The Monmouth Beach-American Bicentennial Celebration — it was 46 years ago.
In July 1976, the borough of Monmouth Beach joined in with the nation celebrating its 200th birthday and threw a party of its own. It was so well done the New York Times reporter sent to cover the festivities would describe Monmouth Beach as “an American community at its best.”
A “warm, friendly hometown party that accommodated all ages,” was how a Red Bank Daily Register editorial described events. While also saluting Mayor Sidney Johnson and the organizers for putting the focus of this important national holiday on “a wonderful municipality.”
The borough commissioners had set up a organizing committee and budgeted $3,000 to fund the celebration in 1975. Borough resident Samuel Smith — a distinguished Monmouth County historian-author — chaired the Monmouth Beach-American Bicentennial celebration committee. Sam was an expert on the Battle of Monmouth — a pivotal American-British conflict in June 1778.
Here are some photos of the big celebration. Note: Many of these images are from the collection of Dan Hennessey (for whom I’m always grateful, see HERE), but I am lacking in photos on this important borough event in general. If you have anything to share please do so — HERE.
Mayor Sidney Johnson and Ray Hinck during the Monmouth Beach-American Bicentennial celebration held on Beach Road, July 1976. Monmouth Beach was also marking its 70th year of independence — from Ocean Twp.
MB Fire Company Chief Michael Heath (l) and Bill “Mr. America” Van Kuik (r) march in the borough’s Bicentennial parade, July 1976. The parade included more than 400 participants.
The MB-American Bicentennial Celebration program, July 1976.
Red Bank Daily Register story about the borough’s bicentennial celebration, July 1976.
Bill Heath drives his antique auto in the Bicentennial parade, July 1976.
A group of spirited young borough residents really got into the celebratory mood dressing in the garb of historic Americans for their float in the Bicentennial parade, July 1976. Among the icons were: the “Spirit of ’76” (Gi Gi Hinck, Sheila and Shannon Kelly), Betsy Ross (Swazi Charity), Paul Revere (Ennis Murphy), Abe Lincoln (Peter Collora), Molly Pitcher (Joan Collora), the Statue of Liberty (Owen Kelly), Pocahontas (Mickey Barham), and Uncle Sam (Joe Bogner).
MB Bathing Pavilion lifeguards march in the Bicentennial parade, July 1976.
Bicentennial celebration, July 1976. Mayor Sidney Johnson said it was “tremendous to celebrate the Bicentennial — our way.”
Karate demonstration at MB School during the Bicentennial celebration, July 1976.
MB First Aid Squad members march in the Bicentennial parade, July 1976.
Mayor Sidney Johnson rides with Nina Sokol (l) and Leslie Kuhltau (r) in the Bicentennial parade, July 1976. Cindy Sokol was selected as “Queen of the Parade.”
The three-legged race at Griffin Park during the borough’s Bicentennial celebration, July 1976.
“Block Party” on Beach Road for Bicentennial celebration, July 1976.
Bake-Off Contest during the Bicentennial celebration, July 1976.
Prominent Monmouth County historian Sam Smith and his wife Agnes at the borough’s Bicentennial celebration, July 1976.
Monmouth Beach Centennial Homes Committee, 1976. From Left: Priscilla Brower, Bill and Laura Bradley, Rosemary O’Brien and Mayor Sidney Johnson. As part of the borough’s American-Bicentennial Celebration the committee was tasked with officially identifying borough homes that were 100-years-old or more.
Food service at the Bicentennial celebration on Beach Road, July 1976.
Residents gather for the Bicentennial celebration off Beach Road, July 1976.
“Block Party” at the Bicentennial celebration on Beach Road, July 1976.
Residents gather on Borough Hall porch during the Bicentennial celebration, July 1976.
Residents and organizers at the Bicentennial celebration, July 1976.
MBFC’s Mack Fire Truck in Bicentennial parade, July 1976.
MB First Aid Squad in Bicentennial parade, July 1976.
Buried Treasure? — As part of the Monmouth Beach-American Bicentennial celebration in 1976, the organizing committee planted a time capsule (steel drum) on Borough Hall grounds — with a do-not-open until date of 2026. From left: Mayor Sidney Johnson, Committee chair Sam Smith, and Betty and Mike Heath, committee members. Red Bank Register, November 1976.