Senators help break ground for Salisbury amphitheater

Under a cloudy sky, Mayor Jake Day, joined by U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen, dug shovels into a pile of dirt and tossed it into the air on Friday, officially breaking ground for the new Riverwalk Amphitheater.

“This is an incredible moment. Give your mayor thanks,” a beaming Cardin said, leading applause for Day, who stood with others involved in the project.

“This is a great moment. The amphitheater will be incredible for the Riverwalk. It will add to the quality here. I can see where the mayor’s architectural background comes into play here. You get a lot of service out of your mayor,” Cardin said, looking at renderings of the structure.

Van Hollen praised Day’s vision to revitalize the Riverwalk area with the outdoor theater.

The senators were in Salisbury for the Greater Salisbury Committee’s second “A Conversation With” event held at Salisbury University. They attended the groundbreaking before that event.

The amphitheater will be completed and in use when the National Folk Festival comes to Salisbury in September.

“It’s going to be a lot of fun. It might be a little crazy with all those people in town, but it will be a good crazy. We’ll see how you can handle 170,000 people,” Cardin said.

Van Hollen called Salisbury’s being chosen for the festival “a big deal.”

“That’s a sign that people are looking at it as a spot they love. People will come from around the country,” he said.

They can be treated to Maryland crabs and Maryland craft beer “and they will all go home and they will remember Salisbury,” he said.

Day joked the city is “looking forward to having two U.S. senators dancing in the street with us.”

Cardin praised the project’s contractor, Delmarva Veteran Builders, and its owner, Chris Eccleston, who served in the military and who hires veterans.

“He’s created jobs and he is going to create more jobs. He’s done all that and now he’s going to add to our legacy with this amphitheater. Small business is the growth engine of America,” Cardin said.

He and Van Hollen presented Eccleston with a citation, honoring him.

Eccleston called his involvement “an honor and a privilege” and said much passion has gone into its planning.

Construction will begin next month.

Before ground was broken, Day welcomed guests as he stood under a small white tent emblazoned with the city logo, on the Wicomico River near Carroll Street. Behind him was a banner thanking Gov. Larry Hogan.

Hogan, with his wife, Yumi, will be a chairman of the National Folk Festival and he allocated $500,000 in state funding to help build the 700-seat outdoor theater.

The amphitheater, Day said, will transform space in front of the river into an asset instead of a liability, allow the celebration of “the very best of our community and showcase the beautiful Wicomico River.”

“It takes the leaders at our state and local levels to make Salisbury the bright shining star in the Eastern Shore constellation,” Day said.


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