- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Month: April 2011

35th Cape May Jazz Festival

There was a little something for everyone at the 35th Cape May Jazz Festival, April 8-11. From guitarist Kevin Eubanks formerly of The Tonight Show  to congo player and Latin jazz artist Poncho Sanchez. Many artists performed in venues throughout the island and the rainy weather of Friday made way for sunny skies by Saturday.

Beach Tags: Collecting history the Cape May way

Collecting History the Cape May Way

Our dear friend Karl Suelke passed away April 11, 2011. He turned 91 on April 3rd. Karl was featured in Cape May Magazine‘s article “Collecting History the Cape May Way,” which we are proud to share with you.

Oh those pesky Cape May beach tags! Everyone complains about them. Some try to wrangle their way out of buying them. Still others go out of their way to buy them early. And then there are those who collect them. Beach tagcollectors can be easily spotted. Some, like octogenarian Karl Suelke, wear their collections. These are conspicuous by their attachment to baseball caps and sweatshirts loaded with as many past beach tags as space will allow. And some, like former city manager and ex-council member Fred Coldren, tuck them neatly away in one 1½-inch notebook, carefully preserved and organized according to year and type of tag and including artwork, posters and design options which were rejected at the time. He has even named his collection – How many do YOU have?, a reference to other collectors.

Beach tags, you say? What are they? For 30 years, Cape May has charged beach goers a fee for using the beaches. You can buy a seasonal tag. Many locals and cottagers make sure they buy them as soon as they go on sale in December for stocking stuffers and to save money. If purchased before March 31, they cost $15 each. After March 31, the price goes up to $25. Short term visitors can either buy a weekly or three day pass. And if you’re a day tripper, you can purchase a daily tag.

Every year, my boss walks down to city hall and buys his four beach tags. Every year I balk at the thought. I’m not going to buy a beach tag, I say. We don’t go often enough to justify the expense. Besides, I say, why should I pay to go on the beach? Wildwood is free. However, midway through the summer I find myself with four kids in town, ages ranging from 6 to 16 and I realize how perfectly ridiculous I look asking kids, chomping at the bit to hit the waves since about 7:30 a.m., to wait until 4 in the afternoon to go to the beach because that’s when the beach taggers go off duty. It takes just one instance of my lurking along the promenade scoping the sand looking for beach taggers, then looking over at angry, curious eyes of anxious kids, towels and boogie boards in hand, for me to see the error of my ways and end up buying the two seasonal beach tags anyway. I only need two because the under 12 kids go free, which yes, makes me look even more ridiculous.

The truth of the matter is Cape May has some really great beaches and an excellent beach patrol, and that costs money. But I was still curious about how all this came about and Fred Coldren was nice enough to tell me the story of beach tags.

In 1977, the City of Cape May was second in the state to adopt a beach fee ordinance. “I was a member of City Council at the time,” he said, adding that he, along with council member Arthur “Mickey” Blomkvest and Deputy Mayor Adrian S. Capehart voted for the ordinance (two council members voted against it) to establish beach fees in the city.

“Our three goals,” he said were to (1) raise revenues from beach users to help defray the costs of beach protection and maintenance; (2) ensure public access to oceanfront bathing beaches in Cape May; and (3) begin the process to restore sand to the badly eroded Cape May beachfront. Our first goal was reached successfully in the early years of the beach fee program; the second was accomplished within 10 years by 1986; and the final goal that turned into a $50 million beachfront restoration was accomplished in 15 years in 1991, with ongoing maintenance authorized through 2040.”

But why does he collect beach tags? “Well, I designed most of them up until the summer of 1989,” when he stepped down from his position as city manager. “And I helped pass the ordinance which I think did the city a lot of good. Revenue from the sale of beach tags was a major contribution to the financial stability of the city.”

Sitting in Fred Coldren’s living room, looking over his collection, I am fascinated with the assortment of plastic tags in front of me and it dawns on me that the history of the city can be benchmarked according to some of the seasonal designs.

