There are a few questions each year I tend to ask whoever happens to be near me whenever the thoughts dawn on me:
• How is it Labor Day already?
• Why do I keep buying jeans that shrink every year?
• Wait, there are how many days until Christmas?
• How come this latest hair-growth formula isn’t working as advertised?
• Does this look infected?
• How is it Memorial Day already?
Yes, the nervous nail-biting in our office and the restocking of shelves in local stores tells me that Memorial Day weekend is indeed only one week away. It will both serve as the metaphorical starting gates for another busy summer season, and the finish line for another period of peace, tranquility and, oftentimes, long stretches of boredom.
Of course, it’s not quite as dramatic as it used to be around here, is it? It wasn’t all that long ago when it seemed like Bethany Beach “rolled up the sidewalks” on Labor Day, and “turned back on the lights” on Memorial Day. It was largely like someone hit a giant “Pause” button on local commerce, and the few restaurants and shops that stayed open year-round were basically there to keep us alive.
Nowadays, there are numerous options to go get something to eat in January or February, and the only things really restricting us to our homes during the dark days of winter are inclement or cold weather, and a general sense of malaise that seems to strike when our population dwindles down with young people away at school and snowbirds escaping for Florida.
So, sure, we are becoming more of a year-round spot, and I feel like I have seen more and more young families every year. That’s probably a combination of more jobs being available, people being able to telecommute in certain careers and a solid reputation of our area schools, both public and private. Of course, it could also be that I’m getting older and older every year, so the span of what qualifies as “young families” expands to a greater array of...
But I digress.
Where was I? Right, we were discussing how we are becoming more of a year-round community every year. Our schools are starting to burst at the seams with increased student populations, events like the “Fire & Ice” celebration the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce produced on the boardwalk this year are attracting people to the beach in the heart of winter and a housing market that is steady — without explosive prices driving many people out of the market — makes home-buying an attractive opportunity for people of many different financial situations.
All of these factors, and some others that smart people will consider that I am not, are conspiring to make us more vibrant 12 months out of the year. Just reading the Calendar and Continuing Events in our paper each week illustrates how many organizations, clubs and events are taking place all around us, and there is plenty to do at any time.
Summer’s still a different beast, isn’t it? Oh, sure, we all get crazy over the increased traffic on the roads and the longer waits we might have for a table, but... come on. Summer is exciting. Summer is the beach and cookouts and fireworks and fishing off a boat and catching a wave on your last run of the day and beers on a patio after 18 holes of golf with people you enjoy.
Summer is meeting a server from a faraway land at a local restaurant and developing a friendship, and walking up and down the boardwalk with a soft-serve cone. It’s running through sprinklers, and kids trading baseball cards under a shady tree. Summer is about lazy days on the bay, and laughter-filled evenings chasing fireflys. It’s grabbing amazing produce from your favorite stand, and chatting with neighbors as the sound of bugs zapping fills the air.
Summer rocks. And it’s right around the corner.
So, yeah, we’re going to have some more traffic in coming weeks. And there are going to be more people on the beach, and in the restaurants and at the parks. And do you want to know why?
Because memories are made here. Every single summer.
My family came to Bethany Beach for one week every summer. My grandmother had access to a townhouse through her job, and we would all load up the McCann-mobile and make our way to the beach. I remember coming across the bay bridge and feeling goosebumps on my arms, only to go into absolute jubilation when we saw the “totem pole” greeting us at Garfield Parkway.
I’ll never forget shooting baskets downtown and grabbing a make-your-own sundae before sneaking in a game of miniature golf. I still smile at the thought of having my father with me for the entire week, and throwing baseballs with him outside the townhouse and playing in the pool.
To me, Bethany Beach was the greatest place in the world. It was about family and laughter and fun and eating stuff I couldn’t eat at home. It was special.
And it’s going to be special to more people this summer. Let’s help give them memories that will last a lifetime, even if it means our ride to work is six minutes longer.