For the past six years, the Mogan family has been vacationing in South Bethany.
“We love Bethany. The first year we tried, this was in Ocean City, and it gets a little rowdy up there. Then we went up to North Bethany, and the house just didn’t fit us… This house fits us,” said Patty Mogan.
A decade ago Patty Mandrier married Brian “Grumpy” Mogan, and their two Irish families combined.
Each year now, 20 to 30 family members take off from work and make the drive from Pittsburg, Pa., to spend a full week together at the beach.
This is the first year the “Grandma Patty and Grumpy’s Family Vacation” flag has been flown by the family, but it’s now posted on the beach every morning at 8:30 a.m. by “Grumpy” himself.
Last year, Grumpy’s daughter Melissa Carlson decided her family needed a vacation flag, after having heard about other families who had flags of their own.
“All the important stuff is represented on the flag – black and gold for Pittsburg, there’s shamrocks for the Irish, and, of course, the Pirate is in the middle,” explained Carlson’s husband, Roy.
A pirate is a predominant theme for the family’s vacation, after Carlson decided the family would take a ride on the Pirate Boat at Harpoon Hanna’s as a fun family outing four years ago.
“Melissa got us all eye patches and pirate bandanas, and we went down there, dressed up, and essentially took over the boat,” explained Carlson.
The following year, a treasure chest showed up at the house for the kids to pillage. The year after that, clues were hidden throughout the house for the kids to find, which led to “the Pirate’s treasure.”
“He decides our activities. He likes to mess with us a little bit and gives us clues,” explained Melissa.
“She looks forward to the pirate treasure hunt more than Christmas or her birthday,” joked Carlson’s daughter Lindsay.
The hunt has become quite elaborate – a treasure map washes up on shore in South Bethany, found by the kids, which eventually leads them to the buried treasure. The treasure hunt has now become an activity for the whole family.
“You gotta follow the map and dig it up,” explained Carlson’s niece Paige Miller, who said the booty was a lot of toys, including Silly Bandz.
This year, the clues became even more elaborate, as the Pirate left a video for the kids to watch, of him with the treasure.
“Clues show up at the beach house, complete with music, showing the Pirate and his treasure chest,” explained Roy. “After the video showed up, he left 21 little letters all over the house, and they unscrambled to spell, ‘Treasure hunt Wednesday,’ to let the kids know the first day we got here, when he was coming.”
Also, each year, the family has a big luau on the beach, at which they play games, including tug of war and limbo, wearing homemade black-and-gold tie-dyed shirts. That’s also when the treasure hunt happens.
“Last year, all the kids were grabbing at the treasure. Well, all of a sudden we look back and there’s a whole group of other children looking – they’re digging!” Melissa recalled with a laugh.
“They figured they found one, there might be another one in there!” added Grumpy.
After the luau, the family holds an awards ceremony at which plaques are awarded to each member of the family.
This year, the family vacation was extra special, as Patty’s son, Kenny Mardrier, took advantage of the occasion to marry his longtime girlfriend, Lynn, on the beach.
“We wanted to do it just because the whole family is here,” he said. “This day and age, everybody is busy with everything, and this is probably the one place that we enjoy the most, where we can spend quality time together as a family – unlike, if we were to do it at home, it would be that one-night, one-and-done type of atmosphere.”
Kenny was even given a bachelor party at the beach house, with a WWE Raw wrestling theme, courtesy of his young nephews. “Grumpy” was even hired to dance for the occasion.
“Not quite your traditional bachelor party,” Roy Carlson commented with a laugh.
Carlson actually became ordained so he could marry his brother-in-law and Kenny’s fiancée in the ceremony.
“Honestly, I expected some kind of legal obstacle or $1,000 ordainment fee. There were no obstacles, so why not make it more personal? So the Universal Life Church of Modesto, Calif., ordained me, and here we go,” he said.
Carlson said that, since his ordainment, he’s already been scheduled to perform a baptism.
“Who knows what it could turn into? Business cards are in the works,” he said with a laugh.
The whole family credited Melissa Carlson as being the “mastermind” of the family’s vacation activities.
“I just think up things. I just want every vacation to be bigger and better. I don’t want it to be the same old thing every year,” said Carlson.
The family said their days are packed full of fun activities, whether it’s heading to Jungle Jim’s for go-cart rides or tours of the Dogfish Head Brewery. Carlson’s twin nephews, Nathan and Ryan Nole, even practice football, to make sure they’re ready for the upcoming season.
“We do the luau right We do the flag right, and we do our football right,” said Patty Mogan. “Every day is at least two or three things going on. Every day is filled constantly.”
The family plans to continue their visit to South Bethany for many years to come.
“We love this area. It’s peaceful. We have lots of fun. We have fun just walking back and forth to the beach, just talking to the neighbors. The community is just wonderful,” said Patty Mogan.
“As long as Bethany will have us,” added Justin Nole, whose wife, Judy, is Patty’s daughter.
“I can’t tell you what next year is going to bring,” added Melissa Carlson. “But it has to be bigger and better.”