By Donald Wittkowski
They have remained close since graduating together from Archbishop Prendergast High School in Drexel Hill, Pa., in 2014.
Sarah McFadden and six of her friends – all from Delaware County, Pa. – were hanging out on the beach Friday afternoon in Sea Isle City while enjoying a sun-splashed start to the Memorial Day weekend.
“We have been relaxing ever since the weekend began,” said McFadden, who lives in Drexel Hill.
McFadden is sharing a vacation home with Gabrielle DiLeonardo and other Archbishop Prendergast alums this summer.
Asked why they chose Sea Isle over other towns at the Jersey Shore, DiLeonardo explained, “It is the best of the best.”
Then another friend, Alexis Kurtz, piped in. “It’s the bars, too,” she said, prompting everyone to laugh.
Whether it was the beach, the bars, the boating or some other attraction, tens of thousands of visitors poured into Sea Isle on Friday for the start of the Memorial Day weekend, the traditional kickoff for the summer tourism season.
“We’re expecting, as we do every year, our best summer yet,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said. “Our beaches are ready, our entertainment lineup is ready and I’m confident that our businesses are also ready to welcome our visitors to round out their experience.”
Custer estimated that perhaps 60,000 to 70,000 visitors will be in town for the holiday weekend, an enormous increase over Sea Isle’s year-round population of about 2,100 residents.
“July 4th is the busiest, but this is close,” she said of the popularity of Memorial Day weekend. “It depends on the weather.”
The weather forecast is nearly ideal for the entire weekend. Friday was highlighted by sunny skies and 80-degree temperatures.
However, the ocean temperature remains chilly. One beachgoer, Jack Rabeno, 7, was rather blunt when he described the water after tip-toeing into the surf.
“Cold,” he exclaimed, drawing a smile from his mother, Brenda Rabeno, of Avondale, Pa.
Beachgoers, though, welcomed the ice-cold treats served up by the Fudgy Wudgy Man. Cash in hand, 4-year-old Vincent Tecco ran up to Fudgy Wudgy vendor Aidan Lynch’s ice cream cart to buy an orange creamsicle bar.
“Are you super-excited?” Vincent’s mother, Leah Dyan, of Broomall, Pa., asked her son when he was getting ready to eat the creamsicle.
“Yeah,” Vincent replied.
Before she hit the sand, Nicole Culp stopped at the Sea Isle City Welcome Center to pick up six beach tags for her family.
Culp, of Springfield, Pa., owns a vacation home in Sea Isle. She has been spending summers in Sea Isle ever since she was in college.
“I like it here because everyone is always happy,” she said.
Culp noted that a lot of her neighbors from Delaware County, Pa., were also heading down to Sea Isle to join her for a big party over the holiday weekend.
“Half of Delco is down here,” she joked.
Over the years, Sea Isle has been dubbed “Delco East” for the throngs of vacationers from Delaware County.
New Jersey residents, though, were also enjoying the holiday weekend in Sea Isle.
At the city’s municipal marina, Sam Sarin, of Washington Township, Gloucester County, was getting his 22-foot pontoon boat ready for a fishing trip with his grandchildren out on the back bays Saturday and Sunday.
“The grandkids really like it. We bought it for them,” Sarin said of the boat.
Joey Gillin, Sarin’s 14-year-old grandson, smiled at those words. Joey said he was looking forward to a summer of fishing and crabbing with his grandfather on the boat.
“This is awesome. It makes him the best friend in the world, if he wasn’t already,” Joey said of his grandfather.