WILDWOOD – If it’s not one thing, it’s another.
Freed from stifling pandemic restrictions on capacity and behavior, Jersey Shore merchants and visitors this year faced an old nemesis of Memorial Day Weekend: Truly Terrible Weather.
It was about the worst holiday washout in recent memory as a rainy and windy nor’easter kept people from beaches and boardwalks for most of the weekend. Monday’s intermittent sun and warmer temperatures have at least passed for a day at the beach.
“Time cuts business in half,” said Jaz Christian, a t-shirt store worker on the boardwalk in Wildwood.
From another perspective, however, lifting the indoor coronavirus limits could not have come at a better time for indoor venues. Shore bars and clubs whose interiors were virtually empty of revelers last year, iconic spots such as Memories, Maynard’s and Tomatoes in Margate, and Ocean Drive in Sea Isle, were packed all weekend.
Scenes of unmasked crowds inside bars and clubs that last year allegedly sparked a state police investigation and some shame at a Gov. Phil Murphy’s press conference this year, were a reassuring sign of a rebounding economy in Shore.
The sun finally made its appearance mid-morning Monday, in time to take a warm look at old Wildwood rituals such as Kate Smith’s “God Bless America” set, and give the Weekend Warriors like Pat and Michael Jones of Tarrytown, NY, an opportunity for a stroll on an increasingly crowded boardwalk before heading back home.
Pat, a nurse, was always cautious about coronavirus protocols, but happy to be back in Wildwood, a place the couple have been with their children for years. This time, they just brought a small heater for their hotel room. “We needed a quiet weekend,” she said.
Likewise, for visitors such as Karina Farrington, a certified nursing assistant from Bethlehem who never made it to shore last year due to the demands of her job amid the pandemic, the weather was out of time. about.
“It’s cold, but they love it,” Farrington said while cooking bacon, eggs and potatoes on the poolside grills at the Caprice Inn in Wildwood, as sons Aiden, 11, and Erik, 7, was swimming in a cold motel. swimming pool (which this time in 2020 was still prohibited). From the second floor, other customers were sticking their heads out of the rooms and wondering why no one in their own family was making breakfast for them.
She and her husband, Chester, got married in Cape May, and their eldest son, Chester, 13, learned to walk on the beaches of Wildwood. Every year they try to come back for her son’s birthday, which was Saturday.
“We love him so much,” Farrington said. “Everyone seems a little happy to have lifted the COVID restrictions. “
In Sea Isle City, Jacqueline Griffin was savoring her time on the beach Monday, it didn’t matter if she was bundled up in a sweatshirt. The sun was good, finally.
“I’m just happy to be here,” she said, using a purple shovel to write her granddaughter’s name in the sand as the little girl danced around her.
Griffin and her husband Jake, who live in Roxborough but have spent 30 summers in Sea Isle, said they were delighted to see people in stores walking the streets. There was a feeling of being back to normal.
“The masks are off and more people are comfortable,” said Jake Griffin. “It’s not over, but we are at the top of the eighth.
As the beach filled with people dragging carts filled with sand toys and chairs, even dipping their toes into the cold waves, Jake Griffin smiled. “This is what it is about,” he said.
By noon, the Ocean City boardwalk was bouncing around, with day trippers, locals, and weekends enjoying the rising temperatures and clear skies.
Scott and Amy Braidwood of Mullica Hill skipped most of the weekend at Shore, but descended Monday morning for breakfast and a long day in beach chairs parked by the ocean before heading home to work and to reality Tuesday.
“We will be here all day,” said Scott Braidwood. “We have to squeeze in a day.”
The beach wasn’t quite crowded in the summer, but crowded enough to hear your neighbor’s conversation on Fourth Street Beach, where Eileen Saam, who left from her home near Scranton, watched her two daughters in infancy getting in and out of the waves. .
“It’s the perfect weather,” said Saam, who said she would tire the kids out in the ocean and hit the road for the long drive.
In Stone Harbor, Bethlehem’s Ryan Collins and Heather Yoder sat on the beach with their two children and three of their cousins, a long-standing extended family ritual they were happy to take on. They declared Monday an actual beach day.
“It’s pretty close,” Collins said.
At Beachy Keen, a store at 46th and Landis in Sea Isle, business has been steady all weekend, with most customers looking for warm hoodies and sweatpants. The tide turned on Monday, with customers looking for beach chairs.
“The weekend was not what we expected but everything went really well,” said owner Christen Sorenson.
It was a deeply strange step for Sorenson and many merchants. Last Memorial Day, the store was closed; COVID-19 kept the store closed until mid-June. But then, “we were busy for the rest of the season,” she said. “We had a lot of activities throughout the year, which we normally don’t have.”
At noon, no one in the store was wearing masks, and Sorenson said she was going to keep her supply of masks for sale, but likely put them in the back of the store.
At Stone Harbor’s Well-Dressed Olive, owner Jane Dawley left the 2020 curbside delivery behind her. However, the man delivering breadsticks never resurfaced. The lifting of the mask mandate, she said, “is important to the people.”
“It was really fun welcoming them back,” said Dawley.
Some coronavirus habits have proven difficult to break, said Olivia Patras, director of the Marvis Diner on Rio Grande Avenue in Wildwood. She said people were still stuck ordering takeout from delivery services. The popular dinner was only half full on Monday morning.
“I think that’s a remnant of the coronavirus problem,” she said. “People have gotten used to taking out and ordering online. Many young people prefer to stay at home when the weather is bad. There is no excuse to get up early.
Nazira Harrell, 16, and Kamil Moore, 18, from Ewing, NJ, were among the many teens in Wildwood for a post-prom weekend. Nazira was wrapped in a blanket in her booth at the Marvis Diner, still cold from the damp weekend. “We weren’t able to do what we wanted,” she said. “The walk was freezing.”
Yet mid-morning Monday, the sun shone, and some intrepid day trippers made their way to Wildwood Beach, while weekends packed their trunks in motel parking lots.
Gerald Burda, of Macungie, Pa., A retired naval hospital staff member, took his new family to see the ocean for the first time on Monday, in a clash between the Jersey Shore and Washington that the Shore won.
Wearing Phillies hats, his wife, Trang, and sons Bao Nguyen, 17, and Long Nguyen, 9, packed balls and bats and secured prime parking near the promenade. Trang, Bao and Long had just arrived in the United States from Vietnam in January.
They stopped at the pink Cadillac for breakfast and enjoyed the ocean, across a wide beach with gigantic roller coasters, a kite festival a few blocks away. “It’s much better” than he imagined, Bao said.
On the promenade, the owner of the Olympic Flame restaurant, Tony Papageorgiou, complained about the weather and the lack of help. The restaurant did counter service for orders, with no waiter for the seats inside. Tony was trying to make the point that his potential helper was “lying with everyone on the beach”.
“It’s rare where it’s a total wash,” said her son John Papageorgiou. “But last weekend we caught up with him.”
Jamie Rago and Devon Shimko drove from Pottsville, PA with no traffic on Remembrance Day, and planned a beach day. “I heard the sun was going to come out,” Rago said. And that was enough, especially this year, to get down to shore.