Many young job hunters attending the Ocean City job fair Saturday were wearing the uniform of the day: cut-offs, T-shirts and sandals. And that was on a chilly, breezy spring morning.
But occasionally a shirt and tie or a dress could be spotted in a crowd that totaled 1,900 for the day, up slightly from the 1,825 that attended the event last year, according to the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the annual event.
High school seniors and college freshmen made up most of the crowd that packed into the Ocean City Convention Center. And they all had the same goal: to nail down the perfect summer job at the beach.
Soon after the doors opened just before 9 a.m., long lines formed at a few booths such as Jolly Roger Park & Ocean Amusements, Phillips Seafood Restaurant and Hooper's Crabhouse.
Finding a good waitressing job was the goal of Mary Ellen Jones of Joppatowne. Ms. Jones, 19, a freshman at the University of Delaware, said she has been planning this summer in Ocean City all year with six of her friends from home. The young women first made a trip to the resort in January to locate an apartment.
"If I get a waitressing job, I'm figuring on having a couple of thousand dollars at the end of the summer," Ms. Jones said. She based that estimate on the $80-$120 a night she hoped to earn in salary and tips.
But whatever job she found, Ms. Jones was optimistic that she would have more fun working in Ocean City this summer than she did last year working at a fast food restaurant in Joppatowne.
While working at an amusement park or pocketing tip money at one of the popular seafood restaurants was clearly the job of choice, many employers were just accepting applications for hiring decisions later.
And many of those popular employers had filled most of their positions earlier in the season.
It wasn't as busy at the Denny's Restaurant booth, but manager Jeffrey Brookshire had already hired 15 of the first 35 people he interviewed in the first hour of the job fair. Mr. Brookshire said he will need to find about 150 people to staff the new Denny's that opens May 23 at 112th Street.
There was also less activity at the booth for Enchanted Southwest, a jewelry store that sells silver and novelty jewelry. "We're looking for serious people,' said owner Randy Hubbard.
"They should be selling themselves to the employers," Mr. Hubbard said. Then he looked around at the crowds of casually dressed students strolling past his booth and noted, "And we don't see a lot of selling going on."
In contrast to most of the teens who poured into the convention center was Sydney Crippen, 29, of Snow Hill. Mr. Crippen, who works nights as a radio announcer for a gospel music station in Salisbury, was at the job fair with his wife Ann, 23.
Mr. Crippen said he was looking for a day job to supplement his income. "I have three kids, I have to work," Mr. Crippen said.
As midday approached, a young couple from Westminster found each other in the crowd and stopped to compare notes. Troy Meyers, 19, a student at Carroll Community College, left Westminster at 5:30 a.m. that morning with his girlfriend, Jennifer Pearre, 20, to make the drive to Ocean City.
Mr. Meyers said he had job offers from Dolle's Candyland and the Food Lion food store to work as a cashier and a possible job as an assistant to a bartender at a restaurant.
While most of the job applicants were handing out generic job applications supplied by the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Meyers came armed with his own resume that listed previous jobs in food service and skills learned at Carroll County Vocational Technical School.
Ms. Pearre also didn't seem to have any shortage of job offers. She said she has six years of experience working as a cashier and bank teller. And as the two discussed their options, the job at Dolle's Candyland stuck out with an advantage over the others: It was near the beach.
"I love the ocean, it's an obsession," said Mr. Meyers. He said he is choosing between a college major in accounting or oceaneering, a field that does work such as designing a method to install cables under the ocean floor without disturbing the ocean environment.
And when asked if he will use the summer at the shore to further investigate that field of study, Mr. Meyers said, "I plan on enjoying the ocean. I want to study how to use a jet ski and how to surf."
By early afternoon several employers who had conducted non-stop interviews all day decided to retreat to their businesses.
Oona Feddis of Phillip's Seafood Restaurant said she started her first interview of the day before she even had a chance to sit down. Minutes later there was a line that extended down the aisle.
Phillips keeps a summer staff of about 500 people, Ms. Feddis said, but most of that recruiting took place earlier this year on college campuses. Many of their seasonal workers have already started to work weekends.
Ms. Feddis said she planned to select 25 employees from the 150 people interviewed during the job fair.