By MADDY VITALE
When it comes to Ocean City, there is no real off season – even the off season is jumping.
Such is the case of this year’s shoulder season, and the many that preceded it. But for this not-so-sleepy resort town, a combination of near-perfect shore weather, a filled calendar of family-friendly attractions and popular eateries are keeping the tourists coming.
And with the city’s hiring of a company that used raptors to scare away seagulls, more visitors were able to enjoy their crab fries, ice-cream and pizza without swarms of gulls harassing them through Columbus Day weekend.
Officials say the Oct. 12 Fall Block Party was the best they could recall ever.
More than 60,000 people came to “America’s Greatest Family Resort” to spend a weekend shopping along Asbury Avenue, taking in some of the season’s unseasonably pleasant weather, buying locally and just having a good time.
“This past block party weekend was one of the biggest, if not the biggest we have seen,” said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce. “An estimated 60,000 people attended making it the most successful in over 40 years,” she added.
Gillian and other city officials say the weather has had a lot to do with the stellar summer and shoulder season this year.
“The shoulder season is when many stores can focus on building their business and getting their store ready for the next season,” she explained. “The weather plays a large role in the shoulder season and it has been great.”
The Fall Block Party is appealing for not just shopping but the loads of entertainment and food offered at the festival.
“The combination of fantastic weather on Saturday, along with many outdoor activities created a perfect weekend for second homeowners, vacationers, residents and merchants,” Gillian noted. “The block party serves as a major economic stimulus for the town and this weekend did not disappoint.”
Each year the block party sells out of vendor slots.
This year sold out quickly.
More than 400 crafters and food vendors lined Asbury Avenue. Crowds bustled through the streets with bags filled with locally owned, grown and handmade purchases.
Adding to the success, was the impact the event had on the businesses around it.
“The stores and restaurants were busy all weekend long with table sales and shopping specials,” Gillian said.
Boardwalk merchants also did well throughout the Fall Block Party weekend.
President of the Boardwalk Merchants Association Wes Kazmarck, owner of the Surf Mall on the Boardwalk, said the Fall Block Party always means a spectacular weekend for merchants.
“The Fall Block Party is our last big shot,” Kazmarck said. “It is always a big, strong weekend.”
Ocean City Councilman Antwan McClellan was one of several officials who attended the blockbuster block party.
He summed up the atmosphere as he browsed the vendor tables.
“This is a beautiful weekend,” he said. “What a beautiful way to continue our shoulder season with thousands of people here to celebrate with us.”
But while the Fall Block Party does signal the fall season is winding down in a few weeks, the next busy phase starts in Ocean City.
“We are now gearing up for all of our holiday events,” Gillian pointed out.
And there are a lot of them.
The first is the Chamber of Commerce Welcome Night at the Sports & Civic Center on Oct. 23 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
“Businesses can roll out the welcome mat and let all of the town know what services they have to offer the community,” she said. “From there it is all about the holidays.”
Shopping events and activities through the holidays include, Earlier Than The Bird, Christmas in The Downtown, Breakfast With Santa, the Christmas Parade, and more.
“There is something for everyone this holiday season in Ocean City,” Gillian added. “The town turns into a scene right out of a Hallmark movie and continues to be a destination in the winter.”