By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City hopes to capitalize on what was a blockbuster summer by continuing the momentum into the fall with a family-friendly festival expected to attract thousands of visitors to town.
Just two weeks after the Labor Day weekend signaled the traditional end of the busy summer tourism season, the city will stage the Fall Family Festival on Saturday and Sunday to draw visitors to the shore during the transition into the off-season.
“After the banner summer we had, we want to keep it going,” Sea Isle Tourism Representative Chris Oney said. “There’s still fun to be had in the off-season.”
For more than 30 years, Sea Isle has proved that it can draw big post-Labor Day crowds with its popular Fall Family Festival, an event that features hundreds of vendors, live music, free amusement rides, an outdoor food court and an antique car show.
The coronavirus pandemic dramatically changed the festival in 2020. The city had to scale back the event in favor of a more modest celebration that did not pack in big crowds in tight areas.
But this weekend is promising to be a bounce-back event featuring most of the traditional attractions and a crowd that Oney estimated will approach 10,000 people.
“We’re excited to bring people back and keep the excitement of summer going,” he said.
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.
A major part of the festival is the shopping. About 160 vendors will pitch their tents along the Promenade to transform the oceanfront walkway into a giant outdoor pedestrian mall and craft market on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Normally, the festival attracts hundreds of vendors, but this year’s turnout will be smaller, Oney said. By having fewer vendors lining the Promenade, the city will be able to create more space for social distancing, he noted.
The festival also includes live music and free amusement rides in Excursion Park. Face-painting, a photo booth and other kid-friendly activities will be included to keep the children entertained Saturday.
Not to be overlooked is the festival’s food court in Excursion Park, where a tempting selection of local delicacies and traditional fare will be on sale Saturday.
On Sunday, the festival is headlined by a vintage car show on the Promenade from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., followed by a parade of antique autos and trucks through town. The cars will be spaced apart along the Promenade to create room for social distancing.
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.