Bicycle parade unites generations in Ocean City

Greg and Maryann Monaghan , of the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, ride in the Ocean City bicycle parade dressed as Ocean City lifeguard stations. RON TARVER / Staff Photographer
Greg and Maryann Monaghan , of the Roxborough section of Philadelphia, ride in the Ocean City bicycle parade dressed as Ocean City lifeguard stations. RON TARVER / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 06, 2012

OCEAN CITY - Of red, white, and blue, there was endless variety.

The colors adorned top hats, leis, sunglasses, ribbons, streamers, tiaras, and even little insect-style antennas.

And, yes, the bikes.

Hundreds of people showed up Wednesday for Independence Day's morning bicycle parade - the 36th time it has been held.

It was a day for upholding traditions.

Katie Jacoby of West Grove, Chester County, first rode in the parade 31 years ago, as an infant, on the back of her mother's bicycle. "We've done every single parade," she said.

Now, she was back, with husband Keith and their two sons, Connor, 3, and Mason, 3 months.

Jacoby's mother, Susan Beidler of West Chester, is still riding, too. She was even on the same bicycle from three decades ago.

For others, it was the beginning of a tradition.

Becky Durbin of Doylestown had always wanted to ride in the parade, and now that her girls are old enough to ride safely, she decided they could do it this year.

Ocean City is all about tradition.

Many of the parents on the beach nowadays with their kids have been coming since their parents brought them. It's a time for the siblings to come from far and wide to gather in the kitchen, walk the boards, and body-surf the waves.

It's a time to play miniature golf - just about every block along the Boardwalk has a course.

And to eat frozen custard from Kohr Bros., begun in 1919 on Coney Island - six shops now line the Ocean City Boardwalk.

And to buy a box of salt-water taffy for the office crew. Holly Kisby, general manager of Shriver's, said the store would probably sell more than 1,000 pounds of taffy - chocolate more than any other flavor - on July Fourth alone.

Founded in 1898, the store lays claim to being the oldest business on the Boardwalk. And it, too, has its tradition. Kisby, 33, has worked at Shriver's since she was 14. Her dad worked there. And her uncle.

"Most of our patrons know somebody who worked here," she said. "I've given tours to people in their 80s who worked here. . . . It's like walking through time when they come in."

Up at the Music Pier, dating to 1928, Sheran Rowe of Philadelphia lounged in the shade, reading a book, while her husband and children romped in the 71-degree ocean not far away.

The colorful beach umbrellas remind her of her home in Jamaica, she said. And she always comes to Ocean City because of "the friendly people."

Down on the beach, lifeguard Pat Lavin kept watch for the first missing child of the day - mostly, they stray too far from their families, get confused, and are brought, crying, to the guard stand.

All along the surf line, children earnestly dug holes in the sand. Fathers lifted toddler daughters over the waves.

Jay Purnsley of Trenton grinned happily as he held his daughter Madison, 5, and a gaggle of nieces and nephews piled sand on his legs and dumped water from a plastic bucket over his head.

"I love it here. It's a family place," Purnsley said, adding in mock fear, "if I don't get buried."

At Gillian's Wonderland Pier, a line formed for the 1 p.m. opening.

Ellen Lister, 84, of Villanova, stood in the shade, looking wistfully at the carousel - built in 1926 in Hatfield - and recalling "how wonderful it was" to ride when she was a girl.

And then again, when she took her own children on it. And then her grandchildren.

"The up-and-down was everybody's favorite," she said.

You can still ride it for a dollar.

Soon, the lights turned on, and things started moving. First in line was Larissa DeFusco, 6, of East Coventry, Chester County.

Her mother, Nancy, said Larissa and her siblings were merry-go-round-bound "as soon as they could sit up." Likewise, not far from Larissa's perch, there were other parents, holding toddlers in front of them on the saddles as the horses circled.

Ocean City is in the DeFusco family's blood. Back home, Nancy said, she has an "awesome" photo of her grandparents posing by a lifeguard stand, before World War II. When she was growing up, the Shore house was "the hub of the family," she said.

Each time the sweep of the carousel brought her past her mother, Larissa waved.


Contact Sandy Bauers at 215-854-5147, sbauers@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @sbauers. Read her blog, GreenSpace, at www.philly.com/greenspace.

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