Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral to benefit Habitat for Humanity

The Southern Delaware resort area’s most unusual celebration takes place in the “Quiet Resort” of Bethany Beach on Labor Day, and everybody is invited, according to Carolyn Bacon and Marie Wright, the assistant chairpersons of this year’s Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral events, which will be celebrated on Monday, Sept. 5, and benefit Sussex County Habitat for Humanity.

The Jazz Funeral activities will begin about 5:30 p.m. at the north end of the Bethany Beach boardwalk, with a mock funeral procession of mourners, along with the combined forces of three Dixieland jazz bands, that will carry a casket with a mannequin representing “Summer of 2016” to its final resting place at the boardwalk bandstand.

“The purpose of the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral is for those attending to get involved, have fun and enjoy the day,” Bacon said. “There is something for all members of the family to enjoy, and the event is admission free. The Jazz Funeral is a true end-of-summer celebration — Bethany Beach style.”

The Jazz Funerals held in Bethany Beach are a tribute to the jazz funerals made famous in New Orleans. An overview of the event can be viewed at the website at

Each year, the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral dedicates its events to a charity. This year, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity will be honored.

According to Sussex County Habitat for Development Director James A. “Jay” Gundy III, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity has accomplished much, but more funds are needed to continue their Sussex County programs.

“For 25 years, beginning in 1991, Sussex County Habitat for Humanity (SCHFH) has been building homes in partnership with very low- to low-income Sussex County families,” Gundy said. “In May 2015, SCHFH dedicated its 100th home. To date, SCHFH has sold 109 homes, with eight more currently under construction and four ready to begin.

“Examples of SCHFH’s productivity in the last nine years include 22 homes in the Georgetown Point development, 19 homes in the Concord Village development, 12 homes in Laurel, six in the greater Seaford area, five in Ingram Village,and one in West Rehoboth.”

SCHFH also does more than build homes, according to Gundy.

“It prepares partner families to be successful homeowners by requiring at least 200 hours of sweat equity and attendance at monthly pre-and post-homeownership classes that provide instruction in budgeting, insurance, predatory lending and foreclosure avoidance, and home maintenance, for example,” Gundy said. ”The partner family program provides social services and case management components to further empower SCHFH homebuyers.”

To help support Habitat, Bethany Beach’s “End of Summer Season Celebration” will also hold the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral Silent Auction. The 11th annual Jazz Funeral Silent Auction will be held on Friday, Sept. 2, from 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. at Bethany Blues Restaurant at 6 N. Pennsylvania Avenue in Bethany Beach.

“Every single dollar from the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral Silent Auction goes directly to Sussex County Habitat for Humanity,” Bacon said. “Local businesses have been very generous to help us in this, the 11th year, of the silent auction. Those who wish to bid to help out will find an interesting array of gift certificates and merchandise from which to choose. Remember — the silent auction is all for charity, and admission is free.”

Besides an array of items, the Silent Auction offers other benefits, she said.

“Although you will probably have your hands full just looking over the items up for bid, holding the Silent Auction at Bethany Blues is an exciting treat in itself,” Bacon said. “Bethany Blues is one of the most popular restaurants on the coast and has generously agreed to provide a conference and dining room for use by the Jazz Funeral Silent Auction.”

Music is also on the menu at the Habitat for Humanity benefit event.

“Our Silent Auction will also have great Dixieland music from members of the three New Orleans-style Dixieland bands that will perform as part of the Jazz Funeral on Monday,” Bacon said. “This is a tune-up session for our talented group of professional musicians.”

At the upcoming Jazz Funeral, spectators may also see the grave digger, the widow, Frogman, Santa Claus, the cowboy, Batman, the official photographer, the diva, Elmo, any one of a dozen Disney characters and various loose interpretations of black funeral attire. Band members and Jazz Funeral committee members will be outfitted with an official Jazz Funeral T-shirt.

Part of the celebration, Bacon noted, is a series of brief reflections and recollections by Bethany residents, politicians and businesspeople.

A representative of Sussex County Habitat for Humanity and the Jazz Funeral’s own Sister Marie are scheduled to present their comments and perspectives about the summer of 2016. The host for the event is broadcaster Liane Hansen, formerly of National Public Radio.

“We are all happy to pitch in to raise funds at the silent auction on the Friday afternoon prior to Labor Day,” Wright said. “Sussex County Habitat for Humanity helps local people when they really need help most.”

“Your presence at the Silent Auction is a step in the right direction,” she added. “When you attend, you can look over a wide range of local merchandise and enjoy the hospitality and fellowship at Bethany Blues restaurant.”

A special effort is still under way to contact area businesses for items of value that will be part of Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral Silent Auction.

Bacon noted that the Jazz Funeral events add some extra spark to the final weekend of the traditional tourist season.

“The Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral Silent Auction is one not to be missed. We will be offering many restaurant gift certificates and quality store merchandise that will please the entire family,” Bacon said.

“We are happy to have received a high level of positive support from the shops, stores and restaurants in the Bethany Beach, Ocean View and Fenwick Island areas as well as a variety of establishments in Millville, West Fenwick Island/Selbyville, Millsboro, Dewey Beach, Rehoboth Beach, Ocean City, West Ocean City and Berlin.”

As is the tradition with the previous Jazz Funerals, all funds raised from this year’s Silent Auction go directly to Habitat for Humanity and their charitable programs in Sussex County.

Anyone who wishes to volunteer to help out with the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral or the Silent Auction is being asked to email, call to leave a message after five rings at (302) 537-1585 or send mail to P.O. Box 505, Bethany Beach, DE 19930. A comprehensive overview of the event can be viewed at the website at