WASHINGTON – It’s over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s beach house we go this Thanksgiving.
More than 100,000 people spent last Thanksgiving weekend in Ocean City, said Donna Abbott, a spokeswoman for the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, and this year is not expected to be any different.
“It has been building over the years,” said Abbott. “And it has become one of the bigger November and December weekends.”
Hotel rooms are filling up and beach stores and seafood restaurants are stocking up on turkey dinners for the holiday, which trails only New Year’s Eve in winter weekend business for the resort town.
“Thanksgiving at the beach has always been a tradition,” said Jeff McLaughlin, the general manager of Phillips By The Sea, a restaurant in Ocean City.
“Although New Year’s is our biggest winter holiday of the year, Thanksgiving weekend is one of the bigger winter weekends,” said McLaughlin.
He said that of 86 rooms that stay open for the winter at the Phillips Beach Plaza Hotel, only eight are still available for this weekend.
Because visitors to the area are only at the beach for a few days, said McLaughlin, “they are not going to go to the store and buy a whole bunch of food.”
“We will have between 300 and 400 people coming in to eat on Thanksgiving Day,” he said, compared to only 25 or 30 on any other winter weekday.
And although Phillips offers a traditional Thanksgiving meal, McLaughlin said, about 50 percent of those who eat at the seafood restaurant will still opt for the regular seafood menu.
But one employee at Minit Market on the Coastal Highway in Ocean City said that visitors to the area are eating the traditional Thanksgiving meal in their condominiums and homes.
“We have to special order turkeys because they are in such high demand,” said Robin Zebron, a cashier at the Minit Market. “We sell more than 200 turkeys for the weekend.”
Zebron said that Thanksgiving trails only the Christmas holiday in terms fo business in the winter.
Abbott said one reason people flock to the shore for the holiday weekend is because of the low rates offered by hotels there.
But Maryland State Police spokesman Pete Piringer thinks that many of the people going to spend the weekend at the beach, own houses or condominiums there.
“It is not like a summer weekend, but a lot of people have homes down there and spend the weekend at the beach,” said Piringer. He said police expect heavy traffic on Route 50 Sunday, as people return from the beach.
Abbott said that although it may not be the same as a summer weekend, it is still a very popular time for people to flee for the shore, especially because of the mild weather the region has been experiencing lately.
“You may not see a lot of sunbathers or swimmers but there will be a lot of people on the beach,” she said.