ATLANTIC CITY — Mayor Marty Small Sr. drove a giant key into the wet sand at the water’s edge Friday afternoon, opening the ocean for summer.

“Normally, this is the time where we’re really gearing up for our season, but keeping the expectations manageable,” Small said, speaking into a bullhorn through a mask. “This is not the season as we know it. This is the new norm for the foreseeable future.”

The mayor was joined by the city’s Beach Patrol Chief Steve Downey, Emergency Management Coordinator and fire Chief Scott Evans and Resorts Casino Hotel President and CEO Mark Giannantonio on the Boardwalk in front of Resorts Casino Hotel to continue the tradition of opening the ocean and beaches to kick off the season.

“Our economy will bounce back,” Small said. “And that’s why, under my leadership, we kept the beach and Boardwalk open for our residents to get some mental and physical exercise. While everyone else closed for whatever reason, we stayed open because I had the faith and belief in our hardworking staff.”

After unlocking the ocean, Small got into a city lifeboat with a wreath covered in red, white and blue flowers with a ribbon that said, “We will never forget” and placed it into the surf.

In years past, the casino would also host an event to kick off the summer with activities, entertainment and the pouring of 5,000 colorful souvenir beach balls onto the Boardwalk.

This year, with casinos closed and social distancing rules in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, officials wore masks and the small crowd left room between others.

“You can look at it like a glimmer of hope for all of us,” Giannantonio said. “It’s been a very difficult nine weeks, and there are a lot of things that we have to still overcome.”

He said the casino is going to be ready to keep employees and customers safe when it is permitted to reopen because they’re working with industry officials “to make our casinos the safest in the nation.”

Downey encouraged beachgoers to practice social distancing.

“Atlantic City has always been open, and we’re excited for this summer,” Evans said, adding officials have worked to ensure “that our Boardwalk and beach is prepared to handle the crowds and to do it in a safe and efficient manner.”

Contact: 609-272-7241

Twitter @ACPressMollyB

Staff Writer

My beat is public safety, following police and crime. I started in January 2018 here at the Press covering Egg Harbor and Galloway townships. Before that, I worked at the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pa., covering crime and writing obituaries.

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