The Boardwalk is a major draw for tourists. By MADDY VITALENo fireworks. Few live events. And living in a pandemic. All those things did not deter families from enjoying the balmy temperatures, cool water, the reopened Boardwalk amusements and arcades, as well as the eateries and shopping, on the Fourth of the July.Tourists strolled along the Boardwalk, nibbling on French fries, ice cream and pizza, sipping cool drinks and just spending the day – and the holiday weekend – forgetting about COVID-19. Holiday-goers appeared to do their best to social distance on the beaches and the Boardwalk, and wore masks when they couldn’t. The Ferris wheel at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, as well as the Gale Force roller-coaster at Playland’s Castaway Cove, helped create the atmosphere that entices visitors to come back year after year.A message announced over the intercom system on the Boardwalk emphasized the importance of social distancing – staying six feet apart from strangers – and to wear a facemask.“We are thrilled that Ocean City businesses are open and to see our residents and guests safely supporting them,” said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Commerce. “It has been and continues to be a struggle for our small businesses.”She continued, “The Fourth of July is truly a time to celebrate our freedom. We appreciate everyone’s support. The Chamber, the city and business community have worked so hard to be able to welcome back guests and to keep ‘America’s Greatest Family Resort’ the safe, clean community that people have come to expect.”Allison and Brian Hoey, of Philadelphia, couldn’t wait to spend the holiday at the shore with their daughters, Evelyn, 2, and 4-year-old Olivia.Gillian urged residents and tourists to adhere to the safety guidelines.“Please remember to follow the rules: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands. And above all, be kind,” she said. “We wish everyone a very happy, safe and healthy Fourth of July weekend.” Families sat under pop-up tents, cabanas and also lounged on towels, while others took dips in the ocean, tossed footballs near the water’s edge and built sandcastles.Jess and Ray Freed, of Souderton, Pa., found just the right spot on the Eighth Street beach to keep cool as temperatures hovered in the 80s.They sat on beach chairs right at the water’s edge, and when the surf ebbed and flowed, they relished the water splashing on their legs.Jess and Ray Freed, of Souderton, Pa., bask in the sun and relish the cool breezes at the water’s edge.The couple, who have a second home in Ocean City, were joined by some of their seven children and 22 grandchildren. The holiday weekend was not their first trip down, but Jess said they waited until some of Gov. Phil Murphy’s restrictions eased to come down.“We love it here. We wanted to make sure to do everything safely,” Jess, a retired third grade teacher in Pennsylvania, noted. “We social distance.”Ray, an accountant, said he was glad he and his family could once again spend their weekends in their favorite vacation destination.Some people were down for the weekend, others for the day.Allison and Brian Hoey, of Philadelphia, couldn’t wait to drive down to Ocean City to spend the holiday with their daughters, Evelyn, 2, and 4-year-old Olivia.Olivia romped in the water with her parents, while Allison Hoey held her youngest daughter, who giggled.“It feels amazing to be out with people. Everyone is out having a good time,” Allison said.Jenny McGettigan and her boyfriend, Peter Thornberg, of Charlotte, N.C., take a stroll down the landmark Boardwalk.Jenny McGettigan and her boyfriend, Peter Thornberg, both of Charlotte, N.C., were far from home. But McGettigan wanted to show Thornberg a place on the shore that she has loved for her whole life. She is originally from King of Prussia, Pa., and her parents have a home in Ocean City.The two walked hand in hand down the Boardwalk.“It just feels normal. The big draw to Ocean City is the family-friendly feel,” McGettigan pointed out.Thornberg’s first impression of Ocean City was a positive one, he said.“It is a very family-oriented city,” said Thornberg, a first-time visitor to the resort. “When I first saw the Boardwalk, I was overwhelmed. I really like that it is a dry town and there is so much to do. You don’t have to be a kid to like it.”Crowds hit the sands for some beach fun and relaxation, while social distancing.Signs posted along the Boardwalk offer reminders to keep everyone as safe as possible during the coronavirus pandemic.