Mike and Linda Parkowski: Home in Kent County, Delaware

The Parkowskis are living their dream at bucolic Walnut Hill.



The Parkowskis enjoy the view from their spacious terrace.

The winding lane that leads to the big brick house at Walnut Hill is a mile long, from the mailbox on the main road to the sweeping stairs of the front porch, a pleasant ride by car, bicycle or pickup truck through unspoiled countryside.

Walnut Hill is home to Linda and Mike Parkowski, who share a deep and abiding appreciation for the natural beauty of Kent County. She is the director of the Delaware Office of Tourism. He is director of Parkowski, Guerke & Swayze, a leading environmental law firm, and drafted the legislation that created the Delaware Agricultural Lands Preservation Foundation, the public body that purchases development rights to preserve farmlands.

“When I get to the end of the driveway, I know I’m home,” Linda Parkowski says. “This is our dream house, our last house.”

The farm stretches over 225 acres, a blend of rolling green and wetlands that provides a natural habitat for waterfowl.

In deciding where to build their nest, the Parkowskis chose a large, level plot set far back from a rural byway, a location that provides them with bucolic views from every vantage point.

“Mike is very analytical,” Parkowski says. “He looked and looked at the property until he knew exactly where the house should go.”

A grand entrance welcomes visitors to this brick beauty.Building a Vision

The couple also had a clear vision for how they wanted their home to look and feel. Among the must-haves was plenty of room for their blended family of four adult children, who are frequent visitors. An in-law suite for Linda’s mom also was a priority.

“Because we love the outdoors, we wanted our home to have a little bit of a lodge feeling,” she says. “I also am drawn to the colors and style of Tuscany and the timeless look of homes in Europe.”

Starting from scratch opens up a world of opportunities—and a galaxy of choices.

The Parkowskis began with an ambitious wish list that included every amenity they could possibly want in their dream home, with the intention of gathering competitive bids for the project.

“We found out that building a house could be far more expensive than we had ever imagined,” Parkowski recalls.

So they started fine tuning their list, intent on maintaining a realistic budget.

But how to make the wisest choices? The Parkowskis turned to value engineering to decide which elements would most enhance their home—and what amenities would not contribute to the quality of the property.

 

The gathering room is two stories high and features a stone fireplace and Mike Parkowski’s hunting trophies.A Value Proposition

Value engineering—VE for short—is a systematic method for improving the value of a product by balancing its function and cost. The concept was rolled out by General Electric during World War II, when materials were scarce and the company was looking for cost-effective substitutes. The principles of VE can be adapted to just about any project, including building a house.

A proposed slate roof with a jaw-dropping price tag was the first item trimmed from the wish list.

“It would have been beautiful but slate isn’t any more effective than any other material in doing what a roof is supposed to do,” Parkowski says. “Value engineering helped us to see that clearly.”

A sumptuous master suite with a luxury bathroom and walk-in closets stayed firmly on the list. Ditto for recessed lighting and a surround-sound music system. Those amenities enhance daily life for the homeowners and also add to the property value.

Other niceties can wait. The billiards room has been deferred. But the infrastructure is in place, a plumbed and wired lower level that will be outfitted for recreation in a future project.

The Parkowskis kept track of their choices on an Excel spreadsheet, creating a detailed list of features and materials.

“There was the appliance tab, the wood tab, the cabinet tab and so on,” she says. “When we met with the builders, they knew exactly what finishes they would be bidding on.”

 

A U-shaped bar in the kitchen is outfitted with an ice maker, beverage fridge and wine chiller.Worth the Wait

After two years of planning and construction, the results are spectacular, a blend of rustic warmth and grand expanses.

“Our goal was to have a home that feels welcoming and cozy but with plenty of room for people to get together,” Linda Parkowski says.

The heart of the home is a gathering room with a dramatic stone fireplace flanked by expanses of glass that offer a vista of the outdoors. The soaring height of the space, a full two stories high, includes a gallery for trophies captured by Mike, who has hunted game around the world from the frosty reaches of the Canadian Arctic to the mountains of New Zealand.

There’s a large seating area for conversation or watching TV. In that space, Mike’s priority was his leather club chair, worn to the perfect state of comfort after 15 years.

“The entire palette was centered around Mike’s chair,” she recalls.

She started with the pale tan of the chair, and then added sofas and chairs upholstered in a relaxed mix of light and dark leathers, accented with masculine nailhead trim. The floors are Brazilian cherry.

The couple went to an Amish sawmill west of Dover to select wood for the mantel. At Walnut Hill, there could be no other choice than black walnut. They found a slab, cut from a single massive tree, which was kiln-dried and set into the stone.

