VIRGINIA BEACH — In the days leading up to Labor Day weekend, businesses on the Virginia Beach Oceanfront are bracing for large crowds.
Not only is it the last big party of the summer, but for 20 years the weekend has drawn thousands of visitors to the resort town for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon and the American Music Festival.
In recent years however, the number of participants in the race has started to decline. Last year, Rock ‘n’ Roll Running Series organizers announced it would be the last in Virginia Beach. The city also scrapped the American Music Festival in 2021, opting instead for 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 making the last-minute decision to enjoy a weekend at the beach before summer ends.
John Zirkle, president of the Virginia Beach Hotel Association, said group members are likely seeing low booking numbers because they lack early reservations from half-marathon staff members. Zirkle is confident the pace will pick up as the week progresses as the weather forecast looks good.
Joe DaBiero, general manager of the 211-room Ramada Plaza by Wyndham on 28th Street, is a bit concerned that the hotel is only seeing about half the number of weekend bookings it usually does .
“Normally Labor Day is pretty strong,” DaBiero said Monday. “This year seems awfully sweet.”
Crush of the weekend
Find out the latest entertainment and arts news, then plan your weekend by watching what’s happening around Hampton Roads.
Although the half-marathon helped bring business to restaurants and stores during its heyday, crowds have dwindled 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 racing 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 played on the 17th, 24th and 31st Street stages. Groups include Smash Mouth, Steel Pulse and Ben Folds.
Each show costs between $30,000 and $40,000 to produce, said Mike Hilton, creative director of Beachevents, the city’s entertainment company.
Members of the city’s Resorts Advisory Board are considering adding a new event on Labor Day weekend, said Zirkle, who serves on one of the group’s committees.
“We are working with the city on what we will do in the future, if we want concerts or a sporting event or a combination of both,” Zirkle said.
Stacy Parker, 757-222-5125, [email protected]