Sweet Summer Stroll

By Catherine Kempista

Spending summer evenings along the Brandywine River on Hagley Museum & Library’s sprawling 235-acre property has been a staple for families and outdoor enthusiasts for decades. This year, in keeping with its commitment to offer fresh and relevant programming for visitors, it launched its newly rebranded Summer Nights at Hagley presented by Dogfish Head Craft Brewery series on June 14. The series will run Wednesday evenings from 5-8 p.m. through August.

Previously named Bike & Hike & Brews, the event focused on the activities guests could enjoy during the extended evening hours, namely the biking and hiking. Sprinkle in cold craft brews from its longtime presenting partner Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, dinner options from local food trucks, dessert courtesy of Woodside Farm Creamery and lawn games, Hagley had the makings of a fun, active and affordable evening for families and adults. However, there was something else their attendees were looking for — a chance to relax and unwind.

“At the end of each event series, we survey our guests to gather data on what they enjoyed, what they participated in, and how we could improve their experience,” says Jeremy Cleghorn, Hagley’s public programs coordinator. “Through this process, we found only 4% of the participants biked during the events, and people were looking for an overall more relaxed approach to the event.”

Hagley embarked on a rebrand involving a refresh of all aspects of the already popular series to give its visitors a slower, more relaxed pace to reflect the speed of the dog days of summer. Working with Dogfish Head and an expanded range of local vendors, musicians and community partners, Hagley launched its new event format in June to deliver on its commitment to guest satisfaction.

“We wanted to create an opportunity for our guests to come and enjoy the evening however they saw fit, whether that’s grabbing dinner from a food truck and just listening to music or taking a stroll with their dog,” says Laura Jury, marketing manager at Hagley. “We wanted it to be a fun, easy and casual night out.” 

With the Summer Nights’ rebrand, everything except the price of entry and access to Hagley’s expansive property has changed or been upgraded. Event admission remains at $5 per person for non-members and free for members and children 5 and under. All of Hagley’s grounds are also still open for hiking, biking and exploring for those interested.

To deliver on its promise of a laid-back feel, one of Summer Nights’ most prominent changes is the addition of live music each week. Featured performers include local musicians and cover bands, such as Adam McCue, Anthony Sophy and The Acoustic Jam. Updated weekly line-ups are available on Hagley’s Facebook and Instagram pages. 

Hagley also extended its popular dog-friendly option throughout the series instead of just select evenings.

 “People really enjoyed the nights they could bring their dogs, so we decided to extend that option to every night of the series,” says Jury. 

Hagley’s grounds include over three miles of paved trails, in addition to acres of open space, making it perfect for an evening walk with your four-legged friends.

Engaging with local community organizations had always been a popular hallmark of Hagley’s summer events, so its role in Summer Nights was also expanded. According to Cleghorn, “Our visitors enjoyed engaging with our community partners, so we added more groups to our roster than ever before.” 

This year’s featured partners include Brandywine Valley SPCA, Special Olympics, Urban Promise, Tri-State Bird Rescue, Outdoor Afro, Delaware Museum of Nature and Science, Wilmington Trail Club and DSWA. Urban Bike Project is also back again on select evenings to lead bike rides throughout the property for interested guests.

Dogfish Head, which has partnered with Hagley on this event for eight years, also expanded its selection of available adult libations beyond their canned brews to include a variety of canned cocktails. Dogfish Head’s support of this event comes through its Beer and Benevolence Program.

“Dogfish Head’s Beer & Benevolence has supported Hagley events for quite a few years,” says Mariah Calagione, Dogfish Head co-founder and social impact leader for the Boston Beer Co. “As a program, our three areas of focus are arts, environment and community building, and we love that Hagley invites the community to their beautiful campus to enjoy the great outdoors on a summer night. When Hagley explained that they were evolving the event series, we thought it was a great time to expand our offerings for their guests. 

“We’re proud to support great work taking place in our home state by collaborating with nonprofit organizations that build community, amplify the arts or improve our environment,” said Calagione.

Visitors can also find an expanded variety of local food trucks to purchase dinner and snacks, including Zaikka on Wheels, Natalie’s Fine Foods, and Dixie’s Down Home Cooking. Woodside Farm Creamery, a consummate presence at Hagley events, is also back serving delicious ice cream.

 “The rebrand gave us an opportunity to refresh the event and create something we can build on in the future,” says Cleghorn. “We are just excited to see how people will engage with the new format.”

Summer Nights is just one part of Hagley’s seasonal line-up for families and adults. 

“We welcome guests to stroll back in time on a visit to our museum’s historic powder yard or our Nation of Inventors exhibition,” says Jury. “Families can also engage in hands-on STEM challenges during our Science Saturdays or enjoy the outdoors during our Fishing on the Brandywine events.”

Hagley is open seven days a week. For a full schedule of events, visit Hagley.org.