It may have rained on their parade, but precipitation didn't stop thousands of people from celebrating Irish American culture during the 37th Annual Belmar-Lake Como St. Patrick's Day Parade on Sunday.
The rain came as no surprise to anyone, as weather forecasts grew only gloomier in the days preceding the parade. Still, gray skies and rain were not enough to keep spirits down as hundreds or marches and thousands of spectators flooded the borough of Belmar for the festivities.
The Irish proved adaptable, as green ponchos and umbrellas dotted the parade route along Main Street between Lake Como and Belmar. Pipers and drummers were outfitted with rain coats and those in the precession didn't seem to mind the inclement weather.
Numerous local organizations took to the streets to march this year.
Marching bands from both Belmar Elementary School and Manasquan High School came out in spirited fashion. Pipe and drum lines from across the state, dressed in kilts and caps, marched intrepidly through the rain as the sound of traditional Celtic bagpipe music filled the air throughout the day.
Numerous local politicians also made the walk including mayors and council members from both Belmar and Lake Como, Senator Sean Kean (R-11) and Assembly members Dave Rible and Mary Pat Angelini (R-11), Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ-06) and Monmouth County Freeholders John Curley and Amy Mallet.
Numerous volunteer organizations including the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, The Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh, The Elks and the Veterans of Foreign War also marched.
Emergency service providers including firefighters, police and EMTs from towns throughout the state also came out in force for Parade Day.
It could be called a stroke of Irish luck that provided the parade respite from significant downfalls during their scheduled two and a half hour marching window between 12:30 and 3 p.m.
"A little Irish mist," Parade Chairman Chip Cavanaugh said of the rain seen most of the day. "It's still a good crowd for a misty day. Pretty great parade still."
While attendance numbers may have been down due to the weather, it would be hard for the casual observer to tell. Streets and sidewalks were crowded with revelers and many local bars saw lines of patrons file out the door for the chance to get a pint of Guinness or a shot of Jameson.
"There's a lot of people here for not a great weather day," Cavanaugh said of the number of attendees.
The indomitable spirit of the day was encapsulated perfectly in the gleaming smile of Grand Marshall Robert Jenkins. Even as rains went from intermittent to steady, Jenkins' enthusiasm could not be contained.
"The parade's been terrific," he said. "We had a break with the weather. Almost had a patch of sun out for a bit."
"A little bit of Irish Dew doesn't stop the Irish people from walking," Jenkins added. "It's been a great parade, nice crowds out for it and it's been a wonderful experience."
The enthusiasm of the parade organizers could be seen mirrored in the crowds of people in attendance.
"Given the weather we’re doing really good in terms of spirit and it’s a good turnout," Wall Township resident Dylan McAuliffe said. "All the performances so far have been great. As a former member of the Wall High School marching band it’s great to see those guys still doing it year after year. "
It’s a really nice way to get together with friends and family," Lisa Kozempel, who traveled south for the parade from Sewaren, said. "My favorite part of the parade is probably the men in the green blazers marching for a cause."
The weather isn’t so bad," she added. "I think it held out. There isn’t much rain. It’s sufficiently warm, much warmer than it’s been the past few weeks, so I can’t complain."
"It was wonderful," Danielle Gazonas of Ocean Grove said. "I saw the Navy, that was awesome. The weather was crappy, but we stayed under shelter. At least it was cold."
As the day wore on, rains significantly increased, turning to a steady downpour shortly before 3 p.m. While some stayed the course and remained to see the entire parade or scattered for their vehicles, some found shelter in the numerous watering holes in town.
"The parade was awesome, now I'm at Bar A and having a great time," Nick Biddle of Long Branch said. "This is my first time at the parade and I thought it was awesome. The weather is terrible, but it doesn't matter. There's plenty of people out here and we're having a good time."