By MADDY VITALE
Whether shopping in the downtown or getting family photos with Santa in a lifeguard boat on the Boardwalk, Ocean City was a flurry of activity Saturday on the last weekend before Christmas, as visitors enjoyed the festive atmosphere.
“Downtown Ocean City is the perfect place to do all your holiday shopping. The downtown decorations play a big part in the festive atmosphere. It feels like a scene from a Christmas movie when you are shopping along Asbury Avenue,” said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce. “Grab a bite to eat, stroll along the avenue, and find the perfect gifts for your friends and family.”
Some people had done all of their gift-buying, others were just getting started, and others just made it a special family day to take in the sights and eat. Free horse and carriage rides also added to the holiday feel as they took passengers down the avenue.
“We love seeing the hustle and bustle of the holiday shoppers and we encourage everyone to shop local and support our Ocean City small businesses,” Gillian said.
And when it came to shopping, Michele Vizthum and her friend and neighbor, Rita Neithardt, both of Egg Harbor Township, toted bags down Asbury Avenue past City Hall, which was decorated with wreaths on the windows, garland around the columns and bright red bows.
“I bought some gifts for my daughter,” Vizthum said. “And I bought coffee.”
Vizthum noted that she had finished her shopping and that Saturday’s purchases were just some added surprises for her daughter.
“I purchased a purse, earrings and a bracelet and coffee,” Neithardt said of her holiday shopping. “We can’t come to Ocean City without buying coffee.”
Kim Dempsey, of Egg Harbor Township, stood out among the shoppers mainly because of her elf hat.
Her daughter, MariJoy, 11, is a performer in the Ocean City Theatre Company’s production of “Elf Jr.,” which was playing at the Music Pier on Saturday.
Dempsey, who grew up in Ocean City, took to Asbury Avenue to make the most of the hour she had before the show.
“I love shopping in Ocean City on the holidays,” she said.
Then she pulled out of a bag a gift for her doctor. “I bought a doctor Santa,” Dempsey added.
And up on the Boardwalk, shoppers purchased holiday gift baskets, decorative buckets of caramel popcorn and other goodies at the shops.
A line of parents and children waited for photos with Santa, who was seated in an Ocean City lifeguard boat outside of the Music Pier.
The DeLuca and Lazzaro families, who are friends from Gibbsboro, N.J., were up next to see Santa.
The children giggled as their parents took the photos. Afterward, they were heading to see some of the Christmas trees on at least six Ocean City beaches.