As it has for the past 32 years, Bethany Beach will “celebrate” the end of the summer with a funeral.
It’s not just any funeral — as locals and visitors alike have learned over the years, the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral is one of the quirkiest events around and a fun way to “play out” the summer on a Labor Day afternoon.
The “funeral,” which consists of a procession from the north end of the boardwalk, featuring mourners, a Dixieland jazz band and a casket bearing a mannequin symbolizing “Summer 2018,” begins at 5:30 p.m. Anyone is welcome to follow the “sobbing” mourners as they slowly traverse the boards, or just stand alongside and watch the spectacle.
The party actually gets started earlier in the weekend, with a silent auction — this year benefitting Habitat for Humanity — at Bethany Blues at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31.
“On Labor Day, the summer of 2018 will be gone, yet the memories of time spent at the Quiet Resorts will linger on as wonderful memories,” said Jankovic said.
As Jankovic put it, the summer of 2018 “brought us some unusual surprises,” including beach replenishment, which brought some interesting equipment and noises to the beach and left it much wider, and “different waves of weather that kept us all guessing” throughout the summer.
The annual Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral on Labor Day, Sept. 3, begins with a private “Wake” at about 4:45 p.m. The 5:30 p.m. procession is followed by a mini-concert of Dixieland jazz music at the bandstand.
The goal of the entire event, Jankovic said, “is to help ease the pain and sadness of the passing of the summer season, and to celebrate in style and parody.”
Jankovic expressed gratitude toward all those who help make the Jazz Funeral the fun, funky event that it is.
“The Jazz Funeral is indebted to Jim Weisgerber for graciously donating the facilities of Bethany Blues on the busy Friday afternoon right before Labor Day,” Jankovic said. “This is the 13th year Jim has generously hosted the Silent Auction, all in the name of raising funds for five local charities: the American Red Cross of Sussex County, the American Cancer Society and their Relay for Life program, the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and the Delaware Audubon Society and the Chesapeake Audubon Society, as well as Sussex County Habitat for Humanity.”
The Jazz Funeral itself is made possible by the support of the Town of Bethany Beach, which provides the bandstand, the sound system and police support for the event.
Sussex County Habitat for Humanity Development Director James A. “Jay” Gundy III said the organization has accomplished much, but more funds are needed to continue their Sussex County programs.
The Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral has helped raise funds for Habitat, as well as other local charities, according Marie Wright, co-assistant chairperson.
“All those on the Jazz Funeral committee are happy to pitch in to help raise funds at the silent auction on the Friday afternoon prior to Labor Day,” Wright said. “The Sussex County Habitat for Humanity helps local people when they really need help most.”
As for the silent auction, Wright said, “When you attend, you can look over a wide range of local merchandise, and enjoy the hospitality and fellowship at Bethany Blues restaurant on Friday, Aug. 31, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.”
Bethany Blues is located at 6 North Pennsylvania Avenue in Bethany Beach.
A number of businesses have provided items for the auction, according to Carolyn Bacon, co-assistant chairperson.
“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.”
Those who attend the admission-free silent auction to benefit Habitat for Humanity will find a selection of gifts that include accommodations at the Addy Sea and Bethany Beach Ocean Suites as well as jewelry sets from TKO Designs, Silver Stockpile, JJ Stones and Coronado Jewelers.
For those interested in dining, there are restaurant gift certificates from Sedona, Bethany Boathouse, Armand’s Pizza, Mickey’s Crab House, the Café on 26, Bethany Diner, Cottage Café, DiFebo’s Restaurant, Mango’s, The Blue Crab, Our Harvest, Patsy’s, Nantucket’s, Twining’s Lobster Shanty, Ropewalk, Big Fish, Turtle Creek Café, Ocean View Seafood, Steamers, the Penguin Diner, Fox’s Pizza, Grotto Pizza, Maureen’s Ice Cream, Pie, 99 Sea Level, Baja Beach House Grill, Summer Salts Café, Fat Tuna, Bethany Blues, The Parkway, Papa John’s Pizza, Five Guys Burgers & Fries, Mancini’s restaurant and The Crab Bag, along with gourmet foods from McCabe’s Gourmet Market and tickets to Dickens Parlour Theatre.
Also on auction are health and beauty services from Oceanova, Venus Nails, Hair Snippety, Studio 26 Salon & Spa in Ocean View, Shore Barre Fitness, All About You and the Yoga Center of Bethany Beach, as well as books from Bethany Beach Books and popcorn from Fisher’s Popcorn.
