Updated for 2022. Cape May’s history has been connected with the US Coast Guard since 1924. Cape May has even been designated an official Coast Guard Community by an act of Congress in 2015! That is the short reason for the Cape May, NJ Coast Guard Community Festival held this year on May 7.
A Bit of History
The longer reason is infinitely more interesting and carries back to the history of the Coast Guard itself. Created from the combination of more than five federal agencies including the Revenue Cutter Service, the Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Navigation, and the Lifesaving Service, the Coast Guard did not receive significant federal funding until 1923. The necessity of the funding was rooted in Prohibition.
Prohibition was passed in 1920, with the supposed purpose of correcting a decline in morality. The coastline of Cape May, with its hidden waterways and harbors, was a mecca for rumrunners. Speakeasies flourished in the seaside resort towns. What was summer fun without booze? One of the largest producers of illegal alcohol set up shop in the northern part of the county, packing booze into barrels of fish for transport northward.
With the increase in illegal alcohol trafficking came an increase in violence, including the murder of Wildwood’s Chief of Police, and other well-heeled citizens who were found beaten to death. In 1924, the Coast Guard took over the city’s Naval Air Station and put eight 75-foot patrol boats in the water to safeguard the area and become the maritime law enforcement.
Cape May’s Coast Guard Today
Fast forward to today, when that same space has been expanded and now houses the only Coast Guard Recruit Training Center in the United States. Each year we see between 3,000 to 5,000 recruits on base trudging their way through 8 weeks of boot camp. Currently, there are more than 600 Coast Guardsmen and families who live in Cape May, both on and off base.
They are an integral part of the community, providing programs such as Operation Fireside, where local families host recruits in their homes during Christmas, Thanksgiving, and other holidays. Another is the Coast Guard Family Assistance Program, which helps fund visiting friends and family of recruits during graduation. They are highly visible during July 4 parades and other community events.
After its pandemic hiatus, the Festival returns on May 7, 2022. Expect all of the fun events experienced at their past festivals. They include:
- Tours of the base on a guided trolley
- An up-close and personal look at the Coast Guard vessels
- Opportunities to meet with the crew of a USCG helicopter
- Performances by the drill team and Recruit Band
- K-9 demonstrations
- Viewing of Search and Rescue demonstrations
- The Kids Zone with fun activities for the kids
- Cultural exhibits with Coast Guard historical displays
- Food and beverage vendors, including local brews
- The Cape May Harbour Tour in a pirate ship (separate ticket required)
- Community vendors and displays
- And, live music throughout the day
Make sure you come and join us in honoring and celebrating the servicemen and women who protect and serve our country. If you have a friend or family member who is graduating, make sure you take advantage of our Coast Guard Graduation Special Rate. The Cape May, NJ Coast Guard Community Festival, and the history behind it are just some of the many reasons we love Cape May. If you have not experienced what this area has to offer, let us help you plan the perfect getaway at our historic seaside hotel as your home base. Book online or call us anytime for more information!