With rain in the forecast for Memorial Day weekend, Governor Ned Lamont made a request Friday morning.
“Come on man, we’ve been waiting two years for this day,” he said, staring at the sky. “We want the bright sunshine and to make sure everybody knows they’re welcome at all of our parks, all of our beaches.”
He and other state leaders were at Hammonasset Beach State Park to announce a new pilot program offering weekend and holiday bus service to state parks and beaches through Labor Day called ParkConneCT.
“This is such a great collaboration, a partnership with all levels of government to bring transit options, more transit options to our state parks,” said Guilford's State Sen. Christine Cohen (D).
The service will give more people, especially children, the chance to enjoy summer a little more.
“I really want them to have the opportunity to experience what we’re all able to enjoy,” Lamont said. “Because we have a lot of kids in our state that haven’t had an opportunity to discover beaches like this.”
There were a handful of people at Hammonasset Friday in a slow start to the beach season.
“When we got here, it wasn’t bad. The sun was out longer it was a little warmer,” said Lisa Ryan of Ridgefield. “And now it’s kind of turned windy and cold.”
Lisa and Jim Ryan drove an hour and 20 minutes just to enjoy what they could of the day.
“Over a quarantine? Any day,” said Jim Ryan. He added that he’s not a beach person, but Hammonasset is his favorite place.
Over at the campground, a long line formed for check-in. It was a sign of the sold-out crowd for Memorial Day weekend.
“It feels so good to be here this year compared to last year,” said Daryl Blinn of Bristol. “Last year there was nothing, so we had to cancel. So, this year it’s supposed to be rainy, but happy to be here.”
In fact, all of the state’s 14 campgrounds and 1,400 spots were sold out. People came in from all over Connecticut and New England to kick off summer.
“We’ve been coming almost 13 years in a row,” said Colleen Phibbs from Troy, New York.
Her family coordinated this year to lock down eight spots. They set up the family campers, excited to be back together again after taking last year off.
“Saturday night, we’re going to do Italian night. They play cornhole tomorrow, they’ll have cornhole games. We go to the beach usually if it’s nice out,” Phibbs said.
Undeterred by weather threats, people are ready for this weekend and for summer. Phibbs and Blinn both said their planning starts months in advance.
“We do that all the time eleven months ahead of time because they all sell out pretty quick,” Blinn said.
But the camping faithful shouldn’t worry.
“There are over 1,400 campsites across the state and lots and lots of availability for the rest of the summer so we urge people to check out our website or our partner reserveamerica.com that does the reservations with us,” Tyler said.
And a sold-out weekend means a boost for shoreline businesses. Dave Donahue, who owns The Clam Castle, is looking forward to serving up new customers.
“I would imagine people will be going out to restaurants maybe a little bit more this weekend since they’re not going to be going outside," he said.