Flagbearer Joe McLenaghan, of Sea Isle, leads the colorful procession down Landis Avenue.

By Donald Wittkowski

Carter Capuano scrambled to scoop up miniature Milky Way bars and sticks of bubblegum that were thrown at his feet by the marchers in Sea Isle City’s Columbus Day Parade.

As his father, Francis Capuano, watched in amusement, 4-year-old Carter let out a giggle each time he grabbed a piece of wrapped candy off the sidewalk lining the parade route along Landis Avenue.

When asked what was his favorite part of the parade, Carter exclaimed, “Everything.”

Children and adults alike enjoyed the colorful procession as it stepped off in grand style Saturday, accompanied by the thumping music of the Ocean City High School Red Raider Marching Band and the wail of sirens and horns from fire trucks and police cars.

One of the favorite traditions of the parade is for marchers to toss candy to the spectators. By the time the procession is over, Landis Avenue and the sidewalks are littered with sweet treats.

Carter Capuano, 4, picks up pieces of candy thrown to him by parade marchers, while his father, Francis Capuano, smiles.

Now in its 28th year, the parade is sponsored by Mayor Leonard Desiderio and his family. The Desiderios decided to sponsor the Columbus Day Parade two years after they organized Sea Isle’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade 30 years ago.

“Parades bring a community together,” the mayor said as he marched down Landis Avenue waving to the spectators. “We’re all Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, and we’re all Italian on Columbus Day. Everyone smiles.”

Under cloudy skies and temperatures flirting with the 70s, the parade got underway 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 a cannoli-eating contest and vendors selling Italian-themed merchandise.

Mayor Leonard Desiderio, center, is joined in the parade by City Councilman William Kehner and VFW Post 1963 Commander Charles “Chick” Haines.

Parade marchers joined with leaders of the Italian-American community, military veterans from VFW Post 1963 and members of Boy Scout Troop 76 and Cub Scout Pack 76 of Sea Isle. Desiderio was accompanied by City Councilman William Kehner and VFW Commander Charles “Chick” Haines while strolling down Landis Avenue.

Heading the procession was VFW member and Sea Isle resident Joe McLenaghan, 70, who has acted as flagbearer for both the Columbus Day and St. Patrick’s Day parades for about the past 10 years.

“It’s a great honor,” McLenaghan said while carrying an American flag. “As long as I’m able to do it, I enjoy walking in the parade.”

Although they are much younger than McLenaghan, Aaron Morton and Thomas Kosloski are also veterans of the Columbus Day and St. Patrick’s Day parades. Both of them are members of Boy Scout Troop 76, a fixture of the city’s parade tradition.

Morton, 12, of Somers Point, brought along his dog, Sparky, a pug-beagle mix, to join the parade marchers.

“This is his first parade,” Morton said of his canine companion.

Members of Boy Scout Troop 76 and Cub Scout Pack 76 carry the colors while marching down Landis Avenue.

Bill Herouvis, assistant scoutmaster for Troop 76, took one look at Sparky and joked, “Maybe we should get a Scout shirt for the dog.”

The Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts, dressed in their brown and blue uniforms, marched in close formation down Landis Avenue, showered by applause from the spectators. Tethered to a leash, the short-legged Sparky kept pace with the Scouts every step of the way.

Kosloski, 12, of Ocean View, was eager to take part in the parade’s pomp and pageantry, but he was also aware of the historic significance of Columbus Day.

“We are celebrating how our country got founded by Christopher Columbus,” he said.

Music by the Ocean City High School Red Raider Marching Band gives the parade a lively beat.