UPPER TOWNSHIP — The crowds gathered early for the Fourth of July Parade along the streets of Strathmere, from the street nearest the beach all the way to the street nearest the bay. In other words, both streets.
“It’s small-town living,” said Michelle Inserra, of Tuckahoe. “Especially on the Fourth of July.”
Strathmere is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year — not of incorporation as a city, as it’s part of Upper Township, but of the name “Strathmere.”
And so the floats and participants had an extra flair, including the one titled “100 Years of Sand in Our Suits,” in which a blond-wigged beauty with five o’clock shadow popped out of a birthday cake.
For many summer residents and visitors, the most important thing was to keep word of the charming community from getting out to the public at large — hence the bumper sticker on the Santori family’s 1982 Mercedes 380SL, “It’s Strathmere, NJ: Shhh, But Don’t Tell.”
“That’s so no people will know about it,” joked Diane Santori, of Havertown, Pa. “The whole point is to keep it secret.”
“It’s still kind of old-school,” added Mike Santori. “Little by little it may be changing, but there’s still remnants of old Strathmere — old houses, beach shanties and shacks. And you can still park here. Every other shore town on the Fourth of July, you can’t park.”
Sharon Pressler, of Elkton, Md., returns to Strathmere every summer to visit her parents, who live across the township in Steelmantown.
“It’s a nice, small-town atmosphere,” Pressler said. “That makes it different. And every year, my dad brings his truck in (for the parade), a blue Chevy with his name on the side.”
Standing next to his beloved truck, Jerry Bailey said participating in the parade “has become an annual thing for us. ... The Presslers come up and stay for a week, and we belong to an antique-auto club.”
In the back were Bailey, Aiden and Lauren Pressler, ages 10, 8 and 5 — “The rest of them got too old,” joked their grandmother Carol Bailey.
Meanwhile, Pat Mahon, of Mount Laurel, Burlington County, has lived in town every summer and gave a succinct reason why he keeps coming back: “No cops, pretty much.”
So the crowds cheered on the antique cars, the numerous Upper Township fire and rescue trucks, the fishing boat propelled by a truck blasting “Party Rock Anthem,” the fishing-themed float with the slogan “Stars and Stripers Forever” and the marchers with T-shirts that said “Life is Great in 08248.”
The dancing “Queen Bees,” the tent-carrying “Occupy Beach” and the kid in the star-spangled body suit that led one confused parade-watcher to shout, “Hey, Spider-Man!,” were also highlights.
“It’s an All-American parade,” said Robin Alicandri, of Ringoes, Hunterdon County. “A classic. It’s a great community, Strathmere.”
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