By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Not many people living in New Jersey can celebrate their birthdays in November by lounging on the beach dressed in a bathing suit.
But Lori Branco, who turned 59 on Saturday, was doing exactly that – lounging on the Sea Isle City beach dressed in a bathing suit during the time of year when people are usually starting to throw on their sweaters and hoodies.
“This is my birthday party on the beach,” Branco, a Sea Isle resident, said with a laugh while joined by seven of her close friends from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“I chose not to eat at a restaurant. I wanted to be on the beach. The sun’s out and it’s nice,” she added.
What is expected to be a weekend filled with remarkably late spring-like weather started off Saturday at the shore with temperatures in the low 70s and beautiful blue skies streaked with wispy clouds. Sunday is expected to be another pleasant beach day.
Dee Melchiorre, one of Branco’s friends, noted that she had never before experienced such a gorgeous beach day this late in the year.
“The latest I can remember being on the beach in nice weather was on October 10. That was years ago,” said Melchiorre, of Sea Isle.
This time of year, large stretches of the beach are often deserted. But Sea Isle’s beachfront was anything but a ghost town Saturday. Beachgoers were reading books, fishing, tossing footballs and making sand castles.
Kim and Kevin Miller, of Westville, N.J., watched in amusement as their 4-year-old daughter, Mila, was busy playing in the wet sand near the water’s edge.
“What do you think about the weather?” Kim asked her daughter.
“Sunny!” Mila exclaimed.
The Millers decided Saturday morning to take advantage of the warm weather by heading to Sea Isle for a shore getaway.
“We needed to do something fun. We needed to get out of the house,” Kim said.
Mila was also ready for a beach trip.
“She was like, ‘I want to go, I want to go,’” Kim said of her daughter.
Just steps from the beach, Donna Slabinski and her twin sister, Denise Earley, were soaking up the sun while sitting on a beach on the Promenade. Both were wearing flip-flops.
“It’s a bonus day in November,” said Earley, who lives in Cape May Court House.
Slabinski, of Philadelphia, started off her day at the shore with a seven-mile beach walk. Her trip took her from 79th Street to 94th Street, then 94th to 29th Street and then back again to 79th.
“I saw people in bathing suits,” said noted of what was an unusual beach sight for November.
The air temperature wasn’t the only thing that was warm. Slabinski found that out when she dipped her toes in the water during her walk.
“On November 5th, the water wasn’t as cold as it is in May,” she said.
Although the beaches were a popular attraction, it was Sea Isle’s pickleball courts on 42nd Place that were a draw for Tony Moschella, Regina Louin, Patti Liguori and Jess Gorman.
The four friends all live in Ocean City and are avid pickleball players. They were dressed in shorts Saturday for their pickleball games in the 70-degree temps.
“We play every day. We’re addicted,” Louin said. “When we can, we play outside, usually when it’s 45 degrees or higher. This type of weather brings out the best in us.”