By Donald Wittkowski
They insisted they didn’t coordinate their outrageous outfits. Frankly, we suspect that’s a bunch of marlarkey.
There they were – all six of them – resplendent in goofy, green shag wigs while watching the colorful St. Patrick’s Day parade unfold in front of them on Landis Avenue.
“We all just show up and bring something,” said Jennifer Wiess, with a laugh.
Wiess claimed that she and her husband, Andrew, had no idea that their friends, Gina and Craig Hodnett and Vickie and Gijs Van Verplas, would also dress up for the parade in matching green wigs.
The six friends, all from Pennsylvania, have been coming to Sea Isle City for the past six years to enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day festivities. It is their tradition to dress up for the holiday.
On Saturday, they joined hundreds, if not thousands, of other spectators amid a sea of green clothing, hats, beads, shamrocks and, yes, wigs, as the parade rolled down Landis Avenue between 83rd and 63rd streets.
“A parade brings everyone together. Today, everyone is Irish,” declared Mayor Leonard Desiderio, whose family has sponsored the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for 29 years and also hosts Sea Isle’s annual Columbus Day Parade.
Desiderio, accompanied by his daughter, Carmela, strode down Landis Avenue, waving at and shaking hands with the crowd. He was clad in a leprechaun-like bowler hat and green jacket.
The lively procession was accompanied by the drums and wailing bagpipes played by the Cape Atlantic Police and Fire Irish Pipe Brigade, whose members were dressed in plaid kilts.
Police cars, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles flashed their lights and blared their sirens and horns to crank up the excitement level.
The parade grand marshals were Sea Isle AARP Chapter 710 President Frank Roach and his wife, Barbara. They traveled along the parade route in the back of a pickup truck.
The festivities and partying got started earlier in the day with a jam-packed celebration at Kix-McNutley’s, the mayor’s bar and nightclub complex on 63rd Street.
Frank Barrett, 55, of Blue Bell, Pa., stood out among the Kix–McNutley’s revelers with his portrayal of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland.
His elaborate St. Patrick’s costume earned him the title of “Best Dressed Individual.” His get-up included a brown wig, fake flowing beard, a staff and religious garb that Barrett explained was worn by his late uncle, a Roman Catholic monsignor.
Other parts of his costume came from Amazon and an online Christian shop. Barrett noted that he spent three weeks planning and preparing his costume, but he wasn’t sure whether it would be good enough to capture the “Best Dressed” title.
“I thought there would be a lot of people here dressed as St. Patrick,” Barrett said. “I didn’t think I would win.”
Kathe and Bruce Butler and their friends, Sindy and Don Strouse, all of Sea Isle, were also decked out in St. Paddy’s Day-inspired finery, including wacky shamrock-trimmed sunglasses and green beads that lit up.
Bruce Butler drew second looks from the crowd with his choice of comical head gear. He pulled off his big, floppy green hat on top to reveal a green bowler hat underneath. When he removed the bowler, there was a tiny hat perched on his head.
“Everyone laughs, smiles and cheers,” Kathe Butler said of the reaction to her husband’s hats.
Butler pointed out that the St. Patrick’s Day parade and festivities are part of the playful atmosphere that makes Sea Isle a special place for her family and their friends.
“Seeing our family and friends in this way celebrates everything about Sea Isle. We do it with a lot of smiles,” she said.