By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
This time each year, beachgoers make a trip to Sea Isle City to pick up a highly coveted novelty item.
And they may need the luck of the Irish to buy them before they completely sell out.
The always popular St. Patrick’s Day-themed beach tags will go on sale beginning Tuesday at the Sea Isle City Welcome Center on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
They may also be purchased from a cash-only beach tag vending machine in the first floor lobby of City Hall across the street from the Welcome Center.
Available on a first come, first served basis, the 1,000 St. Paddy’s Day beach tags are expected to sell out, city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
The holiday-themed tags are decorated with a leprechaun hat. The discounted price of $20 represents a $5 savings over the full cost of a seasonal beach tag. The preseason price is in effect for beach tags bought before May 15.
Just like with regular seasonal beach tags, St. Patrick’s Day tags are valid for the entire 2021 summer season.
Although the chilly winter weather may make it hard now to think about leisurely summer vacations at the shore, Sea Isle has found that beach tag sales can be strong during the off-season.
“It’s a tangible symbol of their happy place. It’s an emotional thing,” Custer said of people dreaming of relaxing summer days on the beach.
Each year, Sea Isle sells a limited number of holiday beach tags starting with the Christmas season.
The city usually follows next with special edition beach tags inspired by Sea Isle’s Polar Bear Plunge, the madcap dip in the frosty ocean that traditionally draws thousands of visitors to town each February. However, the Polar Bear tags were not sold this year because the Polar Bear Plunge was canceled amid coronavirus pandemic.
Sea Isle has also canceled its annual St. Patrick’s Day parade this year because of the COVID-19 crisis, but it is still selling the St. Paddy’s beach tags.
“We’re expecting them to sell out,” Custer said.
One reason the special edition beach tags are so popular is that they are prized by collectors. Custer noted that it is not unusual for collectors to have beach tags for every year dating back to when Sea Isle first started selling them in the 1970s.
“Many people will make the trip to the vending machine at City Hall or the Welcome Center simply because they want to add to their beach tag collection,” she said.
Beach tag sales total around $1.4 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 other beach-related expenses. Without beach tags, those expenses would have to be funded by taxpayers.