Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes, the — are still calling — in my head.
In my mind, I can still see leprechauns with their green stovepipe hats and orange beards lining both sides of Main Street in Belmar and Lake Como earlier today.
In their classic song, "The Unicorn," the Irish Rovers sing of seeing green alligators and long-necked geese. I didn't see any of those, but I did see many a green dog along the side of the road.
A Katy Perry look-alike contest seemed to be going on too. Or at least a few teenage girls emulated her pageboy hairstyle in a bright green hue instead of the singer's usual shocking blue.
Even the Easter Bunny appeared a few weeks ahead of schedule, in front of the , just north of 16th Avenue in Belmar.
No, I hadn't stopped by any of the countless pubs here in the " before reporting as a first-time marcher in the 38th annual .
Rather, these revelers showed up while I marched down Main Street in New Jersey's largest parade honoring Ireland's patron saint.
After years of braving rain, snow or chilly weather to sit on the sidelines of this extended block party, I chose to quite literally walk the line, or at least walk in line with the -based
With temperatures hovering in the high 40s, partly sunny skies, and the west wind cooling off any possibility of working up a sweat, parade organizers, participants and viewers caught a break this year.
I loved being in the parade. However, I must admit that I missed not being able to actually watch all of the other marching units in real time.
As a first-time participant, I learned that there's a long wait from the time one reports to the staging area along to when a unit actually begins walking.
Although the first marching units kicked off on time from the start of the parade route at Main Street and 22nd Avenue in Lake Como at 12:30 p.m., the WOIHJS didn't start walking out of the staging area until after 2 p.m.
Not to worry though. We killed time by catching up with each other, laughing, and sharing the oversized pretzels purchased from vendors passing by. A few wandering bagpipers entertained us as did the practicing its routine.
Marching in the parade is like watching a festive block party from the inside out. This was the first time I could observe many of the green, white and orange hats, beards, wigs, make-up, jewelry, and other somewhat outlandish outfits sported by hundreds of the spectators on both sides of Main Street.
And I thought watching celebrities arrive on the red carpet in Hollywood for an awards show was intriguing.
Walking the 1 1/2 mile route is a great eye-foot coordination exercise. As I strode along, I found myself rapidly turning my head from side to side. I didn't want to miss any of the gaudy parade costumes worn by those who weren't even marching. It was Halloween in March.
The crowds, who have come to the parade from points near and far away, cheered as we passed them wearing our signature green capes. Some yelled, "You go ladies!" and other encouraging sentiments.
Being sandwiched between two, rhythmic and entertaining pipes and drums units--one from South Orange and the other from the Newark Police Department--might have enhanced our visibility and popularity.
A few spectators armed with plastic bubble-blowing guns sent soapy circles our way as we passed through Lake Como. Every now and then, the sounds of pipes and drums blended with children blowing plastic green horns all along the route.
Although we occasionally had to stop briefly while a marching unit way ahead of us performed, we didn't have time to purchase any -themed balloons, necklaces, feather boas or other impulse merchandise offered by mobile vendors. From the looks of things, it appeared they were cashing in with the spectators.
The objective is to keep moving--in line--without any major gaps and in rhythm.
As we marched north into Belmar, the crowds along the sidewalk appeared to swell. They kept cheering us on and waving. We waved back, smiled, and marched on and on.
Suddenly, I could see the prominently displayed sign at Eighth Avenue from several blocks away. I had a sinking feeling. We were getting close to the home stretch. I didn't want it to end yet.
Upon reaching the reviewing stand near Ninth Avenue, parade officials announced the name of each group passing by. For a moment, it was like the spotlight shone on us. That's where the local cable television station's camera fixed overhead caught my eye.
Hey, I'm on TV!
Soon, we were passing the extremely populated at Eighth Avenue. The end was drawing near. About that time, one of my WOIHJS colleagues assured me that the South Orange pipe and drums unit ahead of us would serenade us as we walked the home stretch at Fifth Avenue and Main Street.
Indeed, those gentleman played as we walked past them to the finish line. It was a nice touch.
Walking the entire route took us roughly 35 to 40 minutes. That was fast. And fun.
How many days till next year's parade? I can't wait to do it again.