Cape Gazette

Admiral Dewey Day: Just a reason to party

Rusty Rudder hosts 11th annual celebration
By Kara Nuzback | May 19, 2012
Photo by: Kara Nuzback Elvis impersonator Bob Lougheed, right, introduces Mario Rocco as Admiral George Dewey at the Rusty Rudder, April 21.

Dewey Beach — Admiral Dewey Day is not a real holiday.  In fact, Dewey Beach may not have been named after Admiral George Dewey.  But at the Rusty Rudder on April 21, nobody seemed to care.

The Rusty Rudder celebrated its made-up holiday for the 11th year in a row, with live music from Elvis impersonator Bob Lougheed, Mario Rocco and Love Seed Mama Jump.

Rocco suited up as Admiral Dewey for the annual toast and proclamation.  “The summer has officially begun.  You may all have a drink,” he said.

The inaugural Admiral Dewey Day took place at the Rudder in 2001, to honor the town’s namesake.  It featured live music and an admiral costume contest with a $300 prize.

David “Ducky” Sheetz, who played the part of the admiral for five years when he was a manager at the Rudder, said the Rudder crew invented the holiday.  “We thought it’d be a good way to just kick-off the season,” Sheetz said.  “Basically, it was just a reason to have a party.”

Sheetz said he remembers donning the white Navy suit on the first Dewey Day, and arriving at the Rusty Rudder on a Gilligan’s Island-themed pontoon boat.  “It was quite a big to-do,” he said.  “I have fond memories of it.”

Admiral George Dewey is perhaps most famous for his victory at the Battle of Manila Bay May 1, 1898, during the Spanish-American War. It commonly thought Dewey Beach was named after the naval hero – the only person ever to hold the rank of Admiral of the U.S. Navy – but according to Dewey Beach historian Barbara Quillen Dougherty, there is no written evidence to back the assumption.

In her book, Dewey Beach History and Tales, Dougherty wrote, “I have researched Dewey’s name long and hard and asked countless persons for their input, yet we just don’t know for certain how Dewey got its name.”

But Doughtery does know where Admiral Dewey Day came from.  She said it was invented by Highway One Partner Alex Pires to get more patrons into the Rusty Rudder.  “It is a fun time for all,” Dougherty said. “As to if Dewey really got its name from Admiral George Dewey, it makes it nice to think so, and if nothing else, it has the makings of a good story.”

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