By ANTOINETTE MARTIN
for Montclair Local
Led by a boisterous bunch of marchers from the Montclair Community Pre-K holding signs identifying alumni classes over the last two decades, Montclair’s 67th annual July Fourth parade displayed high spirits and high energy on a gloriously sunny day.
“We are just so excited to be a part of this,” said Kristin DeBiase, just before kick-off at 11 a.m. on Bloomfield Avenue. She was the energy behind her 3-year-old son Antoine Carter’s stroller – decorated with a “Class of 2019” sign – along the 1.6 mile route to Edgemont Park.
More than 100 blue T-shirted MCPK alumni and family members accompanied the float, with child marchers tossing out candy and rubber balls to kids on the thronged sidewalks.
The parade is always a family-first day, and on this one, three generations of Regina Joseph’s clan sat under a shade tree as she took in her first Montclair parade ever, despite being a long-time resident. Joseph’s daughter, Christina Robinson and her daughters, Taylor, 9, and Nina, 5, are veteran parade-goers, but Joseph only came to the parade this year because her grandchildren asked.
She got a little teary as it brought up memories: “My father, a Navy man, marched in the parade in Media, PA, where I grew up, and I marched with the Brownies,” she said. “And I am thinking about my mother, who ran the USO chapter for African-American officers in Asbury Park during World War II. I do love parades.
“This one makes me think of others, back in the day.”
Montclair’s Independence Day Parade has its very traditional aspects, but this year it was also political, motley and wacky, too. Santa Claus appeared in shorts, marching with Boy Scout Pack 12, shouting “Ho, ho, ho, Happy Fourth!” The New Jersey “Ghost Busters,” wearing full regalia from the 1984 movie, posed the inexorable question, “Who you gonna’ call?”
There were large crowds of exuberant marchers with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy and U.S. Congressional challenger, Mikie Sherrill, who is running against Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen in the 11th district.
“I think this is the most people I’ve seen come out for political candidates,” said Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill, a lifelong Montclairite. “This is one of the best things about the parade, the way it embraces the political aspect of the holiday.”
Township at-Large Councilman Bob Russo said he was marching in his 18th parade, counting eight times in the ’90s as First Ward councilman, four years as mayor, 2000-2004, and six years as councilman at large.
Not to be outdone in political enthusiasm, Scott Pollack, whose company Pollack Financial Group was a parade sponsor, proclaimed himself “an adorable deplorable” Republican who loves Montclair.
A dancer from the Bolivian group Caporales San Simon, the ensemble that each year dances in heavily beaded and sequined costumes along the entire route, apparently had a cramp, after the group passed the viewing stand.
Of course, no one outdid Elvis (Peter Giuffra) in the enthusiasm department. As he rounded Watchung Avenue onto Valley Road, “Hound Dog” blasting from the speakers in his van, Elvis’s step was lively as ever. He linked arms with Spider Man and danced his own way to the reviewing stand.
This year’s winning floats were: First Prize, Little Daisy Bake Shop’s birthday cake confection; Second prize, the Commonwealth Club’s smoke-belching Lackawanna Railroad train; Third prize, the YMCA’s exercise float.