By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
Billy Walker was in quite a predicament while lying on his back, completely covered in sand, except for his face.
His 13-year-old cousin, Kasey Walker, dug deeper into the beach using a toy shovel to gleefully heap even more sand on top of him. Meanwhile, his 4-year-old brother, Luke, smoothed out the blanket-like layer of sand on top of Billy with the help of a plastic roller.
“It’s a little hard to breathe,” Billy said. “But I’m fine. It’s fun.”
Billy, 10, was already plotting to get his revenge on Kasey and Luke. He said he couldn’t wait for his chance to bury them in the sand.
Although Saturday afternoon on the 45th Street beach in Sea Isle City proved to be a fun time for the kids and their parents, everyone was also thinking about the inevitable: The end of the summer season is approaching.
“It’s always sad to see the summer end,” said Bill Walker, Billy and Luke’s father.
While the kids played nearby, Bill Walker lounged on the beach with his wife, Emily, his brother, Dan, and his sister-in-law, Kris.
Soon, the parents will be heading back to work and the kids will be starting school for the fall. The only question is whether mom and dad will be working from home or in the office and whether the children will be in the classroom or learning online while the coronavirus pandemic continues.
Bill and Emily Walker, of Doylestown, Pa., said their family was temporarily able to escape from the stress of the COVID-19 crisis by coming to Sea Isle for some “beach therapy” over the summer.
“This year will go down in history,” Emily said, referring to the pandemic. “But coming down here on vacation has really helped us.”
Kris Walker, though, noted that coronavirus restrictions put a crimp on some of the things the family would normally do at the shore.
“We’ve barely done anything,” she said. “We’ve have very limited social interaction.”
Other Sea Isle beachgoers also contemplated the pandemic and the waning days of summer. Ron Lawrence said he and his wife, Cory, will soon be getting their sons, Bryce, 9, and Carter, 6, ready for the start of school.
“We have been down in Sea Isle a lot. This has been our only vacation time this summer,” Ron Lawrence said.
The Lawrence family, from Gloucester Township, Camden County, originally had planned to vacation in Ocean City, Maryland.
They changed their plans, however, when they learned they would have to self-quarantine for 14 days after returning to New Jersey from Maryland as part of Gov. Phil Murphy’s coronavirus restrictions on people traveling from other states.
Bryce said he has been able to enjoy part of the summer by playing with his traveling youth baseball team.
“It’s been fun because I hadn’t played for a long time and now I get to see my friends again,” he said.
Bryce’s day at the beach Saturday included buying a frozen iced tea and lemonade treat from Fudgy Wudgy saleswoman Onora Labrum.
Labrum explained that the pandemic has affected business somewhat, but sales have generally been good.
“I would say we got a little extra boost in June when everybody came to the shore. It’s still a pretty good summer. It’s been a little more consistent than just having a lot of business on weekends,” she said.
She plans to continue selling Fudgy Wudgy ice cream on the beach until the end of summer, but is also preparing for her first year of law school. Her studies will be exclusively online to start at Delaware Law School.
“The countdown is on. The summer is ending,” said Labrum, 23, of Cape May Court House.
For Mark and Sonja Withrow, they are taking a late August vacation this year, meaning that their summer in Sea Isle is actually beginning when most tourists are wrapping things up. They were joined Saturday by Mark’s son, Alex, and his fiancee, Allie Varela, and Sonja’s son, Will Niess, and his girlfriend, Zoe Anderson.
Mark Withrow, who lives in Gettysburg, Pa., has been vacationing in Sea Isle with Alex since 1988. He said he enjoys Sea Isle because it isn’t as crowded as other shore towns.
“I think this is a hidden gem,” Withrow said.
The Withrows were finally able to take a vacation after having their travel plans to Europe, Seattle, Dallas and Tampa scrapped earlier this year because of coronavirus-related disruptions.
“We weren’t sure it was going to work out for us, but we’re so glad it did. Our summer is just starting,” Sonja said of their Sea Isle vacation.