07/03/08 — Travelers heading to beach for July Fourth

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Travelers heading to beach for July Fourth

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 3, 2008 1:47 PM

Fewer people are traveling this July Fourth because of the economy, but the state's beaches will still be busy.

Normally, Goldsboro travel agent Eileen Conekin of All About Travel takes trips with her children when they are out of school, but not this July 4 weekend, she said.

Still, the week of the Fourth is a big vacation week, and she has several families on cruises and at Disney World. One family called her Tuesday to say they are having a wonderful time in Venice.

"They planned their trips way before now, back in the January, February and March time period," she said.

And when those trips were planned, the gas prices had not skyrocketed to $3.99 for a gallon of unleaded.

That average gas price across the state is up 23 cents from Memorial Day, said David Parsons, CEO of AAA Carolinas based in Charlotte. He said he expects 1 million North Carolina drivers to hit the roads through Sunday. That's a 1.3 percent decrease in the number of July 4 drivers from 2007.

"The high price of fuel may be the reason for fewer travelers," he said.

Still, Mary Duane Hale at Atlantic Beach Realty and Elizabeth Barrow at the Crystal Coast Visitor's Center were swamped this week with calls from people wanting accommodations at the beach.

"It's shaping up to be a very busy Fourth weekend," Mrs. Hale said. "I'm sure we'll book out."

Holiday travelers were already arriving Wednesday and getting in place to see the Morehead City fireworks display and finding ships that offer fireworks display cruises.

And that's a good sign, Mrs. Barrow said.

"We've got five different cruise ships of all sizes offering fireworks cruises. Some are offering food," she said.

But if the gas is running low, don't despair. Wayne County has its own attractions for the Fourth weekend.

Although Waynesborough Village is closed for the weekend, the Cliffs of the Neuse State Park and Busco Beach are preparing for huge crowds.

Cliffs Superintendent Lyn-don Sutton has let all of his rangers take weekdays off so they can be on hand for the holiday, and he is praying for sunshine.

"If it's nice, we'll be busy based on the number of phone calls we've been receiving," he said.

You can't bring your dog to the Cliffs, but dogs are allowed at Busco Beach as long as they are under control.

Nanette Lang, who helps run Busco Beach, is expecting about 1,500 visitors this weekend, although things are not like they were last year, when the 4th fell in the middle of the week with two weekends of activity -- one before and another after the holiday.

"Gas prices affect everybody," she said.

Still, the employees at Busco are preparing for a very busy weekend.

Lyle Gooding, who runs the arcade, is putting finishing touches at the gate house.

"I expect to have it finished in time," he said.

Helen Scott, who also works at the arcade, said the fireworks planned for the minute darkness falls on Friday and Saturday should draw a lot of people.

The arcade is a popular spot for the children after trail riding and before bedtime and for the adults after that.