OCEAN CITY -- About 1,500 high school and college students took a first step in a Maryland rite of passage yesterday-- a summer job at the beach.
A steady crowd moved through the Convention Center for the Job Fair, an annual matchup of Ocean City employers and seasonal workers sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and the state's Department of Economic and Employment Development (DEED).
"I had two bad jobs last summer, and I still made money," said Andy Manzari, 20, as he stood in line for an interview with $H Hooper's Crab House.
The Bel Air native is a junior at the University of Maryland, majoring in architecture, and has higher hopes for this summer, his second in Ocean City.
"A good job will mean between $4,000 and $5,000 at the end of the summer," he said. He was in the Hooper's line because "some of my friends worked here last summer," and employment at the crab house received good reviews.
Money, of course, is not the only reason to come to Ocean City for three months.
"It sounds like fun," said Michelle Moyer, 20, standing in line for the Ocean View restaurant, hoping for a waitress job. She and her roommate at the College of Misericordia in Dallas, Pa., drove six hours to be at the Job Fair early.
The applicants were not the only ones hoping for good luck: Sixty-eight Ocean City businesses that depend on seasonal help to get through the summer had set up tables at the fair. Some were hiring on the spot; others were taking applications for review and a later decision.
"I'm very pleased -- this has been my best year for filling positions," said Bobbi Lavrich, a manager at the Commander Resorts. "I was able to fill all my desk positions."
The fair is one element in a large, varied seasonal employment market that Alexander FauntLeRoy, executive director of the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, estimated will hire between 10,000 and 12,000 summer employees.
Fewer than 1,000 hires will have been made at the job fair, he said.
Gene Theroux, a manager at the Snow Hill office of DEED, said last year's job fair resulted in 453 hires where the applicants actually showed up and worked at the job they accepted at the fair.
The remainder of the seasonal workers will find jobs on their own closer to the season's opening Memorial Day, Mr. FauntLeRoy said.
Yesterday's job seekers filled out a general application at tables in the lobby. Inside, they made five copies of the applications, then made their ways down three rows of employer tables.
Although nearly every table had a few people in front of it, seafood restaurants seemed most popular -- the Mug & Mallet, the Sea Ranch, Hooper's -- with clothing store M. R. Ducks and the Beach Patrol table also luring long lines.
Applicants faced a no-nonsense interview with employers as soon as hellos had been exchanged. Matthew Clark, an Anne Arundel Community College sophomore, waded through a standard battery of questions from Commander Resorts' Bob Timmons.
Did he have a place to live? Yes. Had he put down a deposit? Yes. Signed a lease? Yes. The only jobs remaining at Commander Resorts were pool guard positions -- was he certified? Yes. Could he produce documentation? Yes. References? Yes.
And then, a not-so-typical question: Would he have a problem working without his earring? Mr. Clark didn't hesitate. Removing the small silver hoop wouldn't bother him.
Mr. Clark, 19, said this would be his first summer job at the beach.
Pool guarding sounded like a pretty good job, he said, although he was also interested in "being a scope guy on the beach" -- taking pictures of customers, then putting them in small telescopes before selling them.
"It's a glamour job," he said wistfully. "But it's seven days and three nights a week."