This is the fourth story in a five-day series titled, Revisiting the Jersey Shore After Sandy. In this part we talk with the first wave of visitors to the Shore about what brought them out, about their memories and their expectations.

Tricia McAvoy of Brick holds a sign of Hope while waiting for Governor Chris Christie on the newly finished boardwalk in Lavalette. (Governor's Office/Tim Larsen)

While Memorial Day is the traditional kick off for summer at the Jersey Shore, tourists are making their way down to the boardwalks long before the holiday weekend.

In the weeks leading to Memorial Day, shop owners frantically rebuild, construction crews lay down new boards, and even the Jet Star roller coaster remained in the water (it has since been removed and 85 percent of stores are expected to be open for Memorial Day).

However, it wasn't enough to stop visitors, many of whom took the opportunity of a warm day in May to visit the Seaside Boardwalk. While it was still too cold to swim, people still strolled the boardwalk, for many it's the first trip to the area since the storm.

"It's still a long way to be complete, but they did a lot more than I expected by now," says a Yonkers woman, who was taking pictures of the coaster. She said she felt sad for the people that did lose so much when Sandy hit.

"My heart goes out to the people who suffered damage, I'm glad to see people are coming back."

Numerous people were shocked by how far the boardwalk and town has come since the storm, far exceeding their expectations.

"It's funny because a couple of months ago we couldn't stand here, no we can," noted a woman browsing brightly-colored hooded sweatshirts with phrases like "Jersey Strong" and "Restore the Shore."

Optimism for the Future

"They've [Seaside] come a long way from what they were, but there is still a long ways to go," one gentleman, wearing one such sweater said.

The question however is, will people come to the shore this summer to do more than gawk? Most people agree they will.

"It's the emotions, we've been here since we were kids and we're going to continue to come back," another visitor said.

Another mother coming down with her husband and stroller-bound infant said she grew up coming down every year. She said she was upset to see everything being replaced, but is optimistic for the future.

"As long as it has the same feel about it, and the games, rides, and things to do are here, I'll be happy."

In Seaside, roughly a dozen rides are expected to be open by mid-summer as well. Belmar's will be completely re-open by Memorial Day with full bathroom and vendors available. Long Beach Island, Long Branch, and Asbury Park will already be re-opened for some time by the holiday weekend as they suffered less damage from the storm.

Look for Part V tomorrow as we look at the future of the Shore, including the rebuild and protecting the area from future storms.