By MADDY VITALE
Bidding farewell to 2020 isn’t likely going to make people shed tears amid a pandemic.
People strolling on the Boardwalk and walking downtown Thursday all seemed to have the same thing in mind – spending a quiet New Year’s Eve in the comfort of their homes among family or a couple of friends.
Ocean City’s First Night has been a family-friendly, alcohol free event boasting an array of activities and acts, capped off by fireworks.
With the blockbuster event canceled due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, visitors and residents came up with alternative ways to ring in 2021.
Video of the 2017 First Night celebration courtesy of Martin Fiedler, Just Right TV Productions.
Dressed in New Year’s Eve attire, complete with a gold, glittery face mask, reindeer shirt adorned with glitter, and even a party hat and holiday leggings, Tana Schimpf, of Little Falls in Essex County, was not going to let COVID ruin her festive mood. She and her husband, Michael, made the most of the holiday.
The Schimpfs, who have a vacation home in Ocean City, went to breakfast, took bike rides, shopped in the downtown and walked their dog on the beach.
“I’ve been coming to Ocean City since I was a kid,” noted Tana. “We love Ocean City.”
Mike added that in years past they have gone to First Night with their two, now grown, children.
When it comes to COVID, Tana had some advice to the forlorn, “Everyone needs to stay positive and it will get better.”
The couple shared the view of people interviewed by OCNJDaily.com.
Normalcy, you might say, is the top wish for 2021.
“Our son is a senior at Stockton University,” Mike said. “We would like to see him have a real—not virtual graduation.”
Ocean City High School students Chloe Howard, 16, Ciera Howard, Julia Keich and Carly Gallagher, all 14, walked downtown to spend a bit of time together before heading home to be with their families.
The four high school students, all from Upper Township, said they are happy to say goodbye to 2020.
They went to breakfast and perused downtown shops instead of going skiing together, an annual New Year’s Eve tradition for the friends.
“I’m having a friend over and we will watch the ball drop,” said Carly.
The school district remains open, while schools around them have closed. The girls said they are thankful for that.
“I want to go back to school where everyone is together again,” Julia added. “Hopefully, in 2021, that will happen.”
While some people walked on the boards, visited downtown shops and restaurants, or rode their bikes, others, such as Ray and Mary Matricardi, of Egg Harbor Township, came for a day of fun that included slices of Manco & Manco pizza.
The couple, who have been married for 45 years and have two children and five grandchildren, saw the bright side of their lives during the pandemic. “We are just happy we are healthy and we wish the same for everyone,” said Mary.
And like so many people who can’t see loved ones at this time, the Matricardi’s have taken to video chats with loved ones. And that is exactly what they will do New Year’s Eve night.
“Our daughter lives in Washington and we have canceled three flights because of COVID,” said Mary. “We make it a point to speak with her every day.”