WILDWOOD — Over the course of just a few days next June, more than 1,200 games will be played among children ages 7 to 14 to determine the 2023 national champion in what has been called "the first organized sport for children in America."

Beri Fox, board member for the National Marbles Tournament, said it has technically already been a century since the first nationwide contest in 1922, but the tournament as it officially operates will mark its 100th anniversary in 2023.

Most of the time, the tournament has been held in Wildwood, although Asbury Park and Philadelphia have been some of the other hosts across the decades.

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Fox said previous television exposure for the tourney and its winners — which include scholarship awardees for sportsmanship — has brought Wildwood to a national audience.

But contestants who come from all corners of the country also get a chance to appreciate the Jersey Shore town in return.

"So many of the kids that participate, they've never seen the ocean," she said. "So it gives them the opportunity to have an experience not only to compete in a sport that they truly love, but to also embrace what Wildwood has to offer."

Even locals may not know that the National Marbles Hall of Fame was established in Wildwood in the early 1990s, first at the George F. Boyer Historical Museum and now at the Greater Wildwood Chamber of Commerce.

The exhibit honors former champions and tournament directors, and showcases the history of the game, including how scoring has gradually become more electronic.

"Any visitor to Wildwood can go down and take a look at some of the old trophies, which are extremely unique, some of the old crowns where these people, former champions, were actually crowned the Marble King and the Marble Queen," Fox said.

The 2023 National Marbles Tournament will be held in Wildwood from June 18 through 22 next year. Organizers are hoping to reach as many alumni as possible to attend, and for more information, visit the tournament's website.

Patrick Lavery is a reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com

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