The first design was a tiny sailboat which Fred said he came up with very quickly to get the program started. The next year, 1978, depicts a gaslight. “This,” said Fred, “was the first of two-color tags, designed to support a Cape May priority of keeping our 120 or so historic gaslights burning despite a natural gas shortage and a state order to turn them off. The entire Cape May community mobilized to fight the ban and eventually won the right to keep them operating to the present.”

The 1980 whale logo gave the nod to whale watchers and an acknowledgement of Cape May’s original settlement by whalers from New England. The next year’s yellow ribbon celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Washington Street Mall. Tulips the following year helped to support Cape May’s fledgling spring Tulip Festival which paid homage to Dutch Sea Captain Cornelius Jacobsen Mey, whose explorations of the Delaware River in 1620 led to the peninsula on the northeast side of the bay being named Cape Mey, later changed to Cape May.

Speaking of explorers, it was English Sea Captain Henry Hudson who in 1609 originally made note of the peninsula while sailing his small yacht the Half Moon between the Atlantic Ocean and the Delaware River. To that end, Cape May’s 1984 beach tag celebrated the 375th anniversary of the discovery of Cape May. Does this mean we can look forward to another nod to Captain Hudson in 2009 when the 400th anniversary rolls around?

National events have also inspired beach tag designs. Grief over the January, 1986 destruction of the space shuttle Challenger and the death of all seven crew members reflected, according to Fred, “the hopes of the community and nation that the U.S. would continue to Explore Sea & Space Safely.” More recently, the tragic events of September 11th were remembered during the summer of 2002. The patriotic beach tag read simply: “Cape May Season 2002 Remembers Sept. 11th 2001.”

One of the most interesting beach tags, said Fred, was the 1987 limited edition Century Tag which sold for $100 apiece. The Century Tag was used to raise funds, according to city records, for the support of the Building Fund for the Cape May Beach Patrol headquarters. Fred recalls that about 600 Century beach tags were sold that summer raising nearly $60,000 to “help finance the construction, reduce the burden on the taxpayers, and give tag owners access to Cape May beaches for the entire 20th century…through the summer of the year 2000 A.D.”

“It was a bargain,” said Fred, “You got 12 years of beach access for $100, instead of paying the $10 original price (not to mention regular increase…$12, $14, etc. every year), but it also involved many residents and visitors in a worthy cause. Everybody who purchased a Century Tag got a special Certificate of Appreciation with a gold embossed city seal and an invitation to the dedication, as well as recognition.”

To celebrate the restoration of Cape May’s beachfront following completion of the Army Corps of Engineers’ beach replenishment project, the city issued a special souvenir beach tag in 1991. And, in acknowledgement of the Army Corps’ continued efforts to restore the beaches the regular seasonal pass depicted a beach scene with a sign next to the dunes which read Save Our Beach.

Fred is particularly fond of a third special beach tag issued the summer of 1986 in recognition of the Visit of Halley’s Comet, ironically the same year as the Challenger disaster. The tag reads Cape May, NJ, USA, Earth and was distributed as a souvenir to school children. “I designed,” said Fred, “distributed and personally paid for this special tag production for fun.”

So, now my question is – if I wanted to start collecting beach tags today, where would I look? Fred said he and other collectors find them at yard sales, flea markets and sometimes on eBay. Of course, I could look in the bottom of my desk drawer. I tried eBay but all I found were 11 beach tags from Cape May Point and that’ll never do because I don’t beach at Cape May Point. “I recall,” said Fred, “seeing one rare tag sell for $35.” Whew! That’s a lot of money to pay and still not be able to get on the beach. Speaking of which, I have seen the light and vow, beginning summer of 2007, to always buy a beach tag and
whine about it no more. They do seem to have done more good than not.

A passionate collector and true believer, Fred Coldren sums it up like this. “Beach tags have played a very important role in Cape May’s history as a source of revenue, a fair allocation of costs of maintaining the beaches to those [who] use them instead of just the local property taxpayers, and to make possible the highly successful beach restoration project.”

And that’s the end of the story of beach tags. Make sure to buy yours either at City Hall or down on the beach. And tell me – How many do YOU have?


