The Memorial Day weekend, Ocean City’s traditional opening of the summer season, got off to a rousing start on Friday and swung into high gear on Saturday.
Buoyed by encouraging weather reports, many seasonal visitors and second homeowners got the jump on traffic Thursday night and Friday morning. Some made it to OC in time for the Business Person’s Plunge. A zany event dreamed up by PR guru Mark Soifer, the Plunge saw city officials “unlock” the ocean and dozens of business suit-clad men and women march into the surf.
By Saturday morning, cars were streaming into town and swelling the 12,000 year-round population close to the 115,000-130,000 estimated summer maximum. Cars, bikes, runners and walkers jammed the streets and somehow coexisted.
The Memorial Beach Challenge, a race featuring military-style obstacles, drew more than 800 participants and hundreds of spectators.
A line formed at the Music Pier at 9 a.m. as people took their earliest opportunity to buy tickets for the popular Monday Night Concert series, and hundreds more purchased beach tags to beat the $5 price increase that kicks in on June 1.
America’s Best Beach, as voted by the readers of Coastal Living Magazine began attracting sun-worshippers mid-morning and was looking like a mid-summer crowd by noon. Ocean City lifeguards were on duty for their first weekend, watching over thousands who braved the chilly water.
The in-bound traffic continued unabated throughout the afternoon. Atlantic City Expressway officials said more than 285,000 vehicles were expected to use the highway over the course of the weekend.
On Saturday evening the Music Pier hosted “Sinatra at the Shore” featuring the Jersey Shore Pops orchestra, and the room was about three-quarters full to hear Chicago-based Frank Sinatra tribute artist Peter Oprisco. The Boardwalk was jammed with revelers and long lines formed for the more popular rides at Wonderland and Playland’s Castaway Cove.
Irene Dickey, a year-round resident who lives in the Gardens, said she was happy to see the town come alive. “I love the off-season,” she said, “but there is something special about this town when we hit the summer season.”
For all the fun activities, many visitors and residents sported patriotic t-shirts and hats, mindful of the reason for the holiday. On Monday, the City will host its official observation and pay tribute to our veterans who made the supreme sacrifice.