Crowds enjoyed the Polar Bear weekend in Sea Isle City starting with a chilly plunge. Then they raised $100,000+ for Autism Awareness at the Run-Walk on Sunday.

By Maddy Vitale

Polar Bear weekend truly was a blockbuster. It lived up to the hype, brought tens of thousands of people into the town, boosted business for all sectors, showcased the town and benefitted a great cause, officials said Monday.

From the Polar Bear Plunge on Saturday, that brought 2,500 brave revelers out for a chilly dip, to Mike’s Seafood Run-Walk for Autism benefit Sunday that raised more than $100,000 with 3,800 participants, the weekend shined a bright light on the beach town.

“I know they had a record crowd on Sunday. I don’t have the official count for Saturday, but it was a very big crowd,” he said, estimating about 40,000 flocked to the island, said Christopher Glancey, president of the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization.

The impact for businesses, from restaurants, to shops and bars, were definitely felt this weekend.

“You could walk on the Promenade and see kids playing in the arcade. All of the stores were busy,” Glancey said.

Falling on Presidents Day weekend, the Polar Bear celebration takes advantage of the extended holiday weekend. Throughout the weekend the city transformed. The parking lots filled up, the restaurants and other businesses were crowded as if it was a different season.

“The economic impact for the entire island, most assuredly, was like having a summer weekend in the middle of February.”

Mike and Jeannie Monichetti, owners of Mike’s Seafood in Sea Isle City, who have two autistic children, organized the autism run-walk. The sunny, crisp weather definitely helped bring out participants. And the fact that it was the largest crowd since they started the event a decade ago, was a testament to the strength of the community and the growing support for the cause, they said.

In total, the barrier island with 2,100 year-round residents bulged with 40,000 people. Sea Isle City police, along with help from surrounding police departments helped with crowd control and keeping everyone safe.

Katherine Custer, spokeswoman for the city, called the Mike’s Seafood Run-Walk for Autism “a grand slam” event and that the entire weekend showcased the great community of Sea Isle City.

“It was another well-attended Polar Bear weekend in Sea Isle City. Each Presidents Day weekend people flock to Sea Isle in large numbers for a winter weekend getaway that’s filled with fun events, entertainment, shopping and great food – and this year was no exception,” Custer said. “I was especially impressed with the 2018 Mike’s Seafood Run-Walk for Autism. It was a grand slam, home run for children with disabilities and their families, and it was also a reminder of how generous the people of Sea Isle truly are.”

Runners cross the finish line in the Mike’s Seafood Run-Walk for Autism.

Glancey gave credit to Monichetti and Jimmy Bennett, chairman of the Sea Isle City Tourism Commission and LaCosta Lounge business owner. Bennett emceed the Run-Walk for Autism.

“Those two guys make such a positive impact on this entire community,” Glancey said.

While Sea Isle City, like much of the Jersey Shore, will be back to some quiet time, the past few days has proven what one small community is all about, officials said.

“This weekend was not only great exposure for people to see a great place to have fun and enjoy themselves, but when you look at Sunday, raising $100,000 for autism, it just shows how much this town can give back,” Glancey said. “I think the positive light that shines down on Sea Isle from this weekend shows the impact it has on real people.”

The crowds fill the streets for the events over Presidents Day weekend in Sea Isle City.