TOMS RIVER – For 80 years the streets of downtown Toms River have been home to zombies, vampires, werewolves and all manner of monsters for what is known as the second largest Halloween parade in the world.
Floats, bands, various organizations from all over the county and the state flock to the event each year for the special event coordinated by the members of Toms River Fire Company No. 1. The fire company was founded in 1896. The parade was cancelled in 2012 due to the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
High School bands from Toms River, Manchester and Central Regional, county agencies and scouting organizations were among those that returned to the tradition which had judges award first and second places in a variety of categories.
As per tradition, spectators lined up south of Highland Parkway and on Washington and Main streets hours before the 7 p.m. startup time to place a chair for viewing.
Carl Weingroff has served as the fire company’s parade chairman for many years and he was busy throughout the day.
Ken Beck, a firefighter and member of the fire company was busy assisting Weingroff for the effort. “The parade involves multiple organizations, fundraisers and Carl should be commended for his work in making this parade so well organized.
“I’m from Toms River, born and raised and I’m very proud of what Toms River and our fire company has done in making this such a fun day for so many years. I used to come and watch this parade but I now enjoy working it and watching its growth,” Beck said.
Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher stated, “This year Toms River Township is celebrating its 80th Halloween Parade. It is a great township tradition that is enjoyed by both participants and spectators. If you are a fan of marching bands and creative costumes and floats, you would not want to miss it.”
The mayor said prior to the parade that he could not “wait to see the surprises the parade has in store this year.”
Carly Voinski, Stafford Township, dressed as a slice of pepperoni pizza as she assisted fellow members of the Wellspring Church’s booth which was distributing free hot chocolate and water on Washington Street. “We have 30 members of the church marching in the parade as well and right now other members are handing out glow sticks. This is our third year to be in this parade but our first since our church moved to our new home on 36 Washington Street. We’re really happy to be a part of downtown Toms River.”
Anthony Barbara had a prime spot along Washington Street sitting beside his mother Carol Barbara. “My daughter Lexi, who is marching in the parade with the Toms River High School band, is a senior and I’ve been traveling here for this for the last four years.”
This year Barbara dressed up as his own character, Dr. Phineas Xavir, a time traveler whose best friend Herbert, happens to be a skeleton who whispers to him as he clings to his back. “I do something different each year.”
“He has always been very creative,” Carol Barbara added.
For the Duffner family, it was their first time to enjoy the parade. Lauren and Michael Duffner were seated on Washington Street beside their children, Austin, 12 months old, Nicole, 7 and Samantha, 9.
“We’ve lived in town for two or three years but we’ve never come out for this until now,” Michael Duffner said.
Nelson Martins was busy placing a warm blanket over his 5-year-old daughter Brianna, who was dressed as a princess. The two would be watching the parade closely awaiting his wife Kaitlyn and his other daughter, Lina, 7, who were marching with two Girl Scout Troops. “It is a tradition. We moved here two years ago and this is our second time at the parade,” Martins said.
The township’s home-grown celebrity, Sondra Fortunato was among the returning participants in the parade. Fortunato is known as the community’s ambassador of fun and among her many titles is Miss Liberty. She wore her tiara and sash as she road on a float covered with banners and signs.
Members of the Scheiderman family were curious if Fortunato would be returning for this year’s parade. Friends and family enjoyed a Halloween party and had a perfect viewing spot for the parade at their Main Street apartment.
In years past the Toms River based Clear Cable 8 (now Comcast) broadcast the event live. Now Toms River School’s Channel 21’s Facebook channel has that honor streaming it live. The parade is now broadcast on television later in the week.