WILDWOOD — As if haunted, the twirling carts of the Wild Whizzer ride at Morey’s Mariner’s Pier glided along the tracks Thursday with no one in them, for four silent hours.
In just a few days, a line of excited kids will be at the ride’s gate, a sign of the shore season coming to life once again.
But for now, ride supervisor Brooke Suydam, 22, of Sewell, in Gloucester County, was testing the amusement, ensuring it was ready for vacationers in the coming months.
“You’re just making sure everything sounds right,” Suydam said. “They sat all winter long, so it’s making sure it’s getting its time in running.”
Workers at amusement parks all along the shore spent last week testing, scrubbing, stocking, fixing and painting — all to have the magic of the experience be the same on opening day as it was when boardwalk-goers left it last year.
“This process starts the day after we close,” said Maggie Warner, Morey’s public relations director. “We are a full, year-round operation, so the work never stops.”
Workers at Morey’s, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this summer, can be seen on the pier over the winter doing upkeep work. For example, water park manager Kevin Ebner said, everything on the pier is on an annual painting schedule because of the corrosive effects of the salt air.
“It gives that revived look to it,” said Ebner, 27, of Wildwood. “Keeps it fresh every year.”
There were also clear signs of last-minute preparations Thursday. Maintenance men in John Deere utility vehicles bumped along the boards. Gigantic bags of candy sat unloaded at game booths, ready to be won. Twine was strung to hold the canopy over tables beside Taco Joint, and the lights that frame the arching Morey’s Piers sign were already incandescent.
Cold wind whipped loudly off the Atlantic Ocean, the Boardwalk still shaking off the dormancy of winter. But, like the rest of the amusements, game booths were no longer shuttered, and workers made maintenance and appearance tweaks inside them.
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“We want to make sure that everything is clean, because it sits all winter so all that dust, all that sand, gets inside,” said Anthony Sinnerard, 34, of Wildwood, a games manager who oversees as many as 70 employees across two piers. “After we get them fully cleaned, we go in and display them with all of our stuffed animals, … just try to get them to look 100% for our guests.”
A similar process was underway Thursday at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier in Ocean City. Painting of the facade was complete, to make way for the installation of a new sign, Director of Marketing and Sales Robert Kramer said. A new pizza shop and the indoor rides were “up and operational,” he said, and a majority of outdoor rides would follow suit Easter weekend.
“If the weather is good and plays nice, we’re expecting good (turnout),” Kramer said.
Atlantic City’s Steel Pier had 11 rides, plus food and games, open for the first weekend in April, said owner and President Anthony Catanoso. The team expects everything will be up and running by Easter weekend. Catanoso said it’s “exciting and rewarding” to see everything out of storage and in place, but the work never stopped.
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“We’re never dormant. The winter is a tough push because we take everything down and bring it to our warehouse, refurbish it,” Catanoso said. “By the time they’re done, it’s time to put it back up.”
In Wildwood, the 135 year-round employees and roughly 1,500 seasonal employees at Morey’s Piers are just as ready for the prep to be finished, and the summer to start.
“It’s a lot of fun. I really love this job in the summertime,” Suydam said. “It’s excitement from going from wintertime, not really having this, to being able to come here and meet new people.”
The amusements are open on weekends only until mid-June, Warner said. Among the new additions for guests to look forward to is a long-range basketball shot game, a “strong man challenge” where confident guests can try to hang from a bar for two minutes to win a big plush, and a roller coaster, the Runaway Tram, opening on Morey’s Surfside Pier.
“As it gets closer to opening day, people are excited. We’re ready to open,” said Warner. “We’ve been working hard all winter, so now we’re gonna kind of put everything together and see it in full swing.”