“What beach do you go to?” For people living in the Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC area, the choice in summer locale says a lot.
“Rehoboth has an incessant hypnotic chant of being a ‘family’ beach,” Robert Ruby wrote in The Sun in 1982. Bethany, too, is the family beach. Ocean City, replete with arcades and restaurants, is more of a populist free-for-all. As is the case with warring villages, “Each community has partisans intolerant of any other place. ‘I only go to Ocean City to see my dentist,’ says the mayor of Bethany, an otherwise good-natured man. ‘I make sure my appointments are in winter.'”
In an article entitled, “A tale of two beaches: One for Md., one for D.C.,” The Sun’s Rob Kasper claimed that Rehoboth was the “Gerald Ford” of beaches. “If Ocean City’s style is similar to FDR, Rehoboth’s is akin to Gerald and Betty Ford. Friendly, well-dressed, confident people who have done well in life.” People who worked in politics, people who worked for National Geographic — this is who came to Rehoboth, he wrote.
Over time Rehoboth gained popularity with gay beachcombers, and members of the LGBTQ community opened several businesses in the area. But it hasn’t always been an easy relationship. In 1985, the mayor said he thought gay people were ruining the beach’s “family image.” Local business owners retorted that the mayor was perfectly happy to have gay customers spend money in Rehoboth, so long as they remained hidden from society.