By MADDY VITALE
Saying goodbye to 2020 probably won’t bring people to tears in the midst of a pandemic.
People strolling the boardwalk and strolling downtown on Thursday all seemed to have the same thing in mind – to spend a quiet New Year’s Eve in the comfort of their own homes with family and friends.
Ocean City’s first night was a family-friendly, alcohol-free event featuring an array of activities and acts, topped off with fireworks.
With the hit event canceled due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions, visitors and residents came up with alternative ways to ring in 2021.
Video of the 2017 First Night Celebration courtesy of Martin Fiedler, Just Right TV Productions.
Dressed in a New Year’s Eve outfit, complete with a glittery gold face mask, sequin-embellished reindeer shirt, and even a party hat and holiday leggings, Tana Schimpf, of Little Falls, County Essex, wasn’t going to let COVID spoil its party vibe. She and her husband, Michael, made the most of the vacation.
The Schimpfs, who have a vacation home in Ocean City, went out for lunch, bike rides, shopping downtown and walking their dog on the beach.
“I’ve been coming to Ocean City since I was a kid,” Tana noted. “We love Ocean City.”
Mike added that in years past they had gone to First Night with their two now grown children.
When it comes to COVID, Tana offered some advice for the desperate: “Everyone needs to stay positive and it will get better.”
The couple shared the views of those interviewed by OCNJDaily.com.
Normalcy, you might say, is the number one wish for 2021.
“Our son is a senior at Stockton University,” Mike said. “We would like to see him get a real degree, not a virtual one.”
Ocean City High School students Chloe Howard, 16, Ciera Howard, Julia Keich and Carly Gallagher, all 14, strolled downtown to spend some time together before heading home to be with their families.
The four high school students, all from Upper Town, said they were happy to say goodbye to 2020.
They went to lunch and browsed the shops downtown instead of going skiing together, an annual New Year’s tradition for friends.
“I get a friend over and we’ll watch the ball drop,” Carly said.
The school district remains open, while surrounding schools have closed. The girls said they were grateful.
“I want to go back to school where everyone is together again,” added Julia. “Hopefully in 2021 that will happen.”
While some people walked the boards, visited downtown shops and restaurants, or rode their bikes, others, like Ray and Mary Matricardi of Egg Harbor Township, came out for a day of fun that included Manco & Manco pizza slices.
The couple, who have been married for 45 years and have two children and five grandchildren, have seen the bright side of their lives during the pandemic. “We’re just happy to be healthy and wish everyone the same,” Mary said.
And like so many people who can’t see loved ones right now, the Matricardis have embraced video chats with loved ones. And that’s exactly what they will do on New Year’s Eve.
“Our daughter lives in Washington and we canceled three flights due to COVID,” Mary said. “We make it a point to talk to him every day.”