Beach tags are required on all persons 12 years of age and over on all city beaches from 10 am – 5:30 pm at all times Beaches are open or when lifeguards are on duty.

2011 beach tags are available for purchase, in person, at the City Hall Tax Office, located at 643 Washington Street, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday thru Friday, excluding Holidays. After April 1, a seasonal tag is $25. A maximum of five (5) seasonal tags, per season, per individual, can be purchased. Weekly (Saturday to Saturday) tags are $15. Three day tags at $10 and Daily tags are avaiable for $5. Up to five (5) Seasonal Tags, per season, per individual, can also be ordered by mail. The mail order per tag cost for a Seasonal Tag is as follows: $25.75 beginning April 1.

To order, send check, made out to City of Cape May, and mail to the following address:

Beach Tags – Tax Office
643 Washington Street
Cape May, NJ 08204


On Saturday, April a CROP Walk began at the Emlen Physick Estate. The route took walkers through Cape May’s historic streets and down to the beachfront. The walk was organized by local churches to recognize those in the world who have to walk to live, as well as the people served by local food banks all over the USA.. (CROP is an acronym for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty. It was started by Church World Service (CWS) in 1946 to share our country’s abundance with European war victims.) One fourth of the money raised by the Cape May walk will go to local hunger services in Cape May County.

TripAdvisor names Cape May beaches Second Best in Nation

CAPE MAY – TripAdvisor has named Cape May number two in the nation for best beach and ninth in the world. The 2011 Traveler’s Choice Best Beach Award states,“Yes, Cape May is, technically, on the Jersey Shore. But it’s the antithesis of the Jersey Shore you’ll see on TV—instead of nightclubs and tanning parlors, you’ll find Victorian mansions and a famous lighthouse.”

The excited, happy, four-legged greeter – and what to do about it!

Text by Linda Steenrod & Dr. Robert Moffatt V.M.D.

Do you have a dog that jumps as part of their greeting?

Spring is here and summer is on the way! Friends and family are out and about and coming over to visit more. And do you, like I, have a dog that jumps as part of their greeting? Some friends are tolerant, but I want my friends to feel welcome without the overly enthusiastic greeting. Jumping on people is a concern with big dogs, but with small dogs as well since they can scratch people or their clothing. Dogs jump to show affection, trust and to welcome, but not everyone may see it that way, especially if they are not prepared for such an enthusiastic welcome. So what to do?

There are some steps you can take initially, before training, and many are “timing” sensitive. Catching your dog at the right moment is important as well as always being conscience of the dog’s safety.

  • Before the dog jumps, put your hands palms-down and crossed in front of the dog’s face. Many dogs will take the hint and not jump.
  • Turn your hip to block the jump, or turn your back on the dog, being careful not to knock the dog over
  • Step forward and invade the dog’s space and the dog will move to accommodate you
  • If the dog has a collar on, and you are beside the dog, hold the collar firmly without bending your wrist for better control
  • Once the dog has jumped, hold the dog’s front legs between the paw/wrist and elbow, and support the dog for longer than the dog would like to be up there, or
  • Distract the dog with a toy, or ball, but do not reward the dog with a toy or treat if the dog has already jumped.

Reward the desired behavior only – when all fours are on the ground!

In the meantime, you can begin training. You can enlist the help of friends, especially those who visit frequently. The most important element of training is to make it positive for the dog and for you, but without rewarding any jumping with pets or treats. Reward the desired behavior only – when all fours are on the ground! Dogs are so loving and so want to please that training can be fun as well as rewarding for both of you. Different steps work with different dogs and different people, so try all or several methods to see which works best for the two of you.

