VENTNOR, New Jersey (WPVI) -- Memorial Day weekend has arrived at the Jersey Shore, and despite a gloomy forecast, crowds are expected.
Friday morning started with sunshine. At sunrise, people were out for a quiet walk on the beach or a bike ride on the boardwalk.
"We're looking so forward to the Memorial Day weekend, and it's such a difference that a year can make," remarked Patty Holland of Margate.
And with the turn of a large key, the ocean was ceremonially unlocked in Ocean City.
The unlocking was promptly followed by the Business Persons Plunge where small business owners and local professionals made their way into the chilly water.
"It really wasn't that bad. It felt worse waiting on the beach," said Jim Boudart with Christopher and Co. Real Estate.
Last summer was quiet in Margate. Now, the visitors appear to be back.
Rachel Kule is from New York but relocated to Margate during the pandemic.
"I think this weekend will be a pretty interesting indicator to see how crowded it is and what people are doing, but I think a lot of people are excited to see each other again," Kule said.
Coinciding with the holiday weekend, New Jersey lifted its indoor mask mandate, though individual businesses can still require masks. Capacity limits are also gone.
Hannah G's owner Kevin McCarthy has tables at his Ventnor restaurant ready to go.
Outside seats are still available, and Karen Cosiol of Margate is sitting in one for the first time since the pandemic started.
"Margate has been fabulous all through the pandemic. This is the first time I'm actually sitting here since March," Cosiol said.
Boardwalk Casino on Sea Isle City's promenade is not requiring face masks but encourages everyone to make their own decision.
"There are people on either side of the issue," said Owner Ryan Kiska. "Just making sure everybody feels comfortable and is having a good time and that's why we're here."
Regardless, businesses are ready for the crowds and some more sun.
"We're confident it's going to be a good season. I just wish it would start a little bit better weather-wise," said Nick Sidoti, owner of Zio Niccolo Pizza, which just opened on the promenade a few days ago.
Folks say even if it's not perfect beach weather, they're still looking forward to eating out and spending time with family.