BELMAR, NJ — Summer arrived early in Belmar with the start of the three-day New Jersey Seafood Festival.

Under sunny skies with temperatures in the high 80s, the annual event kicked off even before its official 4 p.m. start on Friday, May 19. Dozens of visitors wasted little time browsing around Silver Lake Park looking to find where to stop for their first bite to eat — a decision that didn’t take long to make.

And they had plenty of places from which to choose along the aisles of food vendors set up with grills, portable stovetops and preparation stations — their outdoor mini-kitchens for the weekend event with a view of Belmar’s oceanfront that’s certainly hard to beat.

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Despite the heat and hours of getting ready to start service, everyone was eager to begin dishing out their seafood selections and other fare favorites to the growing hungry crowd. And what was billed as “locals night,” festival visitors were pleased the lines were not too long to place an order.

The festival continues today, Saturday, May 20 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and tomorrow, Sunday, May 21 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Silver Lake Park, located at Fifth and Ocean avenues.

Billed as “not only a great place to eat, it’s a great place to shop, with lots and lots of great craft vendors to choose from,” the event features seafood favorites from many local establishments, as well as new attractions for the whole family, including live music, a craft beer and wine tent, contests and kids’ activities.

Due to the thousands of attendees expected for the event, there will be limited parking around the venue itself. As a result, free parking will be available at the municipal parking lot at Fifth and River Road, and Dempsey Park on 16th Avenue.

Free shuttles will run through Belmar continuously from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday, with stops at the Belmar Marina and Belmar train station, delivering visitors to the end of Silver Lake at Fifth Avenue, adjacent to the festival.

“Please be mindful of road closures and no parking requirements in the area immediately surrounding the festival,” according to a post on the borough’s Facebook page. “We know what an inconvenience this can be, and we thank you for your patience through what will be an extremely busy weekend.”