NEW JERSEY – Some red and white was added to all that blue water in the Barnegat Bay during Labor Day weekend with a massive flotilla of pleasure boats that set sail at the Jersey shore in support of law enforcement, veterans and President Donald J. Trump.
The seafaring spectacle was organized by Chris Molla, 42, of Manahawkin who said during its planning that he expected it to be epic and he was not disappointed.
A fleet of around 2,000 to 2,500 boats launched following a prayer and the National Anthem. The boats were adorned with American flags, Thin Blue Line flags and Trump flags as they traveled up to 10 miles of the Garden State’s water ways from where the Toms River meets the Barnegat Bay.
Molla and his wife provided passage aboard his 10-meter Trojan International boat to several retired and active-duty police officers. “We had a Marine who is now a police officer, an active duty Marine and our theme for the boat this year that my wife wanted to do was Women for Trump so we had eight or nine girls so I got the lucky boat.” The “Women For Trump” flag flew on Molla’s boat during the day.
“This is really, really big,” Stafford Township Councilman George Williams said. He helped Molla with many aspects of the parade.
Following its start boaters cruised off north or south and their respective fleets grew in number along the way by hundreds of boats that joined in from arteries up and down the Jersey shore.
It wasn’t a completely partisan event however, as Molla said Democrat presidential contender and former Vice President Joe Biden supporting boaters were also welcome to take part in the aquatic adventure. He noted the primary promoting point was to honor police officers and those who served and are serving in the American armed forces.
“This isn’t necessarily a Trump parade. It is for law enforcement and our vets and everyone is welcome. You could fly a Biden flag or whatever flag you wanted to, so long as it shows respect for our police officers and our vets. We’ve had people say we love our law enforcement and our vets but I’m not a huge Trump fan, so I said ‘that’s okay, that’s fine, that is not a requirement,’” Molla said.
He added, “I don’t like it when people say you are using them (vets and law enforcement) as a shield to have a Trump parade because that is not its purpose. I have family and friends who are cops and this is the least I can do.”
Molla said the boat parade he organized two months ago on Independence Day “was thrown together on a whim. That event began originally when a Black Lives Matter march was scheduled Stafford and he wanted to have an event to “show support for our law enforcement as the same time as their protest.”
By advice of some township officials, Molla opted to instead hold his event on a different date which led to the boat parade.
“I felt the best way to show our support for our law enforcement and what is going on in the country was to organize a boat parade. I’m an avid boater and many of my friends are. That way we weren’t blocking roads, blocking bridges and we wouldn’t need police security,” he said.
Molla started a Facebook page Jersey Shore LEO Support and Vets For Trump “because Trump supports our police so it goes hand in hand. I am a Trump supporter. It went from 250 to 600 to 1,500 boats. We had almost 3,500 by the day of the parade in a matter of three weeks.”
He said approximately 1,200 boats showed up about 600 went north under the Mantoloking Bridge and 600 went south. “We picked up boats by Waretown and Forked River and all the areas and then we came up to the LBI bridge and there were 100 boats on the other side of the bridge and 100 people up on the bridge with flags.”
“I shed a tear,” Molla said. “My wife said ‘are you crazy?’ and I said ‘yes.’ This is amazing. We have about 400 boats behind us and we have people on the bridge with American flags and Blue Line flags showing their support and love and there was no hate or animosity.”
“The parade turned around at Morrison’s Marina in Beach Haven where the parade ended and there was about 250 people there with their houses decorated and these monster head boats honking and again a tear ran down my cheek,” he said.
Were it officially verified, that 1,3000 figure could have easily beat the Guinness Book of World Records total of 1,180 vessels as the largest-ever boat parade, held in Malaysia in 2014. Molla said, “unfortunately, they never got back to us but I know we beat it.”
Molla noted that other Labor Day weekend boat parades were also taking place including one held in West Palm Beach, Florida. That event ended at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
He wasn’t sure which parade had drawn the highest number. Boat parades have become a means for Trump supporters to express themselves across the country, including in New York City.
“It was awesome,” Eileen Robbins said. She joined her husband, Lakehurst Mayor Harry Robbins. The mayor carried a Trump flag as the couple looked for the best spot to watch the massive parade on the Mathis Bridge in Seaside Heights/Toms River and to cheer on its participants.
“It really was spectacular,” Mayor Robbins said.
Kari Cordero, her boyfriend Ridge Dunlap and her young son Mark Muller III, traveled from Hanover Pennsylvania for the event. They traveled in a camper painted with the theme of the American flag.
She is a campaign worker for Trump who said their RV was one of many that are traveling “all over the United States and campaigning real hard. We were very excited about it.”
“We don’t get out of the area much so being out here supporting the big man and spreading the word was great. We just had the Trump train this past week so it has been real exciting,” Cordero added.
The parade passed three major bridges. Those in Mantoloking, Seaside Heights, and Manahawkin. At the culmination of the parade, like the Independence Day event, boats docked in Beach Haven and “we patronized some of our local businesses. We stayed there, hung out and interacted with likeminded people,” Molla said.
Watching from the Toms River bridge area venue was Karen Majewski of Toms River who said she enjoyed the parade and came out to watch it with a friend. “I am supportive of anything that is good for my country. I don’t think anyone in the opposite party has anyone who represents what America is.”
“They want to make it something else and I don’t think there is a lot of people that are going to want that. We don’t want to be a socialist country. Let’s start getting along and get together as one people trying to make a living every day, go to work and have a family.”
She said of recent criticism of the president including that of comments attributed to him insulting veterans that “instead of them doing what they are supposed to be doing they spend more time trying to get him out of office instead of passing good legislation. They’ll say no because he suggested it.”
Majewski said she enjoyed the idea of a boat parade adding, “how can you not like a boat on the water on a hot summer day?”
Molla thanked the strong support the event received from various Republican organizations in Ocean County. He also thanked the Coast Guard, State Police, as well as various local law enforcement agencies who were present to ensure safety.