Jolly Jills parade draws big crowds to Lewes

February 6, 2024

The Jolly Jills Social Club, in conjunction with Lewes Junior High and William C. Jason Comprehensive High School of Georgetown, once sponsored an annual Memorial Day parade in Lewes. It traveled down Savannah Road, Second Street and Park Avenue before ending at Shipcarpenter Square at a time when there were no homes there. From the recollections of locals who participated, the parade was held primarily in the 1950s. A 1959 article about the parade noted it was the sixth annual, making the parade’s origin about 1954. Based on a note written in a booklet at the Lewes Historical Society, it is believed 1959 was the last year the parade was held. 

The parade drew many bands to the area. In 1959, the bands included those from William C. Jason Comprehensive High School; William Henry High in Dover; Millsboro School No. 204; Absalom Jones in Newport; P.L. Dunbar School in Laurel; St. Clair Elementary School in Cambridge, Md.; Bates High School in Annapolis, Md.; Worcester High in Snow Hill, Md.; and Mace’s Lane High School in Cambridge, Md.

Frederick D. Thomas, principal of the DuPont Avenue School, and later Shields Elementary and Lewes Junior High, walked in the parade every year. Cape Henlopen School District’s third middle school, currently under construction, is named after Thomas.

Locals also noted that the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity sponsored an annual Miss Sussex County pageant, with the queen and her two attendants being honored by riding in a convertible or float in the parade.

In the 1950s, Shipcarpenter Square was an open space. A 1957 newspaper article notes the addition of new playground equipment to the site that was leased by Mayor Otis Smith. The Lewes Community Playground was sponsored by the Jolly Jills Club, which donated swing sets, see-saws and a slide; the Lewes Civic Club, which laid out a baseball diamond and erected bathrooms; and the Lewes Junior High Parent-Teacher Association.  


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