When the weather begins to warm and the frosty, frozen winds of winter are replaced with chirping birds and fluttering butterflies, most folks start to think about getting out of town. Maybe it’s planning for a big vacation in the summer, or a simple trip to the beach. For others it’s a perfect excuse to hop in a convertible and bask in the breeze of a windy back country road or to head to the lake for a dip.

But for many folks in and around Somers Point, the last weekend in April means making big plans — to stay right where they are. For a very good reason.

“It’s Bayfest!” says Michelle Douris, a longtime resident of Somers Point who has spent the last quarter of a century attending the festival annually.

Bayfest returns this year from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 27, along Bay Avenue in Somers Point.

“It’s sort of been our unofficial kickoff to summer,” Douris says. “We wait for everybody to get to my house, because the Jitney is right down the street from where I live, so we all meet here. I have friends who come over from Ocean City and I have friends and family who come from down from Philly and my kids and their friends all come, too, so it’s a full house that day. We start early, have a bloody Mary or Mimosa and head down to the festival. We go from food truck to food truck and everybody has a little something. It’s a great day.”

Douris is certainly not alone in her love for the festival, as over the last three decades it has become the largest single-day festival at the Jersey Shore, attracting over 40,000 visitors each year who come to enjoy the great food, entertainment and family atmosphere that Bayfest provides.

And while it is immensely popular with locals, the event brings in folks from all over.

“Last year was our first Bayfest and we absolutely loved it,” says Pat Sheerin who made the trek all the way from Scarsdale, N.Y., to attend. “We had come down to visit some friends in the area and they had suggested we stop by at Bayfest. We ended up making an entire day out of it, eating all kinds of great food and enjoying the whole atmosphere of the event. When we planned our trip this year our first question was ‘when is Bayfest?’ So we are coming back again. We can’t wait.”

A landmark year

While every Bayfest is special, this year’s event is even more notable, as it marks the 30th anniversary of the festival. When it began, Bayfest was a small festival designed around the celebration of Earth Day and the environment. Though the event has expanded over the years, Bayfest still hosts a large number of environmental groups that serve to educate the public of the specific issues our area faces.

Each year the proceeds of Bayfest go toward a number of special projects for the community of Somers Point, such as playground equipment on the beach and improvements to Bud Kern Field.

“The size of the crowd each year and the amount of money we are able to raise for the community, is exceptionally rewarding. Over the years, our committee has worked extremely well together to put on one of the largest single-day festivals in New Jersey and each year we continue to get bigger and better. We couldn’t do it without the help of our amazing vendors new and old, promoters, and volunteers,” says Geoffrey Hieb, chairman of Bayfest in a recent press release.

What to nosh

One thing folks look forward to at any great street festival is the food. Whether it’s over the top, deep-fried goodness or a simple sno-cone, a festival wouldn’t be a festival without an army of food vendors waiting to hand over delicious bites to the crowd. For 2019, Bayfest will once again have an array of food trucks on hand each tempting you with culinary delights as you stroll along Bay Avenue. Be on the lookout for indulgent treats from places like RSK Doughnuts and Corey’s Fish Fry, among others.

What to buy

Love to shop? Hate the boring everyday items from the mall? You are in luck. Local artisans will pack Bay Avenue once again with one-of-a-kind items. Just about anything you can imagine will be available from a variety of artists, craftsmen and jewelers. Everything from bracelets and necklaces to original paintings, photographs and framed art will be for sale.

What to watch

Any great party needs a great soundtrack and some live entertainment. Bayfest offers both, with live performances from bands such as Nea Breeks Pipe and Drum Band, The Dead Reckoning, The Rob Meunier Band, The Kilted Rogues and The Rhythm Wranglers plus an aerial performance from The Give and Take Jugglers that is sure to wow the crowd.

What to do with the kids

Bayfest is, at its core, a family event, so naturally one can expect lots for kids to do. Face painting will be available from the folks at Let’s Party Painting along with bounce houses, inflatable castles, a rock climbing wall and a petting zoo.

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Associate Editor, At The Shore/ACWeekly

Freelance reporter for At The Shore/Atlantic City Insiders from 2011-2015; Editor in Chief, MainStreetMarlboro.com,2014-2015; Writer for Zagat, 2013

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