Annual Bonfire marks official end of 2020 summer season

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PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL KANITRA Volunteers ignite the large bonfire as families sit back and enjoy a night out.

POINT PLEASANT BEACH — The borough’s first large public event since the start of the pandemic was the one usually staged as the finale of it’s summer season — a bonfire on the beach that drew an estimated 500 residents on Saturday. 

Due to the continuing risk of COVID-19, the traditional celebration on Maryland Avenue Beach was a bit different this year. It was limited to residents and taxpayers of the borough only, to avoid extreme crowding and facilitate social distancing.

Everything went according to plan, Mayor Paul Kanitra said.

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“The feedback was incredible,” said Mr. Kanitra. “I’ve already gotten dozens of texts, phone calls and emails from people who either just moved to town or had never been to a town event before and all really appreciated the community nature of it in the wake of what was a crazy last seven months or so.”

The annual bonfire is usually held in early September to mark the end of the summer, but the Sept. 27 date allowed more time for consideration of safety measures. 

“People, for the most part, were wearing their masks on the way to the beach,” Mr. Kanitra said. Once there, small groups were separated at a distance from one another. 

“Since we had already planned out how many people and groups could be on the beach, it kind of all just about worked,” the mayor said. 

The bonfire offered attendees food with pizza and s’mores, accompanied by live music from Asbury Park musician Sam Sims and his band. 

“They were phenomenal,” Mayor Kanitra said of the entertainers. “They played a mix of their original songs and some covers. It was great.”

The mayor also praised the support of local businesses, including Berritazza Cafe, The Coal House, Jimmy’s Cucina, Joe Leone’s Italian Specialties, Little Mias II and Stop & Shop who donated food and supplies for the night.

Jaeger Lumber & Supply Co. and Woodhaven Lumber & Millwork Inc. donated materials for a stage as well as wood for the fire. AquaServe Lifeguards and PSD Tree Experts also donated to help organizers.

“The bonfire itself was huge,” Mr. Kanitra said. “We probably went through three cords of wood and close to 60 pallets.”

In addition to the bonfire, there were smaller fires for roasting s’mores, a hit with younger attendees, he said. 

“It was everything you would want it to be,” the mayor said of the event. “The weather couldn’t have been more perfect either and I think that only added to it.”

For more information on borough run events, visit pointpleasantbeach.org.

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