You don’t have to do much to get Ed Berger talking. But it takes some work to get him talking about Ed Berger.
He’s much happier talking up Beachstock, or “the planet’s biggest beach party,” which the Margate Business Association is scheduled to host June 29 on the beach at the Margate Public Library.
Berger, the MBA’s president and chief cheerleader, hopes this year’s party draws 12,000 people. All of those people will have plenty of time to get there — Beachstock’s schedule starts at 7:30 a.m. and runs until 10 p.m., which has to at least put it in the running for the longest party around.
But with some coaxing, or badgering, Berger will talk about his background, which didn’t include Margate as home until nine years ago. He was a radio executive in Philadelphia for 28 years at a series of stations, most of which were eventually bought up by corporate owners.
“We always rented down here in the summertime,” he said, but he and his wife, Melissa never saw the shore as home until they both decided to get out of radio.
Ed, now 58, opened Mediagate, a small advertising agency not far from the Margate beach.
“I didn’t come to Margate because I thought it was the most fertile place to open up an ad agency,” he said. “My wife and I loved it here.”
Not long after they got to Margate, Melissa suggested Ed check out a meeting of the local business association. His first bit of volunteering was at the Fall Funfest by the Bay, a more traditional local event — it’s in September, when lots of shore towns hold festivals to try to draw crowds.
Ed got to know the MBA’s key players and thought his marketing background could help out. He got more involved, was elected vice president, and when the then-president, Joe Tozzi, stepped down, Berger was voted in.
People who talk up the new guy in town include Mayor Mike Becker.
“He’s very good, he works hard, puts in a lot of time,” Becker said. “He’s a real plus for the city. ... He came, got involved and he’s got a lot of talent. So everyone put him to work, then all of a sudden, he’s top banana.”
As for Beachstock, the mayor calls it a hit.
“One year, all the vendors ran out of food,” Becker said. “That’s a good thing.”
Berger and the MBA’s executive director, Anna Maria Blescia, started a recent interview running through new additions to this year’s Beachstock. There are beach volleyball tournaments for kids and adults, a 1-mile ocean swimming race, a stand-up paddleboard race and, to cap off the day, a bonfire.
None of those was part of earlier Beachstocks — the first festival was in 2010 — but Berger sees all of the above growing in future summers. Take the volleyball, which he hopes can mature into a women’s professional tournament.
“I have delusions of grandeur, you have to understand,” he said, smiling.
But most of the day’s lineup has been field-tested — or beach-tested — over those three years. They have lots of vendors selling food and other stuff, a beer garden, a battle of the bands sponsored by rock radio station WZXL-FM 100.7, face-painting, plus other things that aren’t so standard in most of the planet’s festivals.
Take the free surfing lessons from one of the sponsors, Stacey’s Surf Camp. Or the “cool blast” — Margate’s firefighters use their hoses to shoot water high in the air and create one kind of shower most kids don’t mind a bit. The town is so set on drawing crowds, it doesn’t even check beach tags at Beachstock.
The list goes on. And Berger has heard complaints that Beachstock is too much — especially now. The date has floated around, but this time it’s set for the weekend before July 4, when the beaches would likely be crowded even without the planet’s biggest beach party.
But he’s not buying that one.
“We’re a beach community,” he said. “We should have a big beach party.”
He sees Beachstock as “great for imaging the city” — an advertising term, meaning creating a positive image. To Berger, this and other fun events are working.
“When they’re not building up and down the Jersey Shore, they’re building in Margate,” Berger said. “Homeowners benefit from this. ... A friend of mine wanted to move a business into Margate. When they (looked) for a store, I think there was only one place available” — every other retail space in town was filled.
Berger and Blescia said the business group actually didn’t start a summer festival in Margate. The city used to run its own Beachfest, but when the MBA wanted to take it over and kick it up, they started thinking up more impressive names.
“Anna Maria and Joy Kanter from (Margate’s) rec department, came up with Beachstock,” Berger said, and he added the “planet’s biggest beach party” tagline. He keeps selling the event after that history lesson, calling the day “a celebration of our beautiful beaches and the spirit of the people who live here.”
But as one of those people, Berger admits he’s not Margate’s biggest beach fan. When he gets time off from work and the MBA, he heads 60 or 70 miles east of New Jersey’s beaches to find his good times.
“Fishing is my passion,” he said. “I’m not a beach guy at all.”
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