By mvitale, OCNJDAILY
Talk about a parade of parades. Ocean City’s Halloween Parade promises spooky, kooky, creepy and a little silly when it rolls through the downtown Thursday night.
The parade is free and begins at 7:15 p.m. and travels down Asbury Avenue from Sixth Street to 11th Street featuring around 30 floats, some elaborate ones at that, five marching bands and other musical entertainment and plenty of parade participants dressed in costume in celebration of All Hallows’ Eve.
In its 75th year, the parade, sponsored by the Ocean City Exchange Club in partnership with the city, has been a popular attraction for generations of residents and visitors to town.
“I always say it is one of the oldest Halloween Parades in the Tri-State area,” Jeff Shirk said in an interview. “Watching the parade is free and there are plenty of places to watch from either side of Asbury Avenue.”
Shirk has been the parade organizer for the last 23 years for the Exchange Club. He said this year’s parade will be all that 2,000 to 3,000 spectators are accustomed to seeing, with some new exciting additions to the lineup.
One of the main additions is the animal division, where parade participants may dress up their pets and receive prizes.
Families will be entertained, and parade participants will also enjoy the night, Shirk said.
This year Shirk enlisted his wife, Jennifer Shirk, to help with the parade and tweak it a bit.
Jennifer, who is also the president of the Ocean City Free Public Library’s Board of Trustees, has plenty of experience organizing events and activities, he said.
“We run the whole parade pretty much. We have a few people helping. Considering this is my 23rd year, I have organized about 30 percent of the parades and Jen joined me because I needed the help,” Shirk said with a laugh.
Jennifer said she was happy to join in and the two of them talked about what works, noting all of the great costumes and floats, and came up with ideas for some new divisions in the costume and float categories.
“We thought with the animal division would be great to add. Less and less kids sign up for the parade. Unless they are on drill teams or bands, they seem to mostly want to watch the parade instead of being in it,” she pointed out.
But adding the pet or animal division, specifically Animals & Pets in Costume, was a way to reinvigorate interest for young people and old alike in entering the parade, she said.
“People really go all out,” Jennifer said. “I think it is kind of cool that this is strictly for the kids. There are no political themes. No political cars allowed. It is supposed to just be fun. When I started helping out we revitalized the event.”
Jeff Shirk said that aside from the addition of the pet division, there are “slight changes to the divisions.”
“We just wanted to tweak it a bit,” he said.
Both the Shirks said that the parade would not be possible without the support of the city or the eight main sponsors who help defray the cost, helping with the mission of the Ocean City Exchange Club.
Registration is now open for Ocean City’s annual Halloween Parade. For those who want to join the parade, note the new divisions this year, including an animal division.
- Division 1 – Children or Groups of Children up to age 12
- Division 2 – Children or Groups of Children over 12 or Family Groups or Adults
- Division 3 – Animals & Pets in Costume
- Division 4 – Organizations Marching in Costume (Churches, Non-Profits, Etc.)
- Division 5 – Cheerleaders & Drill or Dance Teams
- Division 6 – Non-Commercial Floats
- Division 7 – Commercial Floats
To register to be in the parade, email: email@example.com.
Include your name, name and age of participant(s), address, email /phone number and the division you are registering for.
Late registration to participate in the parade will be available from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. on parade night at Sixth Street and Asbury Avenue.
For more information, call 800-813-5580 or visit ochp.blogspot.com.