By MADDY VITALE
Each year, Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard Desiderio and his family host the city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, where families and friends enjoy a day of celebration.
And like every year before, the day is filled with festivities, laughter, good food, music and floats.
But on March 14, when this year’s parade is held beginning at 3:30 p.m., it will reach a major milestone for any parade, in any community, anywhere in the United States.
The parade will turn three decades old — 30 years of heralding in the festive holiday in Sea Isle.
The procession starts at 83rd Street and Landis Avenue and ends at Landis Avenue at 63rd Street.
Desiderio and his late brother, Gerard Desiderio, who passed away in 2003 at 43, started the parade.
In addition to its longevity, the parade stands out because of the fact it is privately organized and funded by the mayor and his family.
At first it was a small parade. But it has grown steadily throughout the years, Desiderio said.
“It just got larger and larger. By the time you get to 63rd and Landis Avenue, there are thousands of people,” he said in an interview in 2019. “Being a small town, we see so many of the same faces.”
His family’s reasoning for starting the tradition goes back to this: “Parades bring out the happiness in people. It brings the community together. Everyone is Irish on Saint Paddy’s Day,” Desiderio noted.
Sea Isle City Public Information Officer Katherine Custer said in an interview Friday that the Desiderio family works hard to offer a fun day for families.
“Each March the Desiderio family does a great job organizing and hosting the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade,” Custer said.
She continued, “It’s always a lot of fun and has wonderful participants. The parade is an event people look forward to and always enjoy and it is a great kickoff for the spring season in our community.”
On parade day, revelers will don green caps and clothing and some may even sport a leprechaun mask.
A costume contest will take place at the Desiderio family’s bar and entertainment complex, Kix-McNutley’s, located on Landis Avenue at 63rd Street, prior to the event and everyone is invited back there after the parade.
The free “Best Dressed Competition” begins at 2 p.m. An hour prior to the contest, revelers will enjoy Irish music, dancing and food at Kix-McNutley’s.
Prizes will be given to the “Best Dressed Irish Individual” and “Best Dressed Irish Group.”
All of the contestants in the “Best Dressed Competition” will be invited to walk in the parade.
An awards ceremony will take place during the celebration to honor participants from this year’s parade.
Custer said the friendly competition for best costumes is a fun part of the day.
“The mayor’s best dressed costume contest has only added to the enjoyment of the event,” she said.
The parade will include live music and a 2020 grand marshal will lead the festivities.
Last year, the grand marshals were former Sea Isle AARP Chapter 710 President Frank Roach and his wife, Barbara.
Two people Desiderio said make the event such a huge success year after year are his wife, Carmela, and their daughter, 21-year-old Carmela.
Over the years, the parade has transformed into a major event.
When it began, spectators dotted the parade route. Today, it attracts throngs of visitors who make a daytrip out of it, or a weekend outing. For Sea Isle residents, it is just another day to enjoy in their hometown.
After all, who doesn’t love a parade?
For more information about Sea Isle City’s 2020 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Best Dressed Competition and St. Patrick’s Celebration, call (609) 263-6341 or visit www.kixmcnutleys.com