Some things about summer never change, and that’s why it’s so cherished. Those long, sunny days; blue skies; and fun-filled weekends are priceless, even if your days of longing for school vacation are long gone.
But life doesn’t stand still, and even such commonplace things as shopping malls and textbooks are shifting and being remade. Some of that change is due to the coronavirus pandemic and some simply due to modern innovations. I’ve co-written two books on lost trends and tastes of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s — “Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops?” and “The Totally Sweet 90s” — and if there’s one thing I’m always attuned to, it’s the quiet fadeout of a once-beloved icon.
Here’s a look at summer traditions that are still with us, for now, but adjusting and changing with the times.
1. Lemonade stands
Who doesn’t love a lemonade stand? But the coronavirus pandemic made some people uncomfortable about buying a beverage handled by strangers. So, in 2020, two Colorado brothers invented a contact-free lemonade stand, utilizing plexiglass and a funnel. The boys say any other lemonade-stand entrepreneur is welcome to use their idea.
2. Drive-in movies
There were more than 4,000 drive-in movie theaters in the U.S. back in the 1950s, but there were only about 300 as of 2017, according to the New York Film Academy. But when many indoor theaters went dark due to the coronavirus pandemic, drive-ins still beckoned. It’s easy to maintain social distancing when every patron is seated in their own car. And even electric-car company Tesla is considering building a drive-in theater of sorts — it’ll show short films that run about 30 minutes, to keep drivers occupied while their cars recharge.
3. Theater movies
Perhaps you’re ready to go back to an indoor theater to enjoy a big summer blockbuster. Plan ahead. The days of just sauntering in and hunting out a good seat are slipping away. Many movie theaters require you to pick your seats before you enter the theater, either choosing them online or at the box office from a map provided by the ticket seller. That helps improve the chances of your group being able to sit together, but it offers less flexibility if a 7-foot-tall basketball player plops down in front of you.
4. Ice-cream trucks
My neighborhood ice-cream truck plays the song “Daisy Bell (Bicycle Built for Two),” but if your local truck prefers “Turkey in the Straw,” you may be hearing a new song soon. Ice-cream maker Good Humor — which invented the ice-cream truck but doesn’t actually own any trucks today — has called on drivers to drop that tune. It has a minstrel-show past, and Good Humor suggests replacing it with a catchy new ditty written by RZA of Wu-Tang Clan.
5. Driving on the beach
Do your summer memories include freewheeling, bouncy car rides on sandy beaches? Those memories may stay just that, as more and more locales are banning or severely limiting beach driving. California, Florida and Washington are among the coastal states rethinking beach driving for environmental and safety reasons. So you may want to check for rule updates before motoring onto your favorite stretch of sand.
6. National parks
Summer is a fabulous time to check out some of America’s breathtaking national parks. But don’t think you can just roll up to the park of your choice spontaneously anymore. Due to overcrowding, many of the most popular parks are requiring reservations or timed-entry tickets. Best to check the National Park Service’s website for your favorite park to see how its rules have changed.
7. Garage and yard sales
During the pandemic, many stuck-at-home people cleaned out basements and attics, finding piles of treasures to donate or sell. And the sales themselves have improved: Many now accept credit cards or online payment systems such as Venmo, though you’ll need to check with each seller. And instead of hunting around telephone poles for hit-or-miss signs, you can plan your garage sale day in advance thanks to online databases. I like Yard Sale Search and Garage Sales Tracker.
When many gyms closed during the pandemic, frustrated athletes had to find other ways to exercise. Golf, which features fairly good social distancing and outdoor settings, benefitted from those closures. And the so-called Game of Kings brought in some royal innovations during the pandemic, including single-rider golf carts and apps that allow players to check in, pay and locate their carts without ever entering the pro shop. Of course, such innovations vary by golf course, and it’s still no easier than before to make par.
9. Wedding invitations
Many weddings were postponed during the pandemic, but in 2022, numerous brides and grooms are feeling more confident about scheduling their big day. But you might not be receiving those thick envelopes packed with maps and reply cards. Even Brides magazine is encouraging couples to use digital invitations nowadays. They’re much cheaper than the printed kind, don’t require stamps, and make it easy to keep track of RSVPs. But brides and grooms may still want to print up a dozen or so invites to mail out — there are always going to be some friends or relatives who don’t do email.
10. Water balloons
Water-balloon fights can be a blast on a hot day (if you dress for the mess). But filling all those water balloons can be a dreary slog. In our house, we love the newish rapid-fill water balloon options, which you can pick up at Target or other general-merchandise stores. You need to prep a bucket for storage, but once that’s ready, you can fill about 35 balloons at one time from your garden hose. They even automatically tie off and detach from the hose, allowing you to fill about 100 balloons in just over a minute. You’re sure to make a splash.