By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
If the Sea Isle City Beach Patrol is looking for a new lifeguard in the future, then they might want to consider Avery Landers.
The 6-year-old girl confidently scaled the steps of an empty lifeguard stand at the 40th Street beach and occupied it like a queen on her throne.
“It is, like, really cool,” Avery said, much to the amusement of her mother, Laina Landers.
This is the fun way that the Memorial Day weekend began Friday for the Landers family of Springfield, Pa. Laina Landers hopes that it is the beginning of an auspicious summer.
“We are looking to get summer started,” she said.
Under beautiful blue skies and with temperatures flirting with 70 degrees, beachgoers flocked to Sea Isle to celebrate the traditional kickoff of the summer vacation season.
A plane flying over Sea Isle towed an advertising banner that seemed to summarize everything perfectly: “Enjoy Your Day at the Beach,” it declared.
Sea Isle spokeswoman Katherine Custer said the early signs point to a strong summer season ahead for the city’s tourism-based economy.
“It is busy, very busy. We’re delighted to see so many people come to Sea Isle for the Memorial Day weekend,” she said of the steady flow of traffic into town on Friday.
“Our local businesses have opened their doors and people are enjoying shopping and dining all over town. We’re looking forward to a great summer kickoff for the Memorial Day weekend,” Custer added.
Avery Landers, meanwhile, is anxious to renew the friendships she has each summer with Sea Isle’s lifeguards. As they do every summer, the lifeguards will begin protecting the beaches on the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend.
“She has a favorite lifeguard,” Laina Landers said of her daughter. “We have the same lifeguards each summer. They know Avery by name.”
The Landers family has a vacation home on 40th Street in Sea Isle. In all, there are four kids in the family.
“All of their friends come down to the shore,” Laina Landers said of the children. “We’re looking to do some of our favorite things – get some Yum Yums, go to the arcade and go to the Promenade.”
By Friday afternoon, the oceanfront Promenade was already drawing crowds of walkers, joggers and bicyclists.
But most of the action was out on the beaches. Custer noted that the city’s Public Works Department spent a lot of time getting the beaches and other parts of town in good shape to welcome the summer visitors.
The city also hired a contractor to add new sand to some of the dunes between 88th and 92nd streets that had become badly eroded from coastal storms over the winter and spring.
As it does every summer, the city has installed the popular mats that allow beachgoers to easily walk over the beach pathways instead of getting bogged down in deep sand.
“From all reports, the city is ready for a very busy summer,” Custer said.
Joe Campli, one of the many visitors on the beach Friday, watched as his daughter, Mia, 6, and son, Joey, 2, used a plastic toy shovel to dig into the sand at 44th Street.
“I like the water. I also like making sandcastles,” Mia said.
Campli, of Havertown, Pa., said he has been waiting for the summer of 2023 to begin at the shore ever since the summer of 2022 ended.
He noted that his children were so excited to begin their first day on the beach in Sea Isle that they woke up at sunrise.
“This is their favorite thing. They were up at 5 a.m.,” he said. “They love to come down here and go on the beach.”
Campli’s in-laws, Patty and Allen Marquet, live in Sea Isle on 44th Street. They relaxed in beach chairs while their grandkids took their first plunge in the still-chilly water.
Another holiday beachgoer, Liz Hostetter, was joined by her family, including her daughter, Aubrey, 9, and 7-year-old son, Mitchell.
Aubrey and Mitchell braved the nippy ocean while wading out waist deep. Emerging from the water, Mitchell flashed a thumb’s-up sign to show how much he enjoyed it.
“Once you get used to it, it feels good,” Mitchell said, smiling.
Liz Hostetter, who lives in Lafayette Hill, Pa., said her family has deep ties in Sea Isle dating to the 1950s. Her in-laws, Nancy and Steve Hostetter, own a home in Sea Isle. Her parents, John and Karen Mitchell, used to spend their summer vacations in Sea Isle.
“I grew up in Sea Isle. I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. My parents met here,” Liz said. “For me, coming down to Sea Isle is definitely the start of summer.”