ShoreBread decided to take a drive down Rt. 113 to Pocomoke this week, Day Trippin’ to the Delmarva Discovery Center (DDC) for an afternoon of history, culture exhibits and educational entertainment. “This is not your traditional museum,” said Executive Director Brian Garrett of the living museum. “It is more of a modern museum. We try to immerse the visitor in the area.”
Walking into the Delmarva Discovery Center, one immediately gets a sense of just how unique the living museum is. Rather than a typical display of artwork or a sterile environment of exhibits and displays, the DDC is set up with a welcoming collection of animal exhibits, interactive displays and aquariums. The DDC offers an interactive walk-through of major eras of our region’s history. The engaging journey takes you through the steamship era, Native American culture, local wildlife and more, with a bevy of tours and activities to enjoy along the way. One of the most popular features is the 6,000 gallon tank. The tank, which is the largest in the region, houses local varieties of fish, and is enormously popular with the kids. “This is what it’s all about,” said Garrett, as a group of children awed at the tank and its inhabitants. Garrett went on to note that for many area students, making the trek to urban area aquariums isn’t really an option, so having one on the Eastern Shore has been largely beneficial to students. Not to mention the sheer enjoyment the kids get out of observing the tank, which includes watching the DDC’s diver interact with the tank inhabitants.
Hundreds of school tours come through the DDC each year, with thousands of visitors passing through the doors. This year, the DDC has seen 16,000 people so far, with a total of 35,000 since opening their doors. “In a town of 5000 people, that’s amazing,” said Garrett, noting that while many of the visitors are from the Eastern Shore, there are thousands hailing from Washington D.C., New York, New Jersey, Western Maryland and West Virginia. The Delmarva Discovery Center has also attracted many international guests, added Garrett, with a few coming from as far as New Zealand, France and Germany. “A lot of people are already here vacationing in the area, so they will come down and check us out for the day,” explained Garrett. With the influx of visitors drawn to the DDC, the center has proven effective in bringing commerce back to downtown Pocomoke.
“The heart and soul of the Delmarva Discovery Center was born out of the idea of revitalizing downtown,” said Garrett, explaining that once the bypass was built, traffic and commerce in downtown Pocomoke suffered a serious decline. A number of ideas were brainstormed, with the idea for a cultural center being the clear frontrunner. After a lot of hard work, planning, and fundraising, the Delmarva Discovery Center was borne, opening its doors in June, 2009.
The DDC is a 16,000 square foot, 1920’s era building. “This building was derelict for years before we got a hold of it,” said Garrett, pointing out the drastic changes the building underwent before becoming what it is today. The renovated building is now home to several exhibits, a Museum store, classroom, and administrative space. Facility rentals are also available for community and special events.
Open year-round, the DDC is constantly offering events, activities and tours. All summer long, students enjoyed summer camps at the DDC, learning about Delmarva history and habitats. The Center also hosts daily summer programs each day throughout the summer, with programs such as Fish Feeding, Critter Corner & Craft, Dive Dialogue, A Walk to Remember, Beaver Lodge Story Time & Craft, Fishing Fun, and Awesome Animals. “You can expect to find something happening here every day,” said Garrett.
While the summer seems jam-packed with events, Garrett explained that the busier months at the Delmarva Discovery Center are actually during the Eastern Shore’s typical “off-season” – September through June. Currently on the horizon is the Feathered Fiesta, an all-day event featuring live animal displays, carvers and artists, guided bird walks, activities and games. Locals Appreciation is an on-going special, with locals (residents of Sussex, Worcester, Wicomico, Somerset and Accomack Counties) enjoying 50 percent off admission during the first weekend of every month. The calendar is chocked full of events: http://delmarvadiscoverycenter.org/events.html
While one could easily spend an afternoon or morning wandering around the Delmarva Discovery Center, there are other area attractions to check out as well, including downtown shops, the neighboring Riverside Grill restaurant with views the Pocomoke River, and local parks. A stroll through Cypress Park or the Cypress Swamp on the Discovery Nature Trail are also must-see spots said Garrett. Also within walking distance are the Sturgis One Room School House, the Costen House, and the historic Mar-Va Theatre. “You could really spend four to six hours here without even blinking an eye or having to get back in your car,” said Garrett.
As for a full day excursion, Garrett added that a day to Pocomoke was full of options. For example, for a day trip starting in the Ocean City area, Garrett suggested traveling down Rt. 113 and stopping in Snow Hill, for their museums, shops, and historic sites. A stop a Shad Landing could be next on the agenda, before heading to Pocomoke for an afternoon spent at the Delmarva Discovery Center and its surrounding points of interest. One could even stick around for an evening in Pocomoke, enjoying a film at the Mar-Va Theatre, or head back to the Ocean City instead, with a detoured stop at Furnace Town on your way back. The options are seemingly endless for a day’s adventure to Pocomoke.
As for the future of the Delmarva Discovery Center, Garrett highlighted the year-round events, as well as the constant improvements happening within the museum. “We are always trying to add to what we are doing to improve what we have here,” said Garrett. “There is always work being done to keep things fresh.”