By JOSEPH SAPIA
On Tuesday, Joanne Letson was planting canna flowers and palms at the “Bradley Beach sign” on the oceanfront.
Earlier, she had planted marigolds and begonias in the area. Soon, the B-R-A-D-L-E-Y B-E-A-C-H lettering sitting in the flower bed would be getting a coat of white paint.
“I go to the beach frequently,” said Letson, 54, who works for the Bradley Beach public works department. “Probably everyday in season.”
In-season is upon us: Memorial Day Weekend.
“Start of summer, Opening Day,” said Rick Wlazlowski, 19, a Wall resident who was surfing earlier this week at Avon.
“Everything gets going,” said Ben Siroky, 18, another Wall resident who was surfing with Wlazlowski. “Bennies come down.”
Ah, bennies, Guidos, shoobies, WEBs: non-Shore people converging on the Shore. Hey, they are here already.
Nicole Fleck, 19, of Wood-Ridge, Essex County, was sunning in her bikini earlier this week on the oceanfront at Bradley Beach. As a day-tripper, Fleck says “I try to come two times a week” to the beach.
“I find this is one of the nicest beaches I go to,” Fleck said. “Cleanest, the people are so nice.”
And Fleck put another perspective on Memorial Day Weekend.
“Memorial Day, you start paying (to get on the beach),” she said. “Might as well get some free time at the beach before Memorial Day.”
Another perspective, going to the true meaning of Memorial Day, when deceased American military veterans are honored:
“To me, it’s an honor,” said John Zech, 66, speaking of being the grand marshal of Saturday’s Bradley Beach Memorial Day Parade.
Zech is an Army veteran of the Vietnam War era.
“I’m with a group of fine guys from World War II, Korea, Vietnam,” Zech said. “(Memorial Day’s) a recognition of all the people who have served (in the military). My personal thing, it’s for all the vets,” living or deceased.
Zech has been in every Bradley Beach Memorial Day Parade, either as a member of the First Aid Squad or Fire Department, since moving to the borough in 1976.
Letson will also be marching in the parade.
“I love the parade; I’m part of the Fire Department,” she said.
As for the beginning of summer season, Bianca Bertoli, 20, was sitting on a bench under the sun in Asbury Park, outside of Hot Mess hair salon, where she does hair.
“Just waiting for my first client to get here,” Bertoli said. “She’s running a little late. It’s beautiful out. I love to people-watch on Cookman Avenue.”
Is Bertoli a beach girl?
“Yes, I am, every chance I get,” said Bertoli, a Matawan resident who normally visits the Asbury Park and Sea Bright beaches.
As for Memorial Day Weekend, Bertoli likes “a good barbeque,” although she had no specific plans as of Tuesday.
“I’ll find one,” Bertoli said. “One always pops up.”
While Bertoli said “there’s a good vibe on Memorial Day Weekend,” she does not view it as a kickoff of summer for herself.
“I think it’s the only weekend I don’t go to the beach,” Bertoli said. “I can’t handle all the bennies.”
At least some have a practical view of the Shore summer vibrancy.
“The traffic does get worse,” Letson said. “(But) it’s good for our economy.”
Yes, there are crowds, said Frank Mish, 18, of Wall, who was surfing with Siroky and Wlazlowski at Avon. But he added, “If you are a waiter or waitress, more tips.”
Mish benefits from the summer season: He is an Avon lifeguard.
Siroky checks off something else on the calendar when Memorial Day Weekend arrives — “You can finally start wearing white pants,” he said.
A student at William Paterson University, Fleck is free of school over the summer and manages part-time jobs to get in beach time.
“Nothing interferes with my beach time,” Fleck said.
For Fleck, Memorial Day to August, “I find this to be the most wonderful time in New Jersey.”
Or to September’s Labor Day, the unofficial close to the Shore summer season.
Were we not just talking about the every-other-day-of-snow and the everyday-of-very-cold-temperatures?
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