opinion

Summer’s almost over, Jersey Shore towns exhibit adaptability during challenging times

We’re halfway through August, which means that we’re a few weeks away from Labor Day and the unofficial end of summer at the Jersey Shore. It’s been an interesting season to say the least, riddled with challenges that made people question how the area would survive in a COVID-19 world. Some failed, some thrived, but through it all, we witnessed how some towns and local municipalities prove their adaptability through it all.

Long before summer’s arrival, there was uncertainty in the air regarding the Jersey Shore’s ability to thrive during an ongoing pandemic. However, we’ve seen some ingenious planning and strategies that helped certain towns thrive significantly more than others.

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Rise of the drive-in theaters

Movie theaters remain shuttered, but that didn’t stop people from seeking out the movie experience. The biggest adoption throughout the area has been the embrace of drive-in movie theaters that have popped up. Freehold, for example, was one of the first to frequently offer dates for movies being played over by the racetrack. And so far, it’s proven to be a big draw.

Even more popular is Bell Works’ drive-in theater, which is aided by the sprawling parking lot at the popular metroburb. New films are played almost each and every night during the week. Families that have attended it have come up with unique ideas on retrofitting their vehicles, such as converting a pickup truck into a makeshift living room couch.

Freehold was one of the many towns that adopted a drive-in movie theater.

For those who prefer something local, we’ve even seen services that bring the outdoor movie experience to your backyard — like what Red Bank based small business Hurricane Productions offers. The service that they provide will make your next outdoor movie night memorable.

These outdoor movie theater experience still have their own set of challenges to overcome, but as we’ve seen, it’s something that many towns are looking to explore given the current conditions.

Pedestrian plaza

Without question, one of the biggest transformations we witnessed this summer was in Red Bank. Ideas about creating a plaza open to only pedestrians have been around for a while, but it finally came to fruition this summer with the Broad Street Broadwalk. The Red Bank Rivercenter helped to put the plan of closing down Broad Street during the weekend into action at the end of June, resulting in one of the area’s most popular destinations.

Red Bank’s transformation has been amazing with its pedestrian plaza.

Restaurants situated at the heart of the pedestrian plaza have certainly benefited from the increased foot traffic with outdoor dining. Moreover, it’s the scenery and ambiance of the pedestrian plaza that has helped to attract visitors each week — giving it the feel of an old European town, thanks to the lights strung up throughout the plaza.

While Red Bank certainly had the support and necessary logistics to pull it off, it’s surprising that other nearby towns didn’t come up with plans similar to it. Asbury Park did something similar as well to boost traffic, but it lacks the charm of Red Bank’s interpretation. Still, it’s tough to say that these pedestrian plazas will become permanent fixtures as we draw closer to wintertime.

Outdoor events reimagined

Big draw events such as street fairs, festivals, 5K runs, and fairs may have been on the chopping block this summer due to the pandemic, but it didn’t stop some organizations and other small businesses from generating unique ideas when it comes to outdoor fun.

Shore towns, in particular, didn’t seem to skip a beat this summer when it came to attracting visitors near and far. Sure, restaurants had to rely on takeout and outdoor dining, but people still flocked to many nearby shore towns like Sea Bright, Long Branch, Asbury Park, and Belmar.

Gyms had the biggest roadblocks to reopening, but some fitness studios came up with outdoor events to pass by the time. From yoga at the beach, to outdoor dances classes, they offered members a new way of exercising and continuing to stay fit — all while adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Whales were seen off the Jersey Shore, prompting Seastreak’s new whale watching cruise. It’s another fun, family friendly activity that the whole family can enjoy. It’s an undeniably different kind of activity from the norm, which makes it more of a reason to check out. And how often do you get the chance to see humpback whales first hand here locally at the Jersey Shore? Not often.

Looking to the fall ahead

Summer was a time to experiment. We saw what worked, what didn’t work — so it’s all valuable when it comes to planning for the fall. The weather and temperature will no doubt play a critical role in how small businesses and local townships will adapt, but it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with. Nevertheless, the Jersey Shore’s resilience has proven itself once again.

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