Sheila Brown’s guests can catch the latest episodes of their favorite TV shows — as long as they don’t mind watching in black and white.

Brown’s television isn’t broken, but it is a circa-1950s Zenith Space Command TV, a popular model of the time.

Brown, owner of the ’50s-themed Summer Nites Bed & Breakfast in North Wildwood, has embraced all things 1950s, which makes the Fabulous ’50s & Beyond Weekend that begins today a favorite event of hers.

“You can’t appreciate it unless you see it,” she said. “It’s just a fun, fun time. I don’t care what age you are.”

The weekend started 10 years ago as a way to capitalize on Wildwoods’ doo-wop past.

Doo-wop is the moniker given to the architectural style of the island’s collection of 1950s and 1960s-era motels known for their angular roof lines, bold neon signs and kidney-shaped pools complemented with plastic palm trees.

They were built at a time when the island was a musical haven for the popular acts of the time. Some called it the Las Vegas of the East.

Ten years ago, the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce decided to turn that history into a shoulder season event called the Fabulous ’50s Weekend.

Chamber Executive Director Tracey Dufault joined the organization a couple of years later.

“It absolutely amazes me that we have such a rich history in the music world,” Dufault said. “It’s what started the whole event.”

Chubby Checker was a regular here, as was Bobby Rydell and groups such as Bill Haley and the Comets.

Now, many of the era’s entertainers come back, a little older, to crowds that are as enthusiastic as they were decades ago.

“We had the first official sellout (in the new Wildwoods Convention Center),” Dufault said proudly. That sellout concert saw more than 7,100 ticket holders come to hear Little Anthony and the Imperials and Bobby Rydell.

So many came that the center even set up an extra room so fans who couldn’t get inside the concert arena could watch the show on a giant television.

When those performers come back, they are often taken around town as they reminisce about the Wildwood of their youth.

“They remember they started here,” she said.

But the weekend has seen its numbers drop somewhat since that sellout year of 2007.

“We’ve obviously seen a decline because of the market we’re going after,” Dufault said.

The decline involves the aging of the target demographic — the teenagers of the 1950s and 1960s — and the musicians they loved.

“We want to bring in the legitimate acts that own the group names,” she said.

This year, for instance, one of the acts at the Saturday concert is Gary Lewis & the Playboys, best known for their 1965 hit "This Diamond Ring."

“I’ve taken many phone calls from people asking how many of the original Playboys are coming,” Dufault said. “They obviously want as much originality as possible. The key is the entertainers.”

Knowing that the passage of time means the performers and target audience will change, the chamber changed the weekend’s name to Fabulous ’50s & Beyond.

“So that we can go into the ’60s era as well,” Dufault said. “Our hope is we will start to draw that market.”

Her other hope is that a mix of young and old continue to come each year.

“I know we have a 6-year-old coming, and she wears a poodle skirt,” Dufault said as she told the story of a woman who bought tickets for the Saturday concert as a birthday present for the little girl.

Brown, who opened her business on Atlantic Avenue in North Wildwood 10 years ago, has her own collection of poodle skirts — 13 to be exact.

She said her inn has become popular with those who lived through the 1950s and 1960s and those younger people who know the era through its music.

This weekend, her eight guest rooms are booked with people from as far away as Ohio and Maryland, in all age ranges.

The music, she said, is such a significant piece of the island’s culture that it cannot be forgotten.

“That’s what it’s all about. That’s Wildwood. We’ve got to keep it alive so the younger generation knows what it’s all about,” Brown said.

The ’50s weekend is one way, but Brown wishes more could be done.

“I’m afraid they’re not preserving it as well as it should be,” she said.

Businesses like Wawa and Acme have built stores locally using the doo-wop style, but she pointed to the hundreds of condominiums built in the 2000s that have little to do with the island’s history.

“They could have built those condos (with the style) of the 50s,” she said.

Brown pointed to her own success as an example of how the past can remain relevant.

“When we opened 10 years ago, they said it was just a fad, and it’s not,” Brown said. “How could it be a fad? It’s rock and roll.”

Her guests often book their time here for the ’50s weekend without By TRUDI GILFILLIAN

Staff Writer

Sheila Brown’s guests can catch the latest episodes of their favorite TV shows — as long as they don’t mind watching in black and white.

