By MADDY VITALE
All that was missing was some snow, reindeer and a few elves.
But other than that, Ocean City’s Christmas in the Downtown — “Our Miracle on Asbury Avenue” — holiday celebration offered families a whole lot to enjoy on Black Friday.
From 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. visitors were treated to a host of activities. There were the free horse and carriage rides that would stop at the wreath and bow adorned City Hall and whisk people off on a tour of Asbury Avenue.
The avenue bustled as shoppers browsed and picked up Christmas gifts.
Colleen York, of Coopersburg, Pa., and her son, Elijah, 5, stopped at a toy shop to check out some sales.
The Yorks come down each year to stay for Thanksgiving week and never miss “Christmas in the Downtown,” Ocean City’s kickoff to the holiday season.
“We come for the whole week. We shop. We go out to eat,” Colleen York said.
And the other part of that is also some early Christmas shopping for Elijah, who likes to pick out his own toys.
“I like dinosaurs,” he exclaimed.
Performances by the Ocean City Theatre Company Show Choir, singer Keith Hickman dressed in a red glitter jacket and dark sunglasses, and discounts on merchandise from boutique-style shops and specials at restaurants were some of the attractions of the day.
Carolers dressed in Victorian-era attire stopped along the avenue to sing holiday songs.
Santa Claus was on hand in a lifeguard boat at Mark Soifer Park to hear what children had on their wish lists, while families snapped pictures with their cellphones.
The celebration reached a crescendo when Santa made a second appearance by descending from the rooftop of City Hall and helped light the Christmas tree.
Sisters Stefanie Green, of Marmora, and Marissa Migioia, of Northfield, never miss the shopping extravaganza. The duo walked with bags filled with presents for their family.
“I bought my husband some things from the surf shop. I got my son a new hat,” Green said.
Green didn’t forget the four-legged family member in their house. “Our Lab turned 15, so I got him a harness,” she said with a smile.
“We just love it here,” Green added. “We like the horse and carriage rides and the singers.”
Later in the evening, Green was heading back to Ocean City with her 3-year-old son to see the Christmas tree lighting and Santa Claus.
Her sister, Migioia, was not empty-handed. She purchased a few gifts, including a sweater and a decorative kitchen towel for their mom.
Like Green, Migioia said Ocean City offers shoppers a lot more than some bargains.
“I like the small-town feel,” Migioia said. “It is so great to be here on the holidays.”
While the sisters, along with hundreds of other people shopped, others had something else in mind.
A line of families wrapped around Mark Soifer Park for photos with Santa.
Allie and Michael Tandarich, of Newark, Del., hopped into a lifeguard boat with their two children, Maddie, 4, and Michael Jr., to chat with Santa. Michael Jr. gave Santa an idea about what he wanted.
“Toys!” he said definitively as his parents laughed.
Allie’s parents, Bob and Jane Stewart, have a home in Ocean City. The Tandarich family comes down to the shore as often as they can.
“We came down last year for this event and loved it,” Allie said.
The kids enjoy two attractions the most.
“They love the firetrucks and Santa Claus,” she noted.
Every year, the event gets the holiday shopping season underway in the resort, while also bringing families out for all of the other festivities offered.
Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, said prior to the event, “Christmas in the Downtown is a special event that is unique to Ocean City. The entire community comes out for this exciting event.”
The event was sponsored by the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Merchants Association and the City of Ocean City. For information about the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce visit www.OceanCityVacation.com.