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Message in a Bottle Winner Will Return to Ocean City

Want to become a not so instant celebrity? Put a message in a bottle. Have it dropped off at sea. And wait.

That’s what Heidi Kay Werstler did 24 years ago when Ocean City held its one and only Message in a Bottle contest. With the help of her father, Heidi, then 6, sealed the message in a soda bottle obtained from a boardwalk store.

Then she waited, and waited. Years passed. The bottle became a distant memory.

Recently Heidi’s memory was pleasantly jolted. Her bottle washed ashore after the Nor’easter that racked the East Coast in November.

The bottle had traveled 200 miles (approximately 8 miles per year) to the Outer Banks. It was retrieved by maintenance personnel cleaning the beach at the Sanderling Resort and Spa in Duck, North Carolina.

Beth Pennington, an executive at the Duck resort, immediately realized this was something to quack about. She contacted Ocean City’s Public Relations office and the search was on for Heidi Kay Werstler, whose name was printed on the entry form.

Heidi, who is now married to Anthony Mozzo, was discovered living in Claymont, Delaware. The Mozzos have a two year old daughter, Emily.

“Heidi’s become an instant celebrity,” said City Public Relations Director, Mark Soifer, who started the contest as a part of the resort’s first July Jubilee celebration. “She’s been interviewed by newspapers, radio, TV and her story has gone world wide on the AP wire.

“She was amazed that the bottle finally turned up until I informed her it was all part of our long range promotional planning,” Soifer joked.

The veteran publicist recalls that bottle contestants signed up in front of the Music Pier: “The date on the entry form is July 1, 1985. A boater volunteered to drop the bottles 25 miles out at sea. I wish I could remember who that was. Hopefully, he’ll contact me so that we can completely document this monumental event.”

Heidi and her family will be hosted by the City during its First Night New Year’s Eve Celebration. They’ll spend three days here and be special guests during the First Day at the Beach Celebration, January 1.

Heidi will help start the annual Ocean plunge set for 2 p.m. on the beach opposite the Music Pier. She’ll also receive a Piece of the Walk from Mayor Sal Perillo and a box of Saltwater Taffy from Shriver’s plus other gifts.

To mark the occasion, the City will start a new “Message in a Bag Contest.” Plungers will be asked to bring canned and/or dried food in a recyclable cloth or paper bag for the Ocean City Food Cupboard. The implied message will be “Ocean City cares about those in need,” said Soifer. “And this message will be delivered instantly. It won’t take 24 years.”