It’s pretty tough to miss a couple of 3-foot-tall balloon aliens in flying saucers riding atop a surrey on the Ocean City boardwalk.
For local balloon artist Robert Archer, it’s another Saturday morning.
“It’s a whole bunch of little balloons … about 50 to 100 of them for the main structures,” says Archer, 32, of Northfield. “I like to say, ‘If I can visualize it, I can balloonatize it.’”
Archer, of Archer’s Balloon Creatures, has created everything from balloon caricatures to a 6-foot-tall tyrannosaurus rex — the latter took 14 hours of labor. This year, Archer will bring his alien creatures for the first time to Ocean City’s 29th annual Doo Dah Parade, taking place Saturday, April 12, along 6th and Asbury avenues, ending at the Music Pier on the boardwalk. The parade kicks off at noon.
Peter Funt of “Candid Camera” will serve as this year’s grand marshal.
The festivities actually kick off Friday, April 11, when the Tri State County Basset Hound Rescue League presents the Basset Hound Olympics — an offshoot of the parade’s Basset Waddle — taking place at noon on the grounds of Ocean City Tabernacle on Wesley Avenue.
At 2 p.m. Friday, world-renowned humorist Dr. Joel Goodman will present a program on the benefits of humor at the Ocean City Free Public library, located at 17th Street and Simpson Avenue. At 7 p.m. Friday, Funt will host a program featuring the “Best of Candid Camera” at the Music Pier. Admission is a donation of canned or dried food for the City’s Food Cupboard.
Just a few of this year’s Saturday parade entries include clown brigades, the Pitman Hobo Band, marching soccer players, the World’s Only Wind Chimes Band and, of course, the annual invasion of basset hounds for the Basset Waddle. All will be joining together for what is billed as a celebration of humor and the absurd. An award ceremony will immediately follow the event.
Heather Fischer, of the Boardwalk Brawlers team, part of Shore Points Roller Derby League, will be skating down the boardwalk for her second Doo Dah parade, once again handing out dog biscuits and candy to the crowd with some of her teammates. The team hopes their appearance will drum up support for their first home game on April 26 at the Ventnor Educational Community Complex.
“We had a great time (last year), we had a really good response from the crowd,” Fischer says. “We didn’t really know what to expect, being first-timers. I’ve seen the Doo Dah Parade almost my whole life … we just wanted to see what it was like.”
For Fischer, the Doo Dah Parade is about participating in something that celebrates the unique.
“We like things that are different and fun and that are about letting your hair down, not being constrained to conventional things,” says Fischer, referring to her teammates. “We kind of all gravitate to things a little off the beaten path. When you have impersonators and ‘Candid Camera’ there, what could be better than that? You never really realize what the crown reaction is like when you’re in the crowd. They’re waving and you’re like, ‘Oh, I get to wave back.’ They’re excited to see you.”
Last year also marked a first appearance for a still-unnamed, large orange and turquoise fish from The Flanders Hotel in Ocean City.
The fish, originally just meant to be a fun gimmick to promote the hotel, was such a hit with families that the hotel decided to hold a mascot-naming contest this year.
The name of the fish will be unveiled at this year’s parade, says Deni Samartino, marketing coordinator for The Flanders. The winner behind the new name receives lunch for two at Emily’s, followed by a photo shoot with the fish.
“We had a vest made for him and got it lettered up with Flanders Hotel,” Samartino says. “The kids just loved him last year, posing for photos with him, yelling ‘Fishy Fishy!’ It was really cute. He’s going to be a lot more public here at the hotel.”
Saturday’s parade and award ceremony is immediately followed by “PieAsco,” where parade participants and the public are invited to fill the grandstands in front of the Ocean City Music Pier and smash each other in the face with shaving cream pies.
The event is a tribute to the late comedian Soupy Sales, a Doo Dah Parade staple for many years.
Also following Saturday’s parade, a “Tribute to Abbott and Costello” will take place at the Ocean City Free Public Library, featuring the best Abbott and Costello impersonators and a movie by the legendary comedians. The event is free.
For Samartino, the parade is about more than silly antics — it’s about bringing everyone out to celebrate.
“It brings all the people together, and it’s kind of like the season kickoff, to me,” Samartino says. “It’s like, ‘OK, we made it through the winter, and here we are.’”