Which of the Wildwoods do you visit?

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Changes in best beach contest break up voting by municipality

WILDWOOD—For the past five years, the Wildwoods have frequently swept the New Jersey Best Beaches contest, presented by the New Jersey Sea Grant Consortium.

But, after the contest’s one-year hiatus in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, contest organizers have made some changes to the “friendly” competition in an effort to level the playing field.

One of the biggest changes this year is that resort areas like the Wildwoods and Long Beach Island have been separated into their respective municipalities, rather than bundled together, which was how the ballot was presented during the first year of the contest in 2008.

“Across the board it was agreed that going back to the original individual towns list as opposed to bundling made more sense and leveled the playing field in a manner of speaking,” Kim Kosko, director of communications for the NJSGC said in an email this week. Kosko said she was unavailable for a phone interview. “People go to Wildwood, North Wildwood or Wildwood Crest, not the Wildwoods, plural, just like they go to Beach Haven or Ship Bottom or Surf City or any of the beach towns that are a part of Long Beach Island.”

Kosko explained that NJSGC has a committee that organizes the Top 10 Beaches Contest. That committee met several times to reevaluate and discuss the survey’s goals before the 2014 launch. These changes, she said, were the result of those meetings.

“The marketing terms people might use for a destination area don’t really adequately convey the unique things about a specific individual town or location that make them so special to people they go back there year after year after year,” Kosko said.

The Top 10 Beaches contest is determined by combining the ranking of the popular vote with rankings from Stewart Farrell and his team at Stockton College Coastal Research Center. Farrell’s data are based on surveys and evaluations, which are taken annually.

The popular vote makes up two-thirds of a particular beach’s ranking, Kosko explained. The objective data makes up the other one-third.

According to John Siciliano, executive director of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, most visitors view the Wildwoods as one entity, and don’t divide the island based on the municipality in which they stay.

“We market the Wildwoods,” he said. “The people that come here- they don’t say ‘We went to North Wildwood’ or ‘We went to Wildwood Crest,’ they say ‘We went to the Wildwoods.’”

The Wildwoods not only took first in the Top 10 Beaches Contest in 2010, 2011, and 2012- it also won for ecotourism, best day trips, best beach for a family vacation, best beach for a day trip, and best beach for shore events when that category was presented in 2010 and 2011.

In 2008, Wildwood won best beach, with Wildwood Crest in second and North Wildwood in fourth. In 2009, Ocean City won the contest, with Wildwood dropping to third, Wildwood Crest in fourth, and North Wildwood in sixth.

Siciliano said that while the Wildwoods have used the contest in their previous marketing plans, GWTIDA usually places more emphasis on Wildwoods lack of beach fees as a way to lure more tourists to the area.

He also stressed that the contest is a great way to start off the summer for all the beach towns, and the friendly competition is helpful in promoting all of New Jersey’s beaches during Memorial Day Weekend, because that is when results are announced.

“It’s wonderful to be able to say that the Wildwoods won best beaches,” he said. “But this year we’re happy we’re in the game, and we still might win. Maybe we’ll come in first second and third this year.”

Kosko agreed that the contest’s main objective is to provide publicity for the Jersey Shore right before the start of the season.

“I truly believe everyone comes out a winner with this project,” she said. “It puts such a highly visible and positive spin and spotlight on the Jersey Shore, one of the state's most important environmental treasures and an incredibly valuable economic resource for the tourism industry.”

Voting in the Top 10 Best Beaches contest is ongoing until April 30. Votes can be cast at www.njtoptenbeaches.org .

Email Christie Rotondo at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or comment on this story at thewildwoodleader.com. 


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