MOLLY SHELLY Writer
After the dreary start to the Memorial Day weekend, throngs of eager visitors descended on area parkways on Monday afternoon to soak up the sun and celebrate the end of COVID-19 restrictions in the state.
As of Friday, masks were no longer required indoors for fully vaccinated people and social distancing rules ended in New Jersey for retail businesses, dining establishments and casinos.
“After all this time, it’s amazing to be here,” said Bob Relovsky, 24, of the Marlton section of Evesham Township in Burlington County.
In Atlantic City, the beach and boardwalk were filled with people dining, drinking, playing arcade games and sunbathing.
Music could be heard up and down on the boards as trams ferried visitors from attraction to attraction.
Ellen Straub, 25, from New York, was happy that the weather had finally turned around.
“I’ve been here all weekend. Yesterday and the day before yesterday the weather was really bad, so I’m glad we were able to take a little break and saw the sun,” said Straub.
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For visitors Paris Archung, 23, from Syracuse, New York, and Tara Campbell, 24, from Long Island, New York, being able to spend the weekend without COVID-19 restrictions was a breath of fresh air.
“I feel so refreshed, being able to go out and be normal and socialize with people. It was amazing,” Archung said. “We went out last night and it was so nice not having a mask on. And it was cool because everyone felt the same way. We were all there to socialize and have fun after the pandemic.
“We went to Hard Rock and heard live music for the first time in over a year and the best part was seeing everyone’s faces,” Campbell said.
McKenna Willard, 24, from New York, said being fully vaccinated has helped her and Straub feel comfortable now that masks are no longer necessary.
“We’re both vaccinated so it helps, at first it was weird not wearing a mask, but we got over it pretty quickly,” Willard said. “And it’s going to be tough going back to New York because it’s still pretty strict there.”
Kylie W., 17, said she’s glad the restrictions have been eased, but hopes people will continue to be cautious about the COVID-19 virus.
“It’s great that things are reopening, but people need to stay safe,” Kylie said. “I think people need to understand that the pandemic isn’t over yet, but it feels good to be able to enjoy the holidays without a mask. It really feels like we’re getting back to normal.
On the Ocean City boardwalk, crowds lined up to eat, played mini-golf and shopped.
And the beach was crowded. Some – mostly teenage girls – even braved cooler temperatures in bikinis.
Helena O’Connell, from Philadelphia, was in town for the weekend with her sister and their two families. O’Connell was strolling the boards with her son and grandchildren on Monday afternoon, after staying indoors for the first two days of the holiday weekend due to rain and wind.
But the family thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend, she said.
“It forced us to stick together, instead of going in different directions,” O’Connell said of the cold and rainy Saturday and Sunday. “There were 16 of us in one room of the house. We have all played games.
At Congo Falls Mini Golf, worker Matthew Flecknoe said Monday was “crazy busy”.
“It’s like the middle of summer,” Flecknoe said. Saturday was dead, he said, but Sunday “people started braving the cold” and things had picked up a bit.
Editor Michelle Brunetti-Post contributed to this report.