OCEAN GATE – This small borough was bubbling over with people enjoying the vendors and activities of the annual Ocean Gate Day.
This isn’t like an event in some shore towns, where tourists are just passing time on vacation. If you’re at this event, it’s likely you have some connection to the people or the town.
Many of the vendors had a local link, like Debbie Kutner, of Simply Debbie, who had a shop set up but was also visiting with a friend. “We love these shore towns,” she said of towns like Ocean Gate that have good festivals like this.
People selling decorations, clothes, jewelry, and toys were among the most common. There were also a lot of beach stuff and pets items. There was a food truck, and other food vendors selling items like gyros and hot dogs.
Central Regional student Angela Ruscitti had scrunchies for sale that she had made with her small business Scrunchies By Ang. “It’s been steady,” she said of sales. She usually gets most of her work through Instagram, but this was an opportunity for potential customers to see her products in person.
There were also a few smaller vendors as well. Three young kids Charlotte, Emmy, and Ellie worked a lemonade stand on the boardwalk, raising money for the local volunteer emergency services.
There were plenty of things to do for kids. Grace Murphy, who is almost 6, was at the booth for Face Painting By Ren. Her mother, Krista, said she looks forward to the evening’s lighted boat parade.
“We haven’t had weather this good on Ocean Gate Day in a while. It’s usually really hot,” she said.
It’s true. The sun is usually beating down and the wind from the water doesn’t provide much relief. This year, however, forecasts called for temperatures in the low 80s, and no rain. It was the perfect weather to have a day-long event.
It had started in the morning with a 5K race, and lasted until the lighted boat parade.
At noon, everyone looked out over the water, either from the beach or from the Wildwood Avenue pier. It was for a different kind of boat event: the cardboard boat race.
True to the name, these boats are made only of cardboard, duct tape, and decoration. Sometimes they are pontoons. Sometimes they are kayak-shaped. This year, one boy rowed out in a barrel-like satellite with the theme taken from David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.”
Dimitri Harilaou, of Fort Lee, designed a luau-inspired cardboard boat with “duct tape and a lot of imagination.” He was confident, after having boats survive in previous years, that the boat would be used for two of the races, youth and adult.
Part of the fun of the cardboard boat race is to watch them sink. In fact, the boats are required to have an empty gallon jug tied to them so that when they do sink, the boaters can find its remains. There was a huge garbage container nearby for just such a thing.
Madison Beck watched the festivities from her porch, which also has a spectacular view of the river. Her family lives in Pennsylvania but treasure the beach house that has been in the family for a while.
“We always enjoy this day. We look forward to seeing everyone,” she said.
As much as there were things to see and do, it’s also a time for other summer residents to meet and catch up with each other, as could be heard throughout the day as old friends ran into each other.