Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Newark, Delaware

Tending Their Flock: Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research has been helping our feathered friends for more than 30 years.



A volunteer uses a small paintbrush to feed water to a nestling-age American robin.

Photograph by Carlos Alejandro

If you make your way to the very end of a narrow road called Possum Hollow, you’ll find yourself at a rehab facility designed for the greatest possible comfort of its patients. The staff and volunteers are trained to deal with anything from minor illness and injury to major trauma. For the most part, things run smoothly. But chaos can ensue if one of the patients slips out of its cage to soar around the nursery.

Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research has been dedicated to saving birds since 1976. After the sixth major oil spill in the northeastern United States in a three-year period, passionate wildlife activist Lynne Frink founded Tri-State to study the effects of oil on wildlife and to work on developing effective treatment protocols.

Mallard ducklings. Photograph by Carlos Alejandro

In 1982 Tri-State opened a full-time wild bird rehabilitation and research facility in response to community need. By 1989 it had outgrown its original facility and staff opened the Frink Center for Wildlife in Newark, which serves as its headquarters.

Inside the Frink, there is an unsettling chorus that seems to come from a legion of invisible songbirds. As I found out on my second visit, that notion is actually close to the truth; the bird sounds come from a recording meant to block out human noises and make the patients feel like they are in their natural habitat. The building is a renovated barn with a reception area, examination room, nursery, oil spill facility, and outdoor aviaries and pools.

Today, Tri-State is the largest bird rescue facility east of the Mississippi. But even with 250 volunteers who donate more than 30,000 hours to Tri-State a year, it never seems like enough.

On a typical Tuesday, Mary VanderDussen volunteers for five hours to care for dozens of goslings, ducklings and songbirds. Today she’s caring for a bald eagle and a great horned owl. Since she started in May, VanderDussen has put many extra miles on her car driving to Tri-State from her home in North Wilmington. She usually goes home at 6 p.m, but she has stayed until 8 p.m. when the clinic was short on volunteers. Tonight seems like one of those nights.

A recipe board for the birds. Photograph by Carlos Alejandro

“You get to see all the non-glamorous work we do,” VanderDussen says.

It may not be glamorous, but it’s important. Tri-State gives second chances to more than 3,000 wild birds a year in the clinic alone. That number does not include the wildlife the organization cleans and rehabilitates at oil spills. Since 1990 alone, Tri-State’s Oil Spill Response Team has tackled more than 80 oil spills on three continents.

After Tri-State’s annual open house in early May, I meet with Julie Bartley, volunteer and office manager, occasional receptionist, and the person who does whatever else needs to be done. The clinic has treated 425 birds (at the time), she explains, adding that it has not reached its peak season yet— baby bird season. Volunteers brace themselves for the rapid increase in patients they will experience during that season.

Julie Bartley (left) watches as volunteer Mary VanderDussen cares for baby American robins. Photo by Carlos Alejandro

VanderDussen sets up a makeshift nest that she’ll use for an ailing bald eagle that volunteer Jim Amundsen has just brought in a large crate to the reception area.

Bartley takes the eagle to the examination room where a hood is placed on its head to help calm him, and to save veterinarian Dr. Erica Miller’s fingers from its sharp, powerful beak. Bartley says the eagle must be at least 5 years old. That’s when eagles get their white head and tail feathers.

This particular eagle comes from Rock Hall, Md., where a motorist found him on the side of the road with wing injuries that likely resulted from a fight with another eagle. Amundsen, whose job mostly entails transporting birds to and from the rescue, has never transported an eagle before, and is fascinated by its grandeur.

In addition to rescuing America’s national birds, volunteers at Tri-State have some less glamorous tasks to accomplish, like cleaning up after the birds and feeding them.

