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For North Wildwood’s 100th, Bring Back Auto Races on Central Ave.?

By Rick Racela

NORTH WILDWOOD – Will auto races along the Speedway, now Central Avenue, return for the centennial celebration of North Wildwood?
A recreation of the famous races that were held in the early 1900’s was just one of the many suggestions at the Nov. 3 planning meeting for the 100th anniversary of the city.
Robert J. Scully, curator of the Wildwood Historical Society’s Boyer Museum, said that in the early 1900s, thousands of men in summer suits and women in broad-brimmed hats gathered along the bulkheads and street ends to watch the “fastest and finest” cars in races that started on 1st Avenue and continued down the Speedway to 26th Avenue.
According to Scully, the races began in 1907 and the next year the auto club purchased a meetinghouse on 17th and Central avenues. The racers competed for trophies sponsored by the communities on the island.
“The museum houses a trophy won during a race in 1909,” said Scully.
Suzette and Richard Kneedler donated the large silver trophy originally won by Len Zengel in his Chadwick on July 5, 1909.
Perhaps one of the most famous contests was when Louis Chevrolet, Alexander Cristy, and Henry Ford decided to race along the beachfront. Ford, who led in the beginning, would have won easily if a wave had not washed over him and his Ford racer.
“I can see it being a mad house for police,” said Scully in response to the feasibility of holding a recreated race.
“But maybe if they plan it with four or six cars on display, a few drivers in the old racing gear, and a slow drive down Central Ave it could happen,” said Scully.
In other business, the committee named Scully, Frank Leto, and Barbara Boyle as chair-persons. Joseph Quattrone, the city’s cultural events coordinator, said that their first task is to come up with a logo that embodies the spirit of the centennial celebration.
“The logo should be on banners, on cars, in business windows, and everywhere around town,” said Quattrone.
The committee is looking to enlist the help of Wildwood High School and Wildwood Catholic students to provide the design and artwork for the logo.
Quattrone said that if the contest receives approval, he hopes to have the information to the schools within the week and possibly have the winner of the logo design contest by Dec. 10.
“We have to get this moving. As it is, we’re already tight on time,” Quattrone told the committee.
Quattrone said that the events are still very must in the planning phase and nothing has been finalized. He said that the committee welcomes anyone who wants to volunteer or of-fer ideas.
“This is a big team effort,” said Quattrone.
North Wildwood will celebrate its 100th anniversary as a municipality on May 16. The name change took place on that date in 1906 when the borough council of Anglesea de-cided by a 4-1 vote to rename the borough North Wildwood.
The city is planning year long events commemorating the occasion with special emphasis on the month of May and the week May 14-20.
Contact Huggins at: lhuggins@cmcherald.com

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