The 34th annual Signing of the Lease Party, August 2, held at Sea Girt Lighthouse, attracted some 350 supporters to the annual fundraiser. Cool ocean breezes and lively conversation filled the air, as guests enjoyed themselves as they gathered under white tents on lawn.
Arrangements of shore flowers, prepared by a team of trustees led by Lauren Behr, graced the tables. Historic and colorful signal-code flags, of the type used at Sea Girt Lighthouse as early as 1898, hung from the porch and railing of the tower gallery. Once again Carol Ann McLaughlin, who catered the very first party in 1981, returned with a savory selection of hors d'oeuvres.
The community beacon was the theme of this year’s party. “In so many ways, our lighthouse truly is the community beacon, a symbol to all of shore history, now alive with the activity of community groups who meet here, people from near and far who come for tours, special events like October’s Lighthouse Challenge and the occasional private party,” noted Bill Mountford, president of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee. He is also the great grandson of Sea Girt’s longest serving keeper William Lake (1817-31).
The theme was also in recognition of the recent publication of Sea Girt Lighthouse: The Community Beacon by trustee Bill Dunn, who signed copies of the book.
“The party was a gratifying success,” added Mr. Mountford. “The trustees enjoy throwing this party, which brings together so many friends at our favorite lighthouse. This is our thank-you to our members and their guests. I also thank my fellow trustees for their hard work in making this the success it was.” Mr. Mountford, along with Jude Meehan, SGLCC vice-president, Virginia Zientek, immediate past president, and docent Catherine Schwier greeted people as they arrived, thanking them for their continuing support.
Mr. Mountford and Mrs. Behr were co-chairs of the event. All proceeds from the party and book sales go to the lighthouse operations. Tickets sold out for the first time in five years. There was also a 50-50 drawing, with half the proceeds going to the guest with the winning ticket and the balance going to the lighthouse.
Long Tradition Continued
The first lawn party, formally named the Signing of the Lease Party, was held in 1981, to celebrate the founding that spring of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee as an all-volunteer, non-profit preservation organization and the group’s taking charge of the landmark after signing a lease with the Borough of Sea Girt August 10 of that year.
The Borough, which bought the decommissioned lighthouse from the federal government in 1956, used it as the town library, recreation and community center. Two decades later the building was in need of extensive and costly repairs, prompting the Borough to consider selling the property. That was the impetus for concerned citizens to come together and organize to “save our lighthouse.”
Under the $1-a-year lease agreement, the Lighthouse Committee assumed financial responsibility for the restoration, maintenance and operation of the building. The committee is also committed to preserving the building’s rich history through Sunday tours, group tours, talks and slide presentations at the lighthouse and in the community, the lighthouse website, special programs such as October’s Lighthouse Challenge of New Jersey and now the book.
Photo of signal-code flags on the tower railing by Catherine Schwier