By TIM KELLY
This wasn’t the usual Skimmer Festival Weekend, with tens of thousands of people walking shoulder-to-shoulder on Sea Isle City’s streets and Promenade. But it wasn’t exactly a quarantine, either.
On Saturday, the old normal met the new normal somewhere in between, and at a safe social distance, of course. Folks who were there seemed to feel it was a good start.
Sea Isle hosted a Sidewalk Sale, conceived by Mayor Leonard Desiderio, who is also a local business owner, as a first step to bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis.
“It was a fabulous day,” Betsy Gillian, who was working at Sunsations boutique on JFK Boulevard, said late Saturday afternoon. “We did really well. This is something that was needed.”
Those in attendance seemed to feel it was a great beginning as well.
“It’s a wonderful start to the summer,” shopper Kathy Bringardner said on summer’s first official calendar day.
“It’s a start to getting back to normal. Things are different, but it’s nice to get out and sit and look at the ocean. The ocean is still the same. That doesn’t change,” Bringardner added.
Skimmer Weekend, the biggest event on Sea Isle’s summer events calendar, had fallen victim to state and federal social distancing guidelines. The main part of the festival involving hundreds of vendors lining the Promenade, a food court and children’s amusement rides in Excursion Park was scrapped.
But Desiderio felt it was important to encourage locals and visitors to get back to enjoying the town’s charms and for businesses to begin recovering from months in lockdown, so he came up with the idea for a sidewalk sale to showcase local shops.
The mayor’s idea was apparently very well-received by retailers and attendees alike.
On a sun-splashed day with moderate humidity and temperatures in the low 70s, Sea Isle’s downtown once again began to take on the look of a proud Jersey Shore resort town.
Streets were busy but not jammed, many businesses had placed racks of merchandise on the sidewalks and shoppers perused the goods, most wearing masks and trying to maintain social distancing measures. Parking enforcement officers patrolled and did their jobs.
Bringardner, a retired school nurse from Gettysburg, Pa., who has had a second home in Sea Isle for 30 years, said she appreciated those who were taking precautions, as a sign of “respect for others.”
Inside Sunsations, proprietor Liz Essick had a retailer’s good problem of a long line at the cash register. She could barely look up, much less chat with a reporter.
“I think she is enjoying a well-deserved cocktail,” Gillian said later of Essick, adding that the sidewalk sale had a good effect on their customers as well.
“Retail therapy,” Gillian said of the patrons. “There’s nothing better.”
The scene was much the same at other businesses around town. At Diamonds Liquor Store on Landis Avenue, a steady stream of customers emerged with packaged goods and big smiles.
Jim Scheffing, of Springfield Pa., carried a case of Yuengling Lager. “Sea Isle is Sea Isle again,” he proclaimed.
Outside Sunsations, Bringardner’s friend, Nancy Cook, also from Gettysburg, said she was happy many of the restaurants around town were open for pickup and deliveries and outdoor dining.
“We’re gonna get some shrimp from Mike’s (Seafood) and sit on the deck,” Cook said.
A man who identified himself as “Scott” surfed the internet on his phone while awaiting his spouse to exit a store.
“For me, this isn’t the old normal or the new normal,” he said. “Waiting for my wife while she shops is the regular normal.”
On Saturday, a little bit of normal – of any variety – seemed a welcome change.
Skimmer Festival Weekend continues Sunday with the annual Antique Auto Show & Parade from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. along the Promenade north of JFK Boulevard. The Auto Show will feature a variety of vintage cars and trucks that will also participate in the Skimmer Antique Auto Parade at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday. The parade will run along Pleasure Avenue (south of 44th Street), then north along Landis Avenue (from Townsends Inlet to the center of town).