By Lisa Spengler
Friday was a day to discover old-time traditions and to feel the nostalgia of a small-town Christmas as Ocean City celebrated “Our Miracle on Asbury Avenue-Christmas in the Downtown” between Sixth Street and 11th Street.
Decked out in the timeless look of lit garland and wreaths and stunning red bows, and with the sounds of holiday classics being played through the city’s Asbury Avenue sound system, downtown Ocean City was filled with the warmth and charm of Christmas past.
Residents and visitors decided against the mobs and commercialization of the malls to enjoy horse and carriage rides, strolling carolers, street performers and much more.
Claire Kubler, of Hackensack, N.J., was one of many shoppers who took advantage of the discounts offered by the merchants. Celebrating the holiday with relatives in Ocean City, she said there was nowhere else that she wanted to be on Black Friday.
“I avoid the craziness of the malls at all costs, so the one-of-a-kind shops and boutiques of Ocean City are perfect,” Kubler said.
With the downtown stores offering discount shopping and many of the restaurants open for business, the spirit of Christmas was felt all along Asbury Avenue.
There was so much to see and do all day in the downtown area. Young and old listened to the sounds of the season performed by the strolling Fox Studio Singers of Ocean City.
Children stopped in awe as a stilt walker waved to them from high above. As families waited in line for horse and carriage rides, they were entertained by String Band Novelties and Michael Roney performing the Mummers strut.
And no event in Ocean City would be complete without the appearance of the city’s hermit crab mascot, Martin Z. Mollusk.
Patty Talese, president of the Downtown Merchants Association and owner of Jon & Patty’s coffee house and bistro at Sixth Street and Asbury Avenue said, “This event is getting bigger and bigger and this year the town is exploding with activity. We find that the horse and carriage rides and other festivities are attracting more and more families to this small-town, which is great for us, especially in today’s world.”
Talese said that even after Santa’s arrival at 5 p.m., people continued to flow into the restaurants and stores, which gave a huge boost to Ocean City’s economy.
The countdown to Santa’s arrival and the festive lighting of City Hall began at 4 p.m., with performances by members of the Greater Ocean City Theater Company Show Choir and the arrival of the Phillie Phanatic.
Joining the Phanatic on stage were Little Miss Ocean City Ginger Mumman and Junior Miss Ocean City Hope Aita. The excitement continued to build as the crowd joined the choir in signing “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen.”
And then, with the sun just beginning to set, all eyes were drawn to the roof of City Hall, where Santa made his appearance.
As a warm-up exercise for Christmas Eve, Santa descended from the roof, with a little help from the Ocean City Fire Department and one of its ladder trucks.
“I never saw Santa Claus helped off a roof by a fire truck. Everyone got so excited. What a great showing for all the children here tonight,” said Alex Zepeda, of San Diego, Calif.
In this fast-paced world, there are few things more fulfilling than to slow down and visit a small town during the holiday season. Christmas festivities in downtown Ocean City on Friday proved to be a heart-warming holiday experience filled with the true spirit of Christmas.
The holiday celebration is sponsored by the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Commission and Downtown Ocean City.