Columbus Day Parade Marks 30th Year

Members of Rancho Folclorico Danca na Eira based in Newark assemble following this year’s Ocean County Columbus Day Parade where they once again brought their traditional Portuguese folklore dance style. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  SEASIDE HEIGHTS – It may have taken an extra week to get the weather right, but the Ocean County Columbus Day Parade marked its 30th year.

  The postponement from October 10 was due to the forecast of a downpour of rain that would have left spectators and marchers more than a little soggy. Holding off a week added to the anticipation for the viewers.

  The Kaufman family was ready for their first parade from an ideal viewing point, on the deck of their boulevard-based condo near borough hall. Jonathan and Jennifer Kaufman put up their Italian flag banner and their daughter, son-in-law and grandson who just returned from pumpkin picking arrived to watch it with them. Shelby, the dog, just enjoyed the attention of many people being around.

Members of the U.S, Naval Sea Cadet Corps Squadron based in Lakehurst march in this year’s Ocean County Columbus Day Parade. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  “This helped us get into the spirit of the day,” Jennifer said as she draped the Italian flag banner over the front deck with the help of her husband. The couple moved in only a few months ago.

  Nearby Paulina and Cory Duryea of Brick were camped out, sitting on the cement monument in front of the Seaside Heights Borough Hall. “We enjoyed the Italian Festival last week and came back to enjoy the parade,” Paulina said. “I used to love the big celebrations they would hold at a church in Long Branch. We’ve come here since we moved to Brick in 1998.”

  Her favorite part of the parade was the bagpipers and dancers. She knew that unlike years past, the Parade Committee could not provide a visiting folkloric group of entertainers from Italy. This year that became impossible due to the COVID-19 pandemic conditions.

  While that part of the tradition could not be included this year, members of the Rancho Folclorico Danca na Eira based in Newark brought their own traditional dance style to the event. They perform traditional Portuguese folklore dance and have been a part of the parade in the past. They celebrated with members of the Ocean County Parade Committee following the parade at the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church parish hall building on Grant Avenue.

  Parade Committee Chairman Mike Blandina was pleased with this year’s parade noting that the weather is out of everyone’s hands. “We got a good turnout, more than I expected we’d get for a week later but we did it.”

Josephine Blandina and her son, Ocean County Columbus Day Parade Committee Chairman Mike Blandina pose after this year’s 30th Annual Ocean County Parade. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  Gerand LaPenna joined many of his fellow Lacey Italian-American Club members at the parish hall as they made the arrangements for the after-parade meal that took place at the parish hall. “We’ve been doing this for several years. A lot of activity happens here in this building during the parade and the Italian Heritage weekend.”

  Cruising by in a classic purple Mustang were members of the Central Jersey Italian American Club of Jackson. Brick Unico, another Italian-American organization, sponsored a band. Other participants included the Union Church of Seaside Park, local Cub Scouts and the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps Squadron based in Lakehurst.

  Forty members of Falun Dafa came out to march in the parade for the first time dressed in bright yellow caps, shirts and jackets. The organization traveled from New York to provide some Chinese culture to the event.

  Falun Dafa, also known as Falun Gong, is a spiritual practice that millions of people have made a part of their lives. It is rooted in Buddhist tradition and consists of self-improvement through the study of teachings and gentle exercises and meditation. Group coordinator Bridget Lee said her organization formed in 1992. “China is a communist country; we have no freedom. We want to share the truthful compassionate quality of our society.”

Jenkinson’s Boardwalk of Point Pleasant Beach provided this float featuring Santa Claus and his sleigh which included reindeer and even a few elves. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

  She added, “we are very happy to be here. Some are playing the traditional Chinese drum and 20 are doing the exercise to share with the American people. During these COVID-19 times we want to see more strong health and hope.”

  Just like Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, this year’s parade concluded with a float featuring Santa Claus and his sleigh featuring reindeer and some smiling elves.

The Kaufman Family of Seaside Heights puts up their Italian flag banner as they prepare for the start of the 30th Annual Ocean County Columbus Day Parade held on October 17. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)