VENTNOR — It looked a little like a pair of restaurants were operating on the beach Sunday at Newport Avenue, with two large groups having barbecues near the boardwalk, grills blazing.
Optician Stan Sochocky, of Ventnor, was continuing a 15-year tradition as the chef at his family’s gathering, with three other families and many friends. At noon, there were already about 40 people there, sitting in beach chairs and getting ready for a first round of hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken wings and side dishes.
“I cook whatever everybody brings down,” he said, as a game of beanbag toss started behind him, and others worked to organize four food-distribution tents.
Ventnor and Longport are among the few beach towns that allow beach barbecues all three days of Labor Day weekend. Other towns, such as Margate, allow grilling only on Labor Day Monday. The towns also allow barbecues for Memorial Day and July 4.
Most of the younger people at the Sochocky, Catrambone, Buckley and Verna barbecue still live in Atlantic County. But sometimes a far-flung cousin arrives from across the country or the world.
Donna Fisher, of Northfield, who grew up a Sochocky, said she has one daughter in Kansas and another on the island of Saipan in the western Pacific Ocean.
“The Fourth of July tends to be the barbecues they hit,” she said.
There were more barbecues visible in both directions from the Newport Avenue beach. The weather, slightly overcast and hazy with a good breeze and no rain in the forecast, was perfect for outdoor cooking.
Next door was another large group organized by Sandy Gurman, a Deptford, Gloucester County resident who has a summer home in Ventnor.
“We set up at 7:30 a.m.” to get a favorite spot, she said. “We designate someone to come down with the tent, tables and chairs.”
Travis Schuman, of Deptford, worked his grill with a chimney insert that he said made it possible to light the fire without lighter fluid.
“It’s green and healthy, better for the environment and for people,” he said.
The location was particularly important to Gurman’s group, she said, because it includes 78-year-old Alex Kisielewski, of Runnemede, Camden County. He needs to use a beach wheelchair.
“We set up right at the end of the ramp for my dad,” said Annamarie Kisielewski, also of Runnemede, so he can get on and off the beach easily. He could also watch his granddaughter, Rielly Kisielewski, 3, of Mays Landing, play in the sand.
Gurman said she had 17 people sleeping at her house Saturday night. By noon, the party was at about 25, and she expected many more to arrive for dinner.
“All the kids sleep on the floor,” she said. She expected even more to stay Sunday night.
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