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Ocean City “Plunges” into Summer

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Business Persons Plunge organizer John Walton holds the American flag as he leads the march into the water.

By MADDY VITALE

Where else would it be the norm for dozens of people to jump into the ocean in formal business attire?

You guessed it – Ocean City. The Business Persons Plunge is a zany annual tradition that kicks off the Memorial Day weekend. And on Friday, there were plenty of participants decked out to take a cool dip.

There were costumed characters ranging from a pirate to a mermaid. Others stuck to the traditional work attire, dresses and high heels and business suits. The revelers made the slow procession into the ocean at the Ninth Street beach to herald in a busy summer tourism season.

Clouds gave way to sun-splashed skies. Spectators lined the Music Pier to watch the silly spectacle.

Ocean City residents, visitors, and business owners celebrated the 21st anniversary of the Business Persons Plunge.

The Ocean City High School band performed “Pomp and Circumstance.” A banner plane flew overhead, and business owners and employees took their ceremonial swim to say hello to summer.

Business Persons Plunge organizer John Walton, a local realtor, said as he made his way down the beach to greet fellow plungers, “Look at the sun coming out. I am ecstatic. People showed up. It’s been 21 consecutive years. We have all new participants.”

Walton also spoke of the businesses represented.

“We have new businesses in operation for a year. We have businesses that are 25 years old and others in business 100 years,” he noted. “People are bringing their kids. It’s a generational thing.”

Doug Jewell, dressed as a pirate, welcomes the tradition.

Doug Jewell, owner of Air Circus in Ocean City, is never far from Walton for the wacky event.

Jewell was all decked out in his traditional pirate outfit.

He shouted his feelings about the day in a gravelly, pirate-sounding voice.

“Ocean City, New Jersey. It stopped raining,” Jewell said. “Everyone is showing up now and when the mayor turns the key, everyone is going to go into the ocean. I can’t wait.”

Before the plunge, Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian, officials in his administration, City Council members, local historian Fred Miller, pageant queens and others helped to “unlock” the ocean.

Mayor Jay Gillian, dressed in tie, gets help from local historian Fred Miller and Cape May County Commissioner Bob Barr to turn the key to “unlock” the ocean.

Officials used a large wooden ceremonial key and did the countdown to “unlock” the ocean as crowds watched. Everyone applauded in response to the monumental moment.

“We have the sun; we have all the fun. Just please be careful. Keep an eye on your kids and everyone when you’re on the beaches or just walking around town,” Gillian said.

He continued, “We want to have a great, safe holiday season and I know we’ll do that with all of us working together. On behalf of our City Council, our county commissioner, welcome to Ocean City, and let’s have a great 2024.”

Mayor’s Aide Michael Allegretto emceed the “Unlocking of the Ocean” and former Miss New Jersey Volunteer Natalie Ragazzo sang the national anthem.

In the morning, the city held its daily Boardwalk flag-raising ceremony at the Music Pier.

For more Ocean City events and information, visit oceancityvacation.com or ocnj.us.

OCTC founder Michael Hartman, in pink shirt at left, and others including the Nor’easters soccer team take a dip.
Mayor Jay Gillian is all smiles after he takes the plunge.
The businesspeople pose for a celebratory photo to capture the zany memory.
“Shelly the Mermaid” begins the walk down the beach in the annual tradition.
Mayor Jay Gillian, center, with Anthony Guerriero of Ta-Dah! and Library Director Karen Mahar enjoy the day.