Margate Business Association President Ed Berger with Commissioner Cathy Horn, Executive Director Anna Maria Blescia and members of the MBA who served up beer tastings at the 2nd annual Cherry Blossom Festival.


MARGATE – If you’re old enough to remember “be ins” you’re probably a Deadhead. There were a lot of them on Ventnor Avenue Sunday enjoying the brilliant sunshine, warm weather and each other.

From the look of things, the second annual Cherry Blossom Festival held in the Parkway section April 14 signaled that in future years, the event will surely become the real “unofficial” start of summer in Margate. This year’s event was double the fun of the inaugural event, and the weather played a huge role in the turnout. Hundreds of residents, families and Deadheads descended on the Parkway to enjoy good eats, great music and vendors selling everything from jewelry to tie-dyed clothing – all reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s.

The event was two blocks long, twice the space enjoyed last year. People milled about wearing their hippie garb, love beads and headbands. Others spread out blankets picnic style to enjoy tastings from the food trucks that lined Ventnor Avenue. A row of booths along one of the bridal paths shared information about the marine environment. Nonprofit agencies encouraged those living along the shore to plant native plants and trees.

The event was sponsored by the Margate Business Association in conjunction with the Margate Community Church, Sustainable Downbeach and Margate Recreation.

“We picked a happiness theme,” MBA Executive Director Anna Maria Blescia said. “It happened organically. When we realized that the cherry blossoms would be blooming in early spring, we decided to make tie-dye T-shirts and hippie garb the theme of the day. After all, we are the only Downbeach community that has rows of cherry blossom trees that bloom at the start of the season. We’re celebrating the land and sea.”

“Tie-dye, Grateful Dead and done,” President Ed Berger said, as he poured tastings of beer and wine in the Biergarten.

Children played games in front of the church, including egg races and sack races, and others tried hula hooping on the ocean side bridal path. The Margate Mothers Association provided an area for children to create street art using colored chalk. The petting zoo provided ample opportunity for the children to see farm animals up close and personal. Miss New Jersey Victoria Mozitis mingled with the crowd and posed for selfies.

Dione Tsoplakis of Egg Harbor Township manned the Margate Terrapin Rescue booth to educate the public about the ongoing effort to protect terrapins that climb from the bay to higher land to lay their eggs in spring and early summer. The nonprofit group will be holding its annual volunteer day to repair the roadside barriers along the Downbeach Express causeway May 4 to prevent diamondback terrapins from climbing up to the roadway where they will surely be crushed by the vehicles coming into Margate.

Her educational partner Kim Wiech of Egg Harbor Township was giving away “catch reduction devices” for fishers to install on their crab pots. The orange frames that resemble a license plate holder allow crabs to get into and out of the crab pots but prevent terrapins from getting trapped inside.

“Stockton students go out in the bay to retrieve ‘ghost’ crab pots lost in storms or that people forget to retrieve when the season ends,” she said.

Larry Stern of Atlantic City came strictly for the music. He said many of the people who attended came to support the band – Dead Reckoning, a popular group that plays Grateful Dead music. True Deadheads danced freely in front of the stage.

“I experienced the Grateful Dead in ’68 and I never stopped listening,” he said.

There was even a “Grooviest Dog” contest. They came dressed for the occasion, and their pet parents got into the act wearing their best hippie garb.

Betty Vassar of Margate watched all the activity with her pup.

“It’s so great to see Margate have such a successful event,” she said pointing to the throngs of people enjoying the offerings. “Even if you just bought a Coke, it’s a great way to support the business community. I’ve been here all day and I’m just thrilled to see it.”

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Nanette LoBiondo Galloway

Award winning journalist covering news, events and people of Atlantic County for more than 20 years.