Jazz Funeral to send out summer Monday in Bethany Beach

Music, which includes tunes from Dixieland jazz bands patterned after those that play at New Orleans jazz funerals, will fill the Bethany Beach Bandstand Monday during the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral, which annually says goodbye to summer. (Submitted photos)

BETHANY BEACH — On Labor Day weekend, the town of Bethany Beach is unlike any other Atlantic coast beach town. The Bethany Beach Boardwalk is the setting for the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral, one of the county’s most unusual end of summer celebrations.

The 2019 Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral will be celebrated on Monday with activities beginning about 5:30 p.m. at the north end of the Bethany Beach Boardwalk, according to Carolyn Bacon and Marie Wright, the assistant chairwomen of this year’s Jazz Funeral events.

At the Jazz Funeral, spectators go to the boardwalk and can join in a funeral procession of mourners, along with the combined forces of three Dixieland jazz bands, who carry a casket with a mannequin representing “Summer of 2019” to its final resting place at the boardwalk bandstand. The Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral is based on the jazz funerals held in New Orleans.

The Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral is one of only a very few events in the country where all participants are able and encouraged to join in the event, in this case, the funeral procession, according to assistant chairwoman Ms. Bacon.

“Being able to shed a few tears for the ‘dearly departed summer’ is the only requirement for those who join the procession,” said resort resident Ms. Bacon.

“Visitors and locals of all ages are invited to join in the procession and have as much fun as they want at the Jazz Funeral. We invite those who attend to dress up in their favorite costumes and have a great time.”

“Sister” Marie Wright will help escort the coffin of Summer 2019 to its final resting place on Monday. She will then have a few humorous words to say about the deceased season during the unique celebration.

The Jazz Funeral is held as an end of summer celebration because the town of Bethany Beach is one of only a few oceanfront resort communities that can still be described as a “true summer resort,” according to Ms. Bacon.

“Summer resorts like Bethany experience a dramatic uptick in summer tourism beginning with the Memorial Day weekend and this continues on until Labor Day,” she said.

“Because many of the families who vacation in Bethany return home to make sure their children get off to a good start in school, there is a dramatic departure of the summer visitor population after Labor Day weekend. Even though there are lots of interesting fall activities, after Labor Day the small beach town of Bethany Beach once again becomes the ‘Quiet Resort’.”

The event held each Labor Day in the “Quiet Resort” is also an opportunity to give thanks.

“This Labor Day weekend is our time to thank all those who have visited with us during the summer of 2019 and encourage them to return again in 2020,” said Ms. Bacon.

“The Jazz Funeral events are dedicated to both locals and visitors. It is meant to be a universal end-of-season celebration of thanks and the kick off to a vibrant fall season.”

The actual start of the celebration is a silent auction held to raise funds for charity. The charity kickoff event for the Labor Day weekend and the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral events is the silent auction held on today at 3:15 p.m. at Bethany Blues Restaurant in Bethany Beach. All funds raised go directly to the American Red Cross of Delmarva.

“Everyone smiles and laughs at the tongue-in-cheek humor that pervades the Jazz Funeral and all are encouraged to sing along with the Dixieland bands,” said Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral co-organizer Carolyn Bacon.

“Our thanks goes to all those who contributed merchandise and gifts to the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral Silent Auction,” Ms. Bacon said. “We were especially happy to receive multiple donations of valuable gift certificate for restaurants meals along with a fine collection of original jewelry.”

Many locals and summer visitors view the 34th Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral as the capstone event of the 2019 “unofficial” summer entertainment season, according to Ms. Bacon.

“For the past 34 summer seasons, the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral has been held to celebrate the season’s end and to help the local residents ease back to the slower pace of off-season living,” Ms. Bacon said. “It is one last chance to celebrate the final moments of the summer season with an event that is marked by music, humor and good fellowship.”

The Jazz Funeral has become a quirky Bethany Beach tradition and all are welcomed to join in. Our goal is for every one of the 2,000 or more people who attend the Jazz Funeral, to enjoy themselves and to feel free to celebrate the end of the summer season in their own personal way.”

Those who attend usually let loose.

“Some may weep and cry for dearly departed summer, other dress to the hilt in costumes like they would if they were attending a New Orleans Jazz Funeral,” Ms. Bacon said. “Everyone smiles and laughs at the tongue-in-cheek humor that pervades the Jazz Funeral and all are encouraged to sing along with the Dixieland bands.”

Part of the humor and local Bethany commentary takes place right after everyone in the parade who started at the north end of the Boardwalk arrives at the Bethany Bandstand.

From left, Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral General Manager David Rickards discusses Silent Auction plans with Red Cross representative Emily Nock and Jazz Funeral Assistant Chairwoman Carolyn Bacon. The Jazz Funeral Silent Auction takes place today at Bethany Blues Restaurant at 6 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in Bethany Beach. Admission is free.

There will be two short speeches before “Summer” is buried — one informative and the other humorous including some comments about the weather.

In fact, the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral has a plan for inclement weather for this year’s event, according to Jazz Funeral chairman Paul Jankovic.

“In previous years we almost got rained on when we held the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral. It was very close but we escaped with just a few intermittent showers in the early parts of these two events,” Mr. Jankovic said.

“Because one never knows what Mother Nature has in store for you, we accepted the generosity of Jack Burbage to hold the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral at the Bethany Town Center in the event we experience severe or heavy rainy weather.”

The host for the event is broadcaster Liane Hansen, a radio host from National Public Radio. Bethany resident Ms. Hansen has the duty of introducing the guest speakers, American Red Cross of Delmarva Executive Director Theresa Young and Red Cross Director Emily Nock who will explain how their organization helps the local community.

In addition, “Sister” Marie Wright will present a humorous recap of summer events at the beach.

The annual Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral on Monday begins with a private “wake” at about 5 p.m. The “solemn procession” follows at 5:30 p.m. This year’s procession is accompanied by the music of three Dixieland jazz bands, The Dixie Cats, The Downtown Dixieland Band and the Jazz Funeral Irregulars.

It is expected that the combined forces of bands of the Dixie Cats, the Downtown Dixieland Band and the Jazz Funeral Irregulars will have about 16 to 18 pieces.

An overview of the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral can be found at the event’s website, www.jazz-funeral.com. The site provides a light-hearted, comprehensive view of the elements of the event dedicated to the final weekend of the summer season.

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