By Maddy Vitale
Getting a jumpstart on holiday shopping may sound like a smart idea, something that probably crosses one’s mind, every year or so.
But maybe some added incentives will make the thought a bit more enticing.
What about dressing in pajamas while sipping hot coffee and browsing boutiques where unique items at discounted prices await?
Welcome to Ocean City for “Earlier Than The Bird,” a shopping extravaganza organized by the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce. The shopping event, from 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 17, will feature promotions and discounts by local shop owners along Asbury Avenue.
The event is designed to give downtown businesses an early start to the Black Friday crush, which is the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.
And to get shoppers into the holiday spirit, festive lights will decorate storefronts. Large wreaths adorned with red ribbons and Victorian-style lampposts decorated with green garland will line the avenue. After the shopping spree it might be time for a free horse and carriage ride.
Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michele Gillian explained why there are so many reasons people should come and explore the downtown for holiday gift-shopping.
“People come for that warm feel. There is something unique in every store,” Gillian said. “We realize that second homeowners and our neighboring communities enjoy shopping in our downtown.”
Gillian said there are special features to kick off the “Earlier Than The Bird” shopping spree.
“What is really nice is the downtown merchants get together to help out by donating coffee, cookies and merchandise,” Gillian noted. “They realize it is a great way to start off their season. It really helps with their bottom line.”
Jon & Patty’s Coffee Bar and Bistro, Ocean City Coffee Co. and Starbucks will be offering free coffee for customers. Drip N’ Scoop will be giving out free donuts. The best dressed shoppers can win free turkeys for their holiday feast. Customers can enter to win up to $150 in downtown gift cards and door prizes from merchants while they shop.
Gillian said about 10 years ago the Chamber of Commerce really expanded the shopping season promotions.
In addition to “Earlier Than The Bird” and Black Friday promotions and discounts, the Chamber added events to the downtown calendar during the holiday season. The free horse and carriage rides add to the fairy tale holiday atmosphere. Carriage rides in the downtown begin for the season on Nov. 17 from noon to 3 p.m.
“We compete with so many different obstacles,” Gillian said. “Malls are not as popular as they used to be, while online shopping is popular. But people still want a downtown shopping experience that we provide.”
Chamber Special Events Coordinator Justin Juliano oversees “Earlier Than The Bird.”
He said the city’s merchants help make the town and the event special.
“When you shop local you get great customer service. Merchants know their customers by name and they offer unique items that cannot be found at big box retail stores,” Juliano said. “Ocean City at Christmas time is like a scene out of a classic Christmas movie.”
It only makes sense, he said, that the event would continue to grow.
“Every year Earlier Than The Bird grows to be an even stronger event. The downtown has so many different offerings, and you can always find the perfect gift,” Juliano said.
The shopping spree serves as a kickoff to other special holiday activities in Ocean City.
Juliano has a few ideas about why it is so much fun.
“Families and groups of friends have taken this event to the next level by planning out their shopping lists and coordinating costumes for the big day,” he said. “In 2017, we saw a group of ladies dressed up as snowmen, a mother and daughter as matching elves, and so many other unique wardrobes.”
While shoppers can win free turkeys, Juliano said it is clear people are just coming out to have fun and find some great gifts. The name “Earlier Than The Bird” refers to the turkey that will be on the Thanksgiving menu.
“They pull out all the stops and get very festive,” he noted. “Seeing everyone dressed up in their holiday PJs and costumes, along with tremendous shopping specials, is certainly what makes this event so much fun.”
As in years past, customers should keep an eye out for the “Earlier Than The Bird” turkey mascot and Santa strolling Asbury Avenue.
“This event is certainly not to be missed,” Juliano said.
For more information about “Earlier Than The Bird” or for other information about the Chamber of Commerce call (609) 399-1412, visit www.oceancityvacation.com or download the new Ocean City Vacation mobile app on your smart phone.