On Aug. 23, Dover residents will be throwing their town its 250th birthday party - give or take 100 years.

The day-long celebration, complete with a parade through the main town square, will mark 250 years since Jacob Joner purchased the 203-acre stretch of land from his brother in 1764 and began selling lots. But the area was not named Dover until 1815 and it wasn't incorporated as a self-governing borough until 1864.

That caused some disagreement among borough council members, who didn't know what birthday their town was actually celebrating.

It was a particularly important detail for some older residents, who still remember the extravagant 200th anniversary celebration they held for their town in 1964, said Kay Stitley, local tour guide and president of the area's historical society.

After looking at how other boroughs have counted their anniversaries, the council agreed to call it the 250th but put both dates on all anniversary materials, Mayor Richard Pope said.

The celebration will include a pancake breakfast, parade and an afternoon of entertainment in Ketterman Park. Organizers are planing music, lectures by local historians, a petting zoo and a Chinese lantern ceremony. Pope said two local bakers are making birthday cakes and various local businesses are giving memorabilia to bury in a time capsule.

Pope said the local recreation board has been planning the event for about a year, and they expect a crowd of between 1,000 and 1,500 people to show up. Pope's goal is to make the day as reminiscent of the 200th anniversary celebration in 1964 as possible.


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"I just want the residents to have a good time," Pope said. "A lot of the people who were around in 1964 for the 200th tell me how nice it was, and we just want to have people talking about it."

A high precedent: Locals are excited about the event, but none expect it to live up to the high standard they set 50 years ago.

The 200th anniversary celebration was a week-long event that residents are still discussing, said Ron Botterbusch, who attended the event before moving to town two years later. The 81-year-old Dover resident and his wife, Norma, have owned a jewelry store on South Main Street since 1966.

Botterbusch remembers the play that traced the town's history from its founding to what was then present-day, a "brothers of the brush" beard-growing competition and a beauty pageant.

"It would be quite expensive to put on a celebration like they did for the 200th, and considering economic conditions and everything, I think what we're doing is adequate," said Botterbusch, who also serves on the recreation committee planning the event. "Everyone seems to be enthused about it; I think we'll have a good turnout and I think people will be happy."

Stitley said that given the significant local excitement around the event, the borough council should have provided more funding.

"This has been a battle for those of us on the recreation board simply because we wanted it to be a three-day celebration and our council members shot us down," Stitley said. "As people are finding more and more out they're saying, 'Why didn't you do this? Why didn't you end with fireworks?' Well, 11 minutes of fireworks cost $3,300; we didn't even have a $3,000 budget."

Secretary-Treasurer Janet Shirley said she set the recreation board's budget at $2,500 based on Pope's suggestion it receive at least double its normal $1,000 allocation to accommodate the anniversary celebration.

Pope said the recreation board tried to scale up the event by holding several fundraisers since January but expanding the celebration would simply cost too much. The board's four fundraisers brought in a total of $710, Shirley said.

While the 250th anniversary celebration will be smaller than the one held in 1964, Pope said the day will still harken back to the previous event. He said Mary Green, the winner of the beauty pageant held at the 200th anniversary celebration will be in attendance with her entire court, all of whom still live in the area.

"I'm just glad they're doing something," said Green, who still remembers dancing in the pageant and enjoying the week of events. "It was quite a celebration."

The pancake breakfast will be from 7 to 10 a.m. in the fire hall at 30 E. Canal St. The parade will start at the intermediate school at 4500 Intermediate Ave., and wind past the town square. Pope estimated it will last about an hour before the festivities begin in the park.

- Reach Michael Tabb at mtabb@yorkdispatch.com.