Havre de Grace races back in time Saturday for Graw Days

This Saturday, Oct. 13, Havre de Grace will return to those thrilling and roaring days of yesteryear, as the city holds its fifth annual Graw Days celebration to commemorate its heritage as a one-time horse racing center.

Downtown Havre de Grace will once again transform its streets and shops into a whimsical, yet family friendly, festival extravaganza. Jam-packed into a single day, this 12-hour marathon of entertainment, history, speaker series, antique cars, music, food, arts, crafts, shopping, theater, and dancing, has been designed to appeal to the broadest audience ever.

Graw Days will wrap up at 10 p.m. There is something for everyone, both young and old, and era recalled through music, history, and entertainment.

In celebration of the nostalgic decades between 1912 and 1950, the memorable "Graw Racetrack" is used as a backdrop for everything. Opened in 1912, the Graw Days Festival commemorates the 100 year anniversary of the track and the tremendous impact it had on the community. The festival brings that time back to life through a wide variety of offerings.

The day begins at 10 a.m. the first ever Grand Opening Ceremony featuring a surprise "Grand Marshall" of racing history, opening remarks by local dignitaries, color guard and a rousing "bugle call to the races" to begin the festivities.

On the Main Stage, live performances by Bill Mauger's Vintage Jazz Band (first time at Graw Days), J.D. Sage (honky tonk), the Peabody Ragtime Band, plus local band, Old-Crippled & Crazy. Around the corner at the old Opera House on Union Avenue, Tidewater Players will be opening their Graw Days Cabaret with the original show, Buddy Bentley Legendz, featuring such entertainers as Mae West, W.C. Fields, and even Charlie Chaplin.

The Main Stage, sitting at the top of Pennington Avenue, which will be the Graw Days Speakeasy where local restaurants will be offering an assortment of menus from Cream of Crab Soup to authentic crab cakes to as well as pizza and wings.

The Speakeasy bartenders will be serving to wrist-banded guests an array of artisan beers such as Fat Tire and Shock Top to specialty wines from the wine bar. Throughout the Speakeasy, costumed personalities will be interacting with customers and inviting their participation in the ongoing live and silent auction at the Main Street Auction tent.

Right outside the Speakeasy and all along Washington and St. John streets, selected artists and crafters will be stationed. On St. John Street, at the restored 1903 First National Bank building, the Graw Days Committee brings "History @ the Bank" where a large number of racing artifacts, prints, historic items, as well as a special collection of items of the recently retired champion thoroughbred, "Havre de Grace." History @ the Bank will also have a display of artwork submitted by local artists based on the theme, "Glory Days of the Graw: Life in Havre de Grace 1912-1950." In the small side building, the Graw Days Speaker Series will have presentations at the bottom of each hour, beginning at 10:30 a.m.

At the other end of the Festival, will be the "Little Rascals Roundup," which is really a transformed Congress Avenue which will have carnival games, bouncy houses, period games and crafts, plus the Little Rascals Stage where children (and teens) will be performing for children with performances every half hour. At this corner, visitors will also find small fee pony rides and carriage rides.

The most unusual addition to the Graw Days Festival is the new evening event called Graw Days @ Nite. The food tables will pushed to the sidewalks as guests continue to enjoy the food and drinks while dancing on the street to the band, Higher Hands.

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