By Donald Wittkowski
Cub Scouts Justin Wolfe and Jayden Connolly said they didn’t know anything about Christopher Columbus, but they were anxious to march in the annual Sea Isle City parade that honors the Italian explorer credited with discovering America in 1492.
Connolly, 8, of Dennis Township, a member of Cub Scout Pack 76 of Sea Isle, said he was looking forward to throwing candy to the parade spectators.
The 6-year-old Wolfe, of Ocean View, who is also a member of Pack 76, had other ideas, though.
“I want to get candy,” he exclaimed.
Well, by the time the parade got started on Saturday afternoon, both Connolly and Wolfe got their way. Connolly was tossing candy to the crowds, while Wolfe was eating it. But Wolfe was also flinging some candy to the spectators lining the sidewalks as he marched down Landis Avenue.
Taking place in summer-like weather on Saturday, the Columbus Day Parade was the centerpiece of Sea Isle’s Italian-themed festivities. The parade is a 27-year tradition sponsored by Mayor Leonard Desiderio and his family.
“A parade brings everybody together. It’s good to see all the smiling faces,” Desiderio said as he marched through town waving to spectators.
Accompanied by a thumping beat from the Ocean City High School Red Raider Marching Band, the parade stepped off along John F. Kennedy Boulevard across the street from Sea Isle’s Italian-American Club. The route then turned south on Landis Avenue and ended at 63rd Street.
At 63rd Street, an Italian Festival celebration unfolded at Kix McNutley’s, the nightclub and entertainment complex owned by Desiderio. The festivities included opera singing, cannoli eating, vendors and free raffles.
Before arriving at 63rd Street, the parade proceeded in grand style through the center of town amid the blare of sirens from Sea Isle police cars and fire trucks.
“I want to hear the sirens go off from the police cars,” Jayden Connolly said excitedly.
Parade marchers joined with local veterans and members of Boy Scout Troop 76 of Sea Isle to carry the American and Italian flags. The parade also included representatives of the Italian-American Club and the Knights of Columbus Madonna Maria Council, the city said in a press release. Elected officials, business leaders and local dignitaries were also on hand.
Desiderio and his family decided to sponsor the Columbus Day Parade two years after they organized Sea Isle’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade 29 years ago.
The mayor said parades are a source of civic pride. When he spoke about the St. Patrick’s Day Parade last year, he noted that “everyone is Irish” on that day.
On Saturday, during the Columbus Day Parade, he said, smiling, “everybody is Italian today.”