Local officials say visitors and residents still taking advantage of the Jersey Shore's shoulder season shouldn't be hesitant about attending food festivals, parades and other upcoming big events in light of the bombing incidents in Seaside Park, Elizabeth and Manhattan.

Ocean County Columbus Day Parade and Italian Festival

Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy says his department is working closely with police chiefs to make sure there is proper security.

"We feel very comfortable and confident that we are prepared for all events scheduled in the near future," said Mastronardy.

During the summer months, Mastronardy's department normally conducts random security checks in and around the boardwalk areas with bomb-sniffing dogs.

"Unfortunately, we can't discuss exactly all of our plans, but I will say that we have taken steps, as we always have," Mastronardy said. He noted that on Saturday his department was in Seaside Park when a pipe bomb exploded in a garbage can along the Semper Five charity race for military, as well as in Point Pleasant Beach, where the annual Festival of the Sea was about to get underway.

"We'll continue to be in every community in the county and we have strong support from our freeholders to continue doing those top operations with our local partners in law enforcement," he said.

Mastronardy encouraged people to enjoy the events, adding that while his department and local police are taking precautionary measures, "we feel comfortable in our response to any type of incident if it were to occur, as example by what happened in Seaside Park."

In Monmouth County, Sheriff Shaun Golden is assuring the public the same type of protection in collaboration with the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office and local police departments.

"The larger the event, the more resources that we will put into something like that," Golden said. He pointed out that background planning includes their Homeland Security teams, Emergency Management teams and local law enforcement.

"Obviously, there's a more heightened state of alert throughout the tri-state area, but particularly in Monmouth County, having been a neighbor to Ocean County," Golden said.

Golden detailed some of the things his office is doing.

"Our bomb dogs are doing sweeps at these events. We have officers, undercover officers, at events. There may be bag searches, depending on the size of the event," he said.

For residents and visitors attending events in Monmouth County, Golden reminds everyone to heed the state police campaign in New Jersey and New York that if you see something say something.

"Our residents generally are very familiar with their surroundings in certain venues, and so they know if they see something out of place," said Golden.

Golden also advises against bringing large backpacks or very large bags that officers will have to worry about.

"If it's a place where there is subject to search, the smaller the better. And if it's in clear, plastic bags and the like, that would be a big help," Golden said.

One of the popular events taking place in southern Ocean County the weekend of Oct. 1 is the annual Long Beach Island Chowderfest, which includes a Merchants Mart on Saturday and the Cook-off Classic on Sunday.

"Ticket sales are exceeding last year's," said event coordinator Kelly Randazzo. She noted the cook-off, now in its 28th year, attracts some 13,000 people and she is confident people won't be skittish about being part of the crowd.

"The area is under surveillance 24/7 and trained dogs will sweep the area over the two days," Randazzo said. The event is held at the Taylor Avenue Ballfield in Beach Haven.

The weekend of Oct. 7 features the 25th annual Ocean County Columbus Day Parade and Italian Festival in Seaside Heights. Chairman Michael A. Blandina expressed some concern about attendance this year.

"I am concerned about attendance possibly being less, but I feel that as long as the security plans are in place, and those regulations that the Sheriff's Department and the Police Department set up are followed, the place will probably the most safest place in Ocean County that day, at least more so than it is normally in Seaside," said Blandina.

Meanwhile, Toms River Fire Co. 1 is gearing up for its 78th Annual Halloween Parade on Oct. 31,  dubbed the second largest in the world.

"We are working very closely with the Toms River Police Department, the Office of Emergency Management and New Jersey State Police to have extra patrols in the area," event advisor Carl Weingroff said.

"Obviously, our No. 1 priority is the spectators and participants of the parade."

"We've been doing this 78 years and we're not going to let one person, or one activity hold us down, and we're just going to take some extra security measures and let the parade take its normal course," Weingroff said.

Contact reporter Dianne DeOliveira at Dianne.DeOliveira@townsquaremedia.com.

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