Keeping a merry blaze crackling on wintry nights requires a steady stream of split logs and kindling. The backs of the large wood storage bins on either side of the fireplace are actually doors that open to the outdoor terrace, which makes loading wood a much easier—and less messy—task.

The kitchen is open to the gathering area, a warm and inviting space with cherry cabinets stained in deep, rich mahogany tones and dark, shimmering granite countertops.

“I wanted a full-bodied color scheme in the kitchen, like a great Cabernet,” she says.

For the kitchen floor, she chose ceramic tile that gives the space an Old World flavor. The cherry on top: Tile is a snap to maintain. Installing extra large, 16-inch tiles instead of standard 12-inch flooring yielded double benefits. First, there are fewer grout lines. And bigger tiles offer the visual trick of making the floor appear more expansive.

A U-shaped bar, outfitted with an ice maker, beverage fridge and wine chiller, bridges the kitchen and gathering room and is ideal for large parties.

Because the couple enjoys entertaining, a formal dining area was a priority. The Parkowskis also wanted to architecturally define the space without cutting it off from the rest of the gathering area.

In keeping with that spirit, walls would not do. Columns would break the sight line between the dining area and the gathering room. The solution was to create a half wall you can see through, custom made from turned, wrought-iron spindles topped with a wooden railing.

 

The master bath features a freestanding soaking tub surrounded by columns.Friends and Family

With 7,800 square feet, there is plenty of room to accommodate family and friends. There are guest suites for the kids and a two-bedroom apartment for Linda’s mother.

“It’s wonderful having my mom with us in a way that enables her to enjoy her own space,” she says.

The focal point of the couple’s master bath is a freestanding soaking tub surrounded by four stately columns. The super-size shower turns out to be the perfect place to wash the family’s Labrador retriever.

Outdoors, a terrace wraps around the back of the house. In the warmer months, it’s a great place for alfresco entertaining. When there’s a nip in the air, the Parkowskis gather around the firepit.

In planning the terrace, Linda envisioned a smooth expanse of stone. Nothing choppy or bumpy. “I didn’t want pavers,” she says. “I wanted something that would be set on concrete and then grouted.”

The couple went to a stone yard in Pennsylvania to explore their options. They settled on sandstone, with undulating bands in shades that vary from buff to umber. The stone looks as if it might have been quarried in the American southwest but came from much further afield.

“When we asked why it would take so long to be delivered, we found out it’s from India,” Linda recalls.

There also is a smaller, more intimate open-air dining space located off the kitchen, with tranquil sylvan views. Retractable screens concealed in the framing don’t obstruct the vista but keep the bugs at bay.

“They are called phantom screens,” Linda says. “It’s a wonderful invention, the one thing we would never want to be without.” 

 

Get the Look
  • Let the land speak to you. Walnut Hill encompasses 225 acres and Mike Parkowski evaluated the entire landscape in siting the house in the precise spot that would provide sylvan views from every room. The earthy bricks on the exterior are in harmony with the outdoors.
  • Think logistically. Exterior doors allow the couple to load firewood directly from the outdoors into storage bins on either side of the fireplace. A ramp allows easy access to the terrace.
  • Be a savvy shopper. Linda Parkowski found a massive pair of custom front doors she loves at a price she could easily embrace by comparison shopping with both brick-and-mortar and online suppliers. Her savings: 50 percent.
  • Fine tune your wish list. The Parkowskis established a list of must-haves, such as a spacious master suite, as well as things they can live without, like a slate roof.
  • Invest in pragmatic solutions that enhance your enjoyment of your home. Retractable screens on an open-air porch keep the bugs at bay, allowing the family to dine outdoors and drink in a pastoral view.
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January 2017

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Sports Card & Collectible Show at Aetna Fire Hall on Jan. 22—sign up now! -Sports Cards McFarlane Figures Comic Books Non-Sports cards Wrestling Items Vintage Starting...

Cost: $2

Where:
Aetna Fire Hall
400 Ogletown Road
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: A2Z Promotions
Telephone: 302-983-2636
Contact Name: Bob Harper
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Belly Dance Classes with Zahra Beginner & intermediate classes open to teens and adults Sundays in January starting Jan 8th Beginner: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Intermediate: 1 - 2 p.m (must get...

Cost: $15-$42

Where:
Take the Lead Studio
320 Lantana Drive
Hockessin , DE  19711
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Sponsor: Take the Lead
Contact Name: Zahra
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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Ah, typecasting—the baritone is always the bad guy! In Devils, Drunks & Dastardly Dudes, we’ll go on an operatic journey of men behaving badly. We’ll add a tenor to the mix, too… but we...

