With excessive heat warnings being issued in the region by the National Weather Service - though it's still only spring - and ocean temperatures already flirting with the 70-degree mark, places like Hoy's are seeing an early rush for rafts, beach towels, beach chairs, boogie-boards, water shoes, flip-flops, hats, sunglasses, and sunblock, manager Sarah Harmon said.
"This year, it seems like they want everything earlier than usual ... like starting in February. And this weekend? It's been nonstop crazy thanks to the good weather," Harmon said.
Away from the glitz and glamour of Atlantic City - where Michelle Obama and her two daughters spent at least part of Memorial Day weekend at the much-anticipated Beyoncé concert at the new Revel casino - it's all about the beach and boardwalk in this Cape May County resort.
And the weather was so good on Monday that by midafternoon - when the holiday-weekend crowds usually begin making their mass exodus away from the Shore - people were still heading to the beaches. Ultimately, with so many people using major roadways such as the Garden State Parkway and the Atlantic City Expressway and "back way" arteries like Routes 47 and 49, some traffic tie-ups were reported.
"We hadn't planned on coming down here this weekend. But it was just too nice to stay home on a holiday and do yard work," Debbie Smith of Vineland said as she and her husband instead planted beach chairs in the sand on the 43d Street beach on Monday afternoon.
Surfers like good weather and bad. But the good weather brings out more of them, said Jaime DiMeglio, manager of the Seventh Street Surf Shop.
DiMeglio said it was the best Memorial Day weekend for his business in recent memory. Visitors were buying all kinds of beach gear and getting in line for surfing lessons and surfboard rentals at the boardwalk store, she said.
"Whenever the weather is good, the people follow. But we were really busier than usual for Memorial Day," DiMeglio said. "It's been great."
Beach patrols up and down the coast were kept busy with the crowds that packed the waterfront seeking relief from the heat on the mainland. And with water temperatures more like late June than late May, people were actually swimming and boating in numbers usually reserved for later in the season.
"All of a sudden it's like instant summer here. It's certainly been a chamber of commerce weekend ... picture perfect," said Charlie Bowman, acting chief for Ocean City's Department of Fire and Rescue Services. "So naturally there's been a lot of people on the water this weekend."
Even with the beachfront water temperature topping out at about 65 degrees in Ocean City, with some minor swells this past weekend, Bowman reported no major emergencies. Ocean City started off the season with 10 of its beaches staffed with lifeguards. Several more will be added each week until the end of June, when a total of 43 of the city's beaches will be guarded by members of the local beach patrol.
Diane F. Wieland, director of the Cape May County Tourism Department, said Monday that all of the resorts in the county - including Ocean City, Sea Isle City, Avalon, Stone Harbor, Wildwood, and Cape May - were reporting a "banner" weekend with packed beaches and boardwalks.
And, she said, a renewed emphasis on the "true reason for Memorial Day," with various Shore events to honor the military, may have brought even bigger crowds than usual. Wildwood held its first-ever "Celebration of Heroes" while there were parades and beachfront wreath-laying ceremonies in such places as Avalon and Sea Isle.
"Even though people come here for sun and sand, they still want the chance to participate in events that honor our soldiers," Wieland said. "I think combined with the weather we've had, it's created the perfect formula to kick off what we are anticipating is going to be a really great summer."
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Contact Jacqueline L. Urgo at 609-652-8382 or email@example.com. Read the Jersey Shore blog "Downashore" at www.philly.com/downashore.