Proud Americans line Main Avenue to watch the annual Ocean Grove Independence Day Parade, they wave flags, as patriotic songs echo through the streets. There’s a big celebration in this small seaside community.
“I think we all just have to take a step back and remember where we live, the values we have, the freedom we have and just to be able to sit side by side on the street in a beach chair and watch the parade go by,” said parade coordinator Rosie Wood-Yesline.
“We actually established this parade 48 years ago at the 100th anniversary of Ocean Grove,” said Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association President Dale Whilden.
The parade is sponsored by the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association with help from some local businesses. There are about 90 different groups who participate, including law enforcement and public safety teams, bands, politicians and more. It’s a time not just for this community, which is part of Neptune Township, but also surrounding communities to unite and share their love for our country.
“I’m just proud to be an American. We can be the kindest people in the world even if there our times we don’t reflect our best side,” Ocean Grove resident Helen Thorpe said.
Ginnie Radford has dual citizenship. She was born in England.
“You live here, you have to support the country you live in,” she said. “It’s a wonderful country, the land of the free. We are seeing more and more countries that are not free I think we need to be grateful for where we are.”
Radford is one of many who crowds the street looking to take in all the sights and sounds. The onlookers cheers excite the already excited parade participants.
“It’s amazing how many people when you ride in the parade, I’ve ridden the last four years to see how many people are standing in the side just to watch,” said Camp Meeting Association Executive Director John DiGiamberardino.
“It’s a pump of adrenaline here in Ocean Grove freedom and liberty and providence and patriotism all go hand in hand, so there’s this long standing enthusiasm where we just hail this grand national holiday with grace and enthusiasm and zeal,” Whilden said.
Bagpipers entertain the crowd and bright red, vintage fire trucks glisten under the summer sun.
“Parents love it more than anything,” said Don Brahn from Goodwill Fire Company. “They see enough of the new ones, they don’t see the old vintage trucks from the 30s and 20s.”
The parade coordinator has been planning this event for a few months now, months of planning for an event that lasts about an hour or so. Still, the eager participants behind me are thrilled and grateful to be part of this experience. There’s no rehearsal but they really don’t need one, most of these groups return year after year.
“Everybody wants to be in the parade, and if they’re not in the parade they’re on the sidelines and they’re waving flags and participating that way,” Neptune Mayor Dr. Michael Brantley said.
“It’s part of Americana. It’s an amazing thing we’re able to have this opportunity to get together, bring groups from all over together and just celebrate the birth of our nation,” DiGiamberardino said.
This parade is a reminder of how proud people are to call themselves Americans.