By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Gia McCuster, 15, and her 13-year-old sister, Cassidy, peered into their shopping bags to see what each of them had bought at Sea Isle City’s summer sidewalk sale Saturday.
Gia showed off her new Sea Isle-themed hooded sweatshirt. Cassidy, coincidentally, also bought a hoodie that had a Sea Isle logo.
But they weren’t done shopping.
“I’m just browsing for whatever I can find,” Gia said.
Cassidy was looking for some shorts and a basket for her bike.
Their mom, Jenn McCusker, of Philadelphia, was scouting for bargains during the family’s mini shopping spree.
“I’m just looking for clothes and some cheap stuff,” she said, laughing.
Some merchants were offering discounts of up to 50 percent or 60 percent off on clothing, jewelry and other items during the sidewalk sale held throughout Sea Isle in place of the traditional Skimmer Festival Weekend seaside market on the Promenade.
For the second year in a row, the city canceled the seaside market, a food court and amusement rides in Excursion Park because of the pandemic. Normally, the seaside market draws thousands of people to the oceanfront Promenade for a sprawling outdoor shopping extravaganza featuring hundreds of vendors under tents.
The city simply did not want to have so many people gathered together, literally shoulder to shoulder, while the pandemic continues, so the decision was made to have a sidewalk sale where shoppers would have plenty of room to social distance.
“With COVID hanging around a little bit, we can’t do the type of event that we would like to do. It’s certainly not the traditional event we normally would have with the hundreds of vendors on the Promenade,” City Councilwoman Mary Tighe explained of the decision to scale back the Skimmer Festival.
Tighe noted that the sidewalk sale, though smaller than the seaside market, would help to draw visitors to town and give local merchants a boost just as the summer tourism season gets underway.
“We’re trying to do our best,” she said.
Skimmer Festival Weekend is named after the straw, wide-brim “skimmer” boating hats that were popular with men during Victorian times. Traditionally, it serves as Sea Isle’s largest summer festival.
The two-day festival’s origins date to 1963, a year after a monstrous storm devastated the Jersey Shore. At that time, Sea Isle hoped to persuade tourists that the beach community was in recovery mode and ready to begin welcoming visitors again, so the Skimmer Festival was created.
Although the Victorian-era skimmer hats are obviously out of style now, the festival continues to embrace old-fashioned, family-style fun reminiscent of Sea Isle’s days as a genteel seaside retreat in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
In its abbreviated version this year, the festival will continue on Sunday, Father’s Day, with the annual antique car show on the Promenade from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. After the show, the vintage cars will parade around town.
But shopping took center stage Saturday during the sidewalk sale. Many people were spotted in the downtown business district toting around shopping bags.
Friends Erin Jordan, of Philadelphia, and Bella Tierce, of Voorhees, N.J., were making the rounds at some of the downtown shops.
Jordan bought herself a shirt, but also picked up a shirt for her dad as a Father’s Day gift.
“I saw some bargains, but not on this stuff, unfortunately,” Jordan said with a laugh of the things she had bought.