Oceanfest, NJ’s Largest July Fourth Festival, Is Back With a Bang

The pandemic forced the Independence Day celebration to take a two-year hiatus, but Oceanfest is ready for a blast in Long Branch.

Oceanfest features the longest fireworks show in New Jersey. Photo courtesy of Roberto Muolo

Oceanfest, New Jersey’s largest Fourth of July festival, is returning after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

Since 1990, Long Branch’s oceanfront—which has been on a years-long path of sweeping transformation—has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors for the daylong celebration. Set on an eight-plus-mile-long coastal promenade, Oceanfest hosts dozens of diverse food and craft vendors, live entertainment, and children’s activities. The festival ends with the state’s longest fireworks show at 9 pm, which lights up over the ocean at Pier Village, which already has plenty of places to eat and things to do on any day of the week.

Organizers hope this year’s comeback event can reunite the community, which experienced collective trauma due to the pandemic. 

“I believe that pulling the community together will bring confidence to people who have been housebound,” says Susan Collin, a 25-year volunteer Oceanfest organizer from Long Branch. “We can walk the promenade, see the beautiful ocean. Hopefully, it’s a sunny day.”

Attendees can expect an experience akin to a beach day with additional services and activities, says Pauline Poyner, president of Long Branch’s Chamber of Commerce, which organizes the event. 

A local radio station will be broadcasting music and announcements from the boardwalk throughout the day, alongside shows from local dance groups and street performers. Food options include hot dogs, burgers, pizza, gyros and lobster rolls. An eclectic vendor selection highlights paintings, sculptures, sea glass, boutique clothing, dog treats and homemade honey.

While planning the event is hard work, Collin says, it’s worth it when she sees a Shore full of smiles, especially when it’s children exiting a bouncy house or eating ice cream. Adds Poyner: “We want people to come and have a good time and remember Long Branch.” 

Want to watch fireworks beyond Long Branch? Here are 22 places New Jerseyans can have a blast this Fourth of July.

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