By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
It was getting close to 1:30 p.m. Time was running out on Kristy Wrazen’s summer vacation at the shore.
Kristy, her husband, Chris, and their children, Avery, 13, Nolan, 11, Jack, 7, and 4-year-old Emma, were enjoying their last few hours on the beach in Sea Isle City on Labor Day before heading back home to West Chester, Pa.
“The last day’s been great, so I guess I should be grateful,” Kristy said.
Then, Kristy was told that northbound traffic on the Garden State Parkway was crawling along in a bumper-to-bumper mass exodus from the shore as the three-day holiday weekend slowly came to a close.
“Well, I guess we’ll wait a little longer,” she said with a laugh about staying on the beach to avoid getting stuck in traffic.
Who could blame her? Countless other visitors were also trying to squeeze out a precious few more hours of vacation time at the shore before calling it quits for the summer.
Spectacular weather, crowded beaches and a stellar Labor Day weekend capped what is being described as a “banner” summer tourism season in Sea Isle for 2021.
Sea Isle bounced back this year from the pandemic-related shutdowns and restrictions that cut into the peak season for the entire Jersey Shore in 2020.
“From all indications, it was a banner summer,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
Beach tag sales, considered a key barometer of the strength of the summer season, were up this year in Sea Isle. The city’s family-friendly concerts and children’s camps were well-attended in yet another sign of a successful summer, Custer noted.
There was also anecdotal evidence that the summer season was exceptionally strong, she said.
“I spoke to numerous business owners who said they had a very busy year. I also spoke to residents and visitors who said they were thoroughly enjoying themselves,” Custer said.
Labor Day traditionally serves as the unofficial “last hurrah” for the summer season at the shore.
Logan Lentz, 20, Devin Kline, 21, Brian Mayall, 18, and Angelina Madonna, 18, friends from Reading, Pa., were playing a game of spike ball on the beach in one of the last things they did to enjoy the holiday.
They were not looking forward to heading back home and returning to work.
“It stinks,” Angelina said. “I don’t like it because I’m not going to be at the beach.”
Although the summer season unofficially ends on Labor Day weekend, beachgoers Angela DeVito and Carol Cairns were planning to spend more leisure time in Sea Isle through October.
“We’re milking every day. Hopefully, we’ll be here until the middle of October,” said DeVito, a 71-year-old retiree from Philadelphia.
DeVito described her summer as “great.” She said she was particularly pleased that beachgoers were respectful for the second straight summer by observing social distancing during the pandemic.
Cairns, 73, who also lives in Philadelphia, said her daughter, Kimberly Jones, was able to visit the shore more often this summer because the pandemic wasn’t as severe as in 2020.
Excited about the prospect of nice weather continuing through September and possibly part of October, Cairns said she and DeVito should be able to sneak in even more beach time this fall.
“Hopefully, the weather will be just as nice as it is now. It usually is nice in September,” she said.
After Labor Day, Sea Isle no longer requires beach tags and also ends its parking charge, giving an extra incentive for visitors to continue coming to the shore.