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By Stephen Press
Hometown Weekly Staff
The man sits, still dripping wet, behind the cage surrounding his tank. He taunts his tormentors. "Harder!" he says. "I'm going to get you!"
A young girl walks up, yellow ball in hand. She takes aim and fires, missing her target high. A volunteer hands her another ball, and she misses just wide to the left. She turns around, grabs her final ball, and throws a strike that bounces harmlessly off the target.
"I'm going to get you," says the man in the dunk tank. "You'll never get me!"
This is Dover Days - or one part of it, at least. The annual festival celebrates all things Dover and features everything from vendor booths to a 5K to a petting zoo. If there's one thing that immediately strikes a visitor to this annual event, though, it's the number of happy children running around.
"Part of it, I think, is the Dover PTO," says Sarah Puerini, President of the PTO Executive Board. "Our part of the event is to have games for the kids. We have a great prize booth. We have a dunk tank that features parents as well as teachers and administrators from the school. Kids love to try to dunk their teachers, and they really like playing the games."
Her words strike true. Behind Puerini, kids make their way from one colorful game to the next, unable to wipe the smiles off of their faces. It's as though somebody has set up a pint-sized Dover version of The Price is Right.
"This portion of the event benefits the PTO for Chickering School," she adds. "It's really cool, because the kids come and they play these games starting in Kindergarten up until fifth grade. Once they hit sixth grade and move on to the middle school, then they get a chance to run the games. They get to come back and be a part of the event, but on more of a grown-up level at that point. It's something they can do from when they're really little up to high school. They can even earn community service hours doing it."
Meanwhile, Bo Pomahak walks his dog, Ralph, down the road. "We have been coming ever since the kids were little," he says. "We moved in 12 years ago, and pretty much never missed one. They still look forward to it every year. It's so much fun. There are so many things to see, so many things to learn. Kids love the friendly games and competitions…"
He is suddenly interrupted by a group of middle school girls who have spotted Ralph. "Is this your dog? Can we pet him?"
He smiles and nods as the girls make friends with the canine.
"It has a great neighborhood feel. The whole town feels like a big neighborhood. Kids can still ride around on bikes and visit each other. It's not the city life. We enjoy it very much."
Across the green, the man in the dunk tank is still talking, and the kids have grown fed up. Two little girls, their fastballs not quite strong enough to spring the dunk tank on their own, walk together towards the target. They place their hands on it and begin to push.
Suddenly, it gives way, sending the man into the drink.
"Oh, you got me," hams up the dunk tank volunteer, grinning ear to ear.
Not far away, Sarah Puerini is looking on with her own smile. "Dover Days is about bringing the community together to have fun with family and check out what Dover's all about," she says.