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Havre de Grace spring events kick off this weekend with farmers’ market opening, Decoy Festival and Defender’s Day

The third time could be the charm for of the annual Defender’s Day celebration in Havre de Grace, scheduled for this Saturday, May 1.

The inaugural festival, an official city celebration to commemorate the British invasion of the city on May 3, 1813 during the War of 1812, was rained out in 2019; the second annual Defender’s Day in 2020 could not happen because of the COVID-19 pandemic. But organizers are counting on the current forecast of sunny weather for this year’s third annual festival. Just in case, a rain date is scheduled for Sunday, May 2.

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It is one of three events happening Saturday in Havre de Grace, along with the opening of the farmers’ market in Hutchins Park and the 39th annual Decoy & Wildlife Art Festival. They serve as a kickoff for a slate of community festivities in Havre de Grace through the spring, summer and fall as the city known for hosting multiple events each year begins a steady recovery from the pandemic.

“I think people are ready to get out,” city tourism manager Lauri Orzewicz said .

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The decoy festival is scheduled to begin Friday, with a welcoming cocktail party featuring Honorary Chairman Capt. Jeff Coats from 7 to 10 p.m. at the Havre de Grace Decoy Museum. Public events, such as carving and decoy competitions, activities for children, retriever dog demonstrations and silent auctions, are scheduled from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, also at the Decoy Museum. People must wear masks when inside the museum as well as outside, when they cannot maintain social distance, to help prevent the spread of COVID.

Those who put on events in the city must submit plans to prevent COVID-19 that are approved by the Harford County Health Department.

“We will encourage mask wearing, and we will have hand sanitizer stations set up” at events, Orzewicz said.

She noted that this weekend’s events — all of which have free admission — are designed with the majority of activities happening outdoors so visitors who would be uncomfortable being indoors among people, thus increasing their risk of getting COVID-19, can enjoy the festivities.

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The farmers’ market, which runs Saturday mornings from May to November, kicks off this Saturday and is open from 8:30 a.m. to noon. The farmer’s market was available during 2020 with multiple changes to prevent the spread of COVID, including opening at 8:30 a.m. rather than the typical 9 a.m. to give older adults extra time to shop when the market is less crowded. Those expanded hours will continue this year, according to Orzewicz.

“That worked well last year, so they’re going to continue it again this year,” she said of the market organizers.

Defender’s Day runs from 2 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday at Concord Point Park; 15 food trucks, as well as craft beer, will be available, along with live music. The shows include a 2 p.m. performance of the play “Dawn’s Early Light,” by The Mosaic Project, portraying events from the British invasion of Havre de Grace.

Visitors also can check out shows from the bands No Boundaries from 2:30 to 5 p.m. and The New Romance from 6 to 8:30 p.m. The evening concludes with a fireworks show, which Mayor William T. Martin said recently will be similar to the fireworks at the city’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration, also at Concord Point Park.

People should bring their own blankets, chairs, tables to the park on Defender’s Day as part of efforts to prevent COVID, according to Orzewicz.

“Whatever will make them comfortable, and just sit back, relax and enjoy the music,” she said.

The City Council and Historic Preservation Commission established Defender’s Day as a city holiday to mark John O’Neill’s heroic but unsuccessful attempt to prevent British troops coming ashore from ships anchored in the Susquehanna River, by manning a “potato battery” of several small cannons at Concord Point.

The British overran O’Neill, whom they took prisoner, and other defenders, then sacked the city that had already been bombarded by their naval forces. The invasion was recreated by re-enactors portraying British troops and officers and American militia members as part of an extensive city celebration in 2013 to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle.

“Hopefully, it will be an event that will become a tradition in the City of Havre de Grace, because it’s a municipal holiday,” Mayor Martin said of Defender’s Day during an April 19 council meeting.

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