By MADDY VITALE
Call it zany, crazy or just plain silly.
Whatever anyone thinks of two popular events, Unlocking the Ocean and the Business Persons Plunge, year after year Ocean City officials use a ceremonial key to open the ocean and no matter what the weather, revelers march into the surf for a dip to kick off the summer tourism season.
And on Friday, to start Memorial Day Weekend off right, they did just that.
As business people lined up for their water excursion, Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian and City Council members, along with local historian Fred Miller, “unlocked” the ocean at Ninth Street beach using a large wooden key, as crowds watched from the beach and along the railing of the Music Pier.
“Welcome Ocean City. How great is this? It’s been a long, long, cold winter, but I tell you, the sun is going to come out, and Ocean City is going to thrive like it always does,” Gillian told the upbeat crowd.
Reigning Miss Ocean City Maddyn Randazzo, Junior Miss Ocean City Makenna Fleming, Little Miss Ocean City Arianna DiAntonio and Miss New Jersey Outstanding Teen Isabella Freund also joined in the fun.
In a few moments, the officials “unlocked the beach.”
What followed next was the Business Persons Plunge. The wacky procession headed to the ocean, with the Ocean City High School Marching Band playing “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Into the ocean the revelers went fully clothed in everything from business suits and dresses to Mummer costumes and pirate garb.
John Walton, a realtor and Ocean City resident, prepared for the day for months. Walton organizes the plunge each year.
Walton himself was dressed in an Italian-brand Trussini business suit that he bought in 1996 for about $1,500.
He also carried his same weather-beaten, leather briefcase that he always has with him for the plunge.
“It feels great. There is an extra-happy vibe for the event,” Walton said in an interview with OCNJDaily.com just before the march began. “This year there is a whole lot of new personnel here.”
While dense fog in the morning halted the banner plane that was supposed to fly over, Walton noted that there were many new business owners involved in the plunge.
Some of the plungers and supporters also had some things to say before the dip.
Brian Logue, of Ocean City, didn’t take the plunge. But the Ocean City resident and realtor had to watch his brother, Pat Logue, going in with a “muscle” shirt on, literally a shirt with an image of a muscular chest.
“We are here to embrace the cheesiness of this event,” Brian Logue said, laughing.
There were mermaids from Bowfish Kids who got a head start, positioned farther down the beach closer to the water’s edge. There were business people dressed as pirates, jelly fish and even as Mr. Monopoly.
Tom Heist, owner of Heist Insurance in Ocean City, wore a crushed velvet suit.
“This is a classic,” Heist said with a chuckle.
Stacy Demcher, Walton’s co-organizer of the plunge, showed off her four-inch heels.
Each year, the realtor wears some stylish shoes, only to get sucked into the sand.
“Anthony always pulls me out,” Demcher said laughing, referring to Anthony Guerriero, who stood next to her shaking his head and smiling in agreement.
Mayor’s Aide Michael Allegretto emceed the “Unlocking of the Ocean” and Miss New Jersey Volunteer Natalie Ragazzo, of Ocean City, sang the national anthem.
In the morning, the city held its daily Boardwalk flag-raising ceremony. The event includes the playing of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A” and the national anthem.
The event is at the flagpole in front of the Music Pier, which was dedicated in memory of three veterans from Ocean City, Joe Caserta, James “JR” Robinson and Bill Cruice.