Galveston beaches were full and shops bustling for a busy Labor Day weekend marking the traditional end of summer.
Despite the fact Galveston could be on track for a record-breaking summer, many weekend visitors expressed concern and hesitation because of the surging cases of the delta variant.
The beach was packed with visitors Saturday and Sunday. But by Monday, an overcast sky had driven most tourists home.
It was a good weekend downtown for many shops.
Hey Mikey’s Ice Cream, 2120 Postoffice St., was busy all weekend, manager Page Limberger said.
“It was super crazy,” Limberger said. “There was a line through the door all day long.”
This Labor Day weekend was definitely better than last year for clothing and accessory store Tola Mo’ Bettah Market, 2208 Strand, manager Ryan Conner said.
“People, they definitely came out,” Conner said. “The weather was nice.”
This summer had generally been a good one, he said.
“People were out more,” Conner said. “They were traveling. This year’s been definitely way better than last year. More people are spending money.”
Data indicates this summer could be a record-breaking one.
By Aug. 26, the Galveston Park Board of Trustees had collected $15.8 million in hotel occupancy tax revenue in the 2021 fiscal year, which is almost 70 percent higher than the $9.3 million it predicted it would collect by that time, according to its records.
The park board promotes island tourism, and the hotel tax, a 15 percent tax charged on overnight stays, goes partially back into island costs like beach cleaning and arts funding. Another portion goes to the state.
At the same time, many visitors in Galveston were still wary of COVID.
“We got our shots so we feel good about that,” said Pam Lahoma, visiting from Denison. “But we still wear our masks.”
Lahoma, a regular island visitor, was glad to see all the people out, she said.
“It means money,” Lahoma said.
Heather Camp Lopes visited the island for the weekend with her family, although they were trying to avoid crowds.
“It was crazy busy yesterday,” Camp Lopes said, sitting on the relatively quiet beach Monday.
The family had gone to Moody Gardens on Sunday to try and beat the beach crowds.
“By the time we left, the car park was packed,” Lopes said.
But the family is very concerned about the virus and the effort to avoid crowds has somewhat driven their holiday plans, she said.
“It has impacted our decision about where we eat,” Camp Lopes said.
Not everyone was too worried about the virus, though.
Cheyenne Weber from Chandler was taking a few beach days with her children while her husband went on a deep-sea fishing trip.
“I’m not worried about it,” she said of COVID.
Shawn Pederson from Dallas, after driving to Galveston on Sunday, was just glad to have a chance to lie on the beach. COVID wasn’t on his mind, he said.
“I was scared the first time,” Pederson said. “Can’t scare me again.”
Unlike last summer, this year is showing signs of the typical slow-down after school starts. Last year, virtual schooling, virtual work and pent-up demand to get out of the house pushed the end of the busy season almost into November.
With school in person this fall and cases of the delta variant still at high levels, this year seems to be taking the more typical route.
The weekend was actually less busy at Stuttgarden Tavern, 111 23rd St., than partner and owner John Mortensen expected it to be.
“It was OK,” Mortensen said. “It wasn’t too crazy. Once school started, we slowed down a lot.”
Mortensen didn’t hear much discussion about COVID from his customers this weekend, and not many people wore masks, he said.
“It didn’t seem like it was a topic of conversation,” Mortensen said.