Monday, June 13, 2022 / by Teresa DiPeso
Freed of the crowd restrictions imposed during the height of the pandemic, thousands of festivalgoers are expected to visit Sea Isle City during Father’s Day weekend for the town’s signature summer event.
The family-friendly Skimmer Festival Weekend is returning June 18 and 19 after a two-year hiatus caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
“Skimmer has a very big draw and impact,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said. “It spotlights Sea Isle City in a very positive way. It’s very family friendly. It attracts people from near and far.”
During its opening day on June 18, the event will feature hundreds of vendors in tents along the oceanfront Promenade, an array of free family-oriented amusements in Excursion Park and an outdoor food court that is always a crowd favorite.
The festival will wrap up on June 19 with an antique auto show stretching along the Promenade. Afterward, the vintage cars and trucks will ride through town in a colorful procession.
Traditionally, the two-day event is attended by “thousands and thousands” of people, creating Sea Isle’s largest summertime gathering, Custer said.
However, Sea Isle had to scrap the vendors, the amusements and the food court in the last two years because there was not enough room for festivalgoers to safely social distance amid crowd restrictions during the peak of the pandemic.
With the main part of the Skimmer Festival having to be canceled in 2020 and 2021, the city held an abbreviated version that included a sidewalk sale by local merchants.
“We were very disappointed that we weren’t able to hold Skimmer in the last couple of years, and many others were also,” Custer said. “But this event returning this year means a lot to us.”
The city was able to salvage the antique auto show in 2020 and 2021 because there was enough room on the Promenade to spread out the cars and trucks in a way that allowed spectators to observe social distancing.
With the return of the full-fledged festival this year, Custer said there are no plans for outdoor crowd restrictions. But as the pandemic continues to linger, visitors should exercise “good judgment” and stay at home if they don’t feel well, she added.
The festival got its start in 1963, a year after the monstrous Great Atlantic Storm ripped up Sea Isle’s wooden boardwalk and left other parts of the beach town underwater or destroyed.
Sea Isle hoped to persuade tourists a year later that it was in recovery mode, so the townsfolk created an old-fashioned celebration called the Skimmer Festival, a name inspired by the Victorian-era straw hats worn by boaters during more genteel times.
Except for 2020 and 2021, Custer wasn’t aware of any other time that the festival had to be canceled since its inception, although at least once or twice bad weather diminished the crowds.
Historically, the festival kicks off what Sea Isle officials and the local business community hope will be a busy and profitable summer vacation season.
“For many people, Skimmer is really the start of the summer season, because it coincides with Father’s Day weekend and the letting out of schools in summer. We hear many times how much people look forward to it,” Custer said.