NORTHFIELD — The route for the city’s annual Fourth of July parade is usually lined with crowds of cheering people on both sides of the street.
Not this year.
While there were some pockets of spectators Saturday morning, the route for this year’s parade — postponed from Wednesday — was mostly lined with fallen tree limbs and downed utility lines.
“We come here every year for this, and it’s usually so crowded,” said Susan Tubman, 67, of Egg Harbor Township, who watched the parade next to her husband, Barney, 69, along Mill Road. “It’s kind of sad that there’s not more people out here this year, but it’s understandable.”
The city was hit by a powerful storm in the early hours of June 30, causing millions of dollars in damage and knocking out power to thousands of homes and businesses. More than 200 customers were still without power as the parade marched along Shore and Mill roads Saturday, according to Atlantic City Electric’s website.
Northfield resident Patty McGrath said a tree fell on her house during the storm, causing some minor damage.
But on Saturday, McGrath was all smiles as she waited for the parade with three of her grandchildren: Mikey, 7, Avery June, 4, and Mallon, 8 months.
“It’s Mother Nature; that’s what she does,” said McGrath, 57, while sitting next to piles of tree debris. “But I’m glad they postponed it because it gave everyone some time to get back on their feet a little. And it is nice to take an hour away from worrying about that stuff, by being able to come out to watch a parade and see people you haven’t seen in a while.”
Peter and Karen West have attended the parade every year since moving to Northfield in the mid 1980s.
They arrive early to snag the best places to view the parade. But this year they arrived a little too early.
“We were actually out here on Wednesday because we didn’t know it was canceled. We didn’t know it was postponed,” said Peter West, 56. “It’s like going fishing and casting a line out only to find out the lake is frozen over.”
But the Wests — sitting among family and friends — did not seem to mind entirely too much that they had to wait until Saturday for the parade.
“The mainland has been like a war zone the last week,” Peter West said while taking in the parade across from downed utility wires. “This is absolutely a great way to take a break from that.”
The parade itself was only a fraction of its traditional length, after being shortened by excessive-heat warnings. The high temperature for the day was a record 100 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.
This caused young entrepreneurs Helen and Sydney Shim, ages 11 and 6, to uproot their “Lovely Lemonade” stand from the parade’s traditional ending point near Birch Grove Park to the Northfield Community School, where this year’s parade ended.
“We didn’t find out until this morning that the parade was shortened, but luckily most of our stuff is easily portable,” said their mother, Linda Shim, 50. “Our main problem is the heat. But we have more ice than ever, and we’re ready to go.”
The girls usually make about $30 selling lemonade for 50 cents a cup. But they did not have any glorious ideas of how they would spend their money.
“I’ll probably just save it,” Helen Shim said.
“It’s not really about making money for them; it’s just our way of enjoying the parade,” Linda Shim said.
Despite the changes to the parade, the smaller crowds and the excessive heat, 80-year-old Joan Grist finished the parade smiling ear-to-ear.
Grist, a school crossing guard for more than three decades who was voted Northfield’s “Citizen of the Year,” rode toward the front of the parade like a teenage beauty queen — sitting on the back of a convertible, carrying a bouquet of flowers in one arm and waving to her admirers with the other.
For Grist, it did not matter where the parade ended or how many people were there.
“This was such an honor. And I got to see a lot of my kids. ... It really made me feel so good today,” she said after being congratulated by a handful of students at the end of the parade. “I think all of our police, city workers and the electric company deserve a lot of credit for even getting us back this much so we could still have at least some of the parade. It was a great time.”
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