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History Photos Former Bethany Beach Town Councilman and business owner Moss Wagner founded the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral based on the Jazz Funerals held in New Orleans.

Wagner's original idea was to have a party to celebrate the closing of the summer resort season. Wagner commented that "The Jazz Funeral started as a little celebration for locals. I felt like doing a festival, and it evolved into a theatrical, fun event." For his efforts, Wagner was honored at the 2005 celebration that marked the 20th year of the Jazz Funeral he founded.

Another former Bethany resident and entrepreneur is Ken Cloud who formerly served as the unofficial "pastor" of the Jazz Funeral. Cloud recollected that a couple of dozen die-hard "Friends of Summer" gathered to lament her passing. Cloud recalled, "Each Labor Day, the 'Friends of Summer' came together to share memories, have a few laughs, shed some tears and, ultimately, say good bye. Each year, it seemed 'Summer' gained more friends who follow behind its open casket, her tombstone and the sounds of wailing trumpet, clarinet, tuba and trombone."

The funeral got its start in 1985, when Moss Wagner and a few Bethany merchants decided to mark the end of summer with a jazz funeral and a small party. Cloud said, "We used to roll out of our businesses around 4 or 5 o'clock on Labor Day, and nobody was left in town. So we all got together to give 'Summer' a proper burial."

Every year since then, Bethany mourners have given each summer a dignified sendoff. And the Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral has attracted crowds -- crowds that ordinarily would have dispersed much earlier in the day as people take to the highways to head home after the Labor Day holidays.

The Bethany Beach Jazz Funeral is one of only a very few events in the country where all those who attend can participate and are encouraged to join in the funeral procession. Being able to shed a few tears for "Dearly Departed Summer" is the only requirement for those who join the procession.
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