Summer on the Cheap

Cut back on costs, not on ways to enjoy the summer.

Just about a week ago, the summer was shining before me. The longer days presented opportunities for travel and adventure. The dusky nights allowed for swimming after dark and late night talks with my children, who for once weren’t arguing with me about doing homework. The Thursday after Memorial Day, we enjoyed an almost perfect early summer evening in Ocean City, complete with one-ticket rides, dinner at Mack and Manco’s and fireworks over the boardwalk. It was a magical start to what promised to be a special summer.

But this week I—like the rest of the public servants in this state— And I haven’t come here to complain. Well, not much. I mean, I do understand about shared sacrifice. I’d like to point out that I’m just a civil servant, a struggling middle class working mom. I’m not the enemy; I’m not to blame for the financial mess our home state is in. Just to be clear, OK?

OK, then. Now that we have that cleared up, let’s talk about what’s really on my mind. I had big plans for this summer, but my cash flow has slowed considerably, and will continue to do so throughout the season. Between pay cuts and the price of gas, I can pretty much scratch any long distance travel off my “to do” list for the summer. No big barbecues. No trips to Massachusetts to see the in-laws. And certainly Disney is out of the question.

It’s enough to put anyone with a spirit of wanderlust into a funk that could last well into our first snowfall. Which is where I found myself earlier today.

But, as often happens, I found answers revealed to me in the dark. It wasn’t cosmic or mystical. In fact, it was quite simple—I would have to get back to basics, back to the things that made me fall in love with summer to begin with.

Remember counting down to the last bell of school? For me, it was always more than “no more teachers, no more books.” (I actually liked my teachers, and read more in the summer than I did all school year.) I was counting down to watching sunsets, long walks by the water, catching fireflies just to free them. The true joys of summer were the simplest–and didn’t cost a thing.

With those things in mind, I set about rewriting my “to do” list. The summer of big adventure had morphed into summer on the cheap, but with a little imagination (and a couple of bucks), it could still be memorable.

Need ideas that are easy on the bank balance, and close to home? Well, here in WD there are several options. First, pay off the old fines and start using the again. And don’t forget, you can read your magazines free at those big chain bookstores (although, to avoid dirty looks, buy a coffee first).

During a sultry Friday evening, head to RiverWinds for one of the free concert events. (You don’t even have to be a member!) I’m looking forward to the Elton John tribute band, Captain Fantastic, on July 22 and Parrot Beach, who will be playing tribute to Jimmy Buffet on August 5. The line-up offers something for everyone, so check out the schedule and make plans.

If live theater is your thing, check out one of the many offerings at West Deptford Little Theatre.  The group opens its season next weekend with its teen presentation of Oklahoma! on Thursday and Friday. The younger kids will be performing in such classics as Snow White and The Wizard of Oz later in the month. And this season, community theater returns with a staging of Back to the 80s on July 21 and 22.

Of course, the area puts on plenty of free or almost free events to celebrate Independence Day (which is just next Monday—how did that happen?). The big kahuna of celebrations is Wawa Welcomes America, just across the bridge (and a cheap speedline ride) in Philadelphia. The party gets started on Saturday, June 25, with a free Aaron Neville concert and fireworks over Penns Landing. Check the web site for all that’s happening. Highlights include getting your bite of a mile-long Wawa hoagie on June 29.

One of our summer traditions is the Super Scooper All You Can Eat Ice Cream Festival, held annually to benefit the Joshua Kahan Fund. On July 2-4, head to Penns Landing where, for a $7 donation, you can eat your fill and then some of ice cream provided by area vendors, local supermarkets and even Mr. Softee.

Of course, you can catch a parade locally for the fourth as well. My kids favor Pitman, where the dignitaries and local beauty queens actually toss candy to the kiddies on the curb. But many nearby towns have parades and other events.

Once the holiday is over, there’s plenty to celebrate right in my backyard. So I’m going to cut back on my travel plans and raise a glass of homemade lemonade for the simple pleasures of summer on the cheap.

Jaclyn Dixon June 25, 2011 at 05:58 PM
Another great one, Mary. I too have found myself in the same "funk". I'm trying to shake it. Sometimes gettng "back to basics" is what we all need. Jac
Diane Pickles June 25, 2011 at 11:24 PM
Leaves one feeling more optimistic and inspired about a close to home summer. We never do take advantage of all that's right in our "backyard." And my favorite childhood memories aren't all the road trips; any fun was overshadowed by too much time in the car (think "are we there yet?"), long lines, crowds, finding bathrooms, and heat.!
Tim Dixon June 27, 2011 at 02:33 PM
At least once every Summer I would take a bike ride, by myself, to Fort Mercer. It was only a 6 mile round trip but I prepared like it was the Tour de France. I would stop at the Hunter Street Heritages and load up a back pack with Tastykakes, and head off. I'd sit on the giant steps, eat, walk the river-front and read every monument. It's a wonderful park. I miss it. Last time I was in town I made it a point to bring my boys there. Plane rides and theme parks are awesome, but it's the experiences you'll remember deep in your heart. The most memorable do happen in your own backyard.
Mary Lebeau June 27, 2011 at 09:56 PM
Wait, there was a Heritages on Hunter? And do you remember riding bikes on the Alamo before they built Red Bank Run?


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