Bethany Beach Hosts 28th Annual Jazz Funeral for ‘Summer’

by MSO
poster promoting Bethany Beach's annual Jazz Funeral

For 28 years Bethany Beach has mourned the end of ‘Summer’ with a New Orleans’ style Jazz Funeral.

Hundreds of mourners, dressed in black, funny costumes or at least black sunglasses sob as they trail behind a casket holding ‘Summer’. They carry flowers or twirl umbrellas as they follow the funeral procession along Bethany Beach, Delaware’s beautiful boardwalk to the resort town’s bandstand. As in a true jazz funeral, the music of trumpets, trombones, clarinets and tubas lead the way.

In 1985, former town councilman of Bethany Beach, Moss Wagner, came up with an idea to hold a funeral to mark the end of summer. Labor Day Monday was chosen because most tourists had left the ocean side town for the drive home and merchants generally closed early since tourist season was officially over. The town has a year round population of just over a thousand people but in the summer months vacationers boost the population to well over 15,000.

Wagner chose to model the celebration on a New Orleans Jazz funeral. He got together with some local business people and they decided to give ‘Summer’ a proper burial. They found an unofficial ‘pastor’ who preached a eulogy. They acquired a casket and a tombstone and these ‘Friends of Summer’ held a funeral procession where they shared memories of ‘Summer’ with laughter and tears and some jazzy sounds before saying goodbye. Over the years more mourners have joined the annual event and tourists have remained in town to take part in Bethany Beach’s Jazz Funeral to give ‘dearly departed Summer’ a fond and fun farewell.

The festival is free for everyone to attend and mourners are encouraged to join the procession. There are a variety of events planned and a silent auction is held each year to raise funds for local charities.

Visit to view photos and videos of the event.

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