WILDWOOD – For 109 years, babies have been dolled up and wheeled in decorated floats along the Wildwood Boardwalk in a parade older than the City of Wildwood.
The baby parade has marched over the boards nearly every year since 1909, and every parade culminates in a contest for prizes like “Best on Wheels,” “Cutest Baby Boy” and “Cutest Baby Girl.”
There were 84 infants and toddlers from the tri-state area and their families who entered the Aug. 1 parade, which, for the second year, traversed a seven-block stretch from Hand Avenue to Montgomery Avenue.
The parade used to travel the length of the Boardwalk, said Beverly Trapp of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, who serves on the Baby Parade Committee.
“It just got to be where it was almost like a street parade, and the vehicles are heavy on the boardwalk,” she said. “It was getting tough to keep everybody together with vehicles and small children. We started getting big gaps.”
Trapp said this year’s parade was in honor of Madelyn Calloway, a former member of the Civic Club who was instrumental in getting the parade restarted after it went dark in the 1990s due to lack of interest.
Calloway’s 100th birthday was the day of the parade. She was unable to attend.
“This is all dedicated to her,” Trapp said.
The parade was led by the Woodland String Band with banners carried by Women of Wildwood junior members.
Themed floats included tots in homemade fire trucks, boats, and crab baskets. Costumes ranged from Doo-Wop Barbies to a Philadelphia Eagle carrying a Super Bowl trophy.
Some children waved and smiled, some slept in carriages, and a few cried.
The parade ended at Fox Park. There children danced with mummers and the Philly Phanatic before prizes were announced.
John Lynch, director of sales and entertainment at the Wildwoods Convention Center, introduced Queen Oceania’s court at the Fox Park Amphitheater.
The winners of the pageant, which was open to Wildwood girls, were announced the prior day at a luncheon.
Morgan McGough, a senior at Wildwood Catholic High School (WCHS), was crowned queen.
Runner-ups were Wildwood High School’s (WHS) Jazi Badie, WCHS senior Maecy Bischoff, and WHS senior Ava Vandepol.
Lynch then announced the baby parade winners, whom judges inspected while contestants were lined up before the parade.
Lynch said that in his 18 years of involvement with the parade, he had never seen as many entries for Cutest Baby Girl. There were 22 babies in that category.
Trapp said she “loved seeing all the creativity of the families.”
“One gentleman who was here today had this beautiful giant sandcastle (float),” she said. “He said he started working on it eight months ago.”
County prize winners included 6-month-old Maximus Schwager of Marmora, third place for Cutest Baby Boy; 11-month-old Nicoletta Sofia Biondo of Court House, second place for Cutest Baby Girl; Paxton, Dwen and Declan Bannon, ages 1, 5 and 7, of Wildwood, first place for Best Walking Themed Group; Noah, 5, Grace, 3 and Eva Brockman, 1, of Rio Grande, second place for Best on Wheels.
The Brockmans’ winning float was “Beauty and the Beast”-themed. Mother Pamela Brockman said she first entered the parade five years ago, when Noah won Cutest Baby Boy.
“We kind of got hooked after then,” she said.
Pamela Brockman said she enjoyed the parade because it brought her family together.
“Even if some of my family didn’t help me with the float, they helped bring it here or were able to join in pulling it,” she said. “It was just a nice family-fun day.”
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Winners: (Number denotes place)
Cutest Baby Boy (under 12 months)
1. Christopher Zielinski, Colonia
2. Henry Lessig, Deptford
3. Maximus Schager, Marmora
Cutest Baby Girl (under 12 months)
1. Michaela Kinee, Aston, Pa.
2. Nicoletta Sofia Biondo, Court House
3. Lilliana Alvarez, Carteret
Decorated Baby Carriage
1. Jayden Martinez, Landisville
2. Roxie (last name unknown, home town unknown)
Best Walking Themed Group
1. Paxton, Owen & Delcan Bannon, Wildwood
1. Emma & Anthony Sacco, Warminster, Pa.
2. Olivia Snyder, Sparta
3. The Colby-Helmbold Family, Wildwood
Best Dressed Walking
1. Bryson Corea, Rio Grande
2. Rose DiCesare, Philadelphia
3. Eva Cannon, North Wildwood
Decorated on Wheels
1. Kaylee Strotter, Verona, Pa.
2. Johnny Romano, Sewell
3. Rowan Anderton, North Cape May
Group Decorated on Wheels
1. Marnie, Ryan and Annie Duncan and Riley and Jake Enoch, North Wildwood
2. Noah, Eve and Grace Brochman, Rio Grande