By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City beaches were packed Saturday afternoon, on the first day people were allowed to sunbathe. This past week vacationers and residents were able to use the beaches and the Boardwalk for recreational purposes.
On Saturday, it was game on – a bit of normalcy during the pandemic for those who enjoy lounging on the sand or frolicking in the surf.
“It feels like a normal day,” said Nikki Leathers, of Terre Hill, Pa., who joined her family for a day of fun at “America’s Greatest Family Resort.”
Leather’s daughter, Lexi, 12, brought her best friend, Katelyn Lomnychuk, 14, of Reading Pa., along for the day.
The kids even hopped in the cool water as air temperatures hovered in the mid to high 70s.
“It’s so relaxing,” Katelyn said.
Lexi added that she was happy to be outside and on her favorite beach.
Melissa Kaylor, of Reading, Pa., Nikki Leathers’ friend, happily nibbled on fried Oreos, while the girls laid out on towels and the adults comfortably sat in beach chairs.
“This is needed therapy after being locked in the house,” Kaylor said of the essential lockdown since March and the closures of beaches, Boardwalks and businesses to lessen the spread of the coronavirus.
Some people wore masks, others practiced social distancing of six feet between them and strangers. And despite a crowded beach, it appeared beachgoers allotted ample space between them and others.
Boardwalk shops, except for the ones selling food, were closed. However, officials said they may be opening in the next week.
Cars lined up for curbside pickup of the iconic Manco & Manco pizza, and many people waited in line on the Boardwalk to get the famous pies.
Dave Evans, a Manco & Manco shift manager, said as he went from car to car with the pizza boxes, “It’s been very busy. Curbside pickup has been very good.”
The pizzeria, like other eateries in Ocean City, offers curbside pickup, takeout and delivery, since no one is permitted in restaurants as one of the governor’s coronavirus restrictions.
People rode their bikes, jogged, and took in the sights. Beach chairs and a few umbrellas dotted the shore. Children played in the sand.
Families walked along the water’s edge to catch a cool breeze on the partly sunny day.
Jess Vukovich, of Marlton, brought her sons, John, 9, Hudson, 5, and 3-year-old daughter, Vivienne, to sit near the water. The kids dug into the beach and scooped out wet sand as they dipped their toes in the ocean.
“I love this beach,” Vukovich noted. “I have been coming here my whole life. It is a 45-minute ride here and it is worth it. We love Ocean City.”
She had a definite reason why she wanted to come down with her children to the shore on Saturday.
“After yesterday being home, we wanted to do something fun,” Vukovich said.
“It’s really fun. I haven’t been to the beach in a while,” her son, John, added.
Mayor Jay Gillian closed the beaches and the Boardwalk about 11 weeks ago in response to the coronavirus crisis. When he made the announcement that Ocean City would be slowly reopened, he emphasized the importance of social distancing.
Bonnie Reeves, of Cape May Court House, and her boyfriend, Bill Covert, of Somers Point, walked along the Boardwalk with their close friends, Dave and Jeanne Lewandowski, of West Chester, Pa.
Both Reeves and Jeanne Lewandowski said it felt wonderful to be out and about as if everything was back to normal. But their reminder that it was different were the masks they all wore.
They had to think twice before going to the popular resort, Covert said.
“We planned on coming today but if it was too crowded, we would have left,” he explained. “We discussed it a little and thought we could walk on the Boardwalk.”
The governor is flying flags at half-mast in remembrance of those who have died of COVID-19.
David Lewandowski said when they saw the flags at half-staff in Ocean City, it left an indelible feeling for him and his wife and their friends.
He reflected, “It is a somber reminder for all of us.”