‘Second Season’ events keep visitors returning to Shore long after summer

 Classic Car Auction at the Wildwoods Convention Center (Image courtesy of WildwoodsNJ)

Classic Car Auction at the Wildwoods Convention Center (Image courtesy of WildwoodsNJ)

Even though Labor Day has come and gone, there is still plenty of activity at the Jersey Shore, and towns are working to bring people out for what’s called the “Second Season.”

Shore natives often say September is their favorite time of the year.  The ocean is still warm and the “shoobies” have gone back home.  

Ocean City officials claim to have come up with the term “Second Season” and schedule plenty of promotions to keep people coming to their second homes after school starts.  There is something special to do almost every weekend … and virtually everything is cheaper, said Michelle Gillian, head of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s the best time of the year. You still get that nice weather, you can still go to the beach, the boardwalk, ride your bikes, and the accommodations are reasonable,” she said.

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A random search of rentals shows rooms and homes going for 30 to 50 percent less now than during the height of summer.

Special events have transformed the fall, said Jackie Ewing, president of the 7 Mile Business Association.  

“Before we had events after Labor Day, it would be like going off the cliff,” said Ewing, who owns  Armadillo Limited, a home décor store, in Avalon. “But we have been proactive in trying to stem the exodus from the beach, the houses going on lockdown and ‘see you on Memorial Day’ kind of thing.”

Ewing says they are particularly proactive during holiday weekends, such as Thanksgiving, with a weekend full of festivities targeting parents and children.

“Face painters, jugglers, mimes, ventriloquists,” she said, adding that it will the fourth year for an ice skating rink. “Skates are free, everything is basically free to them. Of course, the merchants are having sales and having events in their stores.”

From seafood festivals to Octoberfest to New Year’s Eve parties, marketers keep dreaming up new angles.

Wildwood seeking more conventions

Down the road in Wildwood, the 250,000-square-foot convention center hosts events 45 weeks a year, mostly Friday through Sunday.  And that helps generate crowds in cooler weather.

Now the aim is to build up off-season business with more midweek conventions, said John Siciliano, executive director of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority.

“The goal is to keep it as much as a year-round town as we can,” he said. “And what our real dream would be is to now start to fill in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday with maybe some corporate-type events in the Wildwoods Convention Center, so it’s not just Friday, Saturday nights every week.”

To make that dream reality, Siciliano said Wildwood needs a new hotel that is more business-traveler friendly.  He estimates that would cost a minimum of  $15 million.

“I think the timing is getting right for this type of project. We have interest, we do have interest, it’s whether or not we can put the other pieces together,” he said.

Sicilliano said the hotel could be built on a parking lot right by the covention center.  He hopes to ask for developers to make proposals next year, but thinks incentives might be necessary for the project to happen.

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