Long Branch summer festival: a friend and family reunion

Life is never planned out. But like a good Irish story or adventure movie, there have been times in my life where it just happened.

You know the saying: “The story of my life began one day at a Quaker meeting house, when the man started talking about a group called ‘the Sisters of the Work.’ “

The Brother had something to say that was so profound, so magical that it changed my entire life. It led me back to my roots.

My brother Barry, my great aunt Kathy and I were raised in the same Quaker commune in North Carolina. The stagecoach that brought us to the South stopped at the same intersection in Long Branch, New Jersey. That’s where the reality of The Sister’s Luck really began, when the Business Sergeant from the local troops stationed at Fort Dix mentioned that he was looking for a quiet meeting place, because once the Civil War was over, he would be called home.

There were only a handful of nuns in the area, but if you were good enough, they would offer you a place to stay and prepare you for your G.I. duty.

Barry, his Aunt Kathy and I moved to America in the summer of 1865. It was a terrible time in the colonies, and the worst way to get out of Civil War enlistment and warm weather was hitchhiking back to Philadelphia.

But what was I going to do? They gave me a hostel on busy Bridge Street, next to the Morristown (Maryland) Ferry, and a message caught my eye.

It was the sign outside the Hotel Monarch. It said: “Candor, Remorse and Renewal: Waiting for You, Brothers.”

I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I walked into that room and never looked back.

The Monarch really was a landmark in my life because it provided me with the hope, friendship and love of the first few months of my American adventure. It also provided my mother, who had relocated to Denver, a chance to see her son again. And the next thing I knew, I was sharing friendship with many other young people coming into the country in the best possible way; aboard the Queen Mary liner.

New Jersey, for as close to two centuries as we can get, has been a paradise for refugees, immigrants and other bohemians. During the Gold Rush, when I was a kid, many of the gold seekers were trying to save money to buy a ticket up the Charles river on the old Pennline Railroad, which would take them to Boston. One of the boats was boarded by the future Newark Mayor Augustus “Gus” DeStefano, who put in a claim for a fur coat.

Over the past two years, 60,000 people came out for the celebration of Long Branch’s 140th anniversary.

And on November 7, 2018, after a summer that only has two distinct months – April and November – Long Branch will once again welcome the world.

Wear those American flag sneakers, grab some long johns, and run out to the shore on November 7 for Long Branch’s so-called Summer of ’18. It will start at 7 a.m. at the waterfront and last until 10 p.m. This year’s extravaganza will include two days of entertainment, live music, art, dancing, street entertainment, a wine and beer garden, kids’ games, volleyball, soccer and races, a parade, and more.

This festival will be a world-class family event, which marks the 140th anniversary of Long Branch, a waterfront town that survived its fire and changed the history of Lower Jersey.

Long Branch’s history is filled with events that symbolize its diverse population. And while some may say Long Branch never really recovered from Hurricane Sandy, that may be an overstatement. The town certainly used its beaches and waves to rebuild.

Long Branch is proud of its beachfront position and in general, proud of everything that the boardwalk has to offer. While some 50,000 people are expected on November 7, there will also be a concert, mini beach, and a full day of fun for the kids.

Since 1758, Long Branch has been reinventing itself and changing the face of Lower Jersey. And its most recent reinvention is proof of the town’s resilience.

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