WAYNE PARRY,Associated Press
BELMAR, N.J. (AP) — Summer at the Jersey shore got rave reviews from those who hit the beach with any regularity, from the 84-year-old tourist guide on the Belmar boardwalk to the Pennsylvania mother and daughter who trekked to the shore every Tuesday to sit in the surf.
"It was just a great summer," said Christine Sroka of Morrisville, Pa., who brought her 7-year-old daughter, Julia, to the shore in Belmar every Tuesday. "It was beautiful; I don't remember being rained out at all."
Muffie Cinelli, who works on the boardwalk for Belmar's tourism commission, said this was one of the best summers she can recall in her 84 years.
"The weather was just great," she said. "We had no days off; this was the first time in the four years I've been working here that that happened. We just had half of one day when we went home early."
So with all this glorious weather, boardwalk merchants must have really cleaned up, right?
Not quite, many of them said.
"I can't complain, but when you add it all up, I think it was down a little this year," said Brent Hanley, who owns a T-shirt store on the Ocean City boardwalk. In April, Hanley voiced optimism that an unseasonably warm spring would pave the way for a banner summer. But that never materialized.
"There just were not a lot of people down here this year," he said. "We should have crushed last year; the weather was great."
Frank Donato, Ocean City's finance director, said the resort's beach badge sales slumped somewhat during the early summer. But strong business in the last week or so — compared to last year when the beach was closed due to Tropical Storm Irene — should bring badge sales close to the 2011 level, he said.
David Robinson, the state climatologist, said that of the 28 weekend days and two holidays since Memorial Day weekend, five Jersey shore locations (Sea Girt, Seaside Heights, Harvey Cedars, Atlantic City and Cape May) had more than .02 inches of rain between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. no more than four times all summer. That amount of rainfall or less, he said, "barely wets the ground."
Excluding Labor Day weekend, weekend and holiday temperatures at those five locations were in the 80s or lower all summer except for July 1, 4 and 7, when they reached the 90s.
"From a beachgoer standpoint, it was a banner summer," Robinson said. "There were very few cloudy days, and very few times that measurable rain fell. All in all, a really nice beach summer."
He also offered statewide data showing that this summer was the fifth-warmest since 1895 (tied with 1999.)
Jack Laniado, who owns a beach wear shop on the Belmar oceanfront, agreed the weather was mostly good. But he said some weather forecasts in New York and Philadelphia — two of the Jersey shore's biggest feeder markets — scared away potential visitors by casually tossing around a shore merchant's three most feared words: "chance of rain."
"A lot of people hear 'chance of rain' and they decide not to come — and then it ends up being beautiful here," he said. "There's nothing we can do about that; they already made the decision not to come."
Rosemary Panduri works at a clothing store on the Belmar boardwalk. She also said the summer was slower than she expected it to be; only a 40 percent-off sale got the registers ringing the way she expected they would have been all summer. The store helped save its summer season by anticipating customer needs, stocking plastic pails and shovels and footballs — items one would not normally expect to find at a clothing store.
"People walk in and go, 'Oh, I forgot a shovel or a pail," and we say, 'We have that!'" Panduri said.
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.