SEASIDE HEIGHTS – Floats, bands and marchers will be returning to the borough boulevard for the 30th Ocean County Columbus Day Parade this weekend.
The threat of rain pushed back the parade from its original date of October 10. The Parade Committee’s Facebook posted that “we regret to inform you that the committee and borough officials have decided to postpone the parade October 17th.
Last weekend’s Italian Heritage Festival had a good turnout especially on its first night. Strolling entertainment and bands featuring familiar favorites were heard under the dining tent where visitors went with their plates of rice balls, sausage and pepper sandwiches and tiny cups of expresso.
Many a visitor stopped buy zeppole at $5 for 6 or 13 for $10 and the temptation of a fresh cannoli was equally hard to resist. It was supposed to be a three-day weekend event but it was only Friday and Saturday.
For children there were pony rides and inflatable games and you could find some T-shirts, sweat shirts and hoodies proclaiming Italian pride at more than one vendor table.
The event, which is an Ocean County fall favorite, was canceled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year a small ceremony was held on the borough boardwalk that included some speeches and some entertainment.
Ocean County Columbus Day Parade Chairman Michael Blandina told Jersey Shore Online.com that he was glad that the parade and festival were back this year.
The pandemic still had an impact on what the parade committee could do this year and it was still a challenge to raise the $25,000-$30,000 needed to put the event on. “A lot of people don’t realize just how much is needed to make this happen,” Blandina said.
He noted that due to the pandemic, some of the high school bands that normally take part in the parade could not come due to COVID restrictions.
“We lost some vendors (for the Heritage Festival) but on the bright side we were able to get some new vendors so next year we will be in a very good place with adding the new vendors and bringing back the old vendors,” Blandina added.
A fixture of the parade and Heritage for many years is the bringing of a folkloric band from a region of Italy to share a unique ethnic flavor. That could not happen this year due to the pandemic conditions but Blandina said the parade committee hopes to see that return next year.
The parade chairman added that while the parade committee has “a hard-core membership of 20 people,” during the weekend the event swells to 150 helpers. “We are always looking for more members, volunteers and sponsors,” Blandina said.
Joanie Muzer-Bartalis of Florida said was visiting her friend Camille Thomas of Toms River in 2019, and while enjoying the conclusion of the parade, spotted someone planning to discard two Columbus Day costumes. She was quick to rescue them from being trashed and found them to be in great condition.
Muzer-Bartalis was planning to return last Sunday for this year’s parade, wearing one of them, and was disappointed that the parade got rained out. She is planning to be at this weekend’s parade and enjoy a sausage and peppers sandwich.