By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Although things may slow down after the Labor Day weekend, the shore does not turn into some gigantic ghost town heading into fall.
For 30 years, Sea Isle City proved that it could draw big post-Labor Day crowds with its popular Fall Family Festival, a weekend event that traditionally features hundreds of vendors, live music, free amusement rides, an outdoor food court and an antique car show.
But the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed the festival for its 31st year. The city has scaled back the event for this Saturday and Sunday in favor of a more modest celebration that will not pack in big crowds in tight areas.
“All of these events are an opportunity for people to enjoy themselves while social distancing,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
Custer added that even with social distancing in place, the city is hopeful of a nice crowd turnout throughout the weekend.
Besides extending the tourist season in Sea Isle beyond the traditional Labor Day cutoff, the festival helps to fill up the rental properties for another weekend and also gives local merchants a boost in business.
For Saturday, the city has invited local business owners to “put their best foot forward” by participating in a sidewalk sale throughout town.
Custer said the all-day sidewalk sale will offer shoppers great off-season bargains and should also give a lift to local business owners who have struggled through the coronavirus restrictions.
“We certainly expect people to shop locally and to visit all of our businesses,” she said.
The sidewalk sale replaces the Fall Family Festival’s tradition of having 300 to 350 vendors line up along the oceanfront Promenade to sell an array of clothing, jewelry, crafts and other items at what is essentially a gigantic outdoor pedestrian mall.
The city announced earlier that it has canceled having the vendors on the Promenade, as well as the festival’s free amusement rides in Excursion Park and the outdoor food court in response to the pandemic.
However, the city was able to save the festival’s traditional antique auto show and parade. Vintage cars and trucks will be spread out along the Promenade from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Sunday, followed by an auto parade along Pleasure Avenue and Landis Avenue starting at 1:30 p.m.
The antique cars and trucks will be spaced far enough apart on the Promenade to allow for social distancing. Sea Isle was able to successfully stage another antique auto show and parade under similar conditions during its Skimmer Weekend Festival in June.
Also on Sunday, the city’s Environmental Commission will name the winners of its annual Beautification Awards contest. A ceremony will be held at noon on the Promenade at John F. Kennedy Boulevard.
Each year, the Environmental Commission recognizes local property owners who have shown improvement in the overall appearance of their homes or businesses, display attractive architecture and landscaping, or have maintained an eye-catching exterior. The winning properties were nominated by residents and visitors earlier this summer.