Former Saturday Night Live Star Joe Piscopo, Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler, Harlem Globetrotter Blenda Rodriguez and New Jersey Executive Director of Travel and Tourism Grace Hanlon will join state, county and local officials in kicking off the 2012 summer season at the Wildwoods’ Unlocking of the Ocean Ceremony at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, May 25 on the beach at Burk Avenue next to the Wildwoods Convention Center.

Also joining the ceremony will be Captain Kelly (USCG), Lt. Commander Scott Rea (USCG), who will be in the Wildwoods for the coast guard recruit graduation and Blenda Rodriguez of the Harlem Globetrotters; his team is returning to the Wildwoods this summer for four shows August 8-11. 

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A large, ornate key will be used to ‘unlock’ the ocean, and initiate the summer season. The Wildwood High School Band will perform “beach themed” music during the ceremony. Seventh and eighth grade students from Wildwood Middle School and second and fourth grade students from Glenwood Avenue School will join the festivities. 

The Wildwoods International Kite Festival, the largest kite festival in North America, kicks off that day and features kite makers from around the world flying their most incredible creations. The kite festival officially starts at 9 p.m. The beach will be filled with colorful creations featuring an illuminated night kite fly. 

The kite festival continues on Saturday, May 26 and Sunday, May 27, starting at 9 a.m. daily, with the East Coast Stunt Kite Championships featuring the best sport kite pilots in the United States. The championships are comprised of a variety of competitions for individuals, pairs and teams. Also during the weekend, join in the Candy Drop, Running of the Bols, Rev Games or Rokkaku Team Challenge; or fly a kite on the Learn to Fly Field and watch the Fighter Kite Competition. More fun is to be had with kite exhibits and workshops on the beach. 

The Wildwoods International Kite Festival Auction will be held in the Wildwoods Convention Center at 7 p.m. on Saturday night. The auction is open to the public and many unique kites and collectibles will be auctioned off. 

The kite festivities conclude on Monday, May 28, starting at 9 a.m., with the World Indoor Kite Competition in the Oceanfront Arena at the Wildwoods Convention Center. For additional information about the 27th Annual Wildwoods International Kite Festival, please call 732-822-4884 or visit www.SkyFestivals.com.   

All of these traditional summer kick-off events will be taking place simultaneously with the Celebration of Heroes Memorial Day Weekend Festival, a new Wildwoods event saluting America’s Military Service Men and Women, Veterans and First Responders. Some of the Friday, May 25 highlights include an 11 a.m. Coast Guard Recruit Graduation ceremony in the Wildwoods Convention Center, where more than 70 new military service members will graduate basic training and begin their military careers.

Friday evening, motorcycle enthusiasts comprised of veterans representing Tri-State area motorcycle clubs and will form a drive-up caravan and place flags in the ground in front of the Wildwoods Convention Center at Burk Avenue to commemorate our fallen heroes. Immediately following there will be over 100 Coast Guardsmen retiring the American flag at sunset to commemorate the service and sacrifice of all military members. A firing party, color guard and bugler will enhance the ceremony. A free spectacular fireworks display will take place at the end of the evening at 10p.m.

Visit www.WildwoodsNJ.com/heroes for more Celebration of Heroes event details and information regarding discounted hotel and restaurant specials and other offers for military service personnel, families, veterans and first responders.