Backyard Buffett buffet
Anthony Sibbert, wearing a parrothead hat, Dan Kane and Jan Kane enjoy a toast as the party begins Sunday. Anthony Sibbert set up a whole Jimmy Buffett beach party atmosphere in the back yard of his Absecon home. Staff photo by Danny Drake

ABSECON - If there's a crowd in Anthony and Maryann Sibbert's tricked-out backyard, it must be one of those days that ends in a "y."

Nine years of work has replaced their lot's thick forest with a tropical-island motif - anchored by a long pool, a thatched-roof bar and 120 tons of imported sand.

"People come over here and say they feel like they're on vacation," Maryann Sibbert said as beach-attired friends and family mingled Sunday night, as they do nearly every summer night.

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Many met through a love for Jimmy Buffett's music. Instead of attending Sunday night's Boardwalk Hall show, they prepared to watch footage of a classic Buffett concert projected on a rented movie screen.

"Buffett's music, regardless of how cold it is. ... It could be 20 degrees out, and it feels like it's 90," Anthony Sibbert said.

The "island flair," as Maryann's sister-in-law Tracy Schafer termed it, is everywhere. A mast rises out of the bar to support a skeletal pirate clutching a margarita glass. Beach umbrellas and faux palms provide shade. A school of shark fins protrudes from the sand near the sound stage, where Anthony Sibbert and Joe Niceta, a Northfield friend, teamed up on a rendition of "A Pirate Looks At Forty."

The central feature of the pool is a massive inflatable raft. Just as imposing is the towering empty lifeguard stand at the north end, courtesy of an unnamed friend of Anthony.

"He was drunk when he built it," Anthony said. "You can't even get up there!"

The Buffett party promised to be more than just a good time. The Sibberts had set up a 50-50 raffle for Ricky's Rainbow Fund, to benefit a young cancer patient in Pleasantville.

"We're very fortunate to enjoy this backyard, and I want to give back to somebody," Anthony Sibbert said.

Sunday's crowd was about 50 to 60, well below the record of 220. The Sibberts' wedding four years ago drew 170 to the yard.

The Sibberts get a discount from White Horse Liquors, and many guests bring bottles, too, so their party scene, however elaborate, would still seem cheaper than some group nights on the town.

Even so, "even when the economy was booming, Maryann and Anthony always had a backyard full of people," Schafer said.

Each year, setup and takedown take about a week and a half each, as the couple work around their jobs - she at Shore Memorial Hospital, he at Trump Plaza.

"I keep telling my bosses this beach bar is better than theirs," a smiling Anthony Sibbert said.

E-mail Eric Scott Campbell:

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