By MADDY VITALEAfter a year of a pandemic, a long winter and living in a time when virtual events replaced in-person gatherings, Saturday on the Ocean City Boardwalk gave visitors a feeling that the return to normalcy could be near.Families enjoyed the opening weekend at Playland’s Castaway Cove and Gillian’s Wonderland Pier amusement parks, as well as the arcades and shops on a mild, sunny day.There was even a new spin on the Great Egg Hunt, an annual spring tradition. The Boardwalk Merchants Association came up with a way to give children a fun time and an Easter Egg hunt.But instead of thousands of candy and toy-filled eggs strewn on the beach as in prior years, the eggs were available in many of the Boardwalk shops.“It feels nice to be outside. Things are turning around,” said Holly Burt, of Downingtown, Pa., as she watched her grandchildren, Wesley Burt, 5, and 3-year-old Mason, enjoying the miniature car ride at Playland. “We came down for the weekend to do this and the Easter Egg Hunt.”Burt’s husband, Tom, added, “It feels good to smile, even though you can’t see it under my mask.”Mason Burt, 3, and his brother, Wesley, 5, take a spin in some cool cars at Playland’s Castaway Cove.Minutes before the noon opening at Playland, Brian Hartley, the park’s vice president, said the team was anxious to get back to providing thrills, excitement and a family-friendly day to visitors who have made the amusement park a tradition.A Jan. 30 fire tore through the Playland building, destroying the arcade and some of the adjacent storefronts.However, Hartley and Playland owner Scott Simpson went to work and delivered on a promise to open, literally, at the same time that they do each year.“We pulled off a miracle,” Hartley said. “We are off to almost business as usual.”Playland’s Vice President Brian Hartley gets the rides ready for the reopening for the season.Aside from about six rides temporarily not operating, near the charred former iconic pirate ship at the park entrance, all of the other rides were up and running for guests to enjoy — from the swings to the fun house.“The estimated time is two to four weeks to have those rides back in operation,” Hartley noted of the six rides, including the popular Double Shot.Marie and Charles Sedberry, of Upper Township, with their son, David, 3, and 2-year-old daughter, Adeline, go to Playland’s Castaway Cove each week during the summer.For Marie and Charles Sedberry, of Upper Township, the day was all about tradition.Charles grew up going to the Boardwalk and Playland was at the top of the list of favorites for his childhood memories.The Sedberrys wanted their children, David, 3, and 2-year-old daughter, Adeline, to experience the same fond memories.It also was important for another reason, Marie remarked.“We literally are here every week for the kids and after last year with the pandemic, we wanted to start the season off strong,” she said.Charles added, “The kids really wanted to get back here to get on the rides. Today is a great sign that there is some return to normalcy.”Christian Chin and his wife, Jill, with their children, Sydney, 10, and 4-year-old son, Sebastian, get ready for a ride-filled day.Jill Kozakowski-Chin, of Ocean City, and her husband, Christian Chin, brought their children, Sebastian, 4, and Sydney, 10, for a fun-filled day at Playland.They watched as Sebastian and Sydney rode on the swings.“It’s a beautiful day. We are so happy to be out and about,” Jill noted. “We love it here.”Mike and Barbara Miller, of Franklinville, spent the weekend at their vacation home in Ocean City to give their children, Michael, 12, Lucas, 10, and 7-year-old daughter Elaina, a jam-packed list of exciting activities to do.Saturday meant a day at the Boardwalk.Jilly’s Candy Factory employee Holly Kisby helps Lucas Miller, 10, of Franklinville, and 7-year-old sister, Elaina, select some candy-filled Easter eggs.They stopped at Jilly’s Candy Factory to pick up some candies and other treats, which included some select Easter eggs.“I got four eggs,” exclaimed Lucas, who plucked them from a basket held by Jilly’s employee, Holly Kisby. “I like the candy!”Elaina carefully surveyed the selection of multi-colored eggs before choosing three of them.Last year’s egg hunt was cancelled because of the pandemic, but in the years prior, it was a major attraction on the beach for throngs of visitors.“I think it is a good idea,” Barbara Miller said of the new spin on the Easter Egg Hunt. “It is safe and the children can still have fun finding eggs.”The iconic Gillian’s Wonderland Pier carousel is a favorite among visitors to the amusement park.Just like at Playland, Gillian’s Wonderland Pier had a line of visitors purchasing tickets for the rides. Some rode the carousel, hopped in miniature cars and boats or jumped on the other favorite rides.“It’s all about the kids. We love Gillian’s and taking the kids out where they are safe and having fun,” said Reen Germana, of Ventnor.She and her husband, Dan, watched and waved at their children, Rocco, 4, and 2-year-old, Dahlia, as they took some spins in car rides.But the fun was not over after Rocco and Dahlia hopped off their amusements.It was egg hunt time.The siblings chose a few eggs and put them in their baskets. Rocco even got into the Easter spirit by wearing rabbit ears.“The kids love the holidays, Rocco especially,” Reen said. “They couldn’t wait for the Easter Egg Hunt.”Rocco Germana, 4, of Ventnor, gives his sister, 2-year-old, Dahlia, a hug after their fun afternoon at Gillian’s Wonderland Pier. Kids enjoy the flying swings at Playland’s Castaway Cove.