VanderDussen sets up the eagle’s recovery nest in a playpen layered with a garbage bag, newspaper and a fitted sheet, which is all covered by a net. She gets the bird a bowl of water and chats with Emily Brunner, one of three clinic supervisors. Brunner is busy cutting in half dead mice and rats to feed to hawks and owls. The freezer is packed with the ill-fated rodents, meat and bags of crickets. It all comes from a commercial supplier,

I mention that Tri-State would make an excellent episode of “Dirty Jobs.”

“No one appreciates how gross it can be,” Brunner says. “I don’t gross out that easily, I’ll put it that way.”

“My mantra here is ‘Ew!’” VanderDussen adds.

I follow her to her next task: cleaning out the playpens of five orphaned ducklings and goslings. We go into the nursery room where the baby birds rest from the stress of losing their families. No one is sure what happened to the ducklings’ mother, but, sadly, the rest of the gosling family was hit by a car just yesterday.

After moving the babies into a bathtub to swim and exercise, VanderDussen starts to take apart their playpens for cleaning. Each one has a large stuffed duck or goose, a log, a feather duster, and a mirror. VanderDussen says they like the company.

An intern fixes supper. Photograph by Carlos Alejandro

“Everything but a mint on the pillow,” she says.

None of the birds at Tri-State are given names. They’re given numbers. The goal is to rehabilitate them and release them back into the wild. But sometimes the rule is overlooked in order to more easily identify a bird. For example, the duckling with the injured leg’s chart is called Gimpy. The one with a sutured neck is Stitches.

They’re not the only ones who have eluded the no-name rule. Outside, where there are large aviaries and pools for healthier birds, one cage is dedicated to the memory of a beloved barn owl and heron. Their names were Barney and Heronie.

I tell VanderDussen I find the baby birds’ fuzzy down feathers irresistibly cute. She says she would feel the same way if she were not the one cleaning up after the babies.

“I just want to put a diaper on their little feathery butts,” she says.

After their playpens are cleaned, VanderDussen makes up trays of duck pellets and chopped romaine lettuce in a bowl of water, which sounds reasonably appetizing compared to the highly nutritious, but slightly cannibalistic songbird platter VanderDussen also prepares: an egg yolk, wet kitten kibble, a dead cricket and fruit.

A baby blue jay enjoys a spritz. Photograph by Carlos Alejandro

Before retiring and starting to volunteer at Tri-State a year ago, VanderDussen served a different kind of platter: trays of airplane food and cocktails. She was a first-class flight attendant with US Airways for 35 years.

“I always say, ‘If they could see me now,’” she laughs as she dumps a can of a/d (tubing diet for carnivores) into a blender with baby formula.

Tri-State volunteers go through stages of training from basic bird care to oil spill response, which requires a lot of experience at the clinic. Unfortunately, several student volunteers leave within the first six months. Many are college students who find that they have other priorities. The volunteers who are trained in oil spill response put it to good use.

VanderDussen trained at an oil spill workshop in December, and in January, she helped with the New Jersey Transit diesel spill.

Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Newark goes out on a limb to help birds of all types. Photograph by Carlos AlejandroBartley told me that Tri-State also played a major role in the rescue efforts following the massive BP oil spill in 2010. Tri-State was the main bird rescue on site, and Bartley explained that BP covered all expenses for the team to travel and get supplies. They went through countless toothbrushes and bottles of blue Dawn dish soap—the essential tools for cleaning oiled birds. The people at Tri-State use exclusively the blue-colored original Dawn formula because research has determined it to be the most effective and safest type of soap for cleaning oiled birds.

Even in the 120-degree heat of Mississippi, the team wore full yellow protective suits, goggles or masks, and two pairs of rubber gloves to protect their skin from the oil. It took three hours for each bird to go through the cleaning process.

Bartley says her experience working at Tri-State has affected her in a profound way. “It’s helped me pay attention to things I wouldn’t normally pay attention to,” she says.

Tri-State is hoping that others will follow suit and pay more attention to the things they do that adversely affect wild birds. Eighty-five percent of the birds treated in the clinic have been harmed by human activity like the use of pesticides, oil spills, or allowing cats to roam freely.

