2010 Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral Plans

by Dave on May 23, 2010

Preparations are underway to celebrate the end of the Bethany Beach, Del. summer resort season with the annual Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral on Labor Day Monday September 6 at about 5:30 p.m.

The Jazz Funeral is a lighthearted celebration that allows all those who attend to participate and become part of the procession. The 2010 Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral is a “Labor Day Farewell to Summer” Parade and Celebration that are free to the public, according to Carolyn Bacon and Marie Wright, the assistant chairpersons of this year’s Jazz Funeral events.

At the Jazz Funeral, spectators go to the Bethany Beach Boardwalk on Labor Day Monday and can join the funeral procession of mourners. Mourners carry a casket with a mannequin representing “Summer of 2010” from the North end of the Boardwalk to its final resting place at the Boardwalk Bandstand.

Music is provided by the combined efforts of three Dixieland Jazz Bands, according to cochairperson Bacon.

“The Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral is comparable to the Jazz Funerals that are held in New Orleans that celebrate the lives of those who have passed away,” Bacon said. “In Bethany Beach, the Jazz Funeral is celebrated each Labor Day to mark the passing of the summer resort season in Delaware’s Quiet Resorts.”

Part of the Jazz Funeral festivities will be a series of brief reflections and recollections by Bethany residents after the procession arrives at the Boardwalk
Bandstand.

This year’s end of the summer remarks may be especially poignant, according to cochairperson Wright.

“The Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral is celebrating its 25th anniversary and our event has a very interesting 25 year history,” Wright said. “We hope to have representatives from all 25 years attending this year’s Jazz Funeral.”

For the past five years, the Jazz Funeral was dedicated to those impacted by the lingering aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, especially the residents of New Orleans.

“Since New Orleans experienced so much devastation from Hurricane Katrina and since the recovery process in New Orleans still continues to this day, our lighthearted Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral celebration is meant to show respect and admiration for the Jazz Funeral tradition that was born in the Big Easy,” cochairman Wright said.

Recent environmental events have also made New Orleans and the entire Gulf region vulnerable due to the adverse effect of the BP oilrig explosion.

“Just when New Orleans and the Gulf were turning the corner for a brighter future, these areas are now in a fight for their environmental lives,” Wright said. “This new challenge is just a daunting as the hurricane that hit almost five years ago.”

One of the distinguishing features of this “End of Summer Season Celebration” will be the music. The Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral will feature three bands — the Dixie Cats, the Jazz Funeral Irregulars and the Downtown Dixieland Band.
The combined bands usually have about 20 pieces that makes this event one of the largest regularly scheduled Dixieland band performances on the Delmarva Peninsula.

The Jazz Funeral is based on the Jazz Funeral tradition of New Orleans, where “Funerals with music predated the start of Jazz, and they continued with the contemporary New Orleans Street-Funk style of brass bands,” according to long
time Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral participant Kirk Rankin.

The Jazz Funeral has become a “quirky” tradition in Bethany Beach and celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. At 25 years, the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral is one of the longest running “fun” celebrations of its kind in the Lower Delaware resort area.

Moss Wagner, a former town council member and Bethany businessman who owned and operated the Bethany Beach Ice Cream Parlor and Moss Boss’ Ice Cream Shop, founded this end of summer celebration.

Wagner’s original idea was to have a party to celebrate the closing of the summer resort season “…in a town where there is a definite beginning and end to the summer season.”

Wagner was the guest of honor and received the Founder’s Award at the 2005 Jazz Funeral at the 20th anniversary of the charitable event. Organizers are hoping he may return for this year’s 25th anniversary event. The Jazz Funeral also intends to honor Bethany businessman Art Antal. Antal is the proprietor of the Golfin’ Dolphin Indoor Mini-Golf Course on Garfield Parkway and took over the reigns of the Jazz Funeral after founder Wagner relocated.

Looking forward to the summer season along the coast is the Baltimore Sun newspaper that featured an article entitled “25 things to do in Southern Delaware” in its May 19 edition.

Writer Nancy Jones Bonbrest mentioned the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral and encouraged Sun readers to “Attend a funeral. A jazz funeral, that is. Bethany Beach celebrates the end of summer on Labor Day Monday with a New Orleans-inspired jazz funeral along the boardwalk.”

While this year’s Jazz Funeral will be held on Labor Day Monday September 6 with activities beginning around 5:30 p.m. at the North end of the Bethany Beach Boardwalk, the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral Silent Auction is held on the Friday afternoon before Labor Day as a kickoff to the Labor Day weekend.

The Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral Silent Auction on Friday September 3 at about 3 p.m. is in the final stages of the planning process. The beneficiary for funds raised at a silent auction held on the Friday afternoon prior to Labor Day will be named shortly.

The beneficiary of last year’s Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral event was the Sussex County Habitat for Humanity. In 2008 the American Cancer Society and their Relay For Life® program was honored. In 2007 the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization was the honored beneficiary.

Those who attended the 2006 Jazz Funeral events had their initial opportunity to contribute funds for local housing initiatives supported by the Sussex County Habitat for Humanity.

The 2005 Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral was dedicated to the excellent work performed by members of the American Red Cross. In 2005, there was a memorial service to honor New Orleans and those who perished in Hurricane Katrina. Representatives of the American Red Cross were on hand to collect funds for hurricane relief.

Anyone who wishes to volunteer to help out with the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral or the Silent Auction is asked to email jazzfuneral@mchsi.com, call to leave a message at 302-537-1585 or drop a line to PO Box 505, Bethany Beach, Del. 19930.

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