Seasick in Seaside Park

What does God have against Seaside Heights?  What did Seaside Heights ever do to anyone?

Last Thursday, on the eve of the annual New Jersey Firemen’s’ Convention Parade in southernmost Wildwood, a fire started under the Kohl’s ice cream booth on the boardwalk in Seaside Park (just south of Seaside Heights).  The smoke could be seen for miles, as the southern wind blew the fire northward along the boardwalk.

Hundreds of fire companies responded throughout Thursday.  Being a band that marches for fire companies, we wondered how many of the firefighters would make the parade (which has been declining in attendance over the years).

Seaside Heights, and Seaside Park, which is a smaller amusement pier just south of the main attractions, was just recovering from Hurricane Sandy.  They only just replaced the boardwalk; replace the piers with the rides – the roller coaster, the famous carousel, the Ferris wheel – was still far in the future.  Then the businesses there had to deal with a rather wet (and humid) summer.  Business was already down.  Then along came this fire.

Firefighters had to build a break in the brand new boardwalk to try to stop the fire, but the strong winds simply carried the fiery debris over the break and into the next section, and on into Seaside Heights itself.  Fifty businesses were destroyed in Seaside Park and some thirty in Seaside Heights.

Seaside Heights has been an attraction, just as Wildwood has, for generations of families and young people.  We, who are older, after 28 years of going to Wildwood, have lost that “Wildwood Days” feeling.  In fact, we came home early.  Our band didn’t have enough members to put on a proper show.  A few of us went down for the poolside concert, but we ran into difficulties that made it a less than happy experience.

Another band had asked me to help them out.  They said they’d pay me fifty bucks for helping out.  Good news for someone who was unemployed.  We hadn’t wanted to go, but with the prospect of earning a little money for playing with this other band, we figured, why not?

I had my misgivings about sight-reading music I hadn’t played before with a band that was notorious for its friendly, but very strict director.  I also didn’t relish leaving my companion behind to go off marching with this other band.  But I’d given my word.

However, when we arrived, the director informed me that he’d since found all the musicians he needed and he couldn’t afford to play.  He hadn’t even brought music for me to play for free.  That was all right with me; I’d only offered to help out.  My loyalty has always been to my original band.

Still, it was a good thing we went, for our band was short of experienced trumpet players.  The poor young fellow did the best he could, but the officers had chosen music that was much too difficult for such a young, inexperienced and small group of musicians.  My companion saved the day and trotted out his own cornet to bolster the end of the performance.  The trip wasn’t a total waste.  But we were glad to go home.  For us, this weekend spelled the end of our Wildwood Days (as Wildwood likes to advertise).  The parade’s future itself is uncertain, as it must compete with the Miss America Pageant Parade up in Atlantic City.

We hope better days are coming for Seaside Heights.  It would be a sad thing if families and young people from northern New Jersey had to miss all the fun we had as children going to Seaside Heights, and later, as a band, to Wildwood.  This weekend was a bittersweet end for us, filled with memories of joy and fun and music. 

We pray this isn’t the end of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park.



Published in: on September 16, 2013 at 11:27 am  Leave a Comment  

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