Downbeach Seafood Festival supports local businesses and economy

VENTNOR — Attending the annual Downbeach Seafood Festival for the second year in a row was a no-brainer for a seafood lover like Lance Cohen.

In addition to satisfying his craving for a good lobster roll, Cohen was able to spend a Saturday with his son Zachary, his daughter Mikayla and some of his father’s friends at Ski Beach. They drew with chalk, listened to live music, were entertained by various shows, and of course, ate a variety of seafood from local businesses before returning to their hometown of Millville.

“We had a great time last time,” said Cohen, who said he definitely came back for the food, but the entertainment and nice people were also a plus. “It brings together a lot of different local businesses. The participating casinos are new, but there are other small restaurants you can try without going all the way. And if they like it, that makes people want to go to those places and try more.

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And that was the point, said Jon Henderson, the founder of Good Time Tricycle Productions, which organized the event.

“Highlighting the best seafood businesses in South Jersey is really the main goal,” said Henderson, who noted that the 80 vendors in attendance were from New Jersey, while about 98 percent of they came from South Jersey.

Having the opportunity for 9,000 to 11,000 people to enjoy the variety of seafood delicacies the festival had to offer was great exposure for small business owners like Ventnor resident Dakota Curran, who started Dak Daddy’s Oyster Shack about two and a half years ago. He harvested oysters from his Ludlam Bay oyster farm in Sea Isle City and offered festival-goers an array of other fresh seafood.

“We were here last year and had a really good turnout,” said Curran, who does most of his oyster and seafood pop-up stands with island businesses, like the Ducktown Tavern in Atlantic City and Robert’s Place in Margate. “It really helped get the message out.” I want to focus more on catering for parties, weddings… things like that.

For seasoned seafood vendors such as Cape May Salt Oyster Farms, which shucks an average of about 6,000 oysters a year at the Downbeach festival, Melissa Harabedian said the event is a great way to offer people the salts from Cape May that they were waiting for while offering them something. new. Their two additions this year were Tucker Island Oysters from Barnegat Bay and Silk Salts from Scull Bay. Plus, they’ve teamed up with Mr. Finger’s Alibi Gin for the oyster shooters.

“It helps us expand our business further by partnering with other businesses,” said Harabedian, of Commercial Township.

Ventnor Fire Chief Michael Cahill said the festival also benefited the town by attracting thousands of people.

“This is the fourth year that the seafood festival has been held at Ski Beach, and it just keeps getting bigger every year,” said Cahill, who mentioned that this is the second year that the festival took place over two days instead of one.

Cahill noted that the festival, which was held at Bader Field in Atlantic City from 2012 to 2018 — except in 2017 when it was held next to the Showboat — was moved to Ventnor in 2019. No fruit festival from Wed did not take place in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. .

Since then, Cahill said people from all over come to Ski Beach for the festival, which also highlights the city’s newest and only form of public infrastructure that can be used for large-scale events, like the series free concerts on the city’s summer beach.

For Mays Landing resident Kathy Budzichowski and her husband, Harry, the festival was a great way to experience many different seafood restaurants in a short amount of time – and also on the water.

“This is just another example of how Ventnor is committed to delivering more to the community. It makes people want to come to Ventnor, see what the area has to offer and live in Ventnor,” she said.

In addition to eating, people got to see hula dancing, sand sculpting, cooking demonstrations, a crabcake eating competition and much more.

There was also a beer tasting tent where people could sample beers from around the state, an opportunity to donate $10 to taste more than 22 chowders in a cooking competition to benefit the bank New Jersey community food and learn about marine life. and shell recycling, as well as other activities.

“I feel bad for the lobsters,” Harry Budzichowski said. “They didn’t stand a chance.”

The last day of the festival will take place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.

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