By MADDY VITALE
The Ocean City Fall Block Party made up for lost time Saturday. After a year without it due to the pandemic, it seemed families couldn’t get enough of the festival.
Visitors enjoyed a blockbuster event, browsing the vendors along Asbury Avenue in a gigantic pedestrian mall-like setting. In all, there were 400 vendors and crafters lining Asbury from Fifth to 14th streets, selling everything from holiday gifts to delicious food.
Kaitlyn and Bryan Kiefer, of Hammonton, brought their children, Levi, 8, Sydney, 5, and 3-year-old Caleb to spend a family day checking out the sights and do some shopping.
“We bought some soaps, a fresh bundle of flowers and eucalyptus and flags,” Kaitlyn said. “I think it is a great that the community keeps doing the festival.”
Bryan, 34, recalled coming to the festival when he was a little kid living in Ocean City.
“I remember coming here and wanting pop guns and my parents didn’t let me have them. Now, I get to tell my kids no, but today, I seem to be saying yes,” he said laughing.
The smells of barbecue and burgers wafted in the air as live music was performed at Mark Soifer Park, across from City Hall.
Rachael Tridente, of Ocean City, and her children, Mia, 3, and CJ, 5, began their adventure buying swords – wooden toy ones, that is.
Tridente also brought along her mother, Eileen Rocks, of Egg Harbor Township, to really make it a family affair.
“We wanted to come down to support local businesses and do some Christmas shopping,” Tridente said.
“It’s really great to be out and see so many smiling, happy families,” Rocks added.
Each year, the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce hosts the event. This year’s rivaled the busy Fall Block Party in 2019.
Michele Gillian, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, said the event is proof that the resort, which is known for its many family-friendly events, is back in full swing after the height of the pandemic.
“We are back and we are so excited to be here,” Gillian said with a smile as she looked at the bustling avenue. “This really is a welcome back to Ocean City. This kicks off our official second season. It is so nice to see everyone again.”
Silvana and Pat Gallelli, of Ocean City, perused some items at Handlaget, an Ocean City shop.
“It’s absolutely wonderful here every year. It is nice to be around people and look at a variety of things you really don’t see everywhere,” Silvana said.
Whether people were trying hot cranberry sauce, tasty peanut butter spreads or eating fish tacos, there were all types of foods to tempt the palate.
Mimi McGovern, of Warminster, Pa., and her friend, Rose Dolewa, of Lansdale, Pa., tried out some hot sauce from Miller’s Cranberry Hot Sauces, which is based in Shamong Township,
McGovern dipped two pretzel sticks in the sauce and said, “This is very good.”
Dolewa also tried the hot sauce. “It is very good,” she said.
MaryBeth and Rob Oliver, of Quakertown, Pa., and family members, Danielle Desimone-Volpe, of Philadelphia, and Betty Walsh, of Phoenix, Arizona, stopped by a food truck for some tasty seafood.
MaryBeth was delighted by the taste of a shrimp taco. “It’s good so far,” she noted.
Desimone-Volpe went with a fish taco. “It is really good,” she said.
Stephanie Vasta, of Hatboro, Pa., and her mother, Deb Vasta, of Seaville, enjoyed taste-testing the spreads from Nutty Novelties. “We just got here and we are having fun exploring,” Stephanie said.
“This is great. We are outdoors and I love the smells in the air of grilled things,” Deb added.
Then there were some shoppers who enjoyed the look of pies made from candles.
Alisabeth Fleming, of Ocean City, and her daughter, Stella, 8, and her grandmother, Laurie Ormonde, of San Luis Obispo, Calif., checked out some decorative candles that looked like desserts.
“I like putting them on the stove. You don’t even have to light the wick and they smell so good,” Fleming said.
Fleming described the atmosphere at the festival. “There is a really great vibe here today,” she said.
“We needed this,” Ormonde said of coming out of the pandemic. “It’s been a rough couple of years.”
Stella was quite excited by the candles, but had something else on her mind.
“I want to find a crafts set, and new shoes,” Stella said with a giggle.
Mayor Jay Gillian gave a shout-out to the volunteers from the Chamber and the community who put the successful event together.
“I want to thank everyone for all of the hard work that went into today,” Gillian said. “This really is a family tradition and it is back.”