Thousands of people packed the Promenade on Saturday for the start of Sea Isle City's Skimmer Festival Weekend celebration.

By Donald Wittkowski

You can bet that a lot of bathing suit-inspired diets were shattered Saturday during Sea Isle City’s premier summer beachfront festival.


Thousands of people attending the Skimmer Festival Weekend enjoyed a foodies’ paradise that included hotdogs, hamburgers, French fries, funnel cakes, ice cream and many other waistline-stretching seashore favorites.


Chris and Dan Fisher, vacationers from Conshohocken, Pa., munched on some Bubba’s Famous Grilled Hotdogs while taking a lunch break during their beach day.


“It’s a $5.50 deal that includes a hotdog, soda and chips,” Chris Fisher said of the budget-friendly meal.


Hoping to keep their waistlines in check, Fisher joked that she and her husband had walked Sea Isle’s entire Promenade before grabbing something to eat. They planned to spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing on the beach.

An outdoor food court gave festival-goers an array of culinary favorites.
An outdoor food court gave festival-goers an array of culinary favorites.


The Fishers, who have a vacation spot at the Ocean View Campground, attend the Skimmer Festival every year. The family-friendly event combines food, shopping and entertainment and is Sea Isle’s largest summer festival.


Hosted by Sea Isle’s Division of Tourism, the festival annually attracts tens of thousands of people, city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.


“It’s certainly a nice way to start the summer season for our businesses and families,” she said.


Custer noted that hotels are “buzzing” with business throughout the weekend. Parking lots appeared full Saturday, fed by a steady flow of cars entering town over the bridge on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.


In addition to the festival’s outdoor food court, around 400 merchants set up tents that transformed the Promenade into an oceanfront shopping plaza stretching for nearly 20 blocks, tourism officials said.


Vendors reported doing brisk business, with sunglasses, T-shirts, bathing suits and hair clips among the hot items. Hair clips?


“No one wants to get their hair wet,” explained Phyllis Cirillo, who was selling the clips from her Dazzling Duds tent.


Shelley Henshaw, owner of Chalk Me Up, was busy selling custom-made children’s T-shirts for $20 each.


“Business is absolutely very, very good,” Henshaw said. “People are buying. Everyone is in a good mood. I haven’t had one sourpuss all day.”


While the shopping was mainly for adults, the children romped on amusement rides that turned Excursion Park into a carnival-like setting. Live music, face-painting and balloon artists added to the park’s family atmosphere.


Rob Miller, who has a summer home on 65th Street, was enjoying the day with his daughters Madeline, 9, Annabelle, 7, and Lucy, 4, and son Logan, 7. Miller’s children insisted on staying at the festival.


“We came down here with the intention of getting lunch and going home, but now we’re staying all day,” Miller said, laughing.


Miller called the festival “phenomenal” for families. His son, Logan, gushed about all the fun he had on the amusement rides, particularly a giant slide.


“These are good rides,” Logan said. “You go really fast.”

Excursion Park featured children's amusement rides that created a family-friendly atmosphere.
Excursion Park featured children’s amusement rides that created a family-friendly atmosphere.


Skimmer Weekend continues Sunday, Father’s Day, with an antique car show on the Promenade from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. After Mayor Leonard Desiderio awards trophies to the show winners, the cars are scheduled to parade around town starting at 1:30 p.m.


Some may question why a festival dominated by food, shopping, amusement rides and antique cars is called Skimmer Weekend, a name inspired by Victorian-era boater hats.


Custer explained that after the Jersey Shore’s devastating 1962 storm destroyed Sea Isle’s Boardwalk, since replaced with the Promenade, the townsfolk wanted to hold a Victorian-style celebration to bring back some fun while they rebuilt the community. Sea Isle, like many other shore towns in those days, still had remnants of its old Victorian flavor.