In the days leading up to Labor Day weekend, businesses at the Virginia Beach Oceanfront prepare for large crowds.
Not only is it the last big holiday of summer, but for 20 years, the weekend drew thousands of visitors to the resort area for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and the American Music Festival.
In recent years though, the race participant numbers started to dwindle. Last year, organizers of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series announced it would be the final one in Virginia Beach. The city also phased out the American Music Festival in 2021, opting instead to hold a series of free concerts throughout the summer.
Labor Day weekend may have lost some of its luster in Virginia Beach, but Oceanfront businesses are still expecting large numbers of visitors, especially those who make the last-minute decision to enjoy a weekend at the beach before summer slips away.
John Zirkle, president of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association, said the group’s members are likely seeing low reservation numbers because they’re missing early bookings from half-marathon staff members. Zirkle is confident the pace will pick up as the week goes on because the weather forecast looks good.
Joe DaBiero, general manager of the 211-room Ramada Plaza by Wyndham on 28th Street, is a little concerned that the hotel’s only seeing about half of the amount of reservations for the weekend that it usually does.
“Normally, Labor Day is pretty strong,” DaBiero said on Monday. “This year seems awful soft.”
Though the half-marathon helped bring in business to the restaurants and shops during its heyday, the crowds dropped off in recent years, said George Kotarides, president of the Atlantic Avenue Association. Kotarides is curious to see if there will be a noticeable difference this weekend without the running event.
“It remains to be seen what the impact will be,” Kotarides said.
The Oceanfront Concert Series, featuring national headliners throughout the summer, culminates this weekend. Three nights of free live music will be performed on the 17th, 24th and 31st street stages. Bands include Smash Mouth, Steel Pulse and Ben Folds.
Each show costs between $30,000 to $40,000 to produce, said Mike Hilton, creative director of Beachevents, the city’s entertainment contracting company.
Members of the city’s Resort Advisory Commission are looking into adding a new event on Labor Day weekend, said Zirkle, who serves on one of the group’s committees.
“We’re working with the city on what do in the future, if we want concerts or a sporting event or a combination of both,” Zirkle said.
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, firstname.lastname@example.org