Saturday, March 27, 2021

Major update on Wildwood events in 2021

Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Wildwoods’ 2020 calendar of events was almost completely wiped out. As we head into Spring and look forward to Summer 2021, the forecast looks considerably sunnier than it did one year ago.

“Here we are a year later, and we are so cautiously optimistic about the Summer of 2021,” said City of Wildwood Commissioner Krista Fitzsimons earlier this week, at a “Lunch & Learn” Zoom session hosted by the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce.

“We’re hopeful, we’re optimistic, and, to be honest, I really want to report that [the 2021 events schedule] seems to be shaping up quite nicely.”

Fitzsimons, who heads the city’s Department of Revenue & Finance and oversees tourism operations, provided an update on Wildwood’s event plans through the end of the year...

Signature events to return

Several of the trademark events that were cancelled last season have been confirmed to return, with the Wildwoods International Kite Festival kicking off the summer season over Memorial Day Weekend (May 28-31).

“It’s always such a great thing to come over the Rio Grande Bridge and see all of those kites flying about, and you know that summer is here, Wildwood is open and we’re ready to roll,” said Fitzsimons.

The ever-growing Jeep Invasion will return (July 9-11) along with Baseball on the Beach (August 13-15), now being promoted by MudHen Events. The Race of Gentlemen (October 1-3) will be back to help anchor the shoulder season. 

A pair of GWCOC staples - the Wildwoods Food & Music Festival (October 9) and Fabulous ‘50s & Beyond Weekend (October 15 & 16) - will also return after a year’s absence. 

Announcements of additional returning events are expected to be made in the weeks ahead.

Sunday evening concerts, end-of-season block party confirmed

Fitzsimons said that the city has committed to the Sunday evening free concerts at Fox Park. Performers and schedule are being finalized for the series, which typically runs from late-June until the end of August.

(Keep in mind that this info pertains only to the City of Wildwood’s free concert series; plans for North Wildwood’s Concerts Under the Stars Series and Wildwood Crest’s Centennial Park Concert Series have not yet been announced.)

The season-ending Wildwood Block Party & Music Festival, featuring all-day entertainment at Fox Park, will be held on Sunday, September 5 (the day before Labor Day).

Country music fest highlights new events

The much-anticipated Barefoot Country Music Festival, originally announced and planned for last June, is now set to be held on the beach August 19-22.

Tourism officials have stressed the importance and potential of this inaugural event, which will be headlined by Carrie Underwood, Zac Brown Band, Dan + Shay, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Lee Brice, with many more top and up-and-coming artists performing.

“We are very optimistic that this event will take place,” Fitzsimons said. “I know I get questions about it all the time, every day. We are proceeding as normal until people tell us otherwise. We’re optimistic that this is going to happen. We’re optimistic that this is going to bring thousands of first-time visitors to the Wildwoods.”

One June 19 & 20, the house of ideas that is Morey's Piers will host its inaugural PigDog Beach Classic, a volleyball event that will take place in front of PigDog Beach Bar BQ.

Another new beach event will attempt to extend the Wildwoods’ “second season” (post-Labor Day) even deeper into the Fall months.

“It’s an exciting new competitive motocross-type event that will take place on the beach in November, giving our businesses that are still open a nice shot in the arm during the shoulder season,” said Fitzsimons.

Fitzsimons also revealed that the city is in discussions to bring a Spanish food and music festival to Wildwood this summer (most likely in late July).

“We’re hoping to attract first-time visitors to Wildwood while celebrating alongside our Hispanic locals,” she explained. “We have an Italian fest, an Irish fest, so it’s really just a natural progression to have a Spanish food and music festival, and I am certainly looking forward to it, big time.”

Holiday events to bring cheer, extend visiting season

Wildwood’s Halloween Trunk or Treat event was a big hit in 2020, drawing families from all over South Jersey, according to Fitzsimons. It will return this October.

“It was overwhelming, the response to that event,” she said. “I feel like the event is for locals as well as visitors. I think, and I hope, that it helps push the shoulder season just a wee bit longer.”

Fitzsimons excitedly announced that the popular Christmas in the Park Holiday Light Show will be extended to run from Thanksgiving Weekend to January 15. 

What began as an effort by the Wildwood Recreation Department to decorate Holly Beach Park for the Christmas season in 2019 developed into a full-fledged light display and music show last year. 

“We were overwhelmed by the response to [the improvements in 2020],” she said. “It started a few years ago and we just jacked it up a little bit last year… really just to bring happiness and joy to people [amid the pandemic]. This was what we wanted, to give back to the community. People really loved it. It brought not only the community together, but we absolutely saw people from out of town come by, weekend after weekend.”

The city will also be adding a “twist” to the popular annual Jaycee’s Christmas Parade in early December.

“We have committed to adding five fully costumed mummers bands to the Christmas parade, with one of them performing at Byrne Plaza,” Fitzsimons explained. “We’re going to have our own little mini-mummer parade right here in Wildwood.

“The hope is that it will draw visitors, second home owners, and people who don’t normally come [that time of year].”

GWCOC Executive Director Tracey DuFault noted the success of the inaugural Wildwoods Holiday Shopping Village, held at Byrne Plaza and surrounding outdoor spaces in Downtown Wildwood last November 28.

According to DuFault, over 90 vendors participated, 65 of them brick and mortar businesses on the island. The event will return on Saturday, November 27 (two days after Thanksgiving).

Morey’s returns to the beach

Fitzsimons said that Morey’s Piers has submitted applications for its Cape Express Beach Blast (June 26 & 27) and More Beach Blast (July 17 & 18) soccer tournaments, as well as Spring Beach Jam (June 4-6) and Fall Beach Jam (September 10-12), its camping adventure events.

Morey’s also has Battle on the Beach Flag Football Tournament (July 10 & 11) and Morey’s Mania Beach Wrestling Tournament (August 14) on the schedule for 2021.

Along with those favorites, Fitzsimons believes the aforementioned PigDog Beach Classic will be an ideal fit on Wildwood’s expansive sands.

“For so many years, the beach has been screaming for a volleyball event,” she said. “So, I’m so glad this is finally happening. Our beach is made for volleyball, soccer and all these types of events. I’m very happy this is finally happening and looking forward to watching this event grow year-over-year.”

Much more to come…

Though a good number of events have been finalized for the months ahead, Wildwood’s calendar still has some filling out to do, Fitzsimons noted. Much more is expected to be made official and announced in the weeks ahead.

“We’re getting calls every day,” she said. “We’re sending out applications every day for some of the remaining traditional events, as well as starting conversations for new events.”

Fitzsimons also took a moment to thank and applaud the Wildwoods business community for its perseverance amid the challenges of the past year:

“I want to take a moment to thank all of the businesses in the Wildwoods, for stepping up, reinventing themselves and rolling up their sleeves to make the 2020 summer season the best it possibly could be at an impossible time. I admire these folks, I’ve watched them go up and down and up and down, and at the end of the day, they dug in their heels, they rolled up their sleeves, and they made summer 2020 really the best it possibly could have been. 

“They are strong and confident,” she continued. “They are hard workers, and I just want to say thank you to all of them. And I wish you all a very prosperous 2021 season because you all deserve it.”

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