By Maddy Vitale
Sisters Patti Dompkosky and Jackie Sheridan know exactly where they are going for their weekend trip every May. They book their getaway in Ocean City and head down every year to enjoy a crafter’s dream experience – the city’s Spring Block Party
On Saturday it was no different. The sister, both of Pennsylvania, started their day early perusing the vendors deciding on their must-haves.
It all started when their friend told them about how much fun the Ocean City Block Party is in “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”
So, the siblings took their friend’s advice, and headed to the show. That was five years ago. And what started out as a weekend of fun in a weekend vacation, turned into a yearly event, one that always includes shopping, cool eateries and the beach, they said.
“We love craft shows and love the beach, so we said, ‘What better place to go than Ocean City for a craft show,” Dompkosky explained.
“We make it into our girls’ weekend,” Sheridan said, as she tested strawberry vinegar from Asbury Avenue store City-2-Shore Gourmet.
Like the sisters, throngs of visitors enjoyed checking out 350 crafters, nibbling on goodies from food vendors, and listening to musicians perform at different areas along the avenue.
Annie and Bill Bole, of Pennsylvania, their daughter Kate, 10, and her friend Nora Spurrier,11, came down for the weekend to stay in Ocean City because the girls were in a dance competition in Margate.
“We rented a place on Fourth Street. Our son and his friend came down with us,” Annie Bole said. “This is a nice way to spend a Saturday.”
Kate found just what she needed to accent her outfit for the next day’s dance competition; a headband from merchant August Heart.
“It’s very colorful,” she chuckled about her technicolor selection.
The Spring Block Party is in its 36th year. The annual event features clothing, jewelry, toys and artwork and foods.
Officials said it is always well attended and brings an additional 50,000 people to the city.
Saturday’s event brought in an estimated 30,000 people. The following day, when merchant tables will continue, is expected to draw an additional 20,000 visitors, officials said.
Dennis and Betty Ann Noon of Ocean City love the block party.
“There are just so many different vendors and a lot to choose from,” Betty Ann Noon said, while looking at some home décor.
Dennis Noon said, “We have been coming for eight years and there is always something new.”
Jenna and Kyle Scott brought their children Madison, 5, and Jackson, 2, for a family outing.
“It is great weather, and it is awesome to see the amount of people,” Kyle Scott said.
And the couple knew where they were heading – first for some face painting, then for ice cream.
The Chamber of Commerce, the block party’s principal organizer, partners with the downtown merchants and the city to run the event. Boardwalk businesses also benefit from the surge of visitors for the block party.
Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the turnout Saturday was wonderful, adding that the weather really held out considering rain was in the forecast.
“It is a wonderful block party with over 500 vendors including new and unique vendors,” Gillian said. “People come for the weekend. It is really great for second homeowners to come down and enjoy.”
She said both the Spring and Fall Block Parties are real staples to the Ocean City’s tourism and are great ways to bring in visitors during the shoulder seasons.
Gillian added that a lot of local organizations also featured booths, including We have so many organizations participating, including the local VFW and American Legion posts.
Patty Talese, owner of Jon & Patty’s on Asbury Avenue and president of the Ocean City Downtown Merchants Association, said overcast skies and cooler temperatures really helped bring crowds to the block party.
“It is perfect. It is not too hot and not too cold. People can enjoy walking around. The block party is one of our best days,” Talese said.
Mayor Jay Gillian took a walk down the busy avenue, along with Michael Allegretto, director of Community Services.
“It looks great,” the mayor said of the event. “There are so many happy faces.”