By MADDY VITALE
A white carriage horse clip-clopped down Asbury Avenue in Ocean City and a piano teacher and his students performed classic Christmas favorites, while shoppers strolled in and out of boutique-style shops.
The last weekend before Christmas brought together two kinds of shoppers on Saturday – those who rushed to grab up as many gifts as they could in one day to check off their list of to-dos and others who needed that one special something to give to a loved one.
Then there were other visitors in town who came to enjoy the festive atmosphere and the holiday decor — from the twinkling lights and garland-wrapped lamp posts to the wreaths hung above each street corner.
Visitors walked downtown or hopped aboard a horse-drawn carriage as Asbury Avenue buzzed with activity.
Shawn Quigley, a piano teacher in Ocean View, and some of his students added to the ambiance by performing holiday songs on a restored vintage piano.
Instead of its usual spot each holiday season at the corner of Eighth Street and Asbury Avenue, the piano was tucked under the protection of the overhang at Stainton’s — A Gallery of Shops.
“We knew it would be windy, so we thought it would be better to be here instead,” Quigley said, while pausing for a moment in between his students’ performances. “It is a wonderful day.”
Ashton Russick, 12, of Ocean View, delighted shoppers as he played “Little Drummer Boy.”
“Shawn always gives the kids unique opportunities to perform in public,” said Ashton’s mother, Christina Russick.
Theresa Fahy, of Northfield, and her 16-year-old daughter, Colleen, walked a brisk pace down the street and had a couple of small bags in hand. They were buying some special gifts they were sending to Fahy’s son, Sean Downey, 23, a Marine stationed in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
“We are doing some last-minute shopping. We are trying to get all local things to send to him last second,” Fahy said. “So far, we got some soaps. We are going to buy all Ocean City favorites, fudge and taffy, and send them to him.”
While the Fahys were just getting started Saturday afternoon on their last-minute gift-buying, Mary Seickel, and her mother, Judy Jasinsky, both of Belle Mead, N.J., were on their third trip to their car to drop off newly purchased presents before setting back out on the avenue to buy some more.
Seickel was in City Hall, where a line formed to buy holiday beach tags.
“I just bought three and now I am off to do some more shopping,” Seickel said.
She opened a bag and displayed some of her finds.
She continued, “We love Ocean City shopping sprees. I feel there are so many unique things here that you can’t find at the mall.”
Ornaments, wood carvings and other interesting things were tucked in her shopping bag.
“We bought all kinds of stuff. We went to Stainton’s and there were so many things there. Look at these little decorative boxes. And we also bought their light-up pictures,” Jasinsky added.
If the flurry of people weren’t proof enough of the busy season, Bridget Buchanan, manager of Stainton’s Shops in the downtown and on the Boardwalk, gave a glimpse at the other side of the holiday season.
Buchanan noted that this holiday season has been one of the busiest she can recall for the downtown Stainton’s Shops.
It has also been a great first holiday season for the recently opened Stainton’s by the Sea on the Boardwalk.
“It’s been amazing,” Buchanan said as crowds perused the downtown Stainton’s. “People are really coming out to support local businesses. It is better than I ever imagined.”