By Lauren Wanko
Hello summer! OK, it’s not officially the season, but at the shore, summer’s officially underway.
“It’s the day we wait for. It’s the day everything opens. People just come out, especially when the sun shines,” said Timothy Gallagher, Avon Beachfront super.
Armed with chairs, coolers and sand pails, beachgoers this morning lugged all the necessities toward the ocean to sink their toes in the sand in Avon-by-the-Sea. Manalapan Resident Jodi Levin just bought her beach badge. It was her Mother’s Day gift.
“They wrote a check for my season pass for Avon because this is my happy place,” she said.
Nine-year-old Logan Lazarus is ready to see what the Jersey Shore has to offer. He’s from Arizona.
What is he most excited about doing on the beach? “Playing in the sand,” he said.
It’s the family’s first visit to the Garden State’s beaches. What do they think?
“We’re cold!” Logan’s mom Emily Lazarus said. “We’re from Arizona. It’s like 100 degrees already at home, but it’s gorgeous.”
It’s hot by Jersey standards. The temperatures were luring tourists to the beach today.
“We sell almost 4,000 beach badges a day — daily beach badges or season badges. Being such a long cold winter people are just eager to get out,” Gallagher said.
And some are just as eager to spend their money.
“We just want to have a good time with the family so if that means spending a little extra cash, then that’s what we’ll have to do,” said Marlboro resident Aaron Rothman.
That kind of mindset makes seasonal business owners smile. There’s been a line outside the Avon Pavilion since 7:30 this morning. Inside the chef prepares breakfast, lunch and dinner for a packed house. As soon as the wait staff cleared a table, it seemed to fill right up again.
“We have regulars that have been coming here for so many years and this starts the summer. This just is the start to everyone’s summer,” said General Manager Lisa Hosley.
The Avon Pavilion was completely destroyed by Superstorm Sandy. The owners bought four metal shipping containers and converted them into a kitchen and used a tent as a dining room. The restaurant was rebuilt last year but this is the first Memorial Day they’re open since Sandy.
Next door in Bradley Beach, their Memorial Day Festival attracted crowds to the boardwalk.
“The Bradley Beach Memorial Day Festival is the kickoff to the summer on the Jersey Shore. So far in two days we brought over 30,000 people here by estimate,” said Festival Chairman Harvey Rosenberg.
What’s it like to be mayor of a shore town on Memorial Day?
“Look behind me! You’ll see thousands of people on our beach having a great time kicking off the summer in Bradley Beach,” said Mayor Gary Engelstad.
Their beach was dotted with colorful umbrellas too.
“Pre-season badge sales were our highest ever. We didn’t touch our prices. The powers that be upstairs did their part — beautiful day, could not have a better kick off of our summer season,” Engelstad said.
If today’s perfect beach weather is any indication of the rest of the summer, it could be a great season along the shore.