By Maddy Vitale
Sea Isle City celebrated 100 years of the Beach Patrol on Thursday morning with a parade, speeches and a poignant row-out ceremony where lifeguards set flowers adrift in remembrance of the deceased beach patrol members.
Crowds watched as a procession of lifeguard boats headed down the Promenade from 29th Street to Lifeguard Headquarters at 44th Street to mark the century since the Beach Patrol began July 11, 1919.
Surf boats rolled down the Promenade on display, some vintage, others new, many used at one time or another to save lives.
The parade’s grand marshal, Andy Sannino, 100, is the city’s oldest living beach patrol alumnus.
Born and raised in Sea Isle, Sannino lifeguarded at the 43rd Street beach for a couple of years – way back in the early 1940s.
“I am honored to be chosen as the marshal,” he said in an interview, with his family surrounding him. “It’s nice. I liked being a lifeguard. It was a good time.”
The celebration, which extends through the week with other events, took months of planning by the Beach Patrol Centennial Committee.
The committee is made up of Katherine Custer, the city’s public information officer, Police Chief Tom McQuillen, Diane Merson, the city’s tourism representative, longtime Beach Patrol Chief Renny Steele and former lifeguards Mike McHale, Tom McCann and John McCann.
The parade ended at Beach Patrol Headquarters at 44th Street, where past and present lifeguards, and dignitaries, including Mayor Leonard Desiderio, spoke of the history and significance of the city’s beach patrol.
“This is a wonderful day. I want to thank all of the committee. The Sea Isle City Beach Patrol is our treasure. They have been doing the job so well for 100 years,” Desiderio said.
The mayor noted that Steele is the longest serving Beach Patrol chief and praised him for doing an outstanding job. He also recognized Sannino for taking part in the celebration.
Desiderio called the Beach Patrol vibrant and thriving under Steele’s leadership. He also recognized the honor and integrity of all of the lifeguards who work in the patrol.
“I just want to thank you all for an excellent job,” he told the committee and Beach Patrol.
Police Chief McQuillen said that a lot of work went into the event and the result “far exceeded” what he had imagined. “This is a great day,” McQuillen said.
He also thanked Sannino for being the grand marshal.
Some of the dignitaries who spoke included Councilman Jack Gibson, who fondly recalled his time in the 1950s on the Beach Patrol.
The celebration does not end with Thursday’s festivities. At 3 p.m. Saturday, a Paddle-Out Wreath Ceremony will be held on the 44th Street beach in honor of all deceased beach patrol members.
To allow the public to see the “inner workings” of Sea Isle City’s Beach Patrol, free guided tours will be offered at Beach Patrol Headquarters on Saturday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
During the tours, visitors will see modern lifesaving equipment, awards from many lifeguard competitions and vintage photos.
The Sea Isle City Historical Museum has also joined in the celebration and created a special display of SICBP artifacts and photos collected during the past century, which will be available for viewing now through October 2019.
In addition, a free presentation that spotlights the History of the Sea Isle City Beach Patrol will be presented on Saturday at 10 a.m. in the Sea Isle City Library, located at 4800 Central Avenue.
The presentation will offer audience members a comprehensive look at the Beach Patrol’s past 100 years.
Custer said there are so many good things she has to say about her experiences with the city’s Beach Patrol.
“Over the years, I have had the pleasure of personally knowing and working with many Beach Patrol members and SICBP alumni, and they have always made a positive impression on me,” Custer noted.
She continued, “Whenever I go to Beach Patrol Headquarters or one of the alumni events, I know that I am walking into a place that’s filled with good-hearted individuals who truly care about Sea Isle City. They are wonderful ambassadors for our community.”