  • Keep your dog leashed for the first 10 to 15 minutes after everyone arrives and things have settled down and the excitement of entering visitors has passed.
  • Teach your dog to sit, even when excited. Start with unexciting situations and gradually raise the excitement level while continuing to command “sit” and “stay” and praise/reward when your dog is sitting and staying.
  • Try to make your own entry quiet and relaxed so as not to encourage the dog’s excitement and therefore possible or probable. This will also help reduce any separation anxiety, since your homecoming is a quiet and expected happening. Ask friends to make a quiet entry for awhile, until the dog is more relaxed in dealing with visitors coming in.
  • Never allow anyone to pet or reward the dog when they are on hind legs only. When the dog sits, or at least has stopped jumping, then pet and/or reward with a treat.
  • Finally, remember that your goal here is to make the situation SAFE and HAPPY for your dog, you, and your guests. So, do not punish the dog for jumping. Punishing your dog for what they think is a friendly greeting may encourage the dog to lose trust in you and in others. Also, a jumping dog is more vulnerable and may be more easily injured. The best correction of jumping is to withhold attention until the dog settles down, when they will be able to focus on and, therefore, enjoy and appreciate the attention even more!

A well and positively-trained dog is a happier dog that will make you a happier dog person, and your guests happier, as well. Make it fun for both of you, and you’ll both be rewarded in many ways.

Want a great read?  Try One Good Dog by Susan Wilson


Back to Birds

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2007 issue of Cape May Magazine

Red-throated Loon

Even though the winters seem to be getting milder, I am always ready for the warmer breezes of spring and everything that comes with it. People move in to town, roughly in sync with the northward push of birds, the days are longer and everyone seems to be that little bit merrier and yes, it is breeding season – in the bird world that is. Come to think of it, my sister and I, and my two daughters were born within striking distance of Christmas. So clearly, we’re the results of spring breeding as well. No, that wasn’t a prompt for your partner!

Well, back to birds (and not bees). Spring can often be nippy in these parts, and with a big camera to lug about, I spend a lot of time in my car these days. Yes, old age is catching up with me! Luckily, I live just down the road from one of my favorite places, The Concrete Ship. Occasionally I will venture on to the rocks at Alexander Avenue, depending on whether there are any birds chowing down on mussels and other goodies around the rocks. By now you have probably got the impression that being a birder and photographer is very easy and laid back. As a result, I have attached the photo of me at work, taken by hidden paparazzi. This now gives you the chance to conjure up whatever image of me at work that you find more romantic!

Every April, Red-throated Loons use our local waters as a staging area with hundreds gathering here before they go to their breeding grounds in the Arctic. They are gray and white, but don’t have a red throat until they get to their summer haunts. They dive for fish, often surfacing 50 yards away and only for a few seconds at that. It is always fun trying to anticipate where that will be and being quick enough to get the shot. On still days the water can look like treacle where the loons have created beautiful patterns in the water.

In between waiting for the Loons to surface, a look over the bay will often find one of my favorite ducks flying by. This one is more aptly named – Long-tailed Duck. As is usually the case, the male is much better looking than the female. Sorry ladies, this is not personal!

One of the beauties of Cape May is that it also has pretty good night life. Driving home I often see a Great-horned Owl perched on a bush or telephone pole at the side of the road. They are also the earliest to breed, nesting as early as January. They look great and the young ones, like all young ones, look cuddly. But don’t be fooled. This beast is big and will attack just about anything – no, not humans!

Above: Richard Crossley

Above: Adult and baby Great Horned Owl. Photograph by Richard Crossley

Above: Long-tailed Duck. Photograph by Richard Crossley

Above: The Concrete Ship, one of Richard’s favorite places for photographs. Photograph by Richard Crossley

Check out Richard Crossley’s new book Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds.

“It’s exciting. It’s visually stunning. It’s like nothing you have ever seen before and it’s hot of the presses. It’s Richard Crossley’s, The Crossley ID Guide – Eastern Birds. It’s the first real-life approach to bird identification. Whether you are a beginner, expert, or anywhere in between, The Crossley ID Guide(published by Princeton University Press) will vastly improve your ability to identify birds.

“What’s so different about the Crossley ID Guide? Everything. Crossley has designed his guide to reflect the way we see and identify birds. We identify birds by their size, shape, structure, behavior, habitat, and field marks. We [see] birds at close range, at middle and long distances, on the ground, in flight, in trees, and on the water….If you want to be a better birder you will find the new Crossley ID Guide to be [a] major innovation and a valuable tool.”

— Wayne Mones,