IT WASN’T THE AIRPLANES THAT killed
Wildwood’s iconic Kong ride 35 years
ago. “He had osteoporosis,” jokes Jack
Morey, co-owner of Morey’s Surfside
Pier along with his brother Will.
Kong, unveiled in 1972, stood a menacing 75 feet in the center of the pier,
clutching a blonde beauty. The ride’s
circling planes lasted until 1975, leaving
a lone Kong above the pier—until 1980,
when the fiberglass beast crumbled
during an attempted restoration.
This summer, Kong returns with a
contemporary twist. “There are certain
rides of the past that should not be
forgotten,” says Morey.
The original proposal for Kong’s
resurrection showed the mighty ape in
an “I Heart NJ” shirt while clutching
the Statue of Liberty. Some were offended. “They said it was too close to
9/11,” says Morey.
So last October, the Moreys posted
an online poll, seeking design input.
They got more than 6,000 replies. The
result has Kong climbing a 60-foot
lighthouse, grasping a yellow tramcar
in an “I Heart WW” T-shirt. The ride
will be back in the old spot, but atop a
new 3,000-square-foot retail space selling themed gifts and snacks, like frozen
There’s still nostalgia in Kong’s
modern look: riders will dive and circle
the lighthouse in eight two-seater
vintage biplanes decorated with “nose
art”—images such as pinup girls and
sharks’ teeth—like the ones wartime
fighter pilots painted on their fuselage.
“Did you know [nose art] was accepted
but not authorized?” asks Morey with
excitement. “It’s so Wildwood!” ;
[AMUSEMENTS] BY JOANNA BUFFUM
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