BELMAR — The 49th edition of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been called off due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Belmar Mayor Mark Walsifer said Tuesday.
The 48th annual parade was held March 1, 2020, days before the state recorded its first case of COVID-19, but the borough’s parade committee has decided that a 2021 edition of the annual parade, which attracts thousands to Belmar, cannot go forward as the pandemic continues.
“We had to cancel it because of the pandemic; we couldn’t take the chance in bringing everybody down here,” Mayor Walsifer told The Coast Star. He said that the committee had discussed the possibility of a virtual parade, but those plans fell through.
Last year’s parade saw more than 1,300 marchers parade down Main Street in Belmar and Lake Como, representing 140 community groups from throughout New Jersey. The procession was led by the 63rd Army Band, stationed at the National Guard Training Center in Sea Girt.
In a Facebook post Tuesday night, the committee stated: “Unfortunately but not surprisingly, the 2021 parade cannot be held due to COVID-19. The parade committee is exploring options for other types of celebrations this season so stay tuned for updates. Thank you as always for your support.”
While the cancellation will likely be a disappointment to longtime attendees, it may be a bigger problem for the local businesses that benefit from the influx of visitors every March.
“The Belmar Business Partnership [BBP] is disappointed to learn that the parade is canceled this year, but we understand the need to put public health and safety first during the pandemic,” said Christine Cardellino, secretary of the BBP.
“We would like to remind everyone that the BBP website, www.DiscoverBelmar.com, is available 24/7 for community members to engage with the local Belmar business community. Small businesses need our support now more than ever — not just on parade day, but every day.”
Belmar officials remain hopeful that other borough events scratched by the pandemic during 2020 will be able to make a comeback during 2021, as vaccinations enable a return to normal, the mayor said.
They include the annual Seafood Fest, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors to Belmar, and could be held in the fall, Mayor Walsifer said, as well as the annual boat show and Belmar Dine & Discover events.
He said the borough is also in talks with the directors of the Belmar 5 about a possible Labor Day race.
However, the mayor added, “If we are still hot and heavy into this pandemic, we are going to have to cancel everything.”
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