By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Temperatures barely inched into the 50s at the shore on Monday, so it was hardly what you would call “beach weather” in Sea Isle City.
But that didn’t prevent people from rushing to City Hall to buy something that seems completely incongruous with winter – summer beach tags.
These aren’t just any beach tags. Each year in November, Sea Isle begins selling its holiday-themed beach tags that are traditionally one of the most coveted gifts found wrapped under the tree or stuffed into Christmas stockings.
Monday was the first day that 4,000 holiday tags went on sale. They aren’t expected to last long.
“They will sell out,” Jennifer McIver, the city’s chief financial officer, said matter-of-factly.
Sea Isle has been selling holiday beach tags since 2010. Year after year, the wildly popular tiny pieces of plastic sell out. Hundreds of tags were sold Monday, either at the Tax Office in City Hall or online, McIver said.
The holiday tags are good for the entire 2024 summer season and are available for $25 each, a $5 discount from the regular $30 price for seasonal beach tags. Sea Isle has approved a $5 increase in the price of seasonal, weekly and daily tags for 2024 to help pay for the rising costs of maintaining the beaches.
Beach tag sales total around $1.3 million annually in Sea Isle and are an important source of revenue. The money pays for lifeguards, seasonal police officers, keeping the beaches clean and Sea Isle’s share of beach replenishment projects done in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
For the second year in a row, Sea Isle held a contest to have children design the beach tags. Four original designs from the family-friendly competition were selected for the 2024 beach tags. The four categories were: seasonal, winter holiday, veterans and St. Patrick’s Day.
The Christmas-themed beach tags feature a whimsical turtle wearing a red, Santa-like cap.
“I guess a kid did this. It’s so cute,” Erin Heary said as she got her first look at the holiday tags.
Erin and her mother, Vickie Heary, were dreaming of relaxing summer days when they stopped by the Tax Office on the second floor of City Hall to buy their holiday beach tags. Vickie picked up 10 of them, while Erin bought two.
“I put them in the stockings,” Vickie said of her tradition of using the holiday beach tags for Christmas gifts.
Vickie lives in Elkins Park, Pa., while Erin resides in Staten Island, N.Y., for their primary homes. Their family has owned a summer vacation home on 68th Street in Sea Isle since the 1950s, starting with Vickie’s grandmother.
“We’re the only house left on the block with the original owners,” Vickie explained of all the changes on their part of 68th Street over the years.
The Hearys are devoted to Sea Isle and said they would never consider any other place at the Jersey Shore to spend their vacations.
“It’s my happy place. I always say that,” Erin said of Sea Isle. “I’m almost 50, so I’m never going anywhere else.”
Another beach tag buyer, Richard Garofalo, picked up two of them on Monday, one for himself and the other as a stocking stuffer gift for his grandchild.
Garofalo lives in Clarks Summit, Pa., and has a summer home in Sea Isle. He bought holiday beach tags for the first time in 2022 and wanted to continue the tradition this year for Christmas.
“Some of my family members don’t associate the beach with Christmas. But I do. I think it’s cool,” he said.
Holiday beach tags may be purchased in-person at the Tax Office in City Hall or from a beach tag vending machine in the lobby of City Hall. They are also available for sale on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Sea Isle City Welcome Center.
Beach tags may also be bought online with a credit card and shipped directly to your home. Visit jerseycapetags.com for online purchases.
“People love the convenience. I don’t care if you live in Wyoming, you should buy beach tags in Sea Isle. There’s no excuse not to buy beach tags in Sea Isle now,” Mayor Leonard Desiderio said of the ease of online sales.
Normally, the next limited-edition beach tags up for sale after Christmas are the St. Patrick’s Day-themed tags. However, McIver hinted that Sea Isle is planning something new this year for another specialty tag. An announcement is expected later.
“We may have something else up our sleeves,” McIver said.
For more information on Sea Isle City’s beach tags, go to visitsicnj.com/beach-tags.