Cost: $29-$59

Where:
OperaDelaware Studio
4 South Poplar St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: OperaDelaware
Telephone: 302-442-7809
Contact Name: Mary Wilcosky
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Come give curling a try! At this 2-hour intro-to-curling event we'll provide a basic lesson then coach you through a mini-game.  Whether you just want to cross #curling off your bucket list or...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Pond Ice Arena
101 John Campbell Rd
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: Diamond State Curling Club
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Notbybreadalone Ministries presents Feeding the Hungry Outreach. All are welcome to come and partake of food, fun and fellowship. Those who desire a better way of life through Jesus Christ are...

Cost: Free

Where:
2nd and 3rd Streets
Wilmington, DE  19801


Sponsor: Notbybreadalone Outreach Ministries
Telephone: 442-0440
Contact Name: Ministers Wayne and Stephanie Dumpson
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Guest speakers Patty Dailey-Lewis, executive director of the Beau Biden Foundation, and Delaware Family Court commissioner Loretta Young will discuss how participation in social media can too...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilmington University - Dover
Building A Auditorium
3282 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: Wilmington University College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Telephone: 302-295-1164
Contact Name: Dr. Johanna Bishop
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmers Market Nov 8, 2016 - April 11, 2017  11 am- 2 pm 25 vendors Location:  East Coast Garden Center 30366 Cordrey Rd Millsboro, DE 19966 302-945-3489

Cost: frr

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Sponsor: East Coast Garden Center
Telephone: 302-945-3489
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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmer's Marke 25 vendors

Cost: Free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Telephone: 302-945-3489
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

A four-week series of ballroom dancing classes taught by teachers from the BlueBallroom. Tuesdays starting Jan. 10. Classes are $30 a lesson for Non-Members. Non-Member slots are limited. For...

Cost: $30

Where:
University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

More information

Thursdays from 4:00PM-5:30PM Fall session: December 1st, 8th and 15th Winter session: Starts January 19th, every other Thursday until March 30th This program is based entirely outdoors and is...

Cost: Cost: $30 for TLC members / $40 for non-members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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MARC BROUSSARD In 2004, Marc Broussard, then a precocious 22-year-old singer/songwriter, released his major-label debut; he called it Carencro, after the Louisiana town where he was born and...

Cost: $22 SRO- $32 SEATED

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
Website »

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tutto Fresco has live entertainment every Friday night from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Call for details. http://tuttofrescode.com/

Where:
Tutto Fresco
514 Philadelphia Pike
Wilmington, DE  19809
View map »

More information

The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-3396
Contact Name: Kathy Buterbaugh
Website »

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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

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


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

January 28 – Saturday – 1 to 4 p.m. Science Saturday – Truss Me, You Won’t Fall! Become an engineer for the day. Design a bridge to hold as much weight as possible....

Cost: Activities are included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
Website »

More information

The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

GRILLED CHEESE AND CRAFT BEER TASTING We have taken two of the best things on earth and paired them together – Grilled Cheese and Craft Beer – and paired them together in unexpected and...

Cost: $40

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
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Saturday, January 28, 2017 at  7:30 pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 763 Valley Forge Rd, Wayne, PA 19087 Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3 pm at Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square...

Cost: Tickets are $25 online, and $30 at the door. Student tickets $10 at the door.

Where:
Church of the Holy Trinity
1904 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA  19103
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Sponsor: Lyric Fest
Telephone: 215-438-1702
Contact Name: Jessica Nelson
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Fan favorite, Dick Smith, returns to the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society concert stage on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 for a show that is sure to bring the house down! Dick Smith has been a...

Cost: $15 Adults; $10 Students

Where:
John Dickinson High School Auditorium
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
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Sponsor: Dickinson Theatre Organ Society
Telephone: 302-995-2603
Contact Name: Bob Dilworth
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The Dickinson Theatre Organ Society presents Dick Smith. For tickets, click here: http://www.dtoskimball.org/events-tickets/ticket-information/ For further information, please call us at...

Where:
, DE

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Cost: $12-$20

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


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-3396
Contact Name: Kathy Buterbaugh
Website »

More information

MOTHERSHIP Mothership is the area's premier Led Zeppelin Tribute show. Composed of seasoned, professional musicians Mario Padovani - vocals, keyboards, Frank Ginocchio - drums, Chris Julian -...

Cost: 15

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Website »

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