Celebration planned as Cape May-Lewes Ferry approaches milestone

It may be hard to believe that the Cape May-Lewes Ferry will be 50 years old in 2014.

But it will.

And to celebrate that milestone, the Delaware River and Bay Authority which operates the ferry — actually a fleet of five ferries — is asking the public to share favorite experiences, memories, photos, and any other memorabilia for a special exhibit being created by the agency.

“The ferry has always be important to the communities of Lewes and Cape May and to the larger Twin Capes region,” said Scott Green, executive director of the Delaware River and Bay Authority.

Ferries crossing the bay began operating on July 6, 1964, with the inaugural voyage departing Lewes at 6:47 a.m. that day with eight vehicles and 15 passengers aboard. Since then, 42 million people and 14 million vehicles have taken the Cape May- Lewes Ferry.

The 16-mile crossing takes about 80 minutes and the route links the southern tip of the New Jersey Shore with a coastal eastern Delaware point, creating a quick passage through Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and southern destinations beyond.

Over the years, the ferry became integral to the development of a region that come to be known as Twin Capes, but with a history that may be not widely known outside the Cape May and Lewes communities, according to Heath Gehrke, director of ferry operations.

“The Cape May-Lewes Ferry is part of the unique history of Delaware and New Jersey and we want to showcase this important story. We hope to further strengthen our Twin Capes relationships while also providing the traveling public with a peek into what may lie ahead for our ferry service,” Gehrke said.

Gehrke said much of the basis for the exhibits will lie in an out-of-print chronicle about the history and development of the enterprise written by William J. Miller Jr. in 1984 called “A Ferry Tale: Crossing the Delaware on the Cape May-Lewes Ferry.”

Officials are hoping the public shares its own “ferry tales,” whether they be stories and photos about family reunions, marriage proposals, or favorite vacations, Gehrke.

The DRBA is also planning a festival for 2014 to mark the anniversary and plans to announce the date ad details this fall.

In the meantime, the public may share their tales and excitement about the ferry on the 50th Anniversary Memorabilia album on Cape May-Lewes Ferry’s Facebook page or they may be sent via e-mail directly to the DRBA at contact_us@drba.net.

Special arrangements to share larger, or more valuable artifacts, can be made by calling the authority’s public information officer James Salmon at 302-571-6409.

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