Now in it's 40th year, the Belmar Lake Como St. Patrick's Day Parade has had plenty of practice getting ready: painting a green stripe down the parade route, approving street vendors, coordinating police presence as thousands of paradegoers swell into Belmar.
But while this year's parade features many of the familiar signs of Irish pride and celebration the festivities are known state-wide for, this year also meant readying a borough dramatically impacted by Hurricane Sandy.
And despite the continued rebuilding of the borough's waterfronts, boardwalk and infrastructure, Belmar declared it was ready in a special event where the public was invited to cheer staff as they painted the center green stripe down Main Street Friday.
Among the considerations this year was reopening Ocean Avenue for the day. The beachfront is often host to parade-day festivities, but this year is a construction zone as Epic Construction rebuilds the boardwalk.
For the day, Ocean Avenue will be reopened. That's the first day both pedestrian and vehicle traffic will be allowed on the north-south corridor since Hurricane Sandy. It's just for the day, but the construction will stop and while police will be monitoring the area for safety, a rush of onlookers are expected. The reopening was to facilitate the expected traffic from the parade, as Ocean Avenue is a remaining north-south corridor after Main Street's closure for the parade route.
And a staging area for the parade, Lake Como, was among the local lakes impacted by Sandy. Though Silver Lake continues to need cosmetic upgrades and other maintenance after mud was spread over the lake banks, crews have been working at both lakefronts to continue long-term repair and make ready for the parade traffic.
Area bars are planning to open as early as 7 a.m., while the seasonal liquor licenses are in effect two months early. Yesterday, bars and eateries such as D'Jais, 10th Avenue Burrito and La Dolce Vita were allowed to serve alcohol. Seasonal liquor licenses normally would go into effect May 1 but an executive order from the governor pushed the start date to March 1, just in time for the parade.
Among the other preparations for parade day is the addition of extra trains to NJ Transit between Bay Head and Long Branch, to accommodate paradegoers.
For the full coverage of St. Patrick's Day Parade, visit our parade guide, here.