The big occasions in Wildwood are Independence Day and Christmas. For many years the Chapmans hosted field days on their property on the Fourth of July and Labor Day. There were games and prizes for the children, tennis tournaments with punch and strawberries for spectators, and cookouts-sometimes clambakes-for all. After World War II, Fourth of July celebrations became more of a total community effort. Programs spanned the entire day: from an early morning parade and flag ceremony to an evening picnic for resident families and their guests on the Reserve.
An annual theme provides the basis for the parade and activities-and truly reflects the creativity of the volunteer chair of the event. Past themes have included: America the Melting Pot (1980 and 1993), Heroes and Heroines (1981), Famous Americans Past and Present (1984), Happy Birthday Miss Liberty (1986), We the People (1989), March into the Future (1992), It’s a Musical Fourth (1994), From Sea to Shining Sea (1996); It’s a Flower Power 4th (1997); A Star-Studded 4th (1998), and Celebrate the American Century! (1999).
And the tradition continues with a recounting of what Independence Day means to us all, tables selling bake goods and used books, games for children and adults-including a tug of war, egg toss, three legged race and sack relay, a tennis tournament, raffles, movies or videos for “quiet time” in the afternoon. Each year as the flag is lowered, Wendy Joy reads an essay by Roger Garrison, a late Wildwood resident who annually wrote an essay for the celebration. This was his last essay-and serves as a yearly inspiration.
The talent show is a special part of the celebration. For nearly five decades the neighborhood children have showcased their special skills on the “stage” at the Heldman’s garage. Whether singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument or reciting poetry, the children proudly display their craft. An integral part of the talent show is the skit in which all participate. The costumes and scenery are worthy of Broadway.
Take me out to old Wildwood
Take me out where its cool
We’ll swim at the Beach and we’ll take long hikes
We’ll do anything anyone likes
For its RAH RAH RAH for old Wildwood
If you’re not here its a shame.
For its laugh, play, sing all the day
At our old Wildwood!
As the annual host of the talent show, Lloyd Heldman was fond of saying “This was the best show yet.” In his memory, the shows producer invites the entire audience to echo Lloyds sentiment following the curtain call.
Another tradition, a huge bonfire on the Reserve after dark, was dropped in the mid-90s due to fire danger and has now been replaced by a campfire-complete with scary ghost stories and a sing along.
At Christmas, residents can count on a tour of the streets by Santa (propelled by internal combustion, not reindeer!) and a progressive pot-luck evening with a break for caroling through the neighborhood between appetizers and the main courses.