Mayors in shore towns up and down the South Jersey coast are digging through closets to find their ceremonial BIG KEYS. It is time to unlock the ocean.

Generations of Atlantic City politicians and beauty queens have stepped into the ocean and turned the key to usher in beach season. The ritual dates back nearly a century.

As Lisa Rose, a writer with the Star-Ledger pointed out last Memorial Day, it started pre-World War I, before Memorial Day was a national holiday.

"Unlocking the ocean was a way of generating free publicity to advertise to the world that we were open for business," said Robert Ruffolo, co-author of "Atlantic City Revisited" and owner of the Princeton Antiques Bookshop in Atlantic City.

"Atlantic City was a boomtown after the railroad came in. They built these huge 500-room hotels right on the beach," he said. "It was way before Miami Beach or any other coastal town. The promotion of unlocking the ocean brought tourists from Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and New York. There was a fellow named Hudson Maxim who would dress as King Neptune to participate."

Taking a cue from Atlantic City, other Jersey Shore towns stage their own key-turning spectacle.  Wildwood, Stone Harbor and Ocean City all have unlocking ceremonies scheduled for this Friday.

We've had enough of winter's shoddy treatment!  Produce those big keys, Mayors, unlock that ocean and let the fun begin!

Have a great Memorial Day weekend.  Here's a look a South Jersey Weekend Happenings...

Atlantic City...

- Borgata: The Monkees, Music Box, Fri. 5/23

- Revel: Walk Off the Earth, The Social, Fri. 5/24

- Golden Nugget: Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Fri. 5/24

- Revel: Rusted Root and The Wailers, The Social,  Sat. 5/24

- Harrah's: Smokey Robinson, Sat. 5/24

- Borgata:Comic Billy Gardell (Mike from TV"s Mike & Molly), Sat. 5/24

- House of Blues at Showboat: Little Big Town, Sat. 5/24

- Tropicana: Blondie's 40th Anniversary Tour, Sat. 5/24

- Caesar's: Chelsea Handler, Sun. 5/25

- Borgata: John Legend, Music Box, Sun. 5/25

- Revel: Death Cab for Cutie, Sun. 5/25

Other fun stuff this weekend...

- Atlantic City: Irish Family Festival, Sandcastle Stadium, Sat. 5/24

- Galloway: Spring Bird Walk, Forsythe Wildlife Refuge, Sat. 5/24 @ 8am, 609-652-1665

- Ocean City: Beach Challenge, benefiting families of fallen U.S. Navy SEALS, Sat. 5/24, Music Pier

- Wildwood: International Kite Festival-, Fri-Sun. 5/23-24, Beach at Rio Grande Ave.

- Brigantine: Shore De-Tour Classic Car Show, Sun. 5/25, 609-457-0115

- Wildwood: Boardwalk Craft Show, Sat-Sun. 5/23-25

- Ocean City: Music Pier, Jersey Shore Pops, Sat. 5/24

- Millville: Levoy Theater, Lou Gramm of Foreigner, Fri. 5/23

- Cape May: Convention Center, Peter Nero and the Philly Pops, Sat. 5/24

- Memorial Day parades and ceremonies are being held on Monday in many South Jersey towns, include Margate, Ventnor, Egg Harbor City, Northfield, Ocean City, Somers Point.