Shared from the 5/29/2016 Philadelphia Inquirer - NJ Edition eEdition


Flocking to the Shore to kick off the season.


Max Dostal, 5, digs into a sunny Memorial Day weekend in Cape May, but will the good weather last? ED HILLE / Staff Photographer


Ralph Menendez, of Elizabeth, N.J., makes a catch in Cape May.


Michael and Michelle Johnson, in town from South Philadelphia, stake out their spot in Cape May. Shore businesses hope these three days set apositive vibe for the rest of the season. ED HILLE / Staff Photographer

The summer season got off to a radiant start at the Jersey Shore on Saturday, with sunshine and gentle breezes kissing brilliant blue skies and waters.

“This weather is the three months I live for,” said Erika Morris, 29, of North Jersey, who was enjoying brunch outdoors at the Bagel Time Cafe in Cape May with childhood friend Nina Huczko.

But, will Mother Nature cooperate for the duration of the holiday weekend? Shore businesses — pancake houses to ice cream vendors, motel operators to maître d’s — hope these three days set a positive vibe for the rest of the vacation season.

There is potential for her to be a bit of a killjoy.

On Saturday night, the National Weather Service’s forecast for the Jersey Shore warned of potential rain Sunday, with chances increasing Sunday night into Memorial Day. It was not ruling out a thunderstorm in some parts.

On the brighter side, temperatures are expected to be comfortable, with highs in the low- to mid-70s both days.

But Memorial Day weekend at the Shore is about far more than just weather. For many friends and families, the return of beach season is a time of reunions and revisiting happy memories — and making new ones.

Nine members of the Amorosa clan, of Washington and North Jersey, gathered in Cape May on Saturday — just as they’ve done on Memorial Day weekends past.

Doreen Amorosa, 59, among those up from the nation’s capital, has had a house in Cape May for 16 years.

“It’s nice to have a house to be able to get together,” said Amorosa, who works at Georgetown University’s career center. “It’s a treat.”

Few in Cape May on Saturday had traveled a greater distance than Karol Syper. The 22-year-old is from Rzeszow, Poland, where he had been an aviation student and is thinking about pursuing amaster’s degree in finance. He first came to Cape May to work the summer of 2013, returning in 2014 and now this year, working at a miniature golf outpost by day and the Lobster House restaurant at night.

“I like the people in general,” Syper said. “They’re really nice, friendly, helpful.”

And he’s loving the easy access to the ocean, where he swims, surfs, and rides the waves on boogie boards. Back home, getting to the Baltic Sea requires an 11-hour car ride, he said.

Compared with Syper, most of Saturday’s Shore revelers were from points right around the corner.

Maria DiPaolo and Tim Burke, 24, from Northeast Philadelphia, stopped for a bite across the street from one of the Cape May beaches, luxuriating in sunshine after so many rainy, cool May days.

“Let’s hope it stays this way,” Burke said.

Al Roman, 67, a retired engineer, and his wife, Maureen, 65, a retired teacher, live in West Chester and have a getaway home in Cape May. Their Shore neighbors are families from West Chester, too. For the Romans, Memorial Day weekend means this:

“It’s the start of party time,” Al Roman said. “Five o’clock in our court is happy hour.”

But first came afternoon labor: digging a big sand hole with his grandkids.

Duty also called for Michael Liscsak, 37, of East Norriton.

He and his wife, Gemma, along with their two children, Sawyer, 9 months, and Paisley, 2, were staying at her parents’ Cape May home.

“I want to get more water, Daddy,” Paisley said, pail in hand, while her brother enjoyed the shade of a kiddie tent.

She’ll have more competition for her father’s attention next year: Another baby is on the way.

For those who wanted a change of pace from sun and sand and water, Cape May’s pedestrian mall — and its fudge, T-shirts, and eateries — was a magnet.

Dan Byrnes, 40, an attorney from Staten Island, was enjoying an ice cream on one of the mall’s benches with his wife, Jennifer, 41, while their two sons were resting in a stroller. He summed up the experience simply.

“The first weekend of summer, it’s nice to be at the Shore.”

From the business perspective, there have already been some promising signs, even in troubled Atlantic City.

Last week, Stockton University reported that several indicators of Atlantic City tourism had ticked upward in the first three months of the year, apotential sign of a robust summer tourism season.

The university’s Lloyd D. Levenson Institute of Gaming, Hospitality and Tourism said in its latest quarterly report — based on metrics including hotel occupancy fees and casino parking fees — that the industry had shown growth over the last year.

Non-casino hotels in Atlantic County did particularly well, the institute said, up 11 percent in the first quarter of 2016 over the same time last year and suggesting “spillover demand from casino hotels is helping to boost the entire tourism market in Atlantic County,” Brian Tyrrell, a Stockton hospitality and tourism professor, said in a release accompanying the report.

“This is all good news for tourism in the region and the state of New Jersey as Memorial Day quickly approaches,” he said.

Helping the cause this weekend are the lowest gas prices on a Memorial Day weekend since 2005. In New Jersey, the average cost for a gallon of regular was $2.15, down 39 cents from a year ago, AAA reported Saturday.

AAA was forecasting more than 38 million people nationwide would be traveling for the Memorial Day holiday, 700,000 more than last year, and the most since 2005. Of those, nearly 34 million will be driving, an increase of 2.1 percent over last year, AAA said.

In Ocean City, Beach Caddy L.L.C., a start-up formed last year by several friends from the Philadelphia suburbs to help visitors lug their beach essentials from the car or house to the sand and back, was doing whopping business Saturday.

“We did more jobs today than we did in our best day last year,” said cofounder Danielle Pizza, of Audubon. “The beaches were packed.”

Among the missing at the beaches Saturday was Gov. Christie — only because he got a head start. He walked the boardwalk in Point Pleasant Beach and Seaside Heights on Friday, greeting passersby and stopping for selfies, autographs, and boardwalk games.

Up and down the Shore, residents, officials, and visitors marked the start of summer with a variety of rituals, including the annual “unlocking” of the ocean and beach for the season.

In Atlantic City, Mayor Don Guardian unlocked the ocean Friday with a giant key and called on city dwellers to make the trip to the beach. Ocean City had its own giant key to unlock its portion of the beach.

In Wildwood, 300 elementary school students helped welcome the summer at the town’s unlocking ceremony on the beach near the convention center, followed by the kickoff of the Wild-woods International Kite Festival, which continues Sunday with the East Coast Stunt Kite Championships on the beach, games, workshops, and kite sales.

On Monday, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., fliers will compete without wind, flying in the World Indoor Kite Competition inside the Wildwoods Convention Center.



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