By ADRIANA ALFARO
After climbing up the steep steps, children looked down from the top of the fun slide. With a timid look, they grasped onto the burlap sack. All of a sudden, a high-pitched yelp melted into giddy laughter.
By the looks of it, day one of Sea Isle City’s two-day Fall Family Festival was a success. Guests enjoyed free activities, including amusement rides, local delicacies and live entertainment performed by the AM Radio tribute band from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Blowfish Studios provided decorative hair braiding for children. A family gathered outside the booth, excited to see the final result of the colorful braids.
“This is our first time at the fall festival, and we’re having a lot of fun,” said Anna Cardellino, who lives in Philadelphia.
“This braid is definitely the highlight of our day,” she laughed while watching as her 6-year-old daughter, Josie, got a new hairdo.
Nearby, a food court provided fresh-squeezed lemonade, loaded hot dogs, pizza and more. Families took seats in the grass, on a staircase and even on the curb to enjoy Sea Isle’s cuisine.
Lexy Tansy and Taylor Schreiner sat on a ledge while enjoying a walking taco. The couple drove down from Reading, Pa., to enjoy a day at the beach.
“It’s so nice to go around and see all the different vendors. I actually got a few things at a jewelry stand,” Tansy said.
If there was one thing they could change about the festival, it would be parking. Although Sea Isle provides free parking during the off-season, it was a challenge to find spots during the festival Saturday.
Despite the burning sun, hundreds gathered on the oceanfront Promenade in support of the festival. A variety of vendors flaunted their handcrafted soaps, jewelry, candles, apparel and more.
Aromas of pine, aloe and lavender attracted shoppers to Tenezee Pope’s shop, Copa Soaps.
“Business is doing very well, and it’s only noon,” said Pope as he handed off thoughtfully packaged products to customers.
Originally from Trenton, this was Pope’s first time at the fall festival.
A foot ahead on the narrow Promenade, vendors like Ray Hansen, of Mays Landing, greeted shoppers with a contagious smile. The smell of her handmade pumpkin spice candles, wax melts and soap was irresistible. Hansen recalled a larger crowd during last year’s festival but nevertheless was thankful for the steady crowd.
The height of the summer tourist season has come to an end, but Sea Isle plans on drawing in steady traffic this weekend. The festival was forced to cancel in 2020 due to COVID. This year, guests expressed gratitude to be able to connect with the community again.
During one moment of the festival, the national anthem began playing on the loudspeaker, and the Promenade came to a stop.
“Touching moment at the fall fest in Sea Isle City today. There are lots of proud Americans here,” shared Teri Kraft, a Sea Isle local.
The festivities aren’t over yet. For history buffs and auto enthusiasts, a display of vintage vehicles will take over the Promenade on Sunday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Afterwards, trophies will be presented to the winners of the Antique Auto Show. Then, each of the vehicles entered in the auto show will parade through town, bringing this year’s Fall Family Festival to a spectacular close.
As the dog days of summer fly by, the fall festival has made everyone excited for cool weather, the holiday season and back to school.