When unexploded World War II munitions were unexpectedly dredged up with sand off Long Beach Island in March, an already embattled replenishment plan suddenly got much more complicated. The Long Beach Island Shore Protection Project was proposed in 1999 by the Army Corps of Engineers to add 11 million cubic yards of sand to the badly eroded LBI coastline and another 2 million cubic yards every seven years. It finally got going this winter in Surf City, the only town where the necessary easements for the $71 million federally funded project have been secured. From the outset, homeowners have feared that their ocean views would turn into views of sand piles; surfers have worried that dredging sand from the ocean floor could alter the sandbars responsible for LBI’s famous break. Those concerns were temporarily forgotten after rusted military fuses and adapters started showing up along the beaches in Surf City and Ship Bottom in March. Senators Robert Menendez and Frank R. Lautenberg immediately fired off an angry ultimatum to the Corps, and this spring the beaches were closed as the Corps swept metal detectors across the newly renourished shoreline in a frantic attempt to make the beach munitions-free by Memorial Day. By mid-April, more than 100 munitions had been salvaged and sent off to Fort Monmouth. Needless to say, these are not the fireworks we were expecting.—Stan Parish
Not only do we claim the tastiest pizza, the highest population density, and the most insane auto insurance rates, we also boast the tallest Ferris wheel on the East Coast. The Giant Wheel (can’t argue with the name), on Mariner’s Landing Pier at the Morey’s complex in Wildwood, tops out at 156 feet. It cost $1.5 million to build, opened in 1985, and got a nifty 8.92 rating at themeparkcritic.com.—Jon Coen
On the second Wednesday of each month, Red Bank’s Freedom Film Society screens independent films from Toronto, Tribeca, and other major festivals. Formed by local filmmakers and run by volunteers, the FFS also hosts an international festival every October, as well as programs throughout the year at local venues such as Clearview Cinema (36 White St) and the historic Count Basie Theatre (99 Monmouth St).—Pearl Gabel
Red Bank residents take pyrotechnics seriously. In 1987, when the town axed the annual display in a budget crunch, townspeople took it upon themselves to raise the money. Ever since, the cost of a 25-minute synchronized show—now about $100,000, plus $70,000 for fire and police services—has been funded by charitable citizens and corporate sponsors. On July 3 at sunset over the Navesink River, Red Bank will fire up what is still the biggest aerial display in the state. The bang-zoom will be provided by Garden State Fireworks of Millington, which took over from the famed Grucci Brothers of Long Island last year. GSF, one of the biggest companies in the business (customers include Disney amusement parks), is run by brothers Nunzio and August Santore. It was founded by their grandfather, Augustine Santore, in 1890. They are the third generation of their family to run the company, and the fourth generation is in training.—JC
The warmer the weather, the fuller the flea markets. The two main sites, in Farmingdale and Englishtown (the former, known as the Collingwood Flea Market, is larger and closer to the Shore), attract bargain hunters from everywhere. The markets offer multiple buildings and outdoor space for vendors to sell new and used wares. Where else can you get an antique ironing board, a dozen apples, a new pair of Nikes, and a cheese-steak sandwich—all without moving your car? At Farmingdale, you can have your name and profile skillfully airbrushed on a T-shirt. Englishtown: 90 Wilson Ave, Saturday, 7 am to 4 pm; Sunday, 9 am to 4 pm. Farmingdale: 1350 Hwy 33/34, Friday and Saturday, 9 am to 8 pm, Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm.—PG
When Lacey Township High School opened its doors in 1981, its head football coach was Lou Vircillo. When the Lions went undefeated to win their third NJSIAA State Championship in 2006, Vircillo still held the reigns. As the only head coach the school has ever known, with over 200 career victories, Vircillo has ensured that this little town is known for more than just a nuclear power plant.—JC
Turns out someone has built a better mousetrap—many someones, in fact, and many mousetraps. You’ll find them at David Metz’s unique museum. Metz, 91, collects antique mousetraps, bicycles, pencil sharpeners, and other gizmos with moving parts. He has more than 150 mousetraps alone, ranging from simple wooden traps of the late 1700s and early 1800s to diabolical devices that kill through multi-step processes. One “drowner” that Metz says he sold for $1,250 (along with sixteen other mousetraps) lured a mouse to a baited trap door that fell away, dumping the critter into a tank of water.
“They kept making improvements every year,” Metz says. “It’s like anything else. There were so many ideas on mousetraps, it’s unbelievable.”
Since 2000, Metz has displayed his collection at the Metz Bicycle Museum in Freehold. While the museum also offers “Treasures of Years Gone By,” it is strongest in bicycles, which Metz amassed through 50 years of frequenting flea markets, antique shops, and museums around the world. One of his rarest treasures is a group of miniature bicycles handmade by a prisoner of war in Belgium in the early 1940s. “The workmanship on them is so unbelievable,” Metz says.
A lifelong bicycle enthusiast, Metz is a past leader of both the national and local Wheelmen, a group dedicated to preserving the history of cycling. His collection includes an 1887 Singer Extraordinary High Wheel Bicycle, an 1885 Coventry Club Tandem Quadricycle, and an 1867 Davis Pickering Boneshaker (so-named for its wooden wheels and iron tires).
His fascination with tools and gadgets began when he was growing up on farms in Cranbury and Freehold. “I did everything,” he says, including working with all kinds of farm implements.
“It’s a 7,500-square-foot museum, and it’s packed,” Metz says. “I have some of the most unusual things that people have ever seen.” 54 West Main St, Wednesday and Saturday, 12:30 to 4:30 pm and by appointment, 732-462-7262, metzbicyclemuseum.com.—Jennifer Weiss
At the 22-room Daddy O hotel and restaurant in Brant Beach, summer weekend rates range from $255 to $375 per night. That’s a mind-blower (as guys who actually called each other Daddy-o used to say), but it’s not a deal-breaker. Daddy O is the spiffiest of a new breed of boutique hotels serving the upscale clientele that rising land values bring. Philly and LBI restaurateur Marty Grims (Plantation in Harvey Cedars) and his partners bought the dilapidated corner property with liquor license for $4.5 million in 2005. Then they invested $5.5 million more to renovate and reimagine the building as a destination much more chic and tastefully luxurious than its amusingly retro name would suggest. Facilities include a liquor store and rooftop deck. At the restaurant, dinner entrées range from $13 for a bacon cheeseburger to $36 for filet mignon with peppercorn-cognac cream. 4401 Long Beach Blvd, 609-361-5100 (stay), 609- 494-1300 (dine), daddyohotel.com.—Eric Levin