It's Wednesday evening, and the deck at B.J.'s on the Water is packed with beer-drinking, music-loving vacationers, bouncing to the boogie-woogie beat of Daryl Davis.
That a body here can move in any direction to dance is amazing. People are everywhere, standing back to back from a makeshift stage to the rails running the perimeter of the deck, which, by the way, affords a sweeping view of bay and wetlands.
Partygoers, though, appear oblivious to the crowd -- growing thicker by the hour -- or to the view. Eyes are glued to the Washington musician, who is singing a risque ditty about a dog and his bone.
Welcome to the oldest deck party in Ocean City -- a carefree, popular event that happens every Wednesday at B.J.'s, 75th Street and the bay. The party begins at 3:30 p.m. and ends well after sunset.
"We get a full house," says manager Roger Cebula. "You see every kind of person from 21-year-olds to families."
Deck parties originated here 14 years ago. B.J.'s owner Billy Carder initiated the reduced-drink, free-entertainment event to pick up business on otherwise slow Wednesdays.
"It really started something," Mr. Cebula says. "It's been off and running ever since. We've had them every week. We've counted something like 700 deck parties."
B.J.'s may have the longest-running deck party, but the eatery and bar is not home to the only deck party in this resort town. Others have joined the bandwagon.
The "deck party" week kicks off Monday at Fager's Island, 60th Street and the bay; Tuesday the fun moves to Seacrets, 49th Street and the bay; Wednesday, B.J.'s is the host; Thursday, it's back to Seacrets; and on Friday, the Greene Turtle, 11601 Coastal Highway, breaks tradition with a "deckless deck" party.
It's a routine Leslie Lloyd, a 21-year-old Baltimore resident, has enjoyed more than once this summer.
"They're not always the same," says Ms. Lloyd, who works as a waitress at Jordan's Rooftop restaurant. "Sometimes the music changes, sometimes the crowds are different."
"You can have a good time for under $10," Ms. Lloyd says, laughing.
She keeps coming back to B.J.'s.
"I haven't missed a deck party here at B.J.'s yet," she says, sipping a beer from a plastic blue cup. "And I don't plan to. This is my favorite."
She likes the live music, which changes weekly, and the atmosphere at B.J.'s, where the party also spills into the enclosed bayside bar.
At a recent deck party, the University of Maryland English major and her friends have been lucky enough to secure a table inside. They don't miss a beat outside. The deck action is shown on several indoor screens.
"This place is where the most fun is," Ms. Lloyd says. "The music is always good. And the people who work here are really fun. I haven't gotten to know people at other places like I have here."
Vera Vickers, 25, of Ocean Pines also shows up each week at B.J.'s for similar reasons.
"I know a lot more people here," says Ms. Vickers, a manager at South Moon Under, a clothing store. "I think more of the locals come here."
Danny Martel, a restaurant manager from Ocean City, came to B.J.'s because Wednesday is his day off.
"Deck parties are a tradition here," he says. "They've been going on forever."
While many beachgoers make the rounds among deck parties, others choose to party at particular ones.
Ask anyone about deck parties at Fager's Island and they mention the sunsets. Each evening, as the sun begins to set, the restaurant, which also features an outside deck overlooking the bay, plays the 1812 Overture. And, as the last glow of the sun fades from view, the last cannon fires.
Many flock to Seacrets, 49th Street and the bay, because they like the tropical atmosphere -- Seacrets is a Jamaican-style bar -- complete with palm trees and tropical plants, roaming chickens, parrots and lots of water.
Nowhere else can you sip tropical drinks or $1 brews while floating on a raft in a roped-off area off the bay. Waiters wade through the surf to take and deliver orders.
"I love the atmosphere here," says Jenny Lanier, a 23-year-old Baltimore resident. "I especially like the palm trees."
Ms. Lanier, a waitress, says she usually shows up at Seacrets every Thursday.
"This place is the best," she says. "They have the best crowd."
Lori Davis, a flight attendant formerly from Salisbury, also likes Seacrets.
"It's just really a fun place to be," the 24-year-old says. "There's so much going on here in different directions. It's just more interesting."
Indeed. The outdoor Tiki bar is crowded with vacationers sipping frozen rum concoctions like "pain in de .." Others are lounging on rafts in the bay. The newly opened beach is crowded, and an indoor bar and restaurant also are packed with people munching on spicy, Jamaican-style chicken and fries.
"We get all different kinds of people," says manager Steve "Rico" Rossi. "It's really a melting pot of people. You see everyone from 21-year-olds to people in their 50s and 60s."
Deck parties, he says, have become popular for several reasons.
"It's an alternative to nightclubs," he says. "You can go out in the afternoon and have fun, go to a restaurant and eat and then go home to bed and get up for work the next day.
"You can party and not be out all night."