Fenwick to start fun with annual bonfire

As neighboring Bethany Beach and Ocean View gear up to celebrate the Fourth of July with parades, Fenwick Island is taking the holiday festivities to its wide and sandy shores, with the fourth Annual Fenwick Island Town Bonfire, set to take place on Saturday, July 1, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.

With the devastating rains that hit the region last weekend and continuing into early this week, the weather was very much on the mind of event organizers, including Fenwick Island Beach Patrol Captain Tim Ferry.

“It seems to me right now that most of the heavy stuff is by tomorrow afternoon,” Ferry said Tuesday.

But in case the rain lands on Saturday, there is a backup date, set for Sunday, July 2, at the same time. And Ferry said the event could even be moved back to Monday if Sunday were also inclement. But they’re hoping neither rain date will be needed. “We’re keeping our fingers crossed,” he said.

The casual, family-oriented event will take place on the replenished beach south of Dagsboro Street this year. Ferry said the venue was closer to the new handicapped access ramp on Bayard Street, just over a block away, and he emphasized the accessibility factor for those who might otherwise sit the event out.

Indeed, the bonfire is geared toward the town’s residents and visitors, and the annual event took on a more casual feel in 2005, according to Ferry.

“The town wanted to go with a more casual type of affair,” Ferry said. “They wanted families to bring the kids, their own food and beverages to the beach, in a relaxed setting, with no selling of tickets and no fundraiser.”

In the past, the event did involve tickets and raised funds for the beach patrol, but Ferry said the third edition was focused on simply “allowing families in the town to get together, celebrate the Fourth of July and get together with their families.”

In 2006, the beach patrol will take advantage of the opportunity to raise some funds through the sale of T-shirts for both adults and kids. Ferry said the prices will range from $10 to $20, and T-shirts from the town’s junior lifeguard program will also be available.

The shift in 2005 to a more casual event proved a successful move for organizers. “I was really surprise at the number of people who showed up last year,” Ferry admitted. Indeed, dozens of people turned out for some fun on the beach, making for plenty of entrants in the games and lots of chances for the townsfolk to socialize.

The family-oriented nature of the bonfire will show from the start again this year, with children’s games set to begin at the kickoff of the event. Games will include traditional relay races, with small prizes awarded to the children, Ferry said. There will also be glow-sticks handed out to the children again this year, he noted.

The fire itself will also get started around 7 p.m. “That gives it a good hour to really get started before dusk,” Ferry said. So it should reach its peak around 8 p.m., providing plenty of heat for the cooking of marshmallows for s’mores.

Those attending are being encouraged to bring their own selection of bonfire-friendly foods, from standard picnic fare to campfire favorites. That includes a reminder to bring a suitable stick or other implement — one of sufficient length to safely reach the fire — for roasting any marshmallows or hotdogs.

Beverages also top the list of items to bring, along with any chairs or beach blankets for maximum fireside comfort.

Safety is all but assured for those attending the bonfire, since members of the beach patrol will be on hand to help with games, monitor the beach and provide any needed first aid.

The patrol members are also planning to organize games taken from the town’s junior lifeguard program (now in its second year), giving those in attendance a taste of what the program is offering children ages 9 to 15 through Aug.3 this summer. (For more information on the junior lifeguard program, contact the Fenwick Island Town Hall at 539-3011 or visit the town Web site at fenwickisland.org.)

With the kids expending their energy in games, parents and other adults will find an opportunity to relax and enjoy themselves into the twilight hours with music and dance.

The town has hired a DJ to offer a variety of tunes during the entirety of the 2006 event. The music will complete the scene of the waning bonfire as the event winds down around 11 p.m.