name: Jennifer Cabell Kostik
Website »

More information

March 23 – August 4, 2019 Edward Loper, Sr. is one of Delaware’s most celebrated artists, having lived his entire life in the state and taught generations of local artists. His son,...

Cost: Free with admission.

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

More information

From the dazzling gold of Queen Elizabeth’s coronation robe to the simple sophistication of Princess Margaret’s wedding dress, from the majesty of royal crowns and tiaras to the comfort...

Cost: $6-$20

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


Telephone: 800-448-3883
Contact Name: Information & Tours
Website »

More information

Inaugural Courageous Kids Walk     Glasgow Regional Park: Door of Hope, Inaugural Courageous Kids Walk in the Park.   Time: registration from 9:00 AM – 10:00...

Cost: $25 individual $35 family

Where:
Glasgow Regional Park
Rt 40
Newark, DE  19702
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Sponsor: Door of Hope & RSDSA
Telephone: 302-757-2649
Contact Name: Russ Mauk & Linda Horan
Website »

More information

NEW HEIGHTS Erica Loustau  January 11 - December 11, 2019 Opening Reception: Friday, January 11, 2019  7 - 9 PM Seeking to engage the unused space of our atrium lobby, artist...

Cost: FREE

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


Telephone: 130-265-66466
Website »

More information

Schedule a private group tour followed by lunch or dinner with a historic, revolutionary war era presentation.* Ideal for conferences, corporate meetings, special interest groups. $25 per...

Cost: $25–$45

Where:
The University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
View map »


Sponsor: The University and Whist Club
Telephone: 302-658-5125
Contact Name: Stacey Inglis
Website »

More information

Our first office in The First State is officially open and welcoming new smiles in Wilmington.  We’re so excited to share our talents and unique brand of warm and caring...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Children's Dental Health of Wilmington
3301 Lancaster Pike
Units 3E-3F
Wilmington, DE  19805
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Website »

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Rain Date: Saturday, June 8, 2019   Professional Judged Categories   First 60 Cars Receive Dash Plaques & Goodie Bags DJ Steve Petrelli Playing the Tunes   Pre-Registration $10...

Cost: 20.00 Registration

Where:
Country House
4830 Kennett Pike
Wimington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hockessin-Greenville Rotary Club
Telephone: 302-983-6966
Contact Name: LaBarre Everette
Website »

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Daily, Keeper Talks, 11:30am & 1:30pm, Additional program on weekends at 2:30pm. Learn about the zoo animals from the people who take care of them. Get fascinating insights into your favorite...

Cost: Admission: Adults $7, Seniors $5, Kids $5; free for under 3yrs and for Zoo membe

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Telephone: 302-571-7737
Website »

More information

Every Sat. & Sun.: Creature Features, Noon- 12:30pm, www.brandywinezoo.org (302) 571-7747 Stop by our Creature Feature for a close encounter with one of our zoo education animals. Meet a scaled,...

Cost: Adults $ 5, Seniors $4, Kids $3; free for under 3yrs and for members.

Where:
Brandywine Zoo
1001 North Park Drive
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for a 1.5 hour sightseeing tour along the historic Christiana River. View the city from this unique vantage point, and enjoy picturesque scenes crossing over the Brandywine River out to the...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids:12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-425-4890

More information

The Lighthouse Inc. Church presenta el servicio de la iglesia en espanol.  El servicio de la iglesia en espanol comenzia 14 de merzo de 2019.  Hables espanol?  Entonces este es el...

Cost: free

Where:
The Lighthouse Inc., Church
6 S Railroad Ave
Wyoming, DE  19934-1026
View map »


Sponsor: The Lighthouse Inc.Church
Telephone: 302-697-1472
Contact Name: Christopher Gore

More information

Experience the city like never before on this special evening version of our tour! The city's lights make this a romantic evening along the water. Enjoy a full-bar and delicious snacks while you...

Cost: Adults: $24 Seniors: $20 Kids: $12

Where:
Riverboat Queen
Riverwalk Public Dock, Behind Iron Hill
620 Justison Street
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Telephone: 302-425-4890

More information

The Rocky Horror Picture Show This interactive movie experience combines film and live performers. The cult-classic is a humorous tribute to the science fiction and horror B movies of the late...

Cost: 9

Where:
Theatre N
235 W. 10th St
Wilmington, DE  19801
View map »


Sponsor: Frankie's Midnight Runners
Telephone: 302-571-4075
Contact Name: Richard
Website »

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