Summer has officially started for me. After spending the past week in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with my friends for some post-graduation festivities and celebrations, I finally returned back home to the island Monday night.
As I drove over the bridge, en route to my house, I noticed a few changes here and there around town since the last time I was home a few months ago—some new décor to old buildings, a few new condos, road construction and repaving and even new businesses sprouting up on different street corners. Enhancements, improvements, transformations, all to whip the Wildwoods into shape for the upcoming summer.
Being later in the evening, most places in town were closed, but some of the old landmarks I know and love and recognize were open. I knew this would change in a week. Everything would be open with the arrival of Memorial Day Weekend—the island’s official kickoff to the summer.
When Memorial Day Weekend hits, the island transforms from its sleepy ghost town state into a thriving island resort, providing full accommodation for every age group. Vacationers flock from all over to sit in backed up traffic on the parkway for hours in hopes of making it to their hotels at a decent time for check in, to be greeted by other vacationers already congregating on their hotel balconies. The three bridges leading into the island are clogged, the streets on the island are jammed, even the sidewalks stretching down the island are filled with walkers, runners and bikers.
People from everywhere, who patiently wait for this particular weekend all year, come for one reason—to partake in Wildwood’s offerings—the beach, the restaurants, the activities, the nightlife. The island way of life. And the visitors aren’t the only ones who wait months in advance for the Wildwood summers. Locals, alike, enjoy the lively season as well.
The arrival of the weekend usually, in turn, brings with it the permanent arrival of warm weather for the rest of the summer. The beach is the spot to be during the weekend days, and although Memorial Day Weekend isn’t the first weekend to catch people soaking in the rays, it is the weekend of the ice cream men walking along with their carts, the paper boys carrying newspapers in their sacks and screaming, as they weave in and out between the crowds of gathered beachgoers, the lifeguards dragging their stands down by the water to patrol those who take to the ocean.
Restaurants return to their full-time schedules, with diners crowding around the outside doors, waiting for a spot inside. Stores reopen for business. The bars are packed, with locals and vacationers alike, all greeting each other for the first time in a while, catching up and reminiscing about previous years, since the Wildwoods is a place where generations upon generations return for the beloved summers every season.
But the best part about Memorial Day Weekend is the barbeques. Although all of these places around the island reopen, every local and visitor knows that the weekend is a time to barbeque, to cook out, to sit in the backyard with a couple of friends and a couple of family members over homemade food, board games, a few drinks and good conversation, in a relaxing and easy-going atmosphere.
And relax, you should, because you won’t get a chance to after Memorial Day Weekend. The crowds, the businesses, the restaurants, the beach will be in full gear for the rest of the summer. Every local also knows that. Summer will officially arrive.