There are gifts, furniture and nautical items from Crazy Lady, Millville Pet Shop, Casual Designs, Treasure Island Fashions, Yesterday’s Fun Toys & Games, Fenwick Hardware, Paradise Gifts, Ocean View Rent-All Equipment Center, Sea Level, Christy’s Keepsakes, Tropicana, Beach Goods & Golf, Elaine the Artist, Miller’s Creek Furniture and a friend.
Auction attendees can also bid on fine wine from Beach Liquors, Connor’s Liquors, a friend, White Marlin Mall and Lighthouse Liquors. Families can enjoy miniature golf passes from Captain Jack’s Pirate Golf, Garfield 10 Mini Golf and Old Pro Golf, as well as carpet cleaning from Brasure’s Carpet Care.
Attendees will also find up for auction printing and packaging services from the UPS Store, along with graphic design and public-relations services from Quiet Resorts Public Relations and Ocean City Advertising Agency. There is also sportswear from Donkey Ice Cream, Bennett Orchards and White Marlin Mall, along with golf services from Bear Trap Dunes and Sea Dogs Golf Packages. For the car, there are auto services from Hocker’s Car Wash and Clarksville Goodyear Service.
While the Jazz Funeral and Silent Auction emphasizes family fun and frivolity, this year’s Jazz Funeral will also recognize three late Bethany citizens who provided vital help and assistance for previous Jazz Funerals, enabling the event to move forward. Those contributors include Kirk Rankin, Debbie Reilly and Art Antal, whose names appear under the banner “In Memoriam” on this year’s Jazz Funeral T-shirts, according to Jankovic.
“Kirk Rankin helped founder Moss Wagner create the end-of-summer celebration. Using his Ph.D. in linguistics from Penn State, he researched how a true jazz funeral was constructed and applied that knowledge to benefit the cause.
“Town Council Member Debbie Reilly provided needed fiscal and management skills to enable the event to continue to take place. She also provided organizational and meeting space as the event grew in size and complexity.
“Jazz Funeral Chairman Art Antal is recognized as the event’s most colorful participant, with his humorous presentations at the Jazz Funeral.”
“Art Antal always added a generous measure of humor to the Jazz Funeral,” Jankovic added. “Whether Art portrayed Batman, the Pope or a Hawaiian warlord, his costumes and persona were crowd-pleasers.”
In previous Jazz Funeral ceremonies at the Bethany bandstand, one of the featured speakers was always the effervescent Antal, Jankovic noted. “Art’s editorial wrap-ups of the just-passed season were pointed and humorous, and were usually interspersed with audience applause and laughter.”
Three New Orleans-style Dixieland jazz bands — the Dixie Cats, the Downtown Dixieland Band and the Jazz Funeral Irregulars — will provide the entertainment as Bethany bids a fond farewell to Summer 2018, according to Jazz Funeral musical director John Strawley.
Strawley pointed out that there are two locations for Jazz Funeral musical entertainment. Since there is usually a large gathering of jazz enthusiasts at the bandstand before the event begins, the Downtown Dixieland Band presents a lively musical set starting around 4 p.m., before the Jazz Funeral march begins at 5:30 p.m.
“The Downtown Dixieland Band is one of the best Dixieland bands going,” Strawley said. “They attract some of the best local and regional musicians, who practice and play together on a year-round basis from their home base in Milford, Del. This group has a great mellow sound, sporting the widest variety of upbeat Dixieland tunes.”
“It is expected that the combined forces of bands of the Dixie Cats, the Downtown Dixieland Band and the Jazz Funeral Irregulars will have 16 to 18 pieces,” Strawley said. “The Jazz Funeral band will play at the Bethany Beach bandstand for an extended period of time at the conclusion of the Jazz Funeral on Sept. 3, starting about 6:15 p.m. or so. For most members of the combined bands, Bethany Beach is their most-favored gig. They play their hearts out.”
Remarks about the dearly departed are part of many memorial services, and the Jazz Funeral is no exception. Slated to offer brief reflections and recollections of the summer gone by are several Bethany residents, notables and businesspeople. Habitat’s Gundy and the Jazz Funeral’s own Sister Marie are scheduled to present their comments and perspectives about the summer of 2018, and NPR’s Liane Hansen will be the host for the bandstand proceedings.
Anyone who wishes to volunteer to help out with the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral or the Silent Auction can email firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at (302) 537-1585 after five rings. A complete overview of the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral can be viewed on the website at www.jazz-funeral.com.
By Kerin Magill