“We are their stewards and need to do all we can to ensure their survival,” Bartley says.

Today, there are no major environmental disasters to respond to, but there are still hundreds of avian lives in the hands of the staff and volunteers. There is a cacophony of squawks, chirps, quacks, screeches and ringing phones. There is the bald eagle to tend to, and a new patient, a great horned owl in need of immediate care that is possibly a victim of the West Nile virus.

It’s after 5 p.m. and VanderDussen still has about an hour’s worth of cleaning and feeding to do. But she doesn’t mind, she says, “ I come home exhausted with a big silly grin on my face.”

(Allison Kane is a senior at the University of Delaware.)

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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:...

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The Station Gallery
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January 14, 15, 16 – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Invention Convention Lights, camera, action! This year’s Invention Convention features hands-on video...

Cost: $8 for adults, $6 for children between 4 and 14, and free for children under 4 a

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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
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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
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Join Rachel Binkley of Rocker Soaps + Herbals for a fun and information filled class. We will make soap, learn how to make a soap recipe and get tips and techniques to make it easier for you at...

Cost: 40

Where:
Elements of Nutrition
4710 Kirkwood Hwy
Wilmington, DE  19808
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Sponsor: Rocker Soaps + Herbals
Telephone: 302-544-0391
Contact Name: Rachel Binkley
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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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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society will present its popular What Makes Us Tick? program during the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend, January 13-15. This analytical film and discussion series...

Cost: $9 - $10

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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BROKEN ARROW: A NEIL YOUNG TRIBUTE Broken Arrow delivers the music of Neil Young; both the rockin' electric guitar driven favorites and the more country flavored classics with pedal steel and...

Cost: $12 ADV- $14 DOS

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
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Learn how climate change affects our world with hands-on activities that can relate to explorers of all ages. Arctic Adventure and Rainforest Explorer visitors can take on the role of an Arctic...

Cost: Adults: $9 Children (3-17): $7 Seniors (60+): $8 Under 3: FREE Members: FREE

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-658-9111
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When the kids have a day off but the parents don’t, let them spend the day off of school doing something really cool…having fun at DMNH! Enjoy games, crafts, activities, and even a hot dog...

Cost: $20 for Members, $25 for Non-Members.

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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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
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

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Science is for everyone! Join us for hands on crafts and activities that highlight science contributions to natural history from scientists all around the world. Learn how YOU can make a difference...

Cost: Free with Admission

Where:
Delaware Museum of Natural History
4840 Kennett Pike
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Telephone: 130-265-89111
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January 14, 15, 16 – Saturday, Sunday, and Monday – 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Invention Convention Lights, camera, action! This year’s Invention Convention features hands-on video...

Cost: $8 for adults, $6 for children between 4 and 14, and free for children under 4 a

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
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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 »

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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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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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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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The Cinema & the Arts film series proudly presents a screening of the documentary ART BASTARD on  Tuesday, January 17, 7:00 pm, at Cinema Art Theater, 17701 Dartmouth Drive in Dartmouth Plaza,...

Cost: $9

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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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 »

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The Division of Public Health offers its annual free flu vaccination event in the Legislative Hall Library, ground floor, 411 Legislative Ave., Dover, DE, on January 18, 2017, from 11:00 a.m. to...

Cost: FREE

Where:
Legislative Hall Library
411 Legislative Ave.
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: Division of Public Health
Telephone: 800-282-8672
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Do you want to learn how to make soap? This is your chance! Join me for a fun and informative class @ Liquid Alchemy. I will teach you how to create your own recipe and the in-and-outs of soap...

Cost: 45.00

Where:
Liquid Alchemy
28 Brookside Dr.
Wilmington, DE  19804
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Sponsor: Rocker Soaps + Herbals
Telephone: 302-544-0391
Contact Name: Rachel Binkley
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Do you want to learn how to make soap? This is your chance! Join me for a fun and informative class @ Liquid Alchemy. I will teach you how to create your own recipe and the in-and-outs of soap...

