By Donald Wittkowski
Oh, the weather outside is frightful. But the shopping inside is so delightful.
Well, those aren’t exactly the lyrics for the opening verse of the Dean Martin classic “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow,” but let’s have a little fun for the holidays. They certainly did in Sea Isle City on Saturday.
As an annoying snowstorm swept across the Jersey Shore, Sea Isle ignored the bad weather and held its second annual Holiday Stroll – a family-friendly event designed to lure shoppers to town during the Christmas season.
Braving the snow and sleet, Santa Claus and a group of Christmas carolers strolled along the downtown streets and popped into the local shops as part of the entertainment for the day.
“Snow in Sea Isle City – who knew?” Santa exclaimed while making an appearance at the Sunsations boutique on John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
Tucked in between the racks of women’s clothing and a display counter at Sunsations, Santa and one of his elves listened as five carolers from the Ocean City High School Drama Guild filled the store with the strains of “Silent Night” and other Christmas classics.
“People are smiling and their faces light up when they see us,” said one of the carolers, Elizabeth Buch, a Sea Isle resident and senior at Ocean City High School. “What better way is there to spread some cheer on the holidays than singing holiday favorites?”
Elizabeth Buch’s stepmother, Colleen Buch, served as the Holiday Stroll coordinator for the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization, the event’s sponsor.
Colleen Buch said the event helps to attract visitors and shoppers to Sea Isle during what is normally the quiet off-season for the beach town.
“This shows that there are still things to do in Sea Isle and that business is still open in Sea Isle this time of year,” said Buch, the owner of the Groovy Girlz boutique on Landis Avenue.
Liz Essick, owner of Sunsations, said she was pleasantly surprised by the steady flow of customers who came to her shop during the Holiday Stroll, despite the snowy weather.
“It’s not the North Pole, but it looks like it,” she said, laughing.
Getting into the Christmas spirit, Essick decorated a mannequin in front of her store in a holiday-inspired red evening gown accented by pearls. Shoppers at Sunsations took advantage of steep, off-season discounts.
Colleen Cortese, of West Caldwell, N.J., enjoyed the carolers and Santa’s surprise appearance while she was hunting for clothes at Sunsations.
“It’s so exciting and holiday-ish,” she said.
Cortese was joined by five of her longtime college friends for a “girls weekend” getaway of shopping and dining in Sea Isle. They included Sheryl Kirsch, of Metuchen, N.J., Joni Pentifallo, of Annapolis, Md., Cheryl Taylor, of Marlton, N.J., Sandy Searfoss, of Flemington, N.J., and Cathy Cornell, of Long Branch, N.J.
Attracting out-of-towners like Cortese and her friends to Sea Isle for the weekend, or just for the day, underscores the strategy behind the Holiday Stroll. The Chamber of Commerce launched the event in 2016 and was pleased with the results.
“With the success of last year’s Holiday Stroll, we have decided to make this an annual event for December,” said Christopher Glancey, Chamber of Commerce president.
The shopping and dining attractions appeal to the adults, but the Holiday Stroll also included family-oriented activities to entertain the children.
At the Lobster Loft restaurant on 42nd Place, kids took part in a Jingle Jamboree Family Dance Party, which included a buffet lunch. The Lobster Loft followed up Saturday night with an ugly holiday sweater party that featured live music and prizes.
Amy Cossaboone, manager of the Lobster Loft, said the Holiday Stroll gave the restaurant a boost of business for the weekend.
“It brings advertising in, it brings customers in and it brings families in,” Cossaboone said.