Brown’s television isn’t broken, but it is a circa-1950s Zenith Space Command TV, a popular model of the time.

Brown, owner of the ’50s-themed Summer Nites Bed & Breakfast in North Wildwood, has embraced all things 1950s, which makes the Fabulous ’50s & Beyond Weekend that begins today a favorite event of hers.

“You can’t appreciate it unless you see it,” she said. “It’s just a fun, fun time. I don’t care what age you are.”

The weekend started 10 years ago as a way to capitalize on Wildwoods’ doo-wop past.

Doo-wop is the moniker given to the architectural style of the island’s collection of 1950s and 1960s-era motels known for their angular roof lines, bold neon signs and kidney-shaped pools complemented with plastic palm trees.

They were built at a time when the island was a musical haven for the popular acts of the time. Some called it the Las Vegas of the East.

Ten years ago, the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce decided to turn that history into a shoulder season event called the Fabulous ’50s Weekend.

Chamber Executive Director Tracey Dufault joined the organization a couple of years later.

“It absolutely amazes me that we have such a rich history in the music world,” Dufault said. “It’s what started the whole event.”

Chubby Checker was a regular here, as was Bobby Rydell and groups such as Bill Haley and the Comets.

Now, many of the era’s entertainers come back, a little older, to crowds that are as enthusiastic as they were decades ago.

“We had the first official sellout (in the new Wildwoods Convention Center),” Dufault said proudly. That sellout concert saw more than 7,100 ticket holders come to hear Little Anthony and the Imperials and Bobby Rydell.

So many came that the center even set up an extra room so fans who couldn’t get inside the concert arena could watch the show on a giant television.

When those performers come back, they are often taken around town as they reminisce about the Wildwood of their youth.

“They remember they started here,” she said.

But the weekend has seen its numbers drop somewhat since that sellout year of 2007.

“We’ve obviously seen a decline because of the market we’re going after,” Dufault said.

The decline involves the aging of the target demographic — the teenagers of the 1950s and 1960s — and the musicians they loved.

“We want to bring in the legitimate acts that own the group names,” she said.

This year, for instance, one of the acts at the Saturday concert is Gary Lewis & the Playboys, best known for their 1965 hit "This Diamond Ring."

“I’ve taken many phone calls from people asking how many of the original Playboys are coming,” Dufault said. “They obviously want as much originality as possible. The key is the entertainers.”

Knowing that the passage of time means the performers and target audience will change, the chamber changed the weekend’s name to Fabulous ’50s & Beyond.

“So that we can go into the ’60s era as well,” Dufault said. “Our hope is we will start to draw that market.”

Her other hope is that a mix of young and old continue to come each year.

“I know we have a 6-year-old coming, and she wears a poodle skirt,” Dufault said as she told the story of a woman who bought tickets for the Saturday concert as a birthday present for the little girl.

Brown, who opened her business on Atlantic Avenue in North Wildwood 10 years ago, has her own collection of poodle skirts — 13 to be exact.

She said her inn has become popular with those who lived through the 1950s and 1960s and those younger people who know the era through its music.

This weekend, her eight guest rooms are booked with people from as far away as Ohio and Maryland, in all age ranges.

The music, she said, is such a significant piece of the island’s culture that it cannot be forgotten.

“That’s what it’s all about. That’s Wildwood. We’ve got to keep it alive so the younger generation knows what it’s all about,” Brown said.

The ’50s weekend is one way, but Brown wishes more could be done.

“I’m afraid they’re not preserving it as well as it should be,” she said.

Businesses like Wawa and Acme have built stores locally using the doo-wop style, but she pointed to the hundreds of condominiums built in the 2000s that have little to do with the island’s history.

“They could have built those condos (with the style) of the 50s,” she said.

Brown pointed to her own success as an example of how the past can remain relevant.

“When we opened 10 years ago, they said it was just a fad, and it’s not,” Brown said. “How could it be a fad? It’s rock and roll.”

Her guests often book their time here for the ’50s weekend without even knowing who is performing.

“They just want to be here for it,” she said.

Contact Trudi Gilfillian:

609-463-6716

TGilfillian@pressofac.com knowing who is performing.

“They just want to be here for it,” she said.

Contact Trudi Gilfillian:

609-463-6716

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