By MADDY VITALE
Ocean City’s Fall Block Party gives thousands of visitors an abundance of shopping, festivities and food to enjoy during the Columbus Day weekend.
The colossal event runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12. It features over 400 crafters, food vendors, musicians and entertainers who take over Asbury Avenue from Fifth Street to 14th Street.
Each year it attracts 50,000 visitors.
“The Fall Block Party serves as a grand celebration for all the second-season events that are going on in Ocean City,” explained Justin Juliano, of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Juliano is in charge of the event. “The block party is when many people start their holiday shopping and it highlights all of the boutiques, shops and eateries in the downtown,” he added.
He also said it is a special event shared by families year after year who either live in or vacation in Ocean City, voted by Coastal Living magazine as the country’s “Happiest Seaside Town.”
“The block party has become a tradition for groups of friends and extended family to get together for quality time in the Happiest Seaside Town,” Juliano said. “It also gives merchants the opportunity to offer unbeatable deals and sales to help jumpstart the holiday shopping season.”
Year after year visitors say they come to the block party to do some early holiday shopping. Others say they just want a family outing to browse the crafts and stop at vendor tables to try an array of foods.
To cap off the block party, there will be fireworks at 9 p.m., which will be viewable from the downtown section of the beach and Boardwalk.
Juliano said it is one day in a long holiday weekend, when Ocean City hotels give guests discounts on accommodations, and restaurants feature specials on entrees as a way to “entice guests to stay for a long weekend.”
Patty Talese and her husband, Jon, co-own Jon & Patty’s Coffee Bar & Bistro, at 637 Asbury Ave. She is also the president of the Downtown Merchants Association. Altogether, there are more than 110 shops downtown.
Talese is expecting a fantastic Fall Block Party.
“Hopefully, with the good weather we have been having, it will be a blockbuster weekend,” she said. “We always do well. We are going to be crazy busy and the downtown is gearing up.”
She noted that like the entire summer, September was fantastic for merchants.
“I feel like we are on a roll, so we will be successful,” Talese said. “We also get so many vendors and we sell out each year.”
Restaurants along the avenue, and also throughout the city, should receive a major economic boost from the bustling weekend, said Bill McGinnity, president of the Ocean City Restaurant Association.
He owns Cousin’s Restaurant at 104 Asbury Ave. McGinnity said his establishment, and the other restaurants throughout town, always do well over the holiday weekend.
“It is the last big weekend of the season and if the weather is good, it is a win for the whole city,” he said. “It is a great event for the city and obviously the good weather really helps. The block party really gives the city one big last pop before the fall settles in.”
While the block party is a huge success each year in bringing people into town, it is not the city’s only tourist-friendly fall event. In recent years there has been a big push to bolster the fall and winter months in tourism with activities to keep visitors and second homeowners coming year-round.
Some officials called the Fall Block Party an event to start up the next season of a host of activities.
Ocean City Public Information Officer Doug Bergen noted that the city’s calendar of fall events will help keep the momentum going.
“There’s none more important than the Fall Block Party,” Bergen said. “It’s a great opportunity for residents and visitors to get out and enjoy all that Ocean City has to offer.”
Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Michele Gillian said the Fall Block Party is one of the city’s biggest and most spectacular events and really showcases what the town has to offer.
“The block party gives visitors, second homeowners and locals a chance to welcome fall in America’s Greatest Family Resort,” Gillian said. “After having a fantastic summer season, it is nice to welcome everyone back to Ocean City and let them know that we have so much to offer in the shoulder season.”
Gillian also pointed out that the Fall Block Party is one of many activities on the calendar in the coming months in Ocean City.
“The Fall Block Party serves as a kickoff to many magical holiday events in Ocean City, from Earlier Than The Bird, Christmas in the Downtown and our annual First Night New Year’s Eve Celebration,” she said. “This event is a major economic stimulus for small businesses. Events like the block party are vital to the bottom line of the success of our tourism season. We are so lucky that the Fall Block Party is always on this wonderful three-day holiday.”