By MADDY VITALE, OCNJDaily
When Ocean City Mayor Jay Gillian announced on Friday that for safety reasons, he decided that the city would not host major events that showcase all that Ocean City is about, from Miracle on Asbury Avenue to First Night, it would seem that COVID-19 canceled Christmas.
“We are announcing the cancellation of our Miracle on Asbury Avenue celebration on Black Friday, our Christmas Parade and our First Night and First Day celebrations,” Gillian said in his message. “I understand this is a disappointment, but the health and safety of our residents and guests will always be the top priority.”
But despite the disappointing decision, city and Chamber of Commerce officials emphasized Saturday that the resort is magical during the holidays and will continue to highlight the reasons people make Ocean City a tradition around the holidays.
The downtown will still be decorated in holiday splendor replete with garland, wreaths and bright red bows that adorn the streets and lampposts. Merchants will still offer boutique-style shopping along Asbury Avenue and on the Boardwalk with holiday discounts and unique gifts. And the old-fashioned charm of the city that brings joy to visitors and residents alike year after year will continue to do so on this holiday season, officials said.
Because there will still be plenty to offer guests and even some new attractions to entertain and delight.
The mayor did note that the city will continue “with events where capacity can be controlled, and social distancing maintained.”
Winterfest by the Sea is a new event. It is a two-day outdoor shopping event to safely shop local and get into the community spirit. The extravaganza will be held Friday, Nov. 13 from noon to 5 p.m. and Saturday, Nov. 14 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the city field located at 6th and the Boardwalk.
Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce, explained that new events, coupled with longtime favorites, will keep the holiday spirit alive and well in Ocean City.
“With our outdoor Winterfest event and Earlier Than The Bird, Ocean City offers festive and fun options for people to safely shop for the holidays,” she pointed out. “Between the downtown and the Boardwalk, there is something for everyone.”
On Saturday, Nov. 21 from 8 a.m. to noon, people are encouraged to shop Earlier Than The Bird in their pajamas and get discounts on merchandise in the downtown.
She also highlighted the magical decorations put up each year that create a winter scene reminiscent of a holiday movie.
“The town will be decked out for Christmas, so if you need some holiday spirit, Ocean City is as close to being in a Hallmark movie as you can get,” Gillian added.
Michael Allegretto, aide to the mayor, emphasized that the city is excited to welcome people to the resort over the holidays.
“The city certainly wants to be cautious with the increase in the COVID cases,” Allegretto said. “Certainly, we want to encourage people to come to Ocean City and enjoy the shopping events and especially the new Winterfest market, while practicing social distancing and wearing their masks.”
He added that in addition to shopping, the city oversees a recreation program that offers a lot of activities to keep young and old alike in shape.
An after-school sports program is in the works. Typically, the teams play in the Sports & Civic Center, which is currently being remodeled. The location for the after-school activities is still being worked out.
He noted the Aquatic & Fitness Center is hosting fitness classes at the Music Pier to allow for social distancing.