Positive transformation, human connection, creative expression, and mindful living through participation in unlimited conscientious and curated programming: this is Gratitude Migration. And their third annual, three-day festival called Summer Dream 2017 is returning to Keansburg, New Jersey, this July 14th, 15th, and 16th.
Founded as a real response to the down-and-out economy of the town, the destruction of Hurricane Sandy, and the desire to produce a large-scale event, Gratitude Migration is “the beautiful result of a marriage between hELLO Beach, Gratitude*NYC, and the town of Keansburg.”
After Hurricane Sandy, the beach was restored by the Army Corps of Engineers with sand dredged from the bottom of the ocean, creating a long, deep, pristine beach perfect for an event this size. hELLO Beach founders, Deme Spy and Theresa Lucerto, are career producers of music events like Trance Mansion in NYC; “In NYC, there are a lot of restrictions placed on music events… So the thought occurred–Keansburg needs help and financial influx, and we’re always looking for a venue. There was a great mutual synergy here,” said Deme Spy when asked about the genesis of the festival last year.
Gratitude*NYC had already teamed up, forming Gratitude Migration, when Keansburg’s proximity to the City, beautiful beachfront with New York City views, and fewer restrictions revealed the town as the perfect place for a festival. Keansburg is about 50 miles from NYC and easily accessible by car, train, bus, and ferry, and Gratitude*NYC founders Drew Meeks and Avi Werde had been wanting to bring a Burning Man-esque event to the East Coast for some time.
The Burning Man analogy concerned some townspeople about Keansburg’s ability to host an event of that magnitude and the inaugural summer of 2015 was met with some skepticism, but the town’s fears have fallen away summer after summer as the potential creative and economic impact become clear. Each year is more collaborative than the last and a real partnership is beginning to take shape between Gratitude Migration and the town of Keansburg.
The festival strives not only to Leave No Trace, but to Leave A Positive Trace–a step beyond pack-in-pack-out–which involves many local volunteers every summer, cultivating palpable excitement for and pride in the event among locals. Keansburg resident Chelsea Stankard said in 2016, “For the first time in my life I can say I am inspired to take ownership of my impact locally.”
Gratitude Migration aims to source the needs of the festival locally and a large map of local businesses is in the works–a co-creation between Gratitude Migration and the Keansburg Business Council that could be a permanent stand alone piece of artwork and guide for locals and visitors alike. Shuttle service from the beach to downtown Keansburg will also be provided, increasing foot traffic much to the excitement of local businesses who are preparing for the event by increasing inventory and extending hours. And Gratitude Migration has put Keansburg on the map, increasing tourism and real estate values.
Now nicknamed hELLO Beach, the town’s zip code (07734) upside down and a veritable hashtag, this stretch of sandy NJ shore is finally seeing its fair share of beachgoers–“It was such a nice sight to see so many cars parked and so many out of towners visiting our neck of the woods,” said another Keansburg resident.
Gratitude Migration is a “co-created dreamworld experience,” like Woodstock to the nth degree. Enter a drum circle, attend a mermaid tea party, move through a deep dance workshop, or just hang on the beach–it’s all there for you to embrace “a future we co-create in the now.”
Keansburg has continued to recover steadily after Hurricane Sandy. Waterfront development is underway, small businesses are opening, and the sand dune system has been rebuilt to its pre-1970s conditions. Keansburg Mayor George Hoff said last year, “We have our own green team initiative… We’re open to festivals, to new ideas being presented to us… Whatever is going to benefit our town, as long as it is a positive experience.”