By Patty Booth O’Neill
Long Branch — Despite the forecast for rain, well over 250,000 people converged on Long Branch for Oceanfest, the biggest 4th of July festival in New Jersey.
Maybe it was because rain was called for in the afternoon, or it was hot but cloudy, or because of the aroma of food wafting down the boards, but the crowds showed up early on Saturday morning, well before opening time of 10am.
It was evident people were anticipating a great event. All the paid parking lots were filled early, as were the improvised paid lots and side streets off Ocean Blvd.
There were no complaints about having to pay for parking, as many of the cars were from out of town and the city made a pretty penny by charging in the lot at the corner of Ocean and Broadway. “That lot made at least $10,000 for the day,” Howard Woolley, City Administrator said. “And it’s the cheapest spot in town if you want to park for the day and not worry about getting a ticket by parking in Pier Village, where it’s two-hour parking,” he said. Parking in the lot is $5 on weekdays, $10 on the weekend.
And the people kept coming. Thousands, hundreds of thousands, elbow room only. Even more showed up for the fireworks display knowing they would not be disappointed.
“Everything ran smoothly,” said Greater Long Branch Chamber Director Nancy Kleiberg,
who along with Assistant Director Susan Woolley, organizes and runs the event every year.
As usual there was plenty to see with Lulu the clown who makes balloon animals, Uncle Sam on stilts, a magician and much more. And of course there were the occasional “what-are-they-thinking outfits” which
honestly, locals kind of wait for just for the entertainment factor. But not everyone agreed with that point of view. “I think we should have a coverup rule next year. My grandchildren were here. How do I explain a thong with tattoos going up and around the hiney to them?” was one observation.
We’ll have to wait till next summer to see if a rule will be put in place.
“This was our biggest crowd so far and there were no complaints and lots of thank yous,” Kleiberg said. “The fireworks also went off without a hitch.
“I would like to thank all the volunteers who helped this event go so smoothly.”
Time for organizing for next year, starts… now.