Cost: 45

Where:
Liquid Alchemy
28 Brookside Dr.
, DE  19804
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Sponsor: Rocker Soaps + Herbals
Telephone: 302-544-0391
Contact Name: Rachel Binkley
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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
View map »


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

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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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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 - Doberstein Admissions Ctr.
320 N DuPont Highway
New Castle, DE  19805
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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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The 3rd Place and Bike Lane Cafe along with WestSide Grows and Delaware Permaculture bring you the West 7th Street Bazaar.  Happening EVERY 3rd Thursday from January through May, there will be...

Cost: Free Admission

Where:
The 3rd Place
1139 W. 7th Street
Wilmington, DE  19805
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Sponsor: West Side Grows
Telephone: 302-690-9459
Contact Name: Delaware Permaculture
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January 19 – Thursday – 6:30 p.m. Research Seminar: Amyrs Williams (Wesleyan University) – Reimagining the Modern Farm The seminar is open to the public and is based on a paper that is...

Cost: $0

Where:
Copeland Room, Hagley Library
298 Buck Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum & Library
Telephone: (302) 65802400
Contact Name: Carol Lockman
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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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HIGH & MIGHTY BRASS BAND There’s a reason that musical trailblazers from Galactic to DJ Logic have recently chosen to collaborate with High and Mighty Brass Band! and legends such as Dr. John,...

Cost: $15

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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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
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Formed in 1992, Splintered Sunlight quickly became the most popular Grateful Dead Tribute band in the Philadelphia area, gaining praise from Dead Heads and Non Heads alike. Since that time,...

Cost: $10

Where:
World Cafe Live At The Queen
500 N Market St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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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
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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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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 »

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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

Amateur and professional creators from the Wilmington community and beyond will sketch, paint and sculpt side-by-side with DCAD students, alumni, faculty and staff as nude and costumed male...

Cost: $30 per person

Where:
Delaware College of Art and Design
600 N. Market St.
Wilmington, DE  19081
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Sponsor: Delaware College of Art and Design
Telephone: 302-622-8000 x 123
Contact Name: Mark Tajzler
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From foxes and beavers to cats and dogs, all mammals benefit from open space! Discover the signs of mammals in winter and learn about human impact on mammal habitat and population survival. Join...

Cost: FREE for TLC members / $10 for non-members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society and the Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation are proud to present The Metropolitan Opera’s live broadcast of Charles Gounod’s ROMÉO ET JULIETTE on Saturday,...

Cost: $15 - $25

Where:
Cape Henlopen High School Theater
1250 Kings Highway
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 130-264-59095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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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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Coastal Concerts in downtown Lewes will host a presentation by one of the most recognized, honored and versatile musicians in the world, the legendary two-time Grammy Award-winning clarinetist...

Cost: $30. Ages 10-18 and one adult per youth.

Where:
Bethel United Methodist Church Fellowship Hall
Fourth & Market Streets
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Coastal Concerts, Inc.
Telephone: 888-212-6458
Contact Name: Edna Ellett
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Ovations Dinner Theatre hosts an interactive Mafia Murder Mystery dinner. Ticket includes a 3-course Italian dinner and the performance. Tickets are $45 for Non-Members and Non-Member seating is...

Cost: 45

Where:
Ballroom at University and Whist Club
805 N. Broom St.
Wilmington, DE  19806
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Bethany Beach – When local businessman Tim Hill was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (“ALS”) in 2014, he set on a mission to help other people who were diagnosed with...

Cost: $20 General Admission

Where:
Frankford Fire Hall
7 Main Street
Frankford, DE  19945
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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 »

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AM RADIO Have you ever perked up when the radio plays a song that first hit popular stations when you were young? Do you turn the volume up to obnoxious levels and sing along? Music can bring us...

Cost: $10 + FEES

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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