Guests Ignore Storm Flooding to Party in Beach Haven
What could be more fun for a Halloween gala than to decorate a haunted Victorian bed and breakfast to the hilt with stage and theater props from the vast personal collection of the Lighthouse International Film Festival’s Sponsorship Director Charlotte Prince? That’s what happened at The Gables in Beach Haven for Saturday night’s ghoulish gala. The event was held to raise funds for the annual film festival that spans four days in June at venues throughout Long Beach Island.
The decorating took three days and many helpful hands.
In spite of the nor’easter that made Long Beach Boulevard/Bay Avenue impassable, guests showed up at the party in their Halloween best, which really shows the dedication of festival supporters, Prince said.
Gables owner Sondra Beninati said they were “hoping for 100.”
For the occasion, Prince reprised a gown she had worn once, to Carnivale in Venice, and topped it with an extravagant feathered hat. The overall effect was very “lady of the manor.”
“I love to create,” she said with a whimsical wave of her hand. “It’s fun to put it together.”
Gatherings create a community around the festival, which has become an Island institution after 10 years, with events planned throughout the year to keep interest engaged. In addition to grant writing and donations, the festival benefits from smaller events such as meals, wine tasting and film society screenings, Prince said.
Organizers of other film festivals take notice of LIFF’s genuine community vibe, she added. They ask for advice on how to do their own better. Filmmakers attend LIFF and offer to volunteer.
From day one, the driving principle has been “we need everyone,” Prince explained. “We couldn’t put this on any other way.”
Ten years ago, it was still a new idea to extend the season, she said. Businesses have been generous with their in-kind donations; for example, the Larsons in Barnegat Light donate a sunset cruise. It’s a “true community effort.”
Festival Managing Director Christine Rooney embodied the “Gables ghost,” in flowing tulle and pallid face.
The story, according to local ghost hunter Maggie O’Neill, is that a young woman’s spirit is trapped in the building. In the late 1800s it was a boarding house for girls who had come to Beach Haven to work and also to find love. One girl in particular did meet a young man but died that same night in her sleep, and now perhaps her eternally brokenhearted spirit laments her tragic and unfair end.
On at least one occasion, the Ghost Research Society has done studies at the inn and found evidence of paranormal activity, O’Neill said. The Gables is one of 12 different stops on her summertime walking “ghost tour” of old Beach Haven.
On Saturday night, tables were piled high with delights from the Gables kitchen, plus passed hors d’oeuvres and desserts. A DJ spun dance music on the closed-in front porch. Silent movies played on a large screen in the backyard.
One guest, Lisa Bobbie Schreiber Hughes, clad in her chicken suit, took full advantage of the party’s offerings, including a palm reading with Lisa Green of Psychic Readings by Lisa in Bay Village. For Hughes, the weather was not going to prevent her from getting to the party.
“Thing is – just love, love, love the film festival!” she exclaimed.
— Victoria Ford