Blarney Pilgrims

The First Friday of each month is a special time at the Lewes Historical Society (LHS) when merriment and good cheer co-mingle, and the Sussex Tavern is open for business. The campus comes alive with period music, beverages, bonfires, tours, tall tales and lively conversations. The festivities take place from 4 pm to 7 pm.  

As is typical of many LHS events, staff, and volunteers dress in period attire giving new meaning to the Cher classic “If I Could Turn Back Time”. Last year, more than 6,000 visitors attended First Friday Events. The campus is on Shipcarpenter Street at the north end of 2nd street, the main commercial street in Lewes.   

The Tavern itself is a welcoming and cozy place with a bar on one side and a “music room” on the other. Tables fill up quickly, so it is best to arrive early if you want to snag a seat inside, especially in the winter months. The crowd does rotate as many visitors use the opportunity to explore other buildings on the campus or listen to talks around the bonfire.  

The Blarney Pilgrims entertain at most First Fridays. The trio’s repertoire features a heavy dose of Celtic and Irish foot tapping tunes that encourage audience participation for the choruses. Handouts are provided for those who want to sing along! Their period dress adds to the ambiance of what First Friday is all about. (Note: There is more than one group called Blarney Pilgrims).  

A selection of “adult beverages” is available in the tavern and at a temporary bar set up outside. Ever tried Grog, Bittered Sling, Sangaree or Milk Punch? Grog is the most popular of the trio and likely was a favorite among seafarers aboard their ships. It’s a mix of rum, sugar and lime juice.  

All concoctions have a unique mix of ingredients. The Bittered Sling may have been a precursor to an Old Fashioned with its combination of whiskey, lemon juice, sugar, bitters, and hint of grated nutmeg. Sangaree is a slightly more potent version of sangria due to the inclusion of Madeira or Port, brandy, and orange liquor plus a healthy splash of rum. Mary Rockett’s Milk Punch dates back to 1711 when a British housewife created a blended mixture of hot milk, brandy, water and sugar that resulted in an unusually tasty drink. First Fridays is your best chance to sample these yesteryear drinks, but the bars also serve current day wine and beer.  

Food selections are sparse at First Fridays, so plan on dining elsewhere. Plenty of choices! There are plenty of choices within walking distance or a short drive.  

Possibly the best part of First Fridays, aside from the music and the ambience, is the opportunity to learn about Lewes and the role the town played over the decades. Knowledgeable staffers and volunteers are teaming with information to fill you in on the local community in a way that is both fascinating and educational.  

The Lewes Historical Society is embarking on an ambitious strategic planning implementation that can change the dynamics of the historical interpretation of Lewes and its role in local and national history.  

There is much to learn from this organization and the LHS website is a great resource: MORE ON FIRST FRIDAYS

Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry s a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.  

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