LIFE IN NEW JERSEY: What is summer in New Jersey like?
Well in a word, humid. And hot… but not as much as you might think. Temperatures can go up to 37C (100 F) but it doesn’t occur often. The 40C+ days that you see in Sydney fortunately don’t seem to happen here.
Mostly, the hottest days are between 30-34C or a bit below. It is more the humidity that drives you crazy. As I write this post, it’s 8.30am and the humidity level is 86% in Montclair. It has rained a lot recently, so humidity has stayed between 80-100% for a few weeks. Thank goodness for air-conditioning. Lying around bathed in sweat all day is just not my cup of tea. Amazingly, the locals seem to have a great tolerance for this. They just take it in their stride. Air-conditioners and swimming pools are fairly common but there are plenty of people who get by without either.
While the humidity rather than temperature is probably the main weather extreme, this is also the season for storms, and occasional hurricanes. Much of this weather floats up the East Coast from Florida, so at least you can see what you’re going to get ahead of time. Interestingly, hurricanes were never really a big issue for New Jersey historically. However, in more recent times, some very large hurricanes have made landfall in Jersey, instead of following their traditional paths of moving north to north east over the Atlantic. The two most recent are Hurricane Irene (which caused quite a lot of damage) and the never-to-be-forgotten Hurricane Sandy.
While thunderstorms during summer are not a new experience locally, they can also do short term damage that may include loss of power, flooding and trees falling.
One good thing from this high humidity is that gardens look great and plants grow quickly because of the hothouse like conditions during summer.
With the start of summer vacation at the end of June, most school children can look forward to a very long break. Summer for children is freedom from school for 11-12 weeks. While this is way too long for most parents, it’s probably still too short for many kids.
Because of the lengthy period that the summer break entails, summer camps help keep kids occupied during June/ July while many parents go on vacation with their children in August.
Freedom is celebrated in another big way on the 4th of July, with Independence Day. This is a big date on the calendar for everyone in the USA. The day is celebrated by fireworks, parties, barbeques, and in most townships, the very traditional and fun ‘Fourth of July Parade.’
Food, Festivals and Flocking to the Jersey Shore
Summer is a big time for barbeques at home, although it’s more often called ‘grilling’. People will grill almost anything, including shrimp (prawns), kebabs, burgers and sliders, hot dogs, chicken and steak. These can vary from plain to heavily spiced with chilli or other combinations that represent the multi-cultural tastes of the location.
Food is commonly featured in many festivals that are held in summer in New Jersey including:
- June: the New Jersey Seafood Festival at Belmar, the Annual Whitesbog Blueberry Festival at Pemberton ,
- July: New Jersey State Barbeque Championship at North Wildwood, New Jersey State Ice-Cream Festival at Tom’s River,
- August: NJ State Crab Festival, St. Sebastian’s Italian Feast at Montclair and the Ocean Township Annual Italian Festival.
Swimming is a very popular way to avoid the heat. Aside from the local township pools which are used frequently in summer, there are several large water-parks around the state including Mountain Creek, Six Flags and Seaside Heights which attract vacationing kids and families.
It is to the iconic Jersey Shore that most people flock in droves on weekends, and during their vacation breaks.
Many people stay here for their summer holiday to enjoy the close proximity of the beaches, boardwalks and local Shore life. Others travel from their townships on day trips to the beach, or at night to enjoy amusement shows, rides and the boardwalk culture of piped music, salt-water taffy, candy floss and hotdogs.
Fireflies and other insects
There is plenty of insect life in Jersey including mosquitoes, gnats and a variety of other bugs. Cicadas are heard but in a much softer and less frequent way than during Australian summer. Perhaps this is because the local cicadas are a lot smaller in size and in numbers.
Unlike in Australia, New Jersey sports a teeming population of fireflies, which light up the evening outdoors with their transient flashing on and off. Fireflies look so innocuous and ordinary close up but have this delightful ability to create a lightshow that starts around dusk and can extend for a few hours.
While I will never like the humidity, summer for New Jersey people has a real sense of excitement. It’s all about freedom, holidays, beaches, fun and outdoor lifestyle opportunities that can include anything from hiking, biking, fishing, camping or just enjoying a barbecue at home.
Perhaps this is the most relaxed time you will ever see New Jerseyans – a time when they get to escape the fast pace of life that seems to be ingrained during the rest of the year.
Personally, I can’t wait for fall to arrive with cooler weather. One thing though I will never tire of is the wonder of New Jersey fireflies lighting up humid evenings, that makes them an unforgettable part of summer.
What’s your favourite part of summer in New Jersey or anywhere else in the USA?