By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Sisters-in-law Mary McDonald, Margie McDonald and Mary Ellen Keenan were standing on the sidewalk in downtown Sea Isle City when they spontaneously began singing a classic song from the 1960s.
“See you in September … see you when the summer’s through,” they sang in unison from “See You In September” by the Happenings.
Then they broke out into laughter.
For them, September is the time they cherish most at the shore. Mary McDonald, who now lives in Memphis, Tenn., returns to Sea Isle each September for a post-Labor Day vacation in the beach town where she spent her summers growing up.
“I come from Memphis just to be in Sea Isle in September,” she said. “Not only is the weather great, but there are still plenty of things to do here.”
Along the Jersey Shore, the quieter fall months, still warm enough to sunbathe on the beaches or take the boat out, are usually known as “locals’ summer.” It is a time when local residents no longer have to contend with the large crowds of tourists.
But Saturday’s spectacularly sunny weather and temperatures hovering in the high 70s attracted plenty of out-of-towners to Sea Isle to enjoy the early fall with some beach time, shopping, drinks and dinner.
Mary McDonald, Margie McDonald and Mary Ellen Keenan were out bargain hunting for some great deals. They began Saturday by stopping at an estate sale and then made their way downtown to hit the retail shops.
They peered into their shopping bags and began naming the things they bought – purses, scarves and belts.
“These are things we really didn’t need, but we bought them anyway. We just loved buying them,” Mary McDonald said.
The three sisters-in-law are staying for the weekend at Keenan’s summer home in Sea Isle. Keenan’s full-time residence is in Lower Gwynedd, Pa., while Margie McDonald lives in Philadelphia.
They are more than happy to get together with Mary McDonald for some beach time and shopping when she travels to the shore in September from her home in Memphis.
“There are always plenty of bargains when we shop this time of year,” Mary McDonald said after they did some browsing in a women’s boutique.
Sea Isle, a town with about 2,000 year-round residents, can see its summer population swell to close to 75,000 people at the peak of the tourism season. Inevitably, there are traffic backups, lines getting into restaurants, a scarcity of parking and tight space on the beaches when so many people pack the island.
Although the city begins to quiet down after Labor Day, the shops, bars and restaurants still remain popular during the early fall. The beaches also continue to be a draw while the weather is nice enough for a bathing suit.
Beachgoer Lisa Liptock, of Reading, Pa., who was joined by family members and a friend, took cover from the sun under an umbrella on Saturday afternoon.
“Today is like a 10,” Liptock said of the gorgeous weather.
She said the fall offers a quieter alternative to the hectic summer tourism season, but there are still enough attractions to keep her coming back to the shore after Labor Day.
“The weather is just as nice, but there’s not as many people here as in the summer. There’s more space” she said while gazing at a stretch of beach that offered plenty of legroom.
After Labor Day, beach tags are no longer required and parking is free in Sea Isle, giving people an extra incentive to visit the shore.
Robert and Lisa Andrejack, of Danielsville, Pa., and Rick and Dana Hoffman, of Gilbertsville, Pa., considered going to a festival or taking a boat trip during their weekend getaway in Sea Isle, but ultimately ended up on the beach Saturday. They later planned to go to dinner.
Lounging in their beach chairs, they soaked up the sun just a few yards from the water’s edge.
“We decided to come to the beach for some relaxing,” Lisa Andrejack said, smiling.
Alyssa and Brian Gitlin, of Springfield, Pa., were in Sea Isle for a wedding on Friday and planned to stay the entire weekend. They were sharing a drink Saturday afternoon at the Beach Bar at the Ludlam. They also planned to spend some time at the beach.
“We’ve been coming down to the shore for years,” Brian said. “We love coming down to the shore this time of year.”
Alyssa said that the post-Labor Day slowdown allows them to enjoy the beaches and other attractions in town without having to contend with big crowds. She also likes the cooler weather in the fall.
“There’s still plenty to do. We can eat, go to the bar or go the beach,” she said. “The weather is still good, but it’s not godawful hot like July. I think fall is the best time.”