Cape May and Lewes celebrate 50 years of the ferry in Delaware and New Jersey

The Cape May-Lewes Ferry set sail on its next 50 years of operations over the weekend with a two-state ceremony highlighting its accomplishments.

The events began Saturday in Cape May with the burying of a time capsule, a reception sponsored by WHYY and the showing of the WHYY original production, “Billion Mile Journey: The Cape May Lewes Ferry.”

Sunday’s event in Lewes duplicated many of the Saturday events with one notable exception: Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, was prominently featured at Sunday’s dedication. Governor Chris Christie, R-NJ, did not attend the Saturday event. 

Scott Green, Executive Director of the Delaware River and Bay Authority, praised Markell for his support of ferry operations. Green never mentioned Christie by name, but said that he wished he could see the same level of support from the other side of the bay that he receives from Delaware.

However, none of that overshadowed a weekend with perfect weather, near-capacity ferry trips and fireworks in Lewes to wrap up the celebration. Green reflected on 50 years of service to the twin capes regions of Delaware and New Jersey. In his Delaware remarks he thanked the city of Lewes for being the perfect headquarters for Cape May-Lewes Ferry operations.

Markell tied the 50 years of ferry operations to the expansion of Delaware’s bike trails at Cape Henlopen State Park. 

“It’s no wonder that more people are coming in this direction when taking the ferry,” he said. The governor was dressed in his bike riding clothes as he made his remarks, having spent some of Sunday riding along those trails.

A proclamation congratulating the Cape May-Lewes Ferry was read by state Rep. Steve Smyk and State Sen. Ernie Lopez, who represent the Lewes area.

The weekend was spent remembering 1964 when the first ferries began public operations. DRBA Chairman William Lowe singled out Ruth McIntyre to the audience at the Lewes ceremony. She was aboard the first ferry trip.

At Saturday’s reception in Cape May many of the people interviewed for WHYY’s “Billion Mile Journey” project were singled out by Green. One of them was William Ray Phillips, who piloted one of the original ships that launched ferry operations.

The weekend began in Lewes with a live broadcast of Newsworks Tonight from Lewes. One of those in the audience was 97-year-old William Miller, the first executive director of the DRBA. 

Saturday and Sunday evening ended with a screening of the WHYY production. It was shown on a large screen on the lawns in Lewes and Cape May. It was intended to give people that feeling of going to a 1964 drive-in movie.

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