I started in radio at a little radio station in Long Branch, Seaview 107, the same year that Ocean Fest began. I was thrilled that at my first professional on air job, I was able to announce the inauguration of this amazing event. It’s a huge annual party on July 4th with fireworks, music and local vendors up and down the beautiful long branch oceanfront boardwalk.

It seems to get more and more popular every year. At the time it first started, I had just given birth to my first baby and we were there covering her little ears with our hands so that she wouldn’t be afraid of the noise. A couple years later, we did the same with our second baby and so on and so on until all four of our kids got to look forward to Ocean Fest every summer.

I actually strolled my first grandchild (who, at 7 months old, could not have possibly understood what was going on) down the beautiful Long Branch Boardwalk in 2011 just so she could be a part of the Ocean Fest that we loved so much. Over the years we attended either as representatives of various radio stations in New Jersey or just as a family. My kids looked forward to it from months in advance. We lived a few blocks away so this was, after all, our home festival.

My kids and I always felt like Ocean Fest belonged just to us—like it was a big party in our own backyard. I remember wiping spilled slushees off their T-shirts and carrying sleeping, happy kids back to the car after the night was over. Then, we would take what would otherwise be a three minute car ride but now was a 45 minute one back to our house. Sure, we could’ve walked there and back. But the caravan of cars crowding ocean Avenue with kids waving to each other through open car windows was part of the fun.

It made you feel like you were part of something amazing.That’s why it’s cancellation this year due to the COVID-19 crisis is so dramatic to me; because it represents so many milestones in my life bringing up children and was a running summer theme for our family. That baby whose ears we covered is 30 now. And while I’m sure Ocean Fest will be back next year, it will be heartbreaking to see the skies over the Long Branch beaches dark this July 4th for the first time in 30 years.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco. Any opinions expressed are Judi's own.

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