By Lauren Wanko
The party fishing boat Golden Eagle heads out to the ocean full of costumers hoping for a great catch.
“This is definitely the busiest we’ll be all year so far,” said Golden Eagle Captain Richard Falcone.
Falcone has extra crew on hand, plenty of additional equipment and more food in the galley. He’s anticipating big crowds.
Nearby, Fisherman’s Den is expecting lots of customers.
What’s the best part about Memorial day for you guys?
“The bikinis,” Fisherman’s Den employee James Weir said. From a business perspective he says, “the money.”
As the Golden Eagle makes its way to the Atlantic, Belmar’s Department of Public Works gets an early start to the day. They roll out mats for beachgoers.
“We are at the final stages right now of preparing for thousands of middle-class families to come from throughout New Jersey to enjoy Belmar and the rest of the Jersey Shore,” said Mayor Matt Doherty.
In the past, Belmar has offered free beach access all season long to active duty military and their families, first responders including police, first aid and fire and this year for the first time, they’re offering free beach access to all military veterans.
“We have such an amazing jewel here in our beach so we thought it’s the least we can do as a small thank you for their service,” Doherty said. “I’ll also tell you that it’s a good marketing tool for us. Maybe you may know a veteran and because of that you see the way we want to treat them so well that you decide to chose our beach over another beach.”
Merri-Makers Catering’s Rick Bott is also hoping for lots of tourists. He just opened Cruz Bay Café in Belmar’s new Taylor Pavilion.
“Now we are geared up and we are ready to go,” he said.
Bott’s been in business for 40 years catering large events.
How does it feel opening something for the first time over Memorial Day weekend? “How does nervousness come across?” Bott said. “If we could do Chateaubriand and stuffed lobster, I’m pretty sure I can do a hamburger and hot dogs!”
These Pennsylvania residents will probably grab that hamburger for lunch. They were the first to arrive on the beach early this morning.
“It’s pretty great, nice feeling seeing that no one else here and we’ll have the beach to ourselves hopefully,” Pennsylvania resident Joe Gartner said.
Farther south in Point Pleasant Beach, the maintenance team conducts safety inspections on the rides at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk.
“They do a check of every ride. They check the seat belts, they check the lap bars, they make sure everything’s functioning properly,” said Toby Wolf, director of marketing for Jenkinson’s Boardwalk.
Memorial Day weekend marks the official start of the season here at Jenkinson’s Boardwalk. Although they’ve been open since Palm Sunday weekend, now they’ve turned into a seven day a week operation.
“We say nine months of planning for three months of business,” Wolf said.
“The tourism is the number number one industry in Ocean County — $4.7 billion economic generator for us. Everyone is very excited when summertime comes around, so it’s a very big day for us,” said Ocean County Director of Business Development and Tourism Dana Lancellotti.
How does she market to ensure tourists come to Ocean County during the summer months?
“We work together with our tourism partners in the county, but we do a tremendous amount of marketing out of state,” Lancellotti said.
Whether those tourists are New Jerseyans or live elsewhere, the Garden State’s beach towns seem ready for them.