The patio at the Mad Hatter becomes Dunesday Central for the daylong beach festival Saturday. (Photo by Colby Wilson. Click to enlarge)


In the months after Hurricane Sandy ripped through Sea Bright last October 29, Brian Kirk knew that keeping Dunesday in town was crucial to lifting its spirit.

But without Donovan’s Reef, which was obliterated by the storm, Kirk and his band, the Jirks, were forced to move their beachside fundraiser, now two decades old, to a new location.

“I was sad about Donovan’s from a nostalgic point of view. It was literally the first bar that hired me. It helped us become who we are,” Kirk tells redbankgreen.

“Dunesday is a brand now. It’s an individual, and it needs a home,” he said.

This year, that home is a few doors away from Donovan’s, at the Mad Hatter.

Dunesday is scheduled to span 10 hours this Saturday, taking over a section of the public beach currently occupied by four large volleyball courts. Those courts will come down for the day to accommodate the large crowds expected to attend. The event has drawn as many as 3,000 revelers in years past.

The Hatter is opening up its back bar as part of the festivities.

The move was approved just two weeks ago, forcing organizers such as former Donovan’s staff member, Susie Markson, to work under a tight deadline.

“It’s not like we just threw this together,” she said. “We had to go through it in great detail to get this passed.”

Driving Dunesday is a spirit of generosity. This year’s proceeds are going the Sea Bright volunteer fire and first aid squads.

“I think that a lot of people know how much [the squads] suffered during the storm,” Markson said. “They did such a great job. They’re so dedicated.”

Sea Bright Fire administrative chief Chad Murphy said the town lost two ambulances and other equipment.

“Aside from the building damage, I’d say we lost around $100,000 worth of stuff due to Sandy,” Murphy said. “So we could use any support we can get.”

Dunesday has donated its proceeds since its inception in 1993, when the state commenced a major beach replenishment project along the shoreline in Sea Bright. The proceeds from the first event were used to purchase and plant dune grass on the new beaches – hence the name ‘Dunesday.’

That, according to Kirk, was Dunesday’s humble beginning. But with each subsequent year, the event grew, and became  the premiere event at Donovan’s each summer.

Mad Hatter owner Scott Kelly said he is thrilled to host this year’s event.

“I couldn’t be any more excited. It’s such a great event,” Kelly said.

“Sea Bright means so much to so many people, and for this tradition to return to town this summer, that’s really exciting,” Markson said.

Dunesday is scheduled for Saturday July 20th from noon to 10 p.m. Admission is $20 at the stairway entrance to the beach behind the Mad Hatter. This event is for individuals aged 21 and older.

Here’s a partial lineup of acts:

DJ Kel (Donovan’s Summer DJ)
Guns 4 Hire
Thom White Band
Pat Guadagno
G Band
Screaming Nudes
Jukebox Criminals
Brian Kirk & the Jirks