Jersey Shore goes bananas.

Coveted prize on the boardwalks

Posted: July 30, 2012

WILDWOOD - Want to know what the hottest prize is this summer at Jersey Shore boardwalks?

No problem, mon: It's de rasta-banana!

Stuffed animals have long been among the most popular prizes at boardwalk games of chance of skill. But this year, the top dog is a banana wearing dreadlocks and a reggae cap. (Its cousin, rasta-cigar, is a close runner-up in some places.)

"I don't know what it's all about, but this is one of the top things that people like this year," said Dante Silva, who runs a cork-gun game on the Wildwood boardwalk in which contestants win prizes by knocking over targets. "Rasta-banana is definitely the big thing."

The largest of the rasta-bananas costs merchants about $32, with smaller ones costing correspondingly less, according to the owner of one stall who wouldn't give his name, citing past encounters with the Internal Revenue Service.

But patrons have been known to spend up to 10 times that amount trying to win them. Eleven-year-old Ryan Widmeier of Cherry Hill and his 9-year-old brother, Justin, spent $50 of their parents' money to win a medium-size rasta-banana at a Seaside Heights balloon dart game.

"It wasn't that hard," Ryan said. "I just love doing this."

Mark McFarlane of Langhorne spent $70 at a similar Seaside Heights balloon stand before winning a stuffed monkey almost as large as he is.

"I just kept on chucking," he said. "I always wanted a giant monkey!"

Winning a stuffed animal has long been synonymous with the Shore for many visitors, according to Wendy Todd, whose children tried their luck at a Wildwood coin-toss stand.

"It's the highlight of going to the boardwalk," she said. "The kids really like it."

Another popular prize is the beer funnel, designed for those for whom four swallows is three too many. It's a large plastic funnel with a long hose running from the end. Some models even come with five hoses attached, so an entire party can suck down beer at frat-house speed.

And jerseys for Major League Baseball and National Football League teams also show up at many boardwalk stands up and down the Shore.

Yahai Elbetebsi said he pays $100 for each of the jerseys at his stand but has no trouble turning a profit.

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