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A Little Shake to Promote the Shore

With summer nearing, resort towns are hoping to get the word out that they're open for business.

There are myriad avenues being taken to attract tourists back to New Jersey’s beaches this summer season following Hurricane Sandy.

The state is currently pursuing ideas of how best to spend $25 million in federal relief aid to promote the shore.

Seaside Heights is hoping to develop a marketing plan that plays on the town’s recovery, new boards and new outlook this upcoming season.

In Cape May, officials recently traveled to Montreal to assure the foreign press that the shore will be open for business come summertime.

In Wildwood they danced.  

On Saturday, Wildwood 365, in an effort to showcase the Wildwoods and raise awareness of the ongoing needs of beach communities along the shore both in southern New Jersey and central New Jersey, organized a production of the Harlem Shake in hopes of it becoming a viral video online.

“In Wildwood, we’re trying to get the word out that we’re open, that we did OK after Sandy. That was the inspiration,” Wildwood 365 curator Al Alven said. “It’s kind of a two-pronged effort. Let’s promote and focus on restoring the shore.”

Alven organized the event after seeing a Harlem Shake video being performed on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. He started an event page on Facebook and put a call out for willing participants.

By noon, approximately 300 people, some wearing costumes and funny hats, others carrying props or balloons, and all ready to shake, arrived in Wildwood.

For the uninitiated, the Harlem Shake is an internet video meme that typically involves some suspect dancing from groups of people set to a short clip from the song of the same name by electronic music producer Baauer.

The styles and dance moves vary widely in the approximately 30-second long clips, but typically Harlem Shake videos include a single helmet-wearing or masked dancer going it alone for about 15 seconds.

When the beat drops, the frame, which was previously occupied by disinterested onlookers or simply empty, erupts with the spastic gyrations of a frenzied crowd. 

And it’s mesmerizing.

The Harlem Shake, which often bears little resemblance to the actual dance style introduced several decades ago, has been performed in tiny dorm rooms, on city streets, in planes, and even under water. Professional athletes and television stars have joined college students and even protestors in the Middle East as participants of the Harlem Shake. Some of the videos feature just a few dancers; others involve thousands.

Now, it’s being used to promote the shore.

“There’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding Sandy,” Alven said. “I get emails every week asking if Wildwood is still under water.”

It’s the rumors some worry could hamper the upcoming tourism season for New Jersey’s coastal communities. Even beach towns that were significantly damaged during Sandy, many, like Seaside Heights, Belmar and Manasquan, among others, losing their boards and some attractions, have resolved to come back.

In most cases, the deadline is as soon as Memorial Day.

Though Wildwood was largely spared from Sandy, Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano said his town is in the process of trying to dispel rumors about its demise following the late October storm. Wildwood was lucky, he said, thanks in part to its ever-growing beaches. And even neighboring towns like Ocean City and Sea Isle that did see destruction during the storm are gearing up for the summer tourism season.

“There are people who think the whole entire area was taken out when that’s not even close,” he said. “We will be open. We will always be open.”

Though the Harlem Shake video – every once in a while it’s fun to do something a little stupid, he said – was filmed in Wildwood and will promote the town, Troiano said it’s more about promoting all of New Jersey’s beach towns. As spring approaches, he said a concerted effort is needed to keep the tourism dollars that the state and so many towns rely on in New Jersey.

“We don’t want to prosper from other towns’ problems,” he said. “But as long as we keep the tourism dollars in New Jersey, that’s what it’s all about.”

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