BRICK – A crowd estimated at 18,000 attended the season’s first Summerfest concert at Windward Beach Park on July 4, which featured the popular 80s group “Jessie’s Girl,” followed by an extended fireworks display.
“It was the biggest crowd, ever,” said Director of Recreation Dan Santaniello. “At 8 p.m. there were around 15,000, and people were still coming in,” he said the next day. He said they can judge the size of the crowd from a Brick Police drone that can scan the grounds surrounding the stage to see how much grass is exposed.
This is the second year the Summerfest concerts are being held every Thursday in July, and this year marks the 25th anniversary of the concert series.
The Brick Police Marine Unit estimated that there were 500 boats anchored near the park on the river, who could hear the music and view overhead fireworks that were launched from the beach there after the concert ended.
“Everyone’s been perfect,” said Brick Patrolman Michael Zolezi, who was one of the officers stationed at the entrance to the park. “The crowd is excited for the holiday.”
The police were checking concert-goers for outside alcohol and weapons, he said.
“Given the way things are today, we want to make sure that everyone inside is safe,” said Officer Zolezi. “All of our command staff are here today trying to help keep a hold on things.”
The Ocean County Sheriff’s Department assisted with security and could be seen guarding a back entrance to the park from an SUV.
Two fire trucks, manned by Brick volunteer firefighters, were stationed nearby, and the Police EMT had set up a small triage center onsite. Santaniello said they were only needed to assist a girl who had been stung by a bee.
Donna Petersen, who was born and raised in Brick, was in the crowd enjoying the music with a group of family and friends.
“We are having a great time,” she said. “These kinds of things are rare. Everybody around us is friendly. Everybody loves 80s music, especially Jersey people – it’s part of our culture. Our kids know the music because of us, so it’s a bonding experience,” Petersen said. “We’ve passed the music down to them.”
“Jessie’s Girl” first performed at Summerfest in 2018, and they’re known for creating a party atmosphere by dressing up as characters from that decade, including Bon Jovi, Michael Jackson, David Lee Roth, Madonna and others.
Out on the river, Jeannette Armbruster came from her waterfront home in Brick to watch the fireworks by sailboat with her husband, Bill, plus family members and friends.
“We’ve seen other fireworks from the boat, but this was our first time seeing the Summerfest fireworks from the water,” she said.
“We were running late, so we were at the edge of the pack of boats, which enhanced it,” Armbruster said. “The fireworks were great. Seeing them reflected in the water and in the crowd of boats with all of those lights really added to it.”
Boaters could hear a simulcast of the concert on radio station 87.9.
The three remaining SummerFest Concerts include Brian Kirk and the Jirks on July 11, Boathouse Row on July 18 and Garden State Radio on July 25.
A free shuttle bus service is available, which start their continuous runs at 5:30 p.m. to Windward Beach Park. The buses leave from Veterans Memorial Middle School, Drum Point Elementary School, Brick High School, and Midstreams Elementary School.
“Use the buses,” Santaniello said. “You’ll be out and home in less than 30 minutes.”
He said that by 8 a.m. the next morning the grounds were completely cleared.
“Thanks to my staff and the Parks Department, you would never know there had even been a concert,” Santaniello said.