By DONALD WITTKOWSKI
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in Sea Isle City this year – following an abbreviated holiday celebration in 2020 caused by crowd restrictions and other safety protocols amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The city’s Christmas parade will return in all of its colorful glory Friday night, along with the traditional tree lighting ceremony and a special appearance by Santa Claus for photo-ops with the kids in Excursion Park.
“We’re very excited to host these events to kick off the holiday season in Sea Isle City. We’re looking forward to welcoming back families in Excursion Park,” city spokeswoman Katherine Custer said.
The parade will begin at 6 p.m. Friday at 29th Street and Central Avenue, proceeding south along Central Avenue to 84th Street and then continuing east on 84th Street to Landis Avenue. It will then head north on Landis Avenue to JFK Boulevard, where it will end.
Immediately after the parade at approximately 7 p.m., Mayor Leonard Desiderio’s tree lighting ceremony will take place at Excursion Park, where Santa will flip a switch to illuminate Sea Isle’s towering Christmas tree. The tree lighting ceremony will also include Christmas carol sing-alongs, photo-ops with Santa and other holiday fun outdoors.
The emergence of the COVID-19 vaccine and the state’s easing of crowd restrictions this year have allowed the city to bring back the tree lighting ceremony after it was canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic. The city scrapped the event last year, as well as any one-on-one time between Santa and the kids, to avoid large crowds from gathering together and possibly spreading the virus.
Even the Christmas parade was affected last year. Not wanting people to cluster in large groups, the city staged a socially distanced parade that gave spectators plenty of room to spread out along Landis Avenue between 29th and 94th streets.
Desiderio was adamant about saving the 2020 parade, though, to give Sea Isle’s children the delight of seeing Santa.
Santa Claus seems to have a special relationship with Sea Isle. No matter how busy he may be at the North Pole getting ready for Christmas, he always makes sure he visits the resort town to spread plenty of holiday cheer.
Traditionally, he chugs into town in grand style aboard his Polar Express locomotive to lead the parade as the guest of honor.
This Friday, he will have some high-profile celebrities to join him in the parade, including an assortment of costumed characters from the Disney movie “Frozen” and other Disney favorites riding on colorful floats or marching along the streets.