Beloved Festival Is Three-Decade ‘Thank You’ to the Pinelands

Linda Stanton’s free annual festival, Lines on the Pines, is a harbinger of spring that celebrates the Pinelands region’s residents, history and culture.

Linda Stanton, cofounder of Lines on the Pines
Linda Stanton, 76, is a retired elementary school teacher who founded Lines on the Pines with her late husband, Jim, over 20 years ago. Photo: Dave Moser

By her own estimate, Linda Stanton has moved more than a dozen times in New Jersey. But when she settled in Mullica Township in the Pinelands more than 20 years ago with her late husband, Jim, the move turned into a life-altering one.

It deepened their appreciation of the Pinelands and led the couple to start Lines on the Pines, a one-day festival, now in its third decade, to celebrate the region’s residents, history and culture. This year’s event is being held on March 10 at Stockton University in Galloway Township.

“We wanted to create something that would serve as a thank you to the Pine Barrens,” says Stanton, 76, a retired elementary school teacher, remembering how she and Jim were avid kayakers whose back door was steps away from the Mullica River. “On our second date, we went kayaking past the house we later bought,” she recalls.

She calls Mullica Township “one of the state’s best-kept secrets.”

The Pinelands is a place to savor the sights and sounds of nature in a rustic setting. Spanning more than 1 million acres in 56 municipalities across seven counties, the Pinelands National Reserve comprises nearly 25 percent of New Jersey’s land mass and provides a habitat for a diverse range of plants, insects and animals.

Elayne Leighton, an artist from Jackson Township who is making her fourth appearance at the festival, has seen its benefits firsthand.

“Lines on the Pines has expanded the audience for my artwork,” says Leighton, who took up painting after retiring as a teacher in 2004. Bugs and Insects of the Pine Barrens, her new book, is going to be available at the event.

“The Pinelands has inspired me as an artist,” she adds. “When I see something that fascinates me, I’ll paint it.”

Lines on the Pines, part of the nonprofit It’s a Sign of the Pines, had a modest beginning. In 2005, Stanton saw a book on the Pinelands (Heart of the Pines by John Pearce) in a gift shop at the Sweetwater Casino restaurant. She later discovered other books on the area, and that led to the first Lines on the Pines festival, held at the restaurant in March 2006, featuring six authors, a historian and a photographer.

“People asked, ‘Who’s going to come to a book signing?” she remembers. Any apprehension vanished when the doors opened. “The lines to see the authors were incredible. We had 200 or so people attend.”

Initially planned as a one-time event, it gained momentum when the restaurant agreed to host the gathering again in 2007. Except for the pandemic years of 2020 and 2021, it’s been held yearly on the second Sunday of March and serves as a harbinger of spring. Lines on the Pines has also brought out a series of books, a CD, and a DVD on the Pine Barrens.

“Lines, to me, has always been an exceptional networking event where people interested in the Pine Barrens meet and learn from one another,” says Thomas E. Kinsella, director of the South Jersey Culture and History Center at Stockton University.

The event goes beyond vendor sales, according to Kinsella. “It is about meeting local historians, artists, craftspeople, authors and longtime community members who each have a love for the Pines and want to share their knowledge.”

Lines on the Pines is an extension of Stanton’s twin passions: teaching and volunteering.  She’s been a volunteer at AtlantiCares Mainland Campus in Galloway since the mid-1970s and now manages the gift shop.

The educational component of Lines on the Pines focuses on children through the PB&J program, an acronym for Pine Barrens and Juniors. “If we’re not offering something to the younger generation, what’s going to happen to the Pine Barrens?” she observes.

“We don’t want children to miss out,” says Stanton, a teacher for 17 years. This year, there will be a program on Bugs and Insects of the Pine Barrens, with crafts centered around that theme. Children will earn a Lines on the Pines patch by completing a series of activities.

Previous festivals have allowed children to get close-up views of owls and snakes that live in the Pinelands. “We try to bring the outdoors inside. So many kids are on their computers and phones,” she says. The event shows them there’s a world beyond their screens.

To Stanton, a willingness to evolve has been the key to the longevity of Lines on the Pines. “You have to be open to new ideas. We started with authors, then we added artists and brought in historical societies,” she says.

One element of the festival has stayed the same: “Lines on the Pines is about making friends, not making money,” she says. “Admission has always been free. I would never charge.”

Stanton’s biggest adjustment has been dealing with the death of her husband, Jim, in March 2021 at age 77.

“Working without Jim has been difficult,” she says. “When Jim passed, so many people stood up and said, ‘What can I do?’ That has allowed Lines on the Pines to continue.”

Carleton Montgomery, executive director of the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, says the event has greatly benefited the region.

“The Pineland Preservation Alliance has participated in Lines on the Pines, so we have seen all the thousands of people who have learned about the nature, culture and history of the Pinelands because of this event,” he notes, adding, “All those people are now more likely to help preserve the region’s unique resources through the places they visit, talking to politicians, supporting nonprofits, and even taking care of their own piece of the Pines. Linda and her team have achieved something really extraordinary here.”

Stanton is confident that Lines on the Pines will continue when she is no longer in charge, explaining that she has an exit plan and people in place to handle administration.

Stockton University has been a supportive partner and home for Lines on the Pines since 2018.

“Lines on the Pines is welcome at Stockton for as long as it wishes to be there,” says Kinsella, distinguished professor of literature at the school. “It remains one of the university’s most important outreach efforts in support of the Pine Barrens.”

Lines on the Pines will be held on Sunday, March 10, from 11 am-4 pm at the Stockton University Campus Center in Galloway Township. Find out more at

Tom Wilk first visited the Pine Barrens in June 1968 during a camping trip at Buttonwood Hill in Wharton State Forest.

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