LONG BRANCH — We’ve all seen the signs, and heard the news: The Jersey Shore is OPEN for Memorial Day weekend — and for everyone who never lost faith in our ability to bounce back from an epic setback, the keynote to the season of beaches, boardwalks and boulevards sounds especially sweet in 2013.

Thanks to the determination of the residents and business owners who have worked to bring the Garden State’s crown jewel back to life, the reappearance of the Shore’s traditional summertime pleasures serves as an inspiration to everyone  — and on Sunday, May 26, one of the community’s favorite local traditions returns for its 15th consecutive year.

Presented once more at West End Park in Long Branch, the annual Art in the Park event transforms the corner of Ocean and Brighton Avenues into one of the largest outdoor art happenings in the state; an art and fine crafts fair that emphasizes unique and original works over commercially produced, cookie-cutter “art sale” merchandise.

Sponsored by the Long Branch Arts Council and Long Branch Historical Association, with support from the City of Long Branch, Art in the Park takes place between the hours of 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m., in a sunlit seaside setting that’s just one block from the beach — and within strolling (or rolling) distance of an eclectic menu of restaurants, taverns and eateries.

As if that weren’t enough reason to attend, there’s also plenty of free parking in the neighborhood — but as Art in the Park coordinator (and fellow artist) Mare Akana explains, the real signifier of the event’s success is the fact that “ the artists know it’s for real…we have people coming in from four states, and it would take more than a Superstorm for them to miss out on it.”

“If you’re looking for something really special for your home, this is a great opportunity to meet a real variety of artists, and talk to them about their work,” says Akana.

“I know that many of us have faced some tremendous challenges in the past six months…but on behalf of everyone involved, we’re ready to put on a fantastic event that holds all the passion and promise of the new season.”

Last year’s edition was among the most successful ever, with hundreds of visitors and more than 50 participating artists enjoying beautiful weather, live music and the good vibrations in one of the Jersey Shore’s most artist-friendly neighborhoods — the place where the Boss wrote “Born to Run.” A place of summertime street festivals, and some true milestone moments in New Jersey music history. A place where poets, painters and performers traded ideas and riffs; where generations of college students and creatives have greeted a new day at iconic all-night coffeehouses and eateries.

For Art in the Park 2013, the event sponsors will welcome at least ten first-time participants, including watercolorists Carol Bruno of Little Silver, Linné A. Grant of Atlantic Highlands and Irina Steinberg of Ocean Grove — as well as John McAllister of Asbury Park (jewelry),Ted Ricchiuti of Seaside Park (art glass and custom lamps), Mary Klawetter of Neptune (sculpture), and Gwen and Martin Wyman of Ringwood (photography).

The newcomers will be joining dozens of returning painters, sculptors, jewelry designers and photographers — and back once more for another day in the park will be The Paul Marino Band, performing several sets of pop favorites on a new outdoor stage. 

Honors will be awarded in the categories of Works on Paper, Works on Canvas, Sculpture, Mixed Media, Photography, Ceramics, and Special Materials (including wood, glass or plastic). Guest juror will be gallery artist Amy Faris of Brookdale Community College, and all sales will go directly to the artists.

Additional information on Art in the Park can be obtained by calling event coordinator Mare Akana at (732)542-1307.