As families packed up their vehicles and businesses along the boardwalks put up sale signs in a last-ditch effort to unload their wares before the season ended, the signs of summer were still apparent in Ocean City and Atlantic City.
The beaches were lined with umbrellas. Bicyclists and surrey riders weaved in-and-out among pedestrians clad in bathing trunks, sleeveless shirts and flip-flops. The sweet aroma of caramel corn and cotton candy wafted along the ocean breeze.
But, to some vacationers and local merchants, the Labor Day weekend, and the summer of 2019, in general, felt different.
The Rosenblums, who try to come down to Ocean City nearly every weekend from Summit, Union County, to stay at the family’s beach house, said they noticed a change this summer, although they did not share a perspective.
“I think it’s been busier,” said Megan Rosenblum, 37. “Traffic has been pretty heavy this summer.”
Her husband, Zack, also 37, thought otherwise.
“I don’t think I’ve noticed it being busier,” he said. “I think (the traffic has been) lighter, but we don’t count people on the Boardwalk, so I don’t know.”
Zack, Megan, and their two sons, Thatcher, 5, and Milo, 2, had the entire 18-hole track of Goofy Golf to themselves Monday morning.
The man who has tended the entrance to the Boardwalk amusement for nearly 28 years said he thought 2019 was a summer to remember.
“It’s been good. I think it’s been good, but I just work here, so what do I know?” said Tom Ferguson, 88, of Ocean City, with a slight chuckle.
Doug Bergen, Ocean City spokesman, said the sale of pre-season beach tags was up this year and June’s numbers were higher this year than last. Bergen also said parking revenue was higher this summer.
“We won’t have final numbers for a couple more weeks, but it could be a record summer,” Bergen said. “We’ve had great weather, and great weekend weather in particular. That makes all the difference.”
Up the coast, in Atlantic City, numbers seemed to indicate an increase in visitation to the World’s Playground as well. According to data from the South Jersey Transpiration Authority, year-to-date toll-paying traffic at the Pleasantville Plaza on the Atlantic City Expressway was up more than 11% through July, with nearly 470,000 more trips recorded.
Still, some felt the seaside resort was not as busy as prior years.
Muhammad Ali, of Atlantic City, has worked behind the counter at One Stop Souvenirs for four years. Ali said not having as many high-profile entertainment options this summer hurt local business.
“We used to have two or three (beach) concerts and people came and shopped,” he said. “This year, only one (Vans Warped Tour at the end of June), and we weren’t as busy.”
Mel Umbrel, 50, of Bloomfield, Essex County, said she and her family stay at the Atlantic Palace on New York Avenue because they enjoy the location of the hotel, its proximity to other things to do and the city itself. But, this year wasn’t the same.
“In previous years, (Atlantic City) was more crowded than this year,” she said. “There was a lot of people, but, compared to previous years, it was not as crowded.”
To some locals, hearing that the summer crowds were thinning out was music to their ears.
“We still have like a month left of summer,” said Talbot Baum, of Ventnor, who was cruising the Boardwalk on his electric scooter. “It’s the best time of year.”