It's been a long and seemingly endless winter. And even if the temperature forecast still remains 10 degrees below average, Spring is officially here and that means the New Jersey Shore high season is nigh.

With themes of resurrection and rebirth to fertility symbols to fresh pops of color in gardens and fashion, Easter is synonymous with Spring.

While many think of Easter egg hunts as occurring only on neatly manicured lawns, New Jersey residents know Peter Cottontail also enjoys hiding eggs on the Shore's sandy beaches. The Bunny begins his fun this season on Saturday, April 12 with hunts in Belmar and Ocean City (rain date for both is April 13).

Belmar's egg hunt kicks off at the 2nd Avenue Beach at 11 a.m. and is for children aged one though nine years. Kids can search for 100,000 hidden eggs (5000 with prizes) on Ocean City's beach between 11th and 14th Streets at 2:30 p.m.

On Sunday, April 13 at 1 p.m., children up to age 10 can hunt for 15,000 prize-filled eggs on the beaches in both Point Pleasant and Seaside Heights.

The Elks will host Wildwood's annual Easter Egg Hunt, Saturday, April 19 at noon on the 19th Avenue Beach. That same day, Atlantic City will host a pancake breakfast with the Easter Bunny at the Steel Pier from 11am to 12:30pm. After breakfast, children can enjoy unlimited rides until 4 p.m. Tickets are $10 and reservations are required.

For a more secular kind of egg hunt, why not check out Turtle Fest, Saturday, April 19, at the Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor? A variety of activities are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., including two terrapin egg hunts and turtle hatchling nature walks.

Garden State Film Festival

Independent film buffs, plus emerging filmmakers and actors will want to check out the 12th annual Garden State Film Festival. The event has a new home in Atlantic City this year, to better accommodate growing attendance (last year's festival brought in 35,000). Featured guests include actors Laura Dern, Bebe Neuwirth, Ed Asner, Diane Ladd, Franklin Ojeda Smith and Lt. Governor Kim Guadagno

The festival celebrates the American filmmaking industry's New Jersey roots.

In 1893, Thomas Edison built what is known as "America's First Movie Studio" or Black Maria in West Orange. He also developed the first film camera (kinetograph) and projector in his Menlo Park laboratory. Before Hollywood, it was Fort Lee that was the motion picture capital of the United States.

The four-day festival takes place Thursday, April 3 through Sunday, April 6 at various locations through-out Atlantic City. A $60 weekend pass ticket gets you in to all screenings at any venue as well as the Friday Night Gala Cocktail Party, panel discussions, a reading of the screenplay competition winner, and after parties. Tickets for individual screenings can also be separately purchased.

Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival

The first weekend in April will see Atlantic City serve as host to another popular festival as the Atlantic City Beer and Music Festival returns to the Convention Center for its 9th year. Highlighting craft beers, the event will feature more than 100 breweries offering ample opportunity to discover new brews and special "limited release" beers and ales.

Though known as the Atlantic City Beer Fest, live music is a key component of the two-day event. Bands such as Less Than Jake, Saves The Day, Dirty Heads, Onward Etc, Backyard Superheroes, Restorations, Still Moon and Jumpship are among the headliners.

The festival will be held in three sessions: 1st Session is Friday, April 4 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.; 2nd Session is Saturday, April 5, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and the 3rd Session is Saturday, April 5 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. While tickets for Session 3 are already sold out, there are still some remaining for sessions 1 and 2, cost $55.

Feis At The Beach

If recent St. Patrick's Day celebrations have left you hankering for more, head down to Wildwood for the free Irish dancing competition known as Feis At The Beach. Presented by the Cummins School of Irish Dance, the dance competition will feature over 1000 participants of all ages and expertise levels. Saturday, April 5, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Wildwoods Convention Center.

Dog parade

Tax season got you down? Ocean City may have the remedy: a unique comedy parade sure to relieve some of that stress.

500 basset hounds - many in costumes - will join bands, floats and various humorous brigades in a salute to comedy in the Doo Dah Parade. Furries alert: there will also be a mascot brigade. Immediately following the parade, the fun continues in the form of a mass shaving cream pie-in-the-face spectacle known as Pieasco. No face is safe from this tribute to late comedian Soupy Sales, who used to oversee Pieasco and serve as the parade's grand master. Soupy's wife, Trudy, will be on hand as a special guest. This year's grand master of ceremonies will be Candid Camera producer, Peter Funt.

Saturday, April 12 at noon. Parade route begins at Asbury Avenue from 6th - 12th Streets and then up to the Boardwalk, ending at the Music Pier.

Earth Day

Closing out the month is Earth Week (Earth Day is April 22) and there are plenty of environmentally friendly things to do to in the Garden State, especially Down the Shore.

On Friday, April 25, folks can join in the Barnegat Bay Blitz. It's a watershed-wide clean up effort spearheaded by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Clean up activities are planned in every township in the 660 square mile watershed. Volunteers should dress appropriate for weather and are encouraged to bring food and water.

To be assigned to a local clean up site, volunteers must contact the NJDEP Blitz Captain for the municipality they wish to help. For further information and a municipality listing, see the Barnegat Bay Blitz website.

Many of New Jersey's Shore points will participate in the Clean Ocean Action Beach Sweep on April 26 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The Statewide event began in 1985 to help keep beaches clean and safe. Beach Sweep volunteers do more than just pick up litter and debris, they also collect data by recording each piece of trash. This information is used in an annual report which aids efforts to combat marine pollution.

Check in starts at 9 a.m., rain or shine. Volunteers are encouraged to dress for the weather, bring gloves and wear hard soled shoes.

Those interested in lending a hand, can pre-register for their choice of location at the Clean Ocean Action website.

If running for Planet Earth is more your thing, then lace up for the Cape May County Park and Zoo Earth Day 5K Run and Celebration. The event costs $15 if you pre-register or $20 if not. Proceeds benefit the Cape May County Park and Zoo's trust fund. Saturday, April 26, 8 a.m. to 4. p.m. Cape May County Park & Zoo, 707 Route 9 North, Cape May Courthouse.

Somers Point Bay Festival was first organized in 1988 to celebrate Earth Day. Though Bay Fest still features environmental awareness exhibits and vendors, it has morphed into more of a family-fun day with proceeds being used for projects like new playground equipment, banners and funding for the high school's communication arts department. Saturday, April 26, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. along Historic Bay Avenue.

__________________________________

To see events for the entire Philadelphia region including Southeastern Pa, Northern Del and Southern N.J. see Robin Bloom's weekly Entertainment Guide.