The temperatures are dropping and so are the number of vacationers at the beach, especially after Sunfest '92 ends today. Many of Ocean City's 5,000 year-round residents find that now is the time to take a breather from summer's hectic pace, while others prepare for next year's onslaught of visitors.
"This is my favorite time of year," said Mark Fritschle, broker/partner at O'Conor, Piper & Flynn Realtors. "Now's the time of year you can go out to dinner and to the movies or take the kids to the beach and Assateague Island without the crowds."
Certain businesses, such as real estate, will just begin to hit their stride, though, with the fall, winter and spring being their busiest time.
"While I'm getting the kids back to school, coaching indoor/outdoor soccer and waiting for ski season, I'm also very busy at OPF planning for next year -- budgets, brochures, etc.," Mr. Fritschle says. "It's also a busy time for the sales team since many people come down to look for property now without the crowds.
Glenn Pruitt, manager of Somerset Gifts in the Princess Royale Oceanfront Hotel and Conference Center at 91st Street and the ocean, doesn't slow down when summer ends either.
"I'll work even more hours now because the summer help is gone and the business stays open until the second season is over.
"But in November, I'll be spending a week in the Bahamas enjoying the things people get to do here in the summer when I have to work," he says with obvious pleasure.
Billy Jones, co-owner of The Kite Loft between Fifth and Sixth streets on the boardwalk, is one local who uses this time to release the stress and pent-up energy of the summer.
"I think the off-season is a nice time to re-connect with friends in the area and in Baltimore. I can also get back in the gym. Summertime is basically work, eat and sleep, and now is the time to sit down and relax."
Mr. Jones, who also competes in many stunt kite championships across the country, says he unwinds whenever he can by sky diving, before buckling down in January and February to ready the stores for spring.
Others, like Mr. Fritschle, find time to practice their golf swing on less-crowded greens.
"I play golf whenever possible since the weather's so nice," he says.
Rich Marts, director of golf for OC Getaway, spends much of his second season in other towns. "After summer, I hit the road to bring more golfers to the area. I'm in charge of marketing and advertising here and this time of year is spent primarily traveling."
But he also finds time to enjoy the sport. "As a golf professional, I take advantage of the many golf courses here in the area . . . and we have lots of local tournaments at this time," he says.
The outdoor enthusiast has other options, too, from four-wheeling on Assateague Island to bird- and whale-watching. And ocean and bay lovers can still enjoy swimming, jetskiing, boating, fishing and surfing.
Gail Crosby and her husband, Jack, own and run B. B. Bombers surf shop on Eighth Street. "During the summer I have absolutely no time for anything," says Mrs. Crosby. "We took our 15-month-old son, Jaime, to the beach for the first time this year as a family.
"Now I'll have more time to get together with friends and more time for shopping -- for diapers, of course," says Mrs. Crosby, who is expecting a second child in November.
For some, the off-season is a time to read and enjoy the quiet.
Colleen Harding, a hostess at Schooners Restaurant in the Princess Royale Hotel, enjoys the break from the crowds. "I love the off-season here. There's less hustle and bustle and traffic. I think when people go on vacation in the summer it's not really vacation -- they're so stressed out and feel they have to do everything.
"Since I'm a student at Salisbury State University, I'll be concentrating on schoolwork and reading, but I like to just sit on the porch and watch the birds or sit on the beach at night -- it's so beautiful."