BELMAR, NJ — The New Jersey Seafood Festival has a new location in downtown Belmar this weekend, but it’s certainly not difficult to find. Just follow the blended aromas of every type of seafood dish, and it’s sure to bring you to Belmar Plaza, where the three-day event opened yesterday afternoon.
Scores of seafood vendors set up their cooking stations in neatly arranged rows in the expansive parking area — their bold colorful signs touting their “specialties of the house.” For seafood lovers, the tasty choices were plentiful at every turn — from fried scallops and blackened shrimp kabobs to seafood paella and lobster served in every imaginable style.
While the seafood took center stage, there also was something for everyone else, including those with a sweet tooth. Complementing the food vendors were a wide array of craft and merchandise vendors, as well as those selling an array of services. And where was one of the longest lines? At the NJ Lottery booth, staffed by Charlie and Debbie Beckman of Beckman's Deli & Grill.
Just before the sun slipped under the Belmar Plaza’s main building, the adjacent Pyanoe Plaza started hopping with the sounds of the Pat Roddy Band.
The majority of attendees on May 17 were pleased with the festival’s move this year to this seashore community's downtown district, after being held on the banks of Silver Lake on Ocean Avenue for 32 years. While some cited its central location as a major benefit, others liked the festival’s organized layout in the larger new venue.
Borough officials say the move is aimed at giving the borough’s year-round merchants — stores, restaurants, bars and other retail establishments — an early boost for the summer season.
“We want people to see what we have to offer, right here in downtown Belmar,’ said Business Administrator Edward Kirschenbaum. “And having the seafood festival held in Belmar Plaza is a great way to do that.”
The event will continue, rain or shine, today, May 18 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and tomorrow, May 19 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Admission is free, as many participating eateries and food vendors have set special pricing for its festival fare.
While dozens of food, artisans and other vendors are situated in Belmar Plaza’s main area, live entertainment is featured in adjacent Pyanoe Plaza, which faces Main Street.
Today’s entertainment schedule includes the Beach Music Rock Band at 11:30 a.m., Danny White Band at 1 p.m., Holme NJ at 2:30 p.m. with Tommy B and the Deep Blue Sea at 6 p.m. Tomorrow, Elvis tribute artist Jim Barone will perform from 2 to 5 p.m.
Since the festival is situated just steps away from the Belmar train station, attendees are being encouraged to hop aboard a train serviced by the NJ Transit’s North Jersey Coast Line.
Parking will be available along streets and in lots in the downtown district, as well as at the nearby Belmar marina along Route 35.