Spectators braved the raw conditions Saturday afternoon to enjoy a bit of Irish culture as the 28th annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade moved down the Boardwalk from North Carolina to Albany avenues.
Forecasts of rain and drizzle did not materialize during the parade — but with the cloudy skies, temperatures in the upper 30s and winds blowing as fast as 10 miles an hour at times, people, who didn’t feel strongly about it, probably stayed away this year.
Bes McGee, 55, and her friend, Nancy Gosner, 56, both of Egg Harbor Township, were hearty souls, who have attended most of the parades.
Every year, McGee adds something new to her outfit. Saturday morning, McGee made white and green shamrock garlands and placed them in her hair for the first time. This accessory was added to her green beads, green mask hanging around her neck, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” button, shamrock earrings and necklace, green coat and St. Patrick’s Day socks, which were covered by her boots.
“The first parade, everybody was cold. It started at 10 a.m.,” said McGee, who remembers someone throwing frozen green bagels into the crowd. “Other times, it has been warm.”
McGee and Gosner usually watch the parade and stop by the Irish Pub for lunch, but they don’t drink.
“The older we get, the crazier we are. We dress up for the Miss America Parade also,” said McGee, who added their children were at the parade, but didn’t hang around out of embarassment.
For the parade regulars, who show up every year, the Atlantic City St. Patrick’s Parade committee establishes a different theme each year to keep the event fresh. This year, the parade’s theme was a united Ireland, 26 plus six equals one. The Irish run 26 counties in the south. Six counties in the north are run by England. If the six northern counties were united with the 26, it would lead to one united Ireland, said Tim Kelly, the parade chairman.
“This year reflects an opinion among most Irish in America. ... We would love to see a united Ireland,” said Kelly, who added relations between the north and south have improved to a mostly peaceful co-existence. “We might get the idea out that the uniting of Ireland is a thing that is important to us.”
New in the parade were: Skelly’s Hi Point Pub in Absecon, which is celebrating its 25th year; the Rusty Barrel Pub & Grill in Egg Harbor City; Emerald Society of Dance in Egg Harbor Township; and North Beach Gallery in Ventnor, Kelly said. The Brigantine Elks Lodge suffered extensive damage to their W. Shore Drive location due to Hurricane Sandy and missed this year’s parade, Kelly said.
Dennis Stein, 37, of Voorhees, said he has a little Irish heritage in his family’s background. He attended the parade his son, Watson, 41/2, and daughter, Kya, 3.
Stein grew up in Barnegat and graduated in 1994 from Southern Regional High School in Manahawkin. He has been out of the state for the past 14 years. His last Atlantic City St. Patrick’s Day Parade was 15 years ago. This was his first time in southern New Jersey since Hurricane Sandy in October. He wore a green hoodie and a green T-shirt underneath.
“In college, I went to the parade every year and the Irish Pub. It has always been a good time, but I’m not drinking this time,” said Stein as he put gloves on Kya and bundled her up. “We had to get out for the St. Patty’s Day Parade.”
Watson said he was looking forward to the parade, which he called a carnival. Early on before the parade started, it was questionable whether they were going to make it. Watson said Kya’s two favorite things are butterflies and crying — but she was up grabbing candy thrown from the passing floats like everyone else once the parade began, and she stayed until the end.
As much as the parade gives a glimpse into the Irish culture with its step dancers and bagpipe players, it also serves as a good family event. Children and their parents lined both sides of the Boardwalk waiting to catch the beads and other goodies being thrown into the crowd.
With the knowledge they would be seen by thousands of people, some businesses took advantage of the parade to spread the word about themselves.
Ducktown Tavern in Atlantic City advertised a parade afterparty, and the Back Bay Ale House, also in Atlantic City, invited spectators to come visit at some point during the weekend. The parade’s inclusive nature made room for a high school marching band in the first half of the parade and a vehicle carrying women from the Diving Horse Cabaret and Steakhouse gentlemen’s club in Atlantic City in the second half.
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