Easter is the day of resurrection for Christians, a day of renewal for everyone and a day of traditional coming and going, mostly going, on Marco Island.
I refer to the economic fact of life involving Easter. Realtors know it, merchants and bankers and restaurateurs know it. Easter for many is the weekend they leave Marco after a winter of balmy breezes, soft sunny days and stirring sunsets.
People who keep track of demographic and economic trends tell us Easter time for many people marks the end of “season” in Southwest Florida.
When Easter comes this early, March 23, it’s the earliest Easter Sunday any of us will ever see. The last time was 95 years ago and the next time will be in the year 2228.
Experts say Easter can be one day earlier, March 22, but that is rare. The next time will be 277 years from now. The last time was in 1818. It’s all because Easter is dated according to the lunar calendar that Hebrews used to identify Passover. Thus Easter, as the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring Equinox, moves around from year to year on our Roman calendar.
So in years like this our local economy feels the early blowback from snowbirds heading north. We watch the car carriers loading up and heading off the island and we know that they’re taking their leisure, discretionary dollars with them for several months before they return later this year or early next.
Gary Elliott, president of the Marco Island Chamber of Commerce and owner of Interiors-Interiors-Interiors, says most area businesses had a pretty good February, but that January was “kind of slow compared to last year.”
He quoted Mac Chaudry, manager of the Hilton on Marco Beach, as reporting the hotel was 100 percent booked in late February.
Still, local experts fear that a lot of seasonal visitors will be leaving before the end of March, reducing overall season grosses below what would be expected if Easter were sometime in April.
Anecdotal evidence of how Marco’s economy is doing is not particularly definitive, but is interesting. A couple of Islanders who own fine dining restaurants say business is brisk these days, very good most of the time. But it can be spotty as well. Proprietors of more casual places say they’re doing well this season too. Drive by Porky’s or Kretch’s at the lunch or dinner hours and you’ll see the parking lots are jammed.
There are invariables about how people decide to spend money and measuring their impact is tough. Some random observations to that point: The mainstream media offers up a daily drumbeat of the nation’s alleged hell-bent plunge into recession. Perhaps we are or are about to be in an official recession, but being lectured about it 24/7 may help it become a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s especially true in an election year, when candidates and their mouthpieces are flapping their gums non-stop about this or that outrage, hardship or economic disaster ready to strike.
One of our major bread-and-butter industries here, real estate has had a bad time. Experts argue about when we will or have hit bottom and can head up again. There are glimmers of good news, but realistic pricing will have to become the rule before property prosperity returns.
All that is important but Easter and Passover are transcendental whenever they occur. Next year Easter is April 12 and Passover begins April 20. Let’s make the best of both, this year and next and the next ...
Chris is a former news anchor for CNN and for ABC TV stations in Atlanta, Houston and Washington, DC. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.