By Maddy Vitale
Sea Isle City Mayor Leonard Desiderio says this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade will be a hit, as it is every year, because it brings the community together for a wonderful, fun day of festivities.
“Parades bring out the happiness in people. It brings the community together. Everyone is Irish on St. Paddy’s Day,” he said with a chuckle. “Everyone gets involved.”
Desiderio and his late brother, Gerard Desiderio, who passed away in 2003 at just 43, started the parade 29 years ago.
“It was an extremely small parade,” Desiderio recalled of the early parades.
Being a small town, the St. Patrick’s Day weekend provides a surge in the local economy by attracting thousands of visitors. A bit of a boost after a long winter in the shore town is just what Sea Isle needs, and it is just what it gets during the parade year after year, Desiderio said.
Crowds enjoy the parade, then file into Sea Isle’s bars, restaurants and shops for the holiday weekend.
Desiderio owns Kix-McNutley’s, the popular Landis Avenue bar and entertainment complex at 63rd Street, where much of the before and after festivities occur on parade day.
Irish music and dancing during the annual celebration begins at Kix-McNutley’s at 1 p.m. And at 2 p.m., the public is invited to participate in a free “Best Dressed Competition.”
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 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, which begins at 3:30 p.m. at Landis Avenue and 83rd Street.
An awards ceremony will take place during the celebration to honor participants from this year’s parade.
The parade will include live music from the Cape Atlantic Police & Fire Irish Pipe Brigade, as well as appearances by the Ancient Order of Hibernians Color Guard, Sea Isle’s “Irish Royal Family,” 2019 Parade Grand Marshals Frank and Barbara Roach and many other Irish revelers.
After the parade all are invited back to Kix-McNutley’s for music, a DJ and karaoke. There will also be delicious free food, Desiderio said.
“We feed everyone,” he said. “No one will be hungry.”
Desiderio said he cannot leave out two of his most important helpers, his wife Carmela and their daughter, Carmela, 20, who do a lot to make the event a success every year.
“My wife has been the head of the parade committee for 29 years,” he said. “She is the main organizer. Our daughter has been involved since she was born.”
The mayor also noted that Police Chief Tom McQuillen will be a part of the parade, along with his wife and children. This is his first St. Patrick’s Day parade as chief.
Desiderio also said he would be remiss not to mention the help of Carol Thompson and Ace Morrissey, two Sea Isle residents who have co-chaired the parade since its inception. They lead the parade every year.
He recalled the first parade left the Kix parking lot and headed to 68th Street and came back to Kix at 63rd Street and Central Avenue.
The reason for the route was simple: “An elderly lady, her name was Florence Howser, said no one every came by her house,” Desiderio said.
And so began the first official route for Sea Isle’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
“She waved and the fire trucks blew their horns,” Desiderio recalled of Howser with a laugh.
Over the years, the parade has grown. Before, people dotted the parade route here or there. Then came a flurry of revelers.
“It just got larger and larger. By the time you get to 63rd and Landis Avenue, there are thousands of people,” Desiderio said. “Being a small town, we see so many of the same faces.”
Some of the spectators join in and march in the parade.
Desiderio said it always makes him smile when he looks out during the parade and sees spectators on their decks or watching along the parade route dressed in green for St. Patrick’s Day.
The forecast for Sea Isle on Saturday is a high of 50 degrees with periods of sun and breeze, according to AccuWeather.
But Desiderio said no matter how cold and blustery, or mild and sunny, people come out for a wonderful day.
“I remember about 15 years ago, it was snowing and raining. We had the parade. We marched,” he recalled. “The snow was in our faces. But we had the parade, and everyone had a good time.”
For more information about Sea Isle City’s 2019 St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Best Dressed Competition and St. Patrick’s Celebration, call (609) 263-6341 or visit www.kixmcnutleys.com