Keansburg Mayor George Hoff Talks to Gratitude Migration

When Mayor George Hoff and the Keansburg Council were approached with the concept of hosting a small “Burning Man” festival three years ago, they weren’t too keen on the idea. They were concerned it would be too large and raucous, given the overblown media centered around the desert festival.

But months later, when the Gratitude Migration team shared their goals and mission, the mindset of the residents in Keansburg shifted. With just a small dose of justifiable skepticism - Keansburg had never experienced any events of this style and size - the town agreed to host its first transformational festival last July. The end result? It was a resounding success. And now the small, booming beachside town is preparing for its second iteration this summer. As the date draws near, excitement amongst residents is on the rise.

Hosting the event last year was great for our town. And we’re so happy that it is is returning,
— Mayor Hoff, Keansburg, NJ

The lasting effects have been positive, and this year, residents from Keansburg and neighboring communities are even more eager to partake.

The residents were so impressed with the participants they met - and the experience of the event itself. Gratitude Migration is a very welcome addition to this town.
— Mayor Hoff

(To read more comments from local Keansburg residents, view this article)

The boost in income to local businesses is a key aspect of Summer Dream's impact. Last year, many of the businesses sold out of their goods, so they are working to make sure they are prepared this time around. 

We’re working with a company to provide shuttle service so attendees can easily access the downtown shopping area. We want the local businesses to benefit from the festival and improve the economic impact that Migration brings to this town. We know what to expect.
— Mayor Hoff

Gratitude Migration’s lasting impact on Keansburg’s culture has been felt to this day. Recently, the Hello Arts Festival took place just across the street from where Gratitude Migration is held, with many of the folks from the GM team in attendance, including hEllo Beach visionaries, Deme and Theresa. And in May, the community hosted an arts show in the municipal library. Culture is booming in this tiny piece of the Jersey Shore, and the local artists are leveraging the impact that Gratitude has brought to the budding scene. 

We strive to host art festivals to support our local artists, so it all goes hand in hand.
— Mayof Hoff

 

Mayor Hoff was particularly impressed with the Gratitude Migration’s Leave No Trace ethos, and the festival-goers' respect for the beach and surrounding environment.

After everyone left, there was no evidence that they had even been here. They cleaned up the beach so well, it showed how much they respect the land. Drew and Avi and the whole Gratitude Migration crew showed us that with compromise and respect, anything is possible.
— Mayor Hoff

 

Environmental preservation is particularly important to Keansburg because of the disastrous effect that Hurricane Sandy had on this slice of coastline. After Sandy, revitalization has been slow, but steady. With the first waterfront development breaking ground this Fall, it is a sign of positive things to come. Small businesses are opening, and with the dune rebuilt to its pre-1970s system, the beach is once again protected. "We have our own green team initiative. We just hosted an event in which 400 seedling trees were donated to us from a local nursery. In the next year or two, Keansburg won’t even look the same," says Hoff.

In a town where the average price of a home hovers around $200,000, it is ripe for investment and development, and the Mayor is eager to let Migrants in on this gem of a secret.

We want people to become aware of how incredible and affordable this town is. We also have the best views of the New York City skyline.

 He hopes some of the participants who attend the festival see the town’s potential and decide to become more stable fixtures down the road.

What’s next for this booming community, on the cusp of becoming the next big thing?

We’re open to festivals, to new ideas being presented to us. We’re open to the concept of concerts, food trucks, fire shows, any new ideas that are presented to us. Whatever is going to benefit our town, as long as it is a positive experience.
— Mayor Hoff

That said, if you have an idea that you’d like to pitch to him, feel free to reach out directly.

Just before we said our goodbyes, he encouraged me to end this piece with his phone number. Give him a call! 908.902.0963.

Written and reported by Dionisia Hatzis for Gratitude Migration

For interviews with Gratitude Migration's core team and co-founders and to discuss the synergy with the town of Keansburg, contact press@migratewith.us or visit our Press page.