Weather brings out Memorial Day crowds

Hotels, meters busy as beaches kick off summer season
Traffic is heavy Memorial Day as tourists head north away from the Cape Region. BY RON MACARTHUR
May 30, 2014

Nearly 850,000 visitors poured into Delaware during the Memorial Day weekend, many of them headed to the Cape Region's beaches.

In Rehoboth Beach, the Nation’s Summer Capital kicked off the summer season with beautiful weather and large crowds.

Rehoboth Beach Police Chief Keith Banks said the crowds were well-behaved, with only minor violations including shoplifting and one DUI. Many complaints were noise related, Banks said.  The department fielded 102 complaints over the weekend, with no major problems, he said.

“It all went well,” Banks said. “It was a good kickoff to the summer season.”

Even the newly imposed smoking ban went well, Banks said. The department used the weekend to educate the public but handed out only warnings, Banks said.

City Manager Sharon Lynn said the city collected $100,000 in parking meter revenue over the weekend, an increase of $23,000 from the year before. Thirty-five percent of the total, $35,000, came from the Parkmobile pay-by-phone system, Lynn said. The rest came in quarters. The city also sold $126,000 in parking permits, she said.

Carol Everhart, president and CEO of the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, said accommodations were 95 percent full for Memorial Day weekend. Preregistrations at hotels and rentals are up, she said.

After months of cold weather, Memorial Day weekend weather was ideal. “I think people had a bad case of cabin fever,” Everhart said.

Jo Anne Bacher, rental manager for Jack Lingo Realtor, said rentals in Rehoboth were very strong over the weekend. The number of rentals is not as high for Memorial Day as it is in July and August, but Bacher said Memorial Day rentals were very successful.

Jennifer Zerby, director of marketing for the Boardwalk Plaza Hotel, said the weekend was very encouraging, and the hotel was looking forward to a successful season.

In Dewey, police take strategic approach

Memorial Day weekend is historically the busiest weekend of the year in Dewey Beach; by all accounts, this year visitors enjoyed perfect weather and generally behaved themselves, town officials said.

Dewey Police Sgt. Cliff Dempsey reported no major incidents over the three-day weekend. He praised the work done by additional police officers from other towns, state police and the town's lifeguards.

Dempsey said there were 194 complaints, mostly nuisance complaints, and not one felony arrest. He said Saturday night was the busiest, and Sunday was busy from 7 to 10 p.m.

It all went really well, he said. "It was an eventful weekend, but manageable,” Dempsey said. “Your average Memorial Day weekend.”

He said the strategy entering the weekend was to locate police such that every place in town was being monitored.

“They all had their rear flashers on, and everywhere someone looked there was a police presence,” said Dempsey.

Officers spent much of their time enforcing the town's crosswalks, he said. Drivers are coming through town from north and south, trying to get where they're going as fast as possible, he said, and they don't always follow the crosswalk regulations. It's a safety issue for both the walkers and the drivers, he said.

Dewey Beach Patrol Capt. Todd Fritchman said crowds on the beach were smaller than anticipated because it was a little windy and chilly by the water Friday and Saturday, and the cool water temperatures kept water rescues to a minimum.

With a crowd of young city professionals, lifeguards' hands were full enforcing alcohol consumption rules, but that was to be expected, Fritchman said.

“We really didn't have any real earth shattering events,” he said. Too much alcohol produced a few emergency medical responses, but Fritchman said the weekend was generally a great experience for all.

“It was a really good start to the summer season,” said Fritchman. “There was enough for us to do that the new guys were thrown into the fire, but they were able to hit the ground running.”

'Better than average' in Lewes

Lewes Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Betsy Reamer said the great weather was the biggest factor in what she described as a "better than average" Memorial Day weekend in the First City of the First State.

"It's all about the weather in these holiday weekends," she said. "Traditionally on Memorial Day we haven't had the really nice, gorgeous weather, but we had three solid days this year."

Having talked to a number of business owners in the city, Reamer said, most of the hotels and motels entered the weekend fully booked, and those with vacant rooms quickly filled up.

"I think the beautiful weather contributed to some last-minute change of plans to come down to the beach," she said.

Boosting the weekend visitorship, she said, were the Maritime Festival in Zwaanendael Park and the Delaware By Hands craft show in Canalfront Park.

Retail owners reported slower days on Sunday and Monday, but Reamer said that typically happens when the weather makes for a perfect beach day.

Fourth of July is typically Lewes' busiest summer weekend, Reamer said, and with the holiday falling on a Friday this year, she expects a big weekend.

"We should have a good week before and after," she said.

Rehoboth rolls into summer

Toll plazas collect nearly $2 million

This past holiday weekend more than 845,000 motorists passed through Delaware’s three toll plaza locations on I-95 in Newark, Route 1 at Biddle’s Corner and Route 1 in Dover. State transportation officials estimate that nearly $2 million was collected in tolls during the four-day period at Delaware’s toll plazas.

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