By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sea Isle City’s parking kiosks are now cloaked with a heavy covering for their winter hibernation. A sign attached to some of them says, “Free parking. Kiosks will be back in use May 15th.”
The normally ubiquitous beach tag inspectors have vanished. They usually sit at the entrance to the beaches to make sure everyone has their tags, but they won’t be back until next summer.
Just like with the parking, the beaches are free now, too.
The end of parking and beach tag fees are two unmistakable signs that the peak summer vacation season is over, but that doesn’t mean visitors have given up on the shore as it eases into the quieter fall months.
For many people, this is their favorite time of year. Often, the post-Labor Day slowdown is referred to as “locals summer,” a term that suggests that the year-round residents have the town all to themselves again.
But plenty of out-of-towners are sticking around, too. Now, they have plenty of room to stretch out on the beaches, parking spots are easy to find and the stores are offering great bargains.
“Free parking. Free beaches. No crowds. Nice weather,” Marcella McAdams, of Philadelphia, said while checking off all of the boxes.
On Sunday, McAdams was lounging on the Sea Isle beach with her twin 9-year-old sons, Michael and Ryan. She was also joined by her father-in-law, Thom McAdams, his daughter, Jaclyn Sosa, her husband, Pete, and their 1-year-old daughter, Francesca.
They came to the shore for a weekend getaway to celebrate Thom McAdams’ 65th birthday. Thom McAdams, of Horsham, Pa., spent some time teaching his grandson, Michael, how to fly a large white kite that resembled a ghost.
“This is definitely my favorite time of year,” McAdams said as the kite streamed overhead. “It’s less crowded and quieter. I’m down here to relax, not hustle and bustle.”
A little ways down the beach, Andie Ottinger, of Douglassville, Pa., waded ankle deep into the surf with her daughters, Lincoln, 3, and Elka, 2. Ottinger’s mother, Diane Cusimano, also of Douglassville, joined them for what was a “girls’ weekend” trip to the shore.
“We wanted to get away from the crowds,” Ottinger said. “We wanted to go someplace where there’s no coronavirus.”
With more adults working from home and schoolchildren doing online learning during the pandemic, the shore is seen as a safe haven for people wanting to escape the virus outbreak in the major cities.
In Sea Isle, for instance, realtors have reported that there is heavy demand for home sales and rentals well past the summer season because of the pandemic.
Long before anyone ever heard of the coronavirus, close friends Josie Smith, Helen Conover, Tina Bryson, Jean Carl and Maureen Whelan made it a tradition to travel to the shore for relaxing post-Labor Day getaways.
“We’ve been coming together for girls’ weekends for 30-some years,” said Whelan, who lives in Media, Pa., and has been vacationing in Sea Isle since she was a child.
For three of those 30-some years, they have visited Sea Isle. On Sunday, Whelan, Carl, Conover and Bryson, all of whom live in Pennsylvania, and Smith, of New London, Conn., took advantage of the off-season discounts to shop at Sea Isle’s Sunsations boutique.
“We come for the deals,” Smith said, laughing.
Conover said she is happy that the small shops in town are still open so they can get some extra business after enduring hardships during the coronavirus shutdown earlier this summer.
“I think it’s fantastic,” she said. “It’s nice that the smaller stores are still open at this time of year.”