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C'mon down, the Shore's just fine

Before we do anything, let's address the giant elephant in the room - and we're not talking about Lucy of Margate. Nearly seven months ago, Sandy wrought devastation on the Jersey Shore like never before.

Before we do anything, let's address the giant elephant in the room - and we're not talking about Lucy of Margate.

Nearly seven months ago, Sandy wrought devastation on the Jersey Shore like never before: The largest Atlantic storm on record created more than $30 billion in damage up and down the state's 127-mile coastline. More than 346,000 structures were damaged or destroyed when Sandy whipped across the state on Oct. 29.

Some of the places that held memories so dear for many of us - beaches, homes, boardwalks, piers, shops, amusements, and restaurants - got washed away. We wondered whether we'd have the chance to enjoy our beloved Shore again.

Well, just as surely as the air and sand and sea will be delightfully warm again, there will be plenty to celebrate this summer. There are still dozens of great destinations and plenty of fun at the Shore this year.

As Memorial Day approaches and the Summer of 2013 finally gets underway, the landscape in many places - especially along the northern flank of the Shore - will be decidedly different.

In the beach resorts of Atlantic and Cape May Counties, where there was some damage, much has been cleaned up, spruced up, and made ready for summer visitors. And there are even plenty of new attractions.

It's time to reopen, refresh, and renew.

Just ask the folks behind "LBI is Alive," a website, Facebook page - no, a movement - that is sweeping Long Beach Island, where certain areas suffered significant damage in the storm, while most others are just fine and ready for the season. LBI might have been down for awhile, but it certainly isn't out for the count, says Pat Sepanak, who owns Sand Dollar Real Estate in Surf City and established LBI is Alive with her daughter in December.

Sepanak said LBI is Alive began as a simple sign campaign for local businesses and evolved into a website, which mushroomed into a video campaign and TV ads to get the media and potential visitors to realize that the place isn't dead. They are also making a statement with fashion, selling T-shirts and hoodies with the simple sentiment.

"It's been a long road, the storm was really tough on us," Sepanak said. "But we've pulled together as a community and we're ready for summer."

Businesses and residents of the splendid 18-mile-long Ocean County barrier island, which boasts both simple summer cottages and mansion-contenders for Architectural Digest, are grateful that LBI is Alive, Sepanak said. They are holding a new event, the "LBI Thank You Fest" June 14-16. The festival will feature concerts, food, and beach camping, and is meant to show appreciation to 194 agencies, from the National Guard to the Louisiana State Police, that helped in the island's recovery.

Down the coast in Atlantic City, in the footprint of the old Steeplechase Pier, they'll be rolling out the red carpet for parrot heads at Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville at Resorts Casino Hotel on May 24. The new addition features a Margaritaville restaurant, LandShark Bar & Grill; a Margaritaville-themed casino; a Five O'Clock Somewhere bar; stores; and a coffee shop - all inspired by the lyrics and lifestyle of Jimmy Buffet.

Even farther south, in Wildwood, where officials say the town was virtually unscathed by Sandy, amusement operators have been busy assembling and securing everyone's favorite rides. Apparently no one there was scared off by the bad luck of Seaside's roller coaster ending up on the ocean floor, thanks to Sandy.

Instead, Splash Zone Waterpark has invested $1.9 million into a new Flow House, which will feature entertainment, music, food, and beverages. The centerpiece will be FlowRider, an attraction that allows anyone taller than 42 inches to try flow boarding, a fun hybrid of surfing, snowboarding, and skateboarding. It is one of only five such attractions in the world.

Across the way on Morey's Piers, an artists' colony made from shipping containers is planned, along with new dining options, more benches and shade, and bar codes to keep track of your rides on your smartphone.

Three new restaurants will make their debut in the Wildwoods - The Establishment at 100 in North Wildwood, and Brick Oven Pizza and Sofia's Italian Restaurant, both in Wildwood.

The Amish Market, at 700 New Jersey Ave., North Wildwood, opened its doors in March, offering an array of fruits, vegetables, organic meats, baked goods, sandwiches, and dinners.

Untouched by Sandy was a 6-mile bike path stretching from the North Wildwood Sea Wall south along the Wildwood Boardwalk to the Wildwood Crest Dunes Bike Path. The picturesque path opened after the prime vacation season last year, so officials say this will be the first summer it should get a good workout from vacationers.

"We are so grateful that we came through Superstorm Sandy virtually unscathed," said John Siciliano, executive director of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Authority, "and we are ready to host the millions of visitors who grace our shores each summer and enjoy the many events and festivals we have planned."