ASBURY PARK, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – New Jersey is marking a milestone as it heads into the Memorial Day Weekend.

Fully vaccinated people can leave their masks at home.

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As CBS2’s Meg Baker reports, it’s the unofficial start to summer. It doesn’t feel like it, but the summer spirit is alive.

Baker spoke to many out and about, shopping at the stores and grabbing drinks on the boardwalk without masks indoors, which is now allowed.

“We are here in Asbury for the summer holiday! And no mask day!” a woman named Michele said.

Watch Meg Baker’s report — 

Many locals and visitors bundled to enjoy the view of the beach on the gloomy start to the holiday.

“It is a beach weekend. Just taking to the boards instead of the sand,” said Asbury resident Phil Confalone.

“The weather is not great… little bit sad about it,” said Patrick Beatty.

Any other year, it would be a beach bummer, but at least the shops are open again. That was the silver lining under a gray sky for a group of high school seniors from Kenilworth.

“We’re just gonna make the best out of it, you know?” Angelina Vicente said.

“Probably go to the arcade or do something, ’cause I don’t wanna be in the motel. I wanna have fun,” Janistie Vega said. “Last year, it was so lonely.”

CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC

“Are you guys happy to be out in this?” CBS2’s Jessica Layton asked visitor Ralph Iadarola, who was out on the boardwalk in the rain.

“You know what, we’re just happy to be out at all,” he said.

And this year, you can see the smiling faces.

“It really is awesome. It’s just a whole different world without your mask on,” said Joe DeFillippes, of East Hanover. “We’re in, like, the final stages of getting back to normal.”

“It’s been a long time. We’ve been locked up, and it’s just, it’s been tough on a lot of people, and I think it’s nice to see businesses open again, making money,” Iadarola said.

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Bars, restaurants, retail stores and more can now operate at full capacity. You do not need to social distance and if vaccinated, a mask is not required indoors.

Rain or shine, Kohr’s was excited to welcome back customers.

“This year, coming back, it means a lot because I think that Seaside will be back, and that’s big,” manager AJ Melillo said.

But still, some are being cautious.

“I feel like I interact with so many people. For me, while working, prefer to keep it on but I understand if vaccinated, safe to not wear it,” said Avery Mandeville.

Last Memorial Day weekend, the boardwalk was closed and popular shore towns like Sea Bright were bare. The test positivity rate in New Jersey was around 14%.

Now, it’s about 2%.

Then, destination vaccination was a pipe dream. Now, half of all American adults have at least one dose.

Be mindful, though, that a lot of people still aren’t vaccinated.

COVID VACCINE

Gov. Phil Murphy announced the “Shots at the Shore” initiative, free to anyone Saturday and Sunday.

“We will have stations set up at Sandy Hook, at the Pier Village gazebo in Long Branch, and right here at the Grand Arcade on the boardwalk in Asbury Park,” Murphy said.

If you are hoping to find a summer rental, supply is scarce. Justin Smith with the Wood Agency in Manasquan says people are foregoing European and out of state travel and staying local.

“For the full season, Memorial Day to Labor Day, it would not be possible,” he said. “But if you wanted a week early summer, late summer. But prime summer, pretty much all booked.”

If you need a summer job, the Jersey Shore is hiring. John Copeland with the Town Grill in Manasquan is thankful for the influx of college kids to help.

“We were probably one or two days away from having to cut our hours because we didn’t have enough staff,” Copeland said.

Many Baker spoke with are not letting a little rain stop their fun. They are taking the opportunity to gather with family and friends, and honor those that served our country.

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Meg Baker and Jessica Layton contributed to this report. 

CBSNewYork Team