LONG BRANCH, NJ — For all of the changes that have occurred in this seaside city over the past several years, one great part of the local character has remained constant — the West End neighborhood and its reputation as a fun, creative, energetic place to spend some hours on any day or night. And, when Memorial Day weekend sounds the keynote for another summertime season on the Jersey Shore, the area’s longest-running unofficial arts district comes alive in a blaze of color and activity — courtesy of one of the biggest outdoor art happenings in New Jersey, the annual Art in the Park event.

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Painter Bill Bunting is pictured at work during last year’s Art in the Park event at West End Park in Long Branch. The artist returns (with more than 40 of his fellow painters, photographers and crafters) for the 2010 edition of the annual outdoor art fair, scheduled for Sunday, May 30.

Last year’s 11th annual edition was the most successful ever, with more than 60 participating artists enjoying perfect weather, a record turnout and a positive buzz that’s carried through into 2010. On Sunday, May 30, the Long Branch Arts Council, in partnership with the Long Branch Historical Association and the City of Long Branch, will host dozens of artists from all over New Jersey in our 12th annual event. It’s totally free and open to the public, and it’s going on from 10am to 5pm in West End Park, located just one block from the beach (and right in the middle of the West End business district) at the corner of Ocean and Brighton Avenues.

Whether you’re coming off the beach, going to dinner in the neighborhood or enjoying a walk on the city’s famous Moss Mile, you’ll be able to take a stroll through an amazing selection of artists and craftspeople from Monmouth and Ocean counties, displaying works in media that range from sketches or paintings on paper and canvas, to sculpture, ceramics, mixed media, photography, handcrafted jewelry and special materials. A variety of works will be available for sale by the participating artists, and awards will be given out in each of eight categories, (along with a People’s Choice award selected by event attendees), with this year’s guest jurors Brookdale Community College faculty members Sid Godwin and Elizabeth Sowell-Zak.

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Paintings by Ronnie Jackson are pictured on display during last year’s Art in the Park event at West End Park in Long Branch.

There’s a variety of live music, too. And, you’re within walking distance of more than 20 different sit-down restaurants, take-out eateries and taverns — one of the largest, most diverse and accessible culinary experiences on the Jersey Shore.

“Anyone who’s ever attended this event knows that it’s not the same-old same-old,” explains event coordinator Mare Akana. “It’s a one-of-a-kind collection of quality original works, many of which you won’t see anywhere else — and all in a strolling-fair setting that’s a lot of fun to experience.”

“The best reason to investigate Art in the Park? This is the event that the artists themselves love to take part in — they put their best stuff forward, and their enthusiasm really shows.”

Among the artists confirmed for participation in the event are Ed Spiro (found-object sculpture), Joel Katz (lenticular imaging), Lana Kessler (ceramics), Vicki Culver (photocollage), plus painters Bill Bunting, Carol Colvin, Demetrius Patterson, Scott Hawxhurst, Mike Sarapuchiello and Marvin Pakula, as well as art photography by Mike Menendez and Trish Hamm, and jewelry designers Mary Casey and Jeong Kim.