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Westerly - On day three of the third annual SpringFest at Misquamicut State Beach Sunday, there were few signs left of the devastation from Superstorm Sandy.
After seven long months of laborious cleanup, the beach held its grand reopening, hosted by the Misquamicut Business Association and attended by state and town officials, on the first evening of SpringFest on Friday. Two days later, on a breezy but warm and sunny day, the cars of festival-goers jammed the parking lot for the event's multiple attractions - a petting zoo, carnival rides, a car show, live music, carnival rides and deep-fried Oreos.
Vinnie Flood of Westerly was there on Sunday, back at the festival for the second time. Friday's opening was first time he'd seen Misquamicut since Sandy hit last October, and he still vividly recalls the wreckage - dunes destroyed, sand strewn across Atlantic Avenue, homes in pieces.
"It was pretty depressing," he said.
But walking around with his son, Joe, 8, and daughter Ciara, 11, Flood said the scene looked just as he'd remembered it before the storm hit.
"It looks like business as usual," he said.
While her 10-year-old and 13-year-old waited in line for the bumper cars, Alison Kutcher of Narragansett said she could see some of the changes Sandy and the ensuing cleanup wrought - the playground that was knocked down, the dunes naked without their usual fringe of seagrass.
Some families made the barefoot trek over what was left of the sand dunes down to the chilly water, swinging plastic buckets and shovels, ready for summer.
In a purple Misquamicut T-shirt, hands on the stroller of her 6-month-old son as she and her husband admired the Ferris wheel, Amanda Labrecque of Pawcatuck said she came down the day after Sandy to look at the scene.
"It was a mess," she said - piles of sand everywhere.
Labrecque said it didn't seem like they'd get it cleared in time for the summer, much less the early May opening.
"I'm surprised how clean it looks," she said.
And Amy Martira of Westerly, there on Sunday with her English bulldog Aleister to run her photography booth for the third year, said she remembers going up in a plane with her boyfriend, a co-owner of the Windjammer, to survey the damage last fall, when security measures still kept people from the beach. Looters stole some surfboards from the nightclub, she said, which just held its first event of the season last weekend. The full opening of the Windjammer is scheduled for Memorial Day weekend.
"The beach was in the road," she says.
An annual hotspot with weekly events throughout the summer, Misquamicut is planning a full schedule of events beginning next weekend.
On Friday morning, the Hands Along the Sands event will be held with an expected 3,000 people holding hands along the beach from the Pleasant View Inn to the Westerly Town Beach, to show unity after months of recovery efforts. On Saturday and Sunday, hundreds of competitors are expected to compete in the Bold r Dash, a 5-kilometer military style obstacle course race.
"It's been a long winter," Martira said, "and everybody's coming back. So it's good."