By MADDY VITALE, OCNJDAILY
Ocean City’s version of Black Friday, called “Our Miracle on Asbury Avenue,” transformed the town into a scene reminiscent of a Christmas movie set, complete with a Santa’s Mailbox on the corner, elves and Santa in Mark Soifer Park and plenty of holiday cheer.
The holiday shopping event spanned Sixth Street to 14th Street. In the evening, carolers sang on City Hall steps, to name just one of the many activities that built up to the evening’s crescendo.
The event was capped off when Santa Claus emerged from the rooftop of City Hall and with the help of an Ocean City Fire Department ladder truck, he lit the Christmas tree.
But before the tree lighting, visitors shopped and enjoyed all of the daytime holiday activities.
Children lined up in Mark Soifer Park to tell Santa what they wished for under the tree.
Angel and John DiPetrillo, of Ocean City, watched as their 7-year-old granddaughter, Riley Kerr, told Santa what she wanted under the tree.
The family, who also have a home in Norristown, Pa., said they enjoy “Our Miracle on Asbury Avenue” every year.
They also attend other Ocean City holiday events.
“It’s great we can enjoy these events with our granddaughter,” John said. “We spend a lot of time down here. We are here all summer, too.”
Angel added, “We have so much fun. We always go to First Night to celebrate the New Year in Ocean City.”
When asked what was Riey’s favorite part of the day, she didn’t hesitate with her answer.
“Santa!” she exclaimed.
Ocean City family, Nancy Caffrey, her daughter, Lauren Foglio, and her 2-year-old son, Zach, stopped in the park to see Santa and visit with an elf.
“It’s a wonderful time of year, especially for children,” Caffrey said.
Across the street in front of City Hall, crooner Keith Hickman serenaded a crowd with renditions of old and new holiday tunes.
Stilt walker Woody Duncan stopped by to chat with his friend. They even sang together before Woody headed down Asbury Avenue, stopping along the way to joke with shoppers.
He even posed in front of Shoppes at the Asbury in the middle of wooden soldiers.
Carolers in Victorian dress sang holiday classics at various street corners along the downtown.
They even stepped inside Mark Soifer Park for a singalong with families who lined up to meet and snapped photos of Santa.
Visitors also did plenty of shopping at stores on the avenue. Free horse-and-carriage rides took visitors on a ride through the downtown.
Maryann Berry, of Ocean City, her daughter, Meghan Ozekici, of Hoboken, N.J., and her 5-year-old daughter, Mila, strolled along Asbury Avenue, then paused to listen to Hickman sing.
“What a great way to kick off the holiday season,” Berry said. “It feels so festive.”
Ozekici said she loves Ocean City over the holidays.
“We love the summer here, but the winter is fun, too. I love the shopping and the events,” Ozekici said.
Visitors also headed to the Welcome Center in City Hall to purchase seasonal beach tags as well as First Night buttons, which are $15 each.
First Night features a lineup of entertainment and activities for families to enjoy in Ocean City in a safe, nonalcoholic environment.
The event is at various venues throughout the city.
Andrea Fulginiti, of Aston, Pa., had some help from Community Services Department representative Chris Putney with her purchases of First Night buttons.
She bought 11 First Night buttons in all, some for her family and some for two other families.
“The kids love it so much,” Fulginiti said of the New Year’s Eve celebration.
She has two grown children and six grandchildren who will be attending the popular event, she said.
And, Fulginiti said, you can’t beat the price.
“It really is a good buy for the buttons,” she said. “You can’t go anywhere else for the money.”
Putney said that Friday there was a steady stream of people coming in Friday to purchase the First Night buttons.
The Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Merchants Association and the City of Ocean City sponsored the event.
For information about the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce visit www.OceanCityVacation.com or visit the Chamber on Facebook.