The 32nd annual Signing of the Lease Party at Sea Girt Lighthouse fast approaches. Lighthouse volunteers are busy with preparations for the popular event, to be held Saturday, August 4, from 6-8 p.m. on the Lighthouse lawn.
“The party is a gathering of Lighthouse friends who join together each year to help support our historic treasure,” notes Virginia Zientek, president of the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, which hosts the event.
In keeping with tradition, personal invitations to the party were mailed in late June to SGLCC members. “Responses are very active,” reports Mrs. Zientek, who now extends the invitation to the community. “All are welcome. Not only Sea Girt residents love the Lighthouse. ” Tickets are $60 each.
The Lighthouse Committee is the all-volunteer, non-profit organization responsible for maintaining the Lighthouse and preserving its history. This is the group’s only fundraiser of the year with proceeds going to the operation of the 116-year-old landmark.
Over the years, the party has become a much-anticipated event, considered by many to be Sea Girt’s social event of the season. Held under open tents on the north lawn, it’s an evening of lively conversation, ocean breezes, cool drinks with a plentiful supply of hors d’oeuvres prepared once again by caterer Carol Ann McLaughlin.
“We pause to celebrate the Lighthouse and the success of so many preservationists and recommit ourselves to the ongoing challenge,” Mrs. Zientek says. “By attending the party you’re helping the preservation effort. Our 2012 poster, designed each year by Trustee Robert S. Varcoe, is a beautiful photo of the Lighthouse at sunset. Available for sale the evening of the party and during Sunday tours, this commemorative poster for 2012 is stunning and is the theme of the lawn party this year.”
Co-chairs are trustees Lauren Behre and Bill Mountford. “Just as historic preservation is a collaborative effort, so too is the Signing of the Lease Party. Many people eagerly pitch in to make sure this party is a success,” Mrs. Behre observes.
Reflecting the party’s theme, there will be colorful and festive decorations and flowers of orange and yellow. Musical accompaniment will be provided by Paul Geissler. There will be a 50-50 raffle.
Preserving a Building and Its History
Built in 1896, Sea Girt Lighthouse projected its blinking light, illuminating what had previously been a blind spot encountered by mariners who were out of range of Navesink Twin Lights and Barnegat Lighthouse. In 1921, Sea Girt Lighthouse became the first land-based installation to have a radio beacon fog system. During World War II, the Lighthouse was operated by the U.S. Coast Guard as a command center for beach patrols and watch tower.
The Lighthouse was decommissioned after the war. The Borough of Sea Girt bought the building and property from the federal government in 1956 for $11,000. For two decades, the Lighthouse was used as the children’s library, recreation center and community center. But by the late 1970s, the building required major and expensive repairs, prompting the Borough to consider selling the property. Concerned residents responded by forming the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, Inc. with the pledge to “save our Lighthouse.” Going door to door, the founding members of the preservation committee sought more volunteers, their time and financial support. They then proposed to the Borough that the building and grounds be turned over to the group.
In the summer of 1981, an agreement was reached. The Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee signed a lease with the Borough to rent the building for $1 a year and assume responsibility to restore, maintain and operate the building and preserve its history.
The first Signing of the Lease Party was a celebration of the volunteers’ success in preserving the landmark, a thank-you to supporters, an opportunity to cherish what they had saved and a reminder that the effort never ends. And the tradition continues.
Ticket sales are going well. “If you haven’t already gotten your tickets, I encourage you to do so soon. Don’t miss out,” Mrs. Zientek says. Tickets, at $60 each, are available by advance purchase only; they will not be sold at the door. (Rain date: August 5). Tickets may be purchased by sending a check to the Sea Girt Lighthouse Citizens Committee, Inc., P.O. Box 83, Sea Girt, NJ 08750. For further information, call the Lighthouse, 732-974-0514.