Ideas, idle gossip and occasionally important odds ‘n’ ends… by Jack Wright
Cape May’s tourist season has been shrinking, according to some local business owners I have spoken to over the last couple years. They say that it’s moving back from its 10-month heyday of a decade ago to a seven-month season, at best.
I don’t share that view, although I also think it depends on what your definition of a “season” is. There are only two months when practically nothing happens in Cape May – January and February (although I should point out that the annual Exit Zero Burns Supper, which happens on the third Thursday in January at the Ugly Mug, has become an unmissable, sold-out event).
March wasn’t much to get out of bed for either until the launch of Singer Songwriter Cape May two years ago. Now, thanks to the efforts of founder and organizer, John Harris, many hundreds of cool, artistic people head for this town during the last weekend of March, adding an exciting event to the local calendar, as well as putting dollars into the pockets of local restaurant and bar owners.
Does this mean that March can now rightfully join Cape May’s “season”? I don’t know, but the addition of events like this adds so much to the quality of life in this community. It gives the locals something else to do, it’s a financial boost to local businesses at a time when they desperately need it, and it enhances Cape May’s status as a tourist destination.
This is why I’m delighted to announce another new event for Cape May, and it’s a pretty ambitious idea, too. The Cape May Forum: Chautauqua at the Shore is a concept that’s been talked about by a group of local business people for a couple decades now. The idea is based on the Chautauqua Institution, based in upstate New York. It’s a $28 million-a-year non-profit that is, in its own words, “a place, an annual gathering, and a worldwide community, open to all. Chautauquans come together every summer to learn, play, worship, talk, be entertained, and be challenged.”
The Cape May Forum takes its lead from this, with the exception of religion, a subject that isn’t part of the forum. The point of the Cape May event is to provide an annual program of events that will inform, entertain and inspire, based upon four pillars of philosophy – Arts, Humanity, Education and Recreation.
The event makes its debut on October 8-11 and the subject is “Humor: Can It Save the World?” Which sounds like a pretty great subject to me.
The keynote speaker is Dr John Morreall, PhD, who gave a great presentation here in July. Dr Morreall is something of a humor expert and he will be giving a talk on Saturday, October 9, entitled “From the Pilgrims to The Simpsons: A History of Humor in American Life.” The event will be at 10am at the First Presbyterian Church, on Hughes and Decatur.
I also love the sound of a talk from Thomas Cathcart and Daniel Klein, entitled “Can Humor Really Save the World? What, Are You Kidding? You Think It’s That Easy to Save the World? Please.” This will also be held on Saturday, at the First Presbyterian, at 4pm.
Dr Morreall will be returning to the First Presbyterian Church on Monday, October 11 with “Funny Business: Putting Humor to Work,” which will tell you how humor can be put to work for business and health. That sounds like the perfect tonic for a Monday morning, right?
Later on Monday, at 8pm at Cape May Stage, local residents and business owners will be taking to the stage to tell their favorite jokes. In other words, an impromptu comedy night where you never get bored of the performer because they’re changing every couple minutes. Sounds perfect.
Other highlights include The Wrong Box, a comedy starring Michael Caine, Peter Sellers and Dudley Moore, which will show at the Episcopal Church of the Advent on Sunday, October 10 at 8:15pm, followed by a talk about the movie; and A Tribute to Twain, a staged reading of several of Mark Twain’s comic stories, which is being performed by East Lynne Theater, at the First Presbyterian on Monday, October 11.
Throw in events such as Birding with Comic Relief (which blends fascinating nature with humor, courtesy of local birdwatching legend Pete Dunne) and fun events for kids, too, and you have a long weekend of events that will add a lot to the Cape May calendar.
I encourage you to visit the Cape May Forum website, at www.capemayforum.org, for more information. Congratulations to the local people who summoned the energy, the wherewithal and the determination to get this project off the ground. The best of luck!
Whether you are reading this column in town or you are in Philadelphia or New York or Baltimore or wherever, I hope you will consider coming down for the event. Accommodation will be much cheaper than it is in high season, all the best restaurants will still be open, and you can enjoy a lot of intelligent humor. What sounds better than that? (Plus, the weather will likely be pretty good, too.)