By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Rose Fazzio and Sheila Stanley peeked inside their shopping bags and started naming some of the bargains they bought Saturday during a sidewalk sale that is part of a revamped fall festival in Sea Isle City this weekend.
“Body butter, chocolate covered pretzels … let’s see what else is in here,” Fazzio said, her voice trailing off as she looked for even more items in the bags.
Then it was Stanley’s turn. “I got a nice pocketbook,” she said. “I think it was a good price.”
The two friends from Washington Township, N.J., decided to do some shopping during their weekend getaway at the shore at Fazzio’s vacation home in Sea Isle.
Their timing was perfect for grabbing some late-season bargains offered by local merchants as they clear out their inventory before closing for the fall and winter.
Normally, Sea Isle would have celebrated this weekend with its annual Fall Family Festival, but the town had to scale back the large event and improvise with some smaller attractions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
“All of these events are an opportunity for people to enjoy themselves while social distancing,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
The sidewalk sale replaced the Fall Family Festival’s tradition of having 300 to 350 vendors line up along the oceanfront Promenade to sell an array of clothing, jewelry, crafts and other items to big crowds at what is essentially a gigantic outdoor pedestrian mall.
The city announced earlier that it had to cancel having the vendors on the Promenade, as well as the festival’s free amusement rides in Excursion Park and an outdoor food court amid the pandemic.
Although the sidewalk sale was smaller than the traditional full-fledged festival, it offered shoppers great off-season discounts and also gave a boost to local business owners who have struggled through the coronavirus restrictions.
Members of the Popp and Bovell families, who came from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Las Vegas, bought some shirts, sunglasses, jewelry and pretzels during their shopping hunt at the downtown stores.
“They were all great deals,” said Maura Popp, who lives in Sea Isle.
Trisha Durham, of Las Vegas, who was also part of the Popp and Bovell group, was happy that she paid only $9 to buy a shirt.
United Methodist Church joined the sidewalk sale by selling off an array of household items that were donated by parishioner Dorothy Block of Cape May Court House after her husband, Robert, passed away.
“We made several hundred dollars today,” said Travis Waid, husband of the church’s pastor, Melissa Doyle-Waid.
Waid explained that United Methodist will use the money to help pay for new siding on the church and to repave the parking lot.
The sidewalk sale and other events connected with the fall festival help to extend the tourist season in Sea Isle beyond the traditional Labor Day cutoff. Parts of downtown bustled Saturday with shoppers and people heading to the restaurants and bars.
Sea Isle has been able to save the Fall Family Festival’s traditional antique auto show and parade. Vintage cars and trucks will be spread out along the Promenade from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, followed by an auto parade along Pleasure Avenue and Landis Avenue starting at 1:30 p.m.
The antique cars and trucks will be spaced far enough apart on the Promenade to allow for social distancing. Sea Isle was able to successfully stage another antique auto show and parade under similar conditions during its Skimmer Weekend Festival in June.