There’s nothing like belly dancers, fire-eaters, food trucks and live music to keep summer’s party going. And if you like axe throwing and theater, there’s that, too, at the fourth annual New Jersey Fringe festival, Friday through Sunday, Aug. 2 through Aug. 4, in downtown Hammonton.

“This fringe festival is something special,” says Ed Corsi, managing director of the Eagle Theatre, which is producing the event. “It’s very similar to the one in Edinburgh,” which has a host of eclectic theater acts and street performers.

“Four years ago, we thought having a fringe festival in Hammonton was a crazy idea,” recalls Corsi. “But we’re building a cultural epicenter here. This is bringing people to the town. Last year alone, we had 1,100 people come for the festival. And each year, those numbers continue to grow.”

Wander the festival “grounds”—a 12 block hub—and enjoy all the outdoor acts for free: fire-eaters, live bands, belly dancers, street artists and craft vendors. You can try your hand at axe throwing or billiards. And if you want to imbibe at the beer garden while listening to live music, you can do that too. Twenty-two bands will perform all weekend long, playing cover music and original songs.

No festival would be complete without a ton of food. Good eats are everywhere, with 10 food trucks to choose from. You can opt for tacos, burgers and cheesesteaks. Or if you want healthier fare, vegan options are available at the Self Love food truck.

In the middle of all the festivities, theater dominates. You can binge on it for one day, two days or the entire weekend. This year’s fringe features 13 original and rarely produced pieces, ranging from musicals to comedies to drag shows.

Corsi says the Fringe committee received 168 submissions from across the country. In selecting this year’s lineup, the committee wanted to offer theater to appeal to a variety of age groups, including children.

To that end, Under the Moon is a play based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale, What the Moon Saw. There’s also a magic show, Town X, by the Baltimore-based team, The Encounter. And 25-minute musical excerpts from Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat will be performed by students from the Eagle Theatre’s Conservatory Summer Camp.

We spoke with playwright Julian Bliss whose work, Moving to Quebec, was selected to be performed by the Atlantic City Theatre Company in this year’s fringe. In this one-act comedy-drama, a group of college friends are reunited for a going away party. A fun time slowly unravels as hidden truths are revealed and forgotten feelings resurface.

Bliss, who lives in Brigantine, says he knew he wanted to be a writer at age 7 or 8. “I have dozens and dozens of notebooks filled with ideas, stories and drawings,” he says.

He likes to write about his own personal experiences, along with delving into issues of mental illness and mental health. “The play [Moving to Quebec] explores how a lot of people grapple with personal demons in their lives, and you never really know what’s going on underneath. Sometimes there’s a lot a person’s going through beyond what they show the world.”

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