By JOANNE L. PAPAIANNI and DON STINE
The weather did not exactly cooperate with the wishes of beachgoers, parade marchers and business owners for the Memorial Day weekend, but it didn’t completely ruin the festivities either.
The sun was high in the sky for a good part of the weekend, but clouds and rain appeared sporadically and most of Monday to put a definite damper on the holiday.
But many did not change their plans, heading to the shore towns to see the fireworks, dine out, shop, walk the boards when possible and attend ceremonies to honor our war dead.
Asbury Park Mayor John Moor said he attended two ceremonies honoring those who died fighting for America and both were the most well attended he has ever seen.
“I went to two great ceremonies, the fire department and Post 1333 and they were very well attended, biggest crowds I’ve seen in years. I was very proud to be asked and to attend,” he said.
He did note, however, the weather was a hindrance to this year’s beach revenue, but said other areas of the city were busier than usual.
“It’s becoming a year round resort town…it wasn’t a total wash out,” he said.
Kay Harris, owner of Asbury Galleria in the arcade in Convention Hall, said her shop had a great weekend due to the weather.
“When people can’t be on the sand, they’re walking around shopping,” she said.
Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce Director, Sylvia Sylvia-Cioffi said the mood throughout the city was good.
“I was down at the boardwalk Saturday and downtown Sunday, it was a consistently good weekend,” she said.
Sylvia-Cioffi also said it seems like the restaurants and retailers were busy.
“The restaurants were fantastic, and the retailers looked like they were doing well,” she said. “People were excited to be kicking off the summer season. I was on Cookman on Sunday and it was bustling. It was a really nice mood, not that hustle, bustle that bigger cities have, people were saying hi and walking their dogs.”
Sylvia-Cioffi also noted that the new parking app for the city launched and she found it to be quicker and easier than the former app.
She offered hopes this first weekend of the summer season bodes well for all.
“If this is the indicative of what the summer will be like, people are excited about coming to Asbury Park,” she said.
Gary Giberson, city Beach Utilities Manager, said badge sales due to the weather were cut in half, at $65000, compared to last year’s Memorial Day weekend, but said sales overall since May 1 are “better than usual.”
“We are doing well so far,” he said.
Bradley Beach Mayor Gary Engelstad said the holiday weekend, including the parade on Saturday, vendor fair on the boardwalk and Memorial Day ceremony on Monday made for an event that showed the best of what a “small town” has to offer.
“There were tons of people at the parade, it was a good crowd,” he said.
Of course the weather played a part and Monday’s ceremony had to be moved to the Fire House.
“It was very moving, Mike O’Neil, a Navy Aviator spoke. It was a great tribute on the 100th anniversary of World War I,” he said.
Engelstad also said it was great having “a bunch of county officials” in town for the Monmouth County Kick-off to Summer on Friday.
Engelstad said the vendor fair and food courts were organized by Sparks Marketing and were well organized. Proceeds from the fair will benefit the First Aid Squad.
The next event to hit the beachfront in Bradley Beach is the Lobster Fest June 24 and 25.
Ocean Grove Chief Operations Officer John DiGiamberardino said it was “a good weekend” in the historic district.
“The weather did not always cooperate and that tended to put a damper on things- but not entirely,” he said.
With the annual Memorial Day Parade in the historic district and the community turning out for it, it all amounted “to a good day.”
And he said the true meaning of Memorial Day weekend should not be lost.
“We need to remember those sacrifices that allow the freedoms which we enjoy. It is sometimes easy to get so involved in a barbeque that it’s hard to remember what we are really honoring- it is more than just barbeques,” he said.
Mary McGillion, co-owner of Johnny Mac House of Spirits on Main Street and Kim Marie’s Eat & Drink Away on Kingsley Street, both in Asbury Park said she thinks business was a little off on Friday.
“I think people are affected by the weather forecasts,” she said.
But Saturday was good at both businesses.
“And Sunday was, too, for that matter. Monday was a bit quieter but we were not expecting a lot on Monday,” she said.
McGillion and her husband, John, also own a bar business in Manhattan.
“But it always calms down over Memorial Day weekend in the city and people just leave town,” she said.
Linda Occipinti, co-owner of Asbury Park Pedal Boats on Wesley Lake, said her business “still held its own” even though this was the slowest Memorial Day weekend since the boat rides opened seven years ago.
“It was due to the weather- nothing else. Sunday was amazing but Monday was lost and the weather definitely did put a damper on people coming out,” she said.
Ocean Grove Chamber of Commerce President Laura Massero said innkeepers were booked over the weekend but she added those reservations are always made in advance of the weather.
“Saturday and Sunday were relatively normal but tourist traffic on Monday was light, mostly because of the weather. Last year the sun was shining and people will probably not make a daytrip to Ocean Grove if it is destined to rain. But we are still really optimistic about having a good summer,” she said.
The chamber’s annual flea market is this Saturday and Massero said she is hopeful the weather will cooperate.
“I hope the town will be filled with people going to the flea market,” she said.