Dolphins splashed, celebrities strolled and vintage aircraft took to the skies in Cape May County over the Labor Day weekend.
On Friday, the usual glitter of a night in Wildwood was electrified by the presence of American royalty, as Oprah Winfrey toured the Boardwalk with a crowd that included BFF Gayle King, longtime partner Stedman Graham and, we’re told, some girls from the South African school Winfrey founded. Oprah seemed to enjoy checking out the rides, and for a second I thought she was going to end up in the same canoe on the Zoom Phloom as my son and his friend. But she remained a spectator, letting the kids have fun while she looked on and waved. A lady after my own heart.
The celebrities weren’t just in the Wildwoods for fun, though. Graham is a Shore-area local, born and raised in nearby Whitesboro, and the couple have been involved in the area for years. On Saturday, Winfrey, Graham and King attended the 25th annual Concerned Citizens of Whitesboro Reunion, where she endorsed Newark Mayor Cory Booker’s Senate bid.
We first spotted Oprah down at the Boardwalk’s southern end, near Morey’s Adventure Pier, keeping it low-key. Only minutes before, the NewsWorks Tonight crew had finished their live broadcast outside Wildwoods Convention Hall — you couldn’t hear me on the radio, but I was there doing The Twist along with Dave Heller, WHYY news boss Chris Satullo and Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano.
By the time Oprah’s group had made it to North Wildwood and Morey’s Seaside Pier, it was being followed by a squealing, Twittering, Instagramming crowd, along with several police officers, a body guard or two, and at least one official photographer. My Shore spies had the Oprah contingent staying in Stone Harbor, at an exclusive enclave called The Reeds at Shelter Haven.
I can’t confirm that, as I was happily tucked into the new Hotel Icona in Diamond Beach, Lower Township, which recently held a grand re-opening after a complete re-do, part of its transformation from the old, ugly Pier 6600.
The multi-million dollar renovation by Eustace Mita seems to have been worth every penny, as the hotel is gorgeous, with an upscale but not over-the-top vibe, and the 108 suites are comfortable, brand-new, and overlooking a private beach. In the restaurant, Coastal Blue, chef Al Paris — also of Chestnut Hill’s Heirloom — is crafting a small but well-chosen menu that includes a terrific, bright shrimp-and-crab laden gazpacho I’m still thinking about days later.
Another fun thing that caught my eye happened Saturday morning, as I drove along Fulling Mill Road near the Cape May Airport. The Naval Air Station Wildwood Aviation Museum, which houses 26 vintage aircraft and is a must-visit for any aviation lover, was hosting its 17th Annual AirFest. The Collings Foundation made some of the World War II aircraft in its touring collection available for views and rides.
We spotted the beauty pictured above, a Boeing B-17G “Flying Fortress” 909, on the runway just before takeoff. Within minutes, it had drawn more than a dozen cars, as people pulled over to the roadside to snap pictures in utter defiance of the “No Stopping or Standing” signs along the road. On Sunday, we waved up at the B-17 again as it flew over the beaches along Five Mile Island as dolphins played in the ocean beneath them.
Also Sunday, it was American royalty of another sort, as The Boss spent some time in Asbury Park, NJ.com’s Stan Goldstein Tweeted:
Good to hear that Bruce Springsteen was out and about in Asbury Park late this afternoon. Wonder Bar Yappy Hour, Beach Bar among his stops
— Stan Goldstein (@Stan_Goldstein) September 1, 2013