OCEAN CITY — Memorial Day weekend in this shore town combines the somber and the silly.
On Monday, local veterans and community members are set to gather at 11 a.m. to remember service members who made the ultimate sacrifice.
At noon Friday, it was time for the silly. For the 19th year, Ocean City businesspeople marched purposefully into the water, led by Suzanne Muldowney, known for her costumed representations of multiple characters in area events.
Some, like plunge organizer and annual participant John Walton, wear business suits and ties, often dressed far more formally than seaside business usually requires. Others dress as pirates, mermaids or hermit crabs.
This year, a contingent from the Aquatic and Fitness Center came as jellyfish, with paper tentacles dangling from umbrellas.
The event goes on rain or shine. When it did not take place in 2020 because the beaches were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Walton went in by himself anyway. The event has taken place in heavy rain and in the midst of beach replenishment projects, so the gray mist that covered the beaches near the Music Pier at noon Friday was no big deal.
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Hundreds of spectators lined the rail and the beach to watch the plunge, which followed the official unlocking of the ocean, in which city officials turn an oversized key in the sand.
Things began with Natalie Ragazzo, a Miss New Jersey volunteer, singing “The Star Spangled Banner,” followed by comments from Mayor Jay Gillian. Members of City Council were also gathered on the beach.
“It’s been a long, long, cold winter, but let me tell you, the sun’s going to come out and Ocean City is going to thrive like it normally does,” Gillian said. “Let’s have a nice, safe, calm summer. So enjoy. Happy 2022.”
Also starting this weekend was a daily Boardwalk flag-raising ceremony at the Music Pier, occurring each morning with the national anthem and the playing of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A.”
Saturday morning brings the Memorial Beach Challenge, a two-mile obstacle course that covers much of the beach between Fifth and 15th streets. Proceeds from the event benefit the 31 Heroes Project, an organization that specializes in creating programs, financial support systems and opportunities for service members, veterans and their families.
The race begins at 8 a.m. near the Music Pier. It also includes a Kids Fun Run and Memorial Paddle Out. See memorialbeachchallenge.com for more information.
The National Moment of Remembrance is also set for Monday. Established by Congress, the event asks Americans, wherever they are at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day, to pause in an act of national unity for one minute. Greg Murphy of Buglers Across America will play taps from the Music Pier to commemorate the moment.
PHOTOS from the Ocean City Business Persons Plunge