Oh baby! Relive Wildwood’s amazing baby parades of the past
It's almost time for a somewhat unusual shore town tradition: the Wildwood Baby Parade.
On Aug. 3, parents will dress their children in costumes and promenade them down the world-famous Wildwood Boardwalk in elaborately decorated strollers. Musical entertainment and giant floats are a staple of the show.
The parade was the brainchild of John A. Ackley, a real estate entrepreneur and auctioneer interested in drawing business to Five Miles Beach... with babies.
According to the Morning News, John Ackley's son, Charles Ackley, gave a unique prize to the winning babies in the 1943 parade — $400 in war bonds. That year, a new "Most Patriotic" category was added and close to 700 band members marched down the boardwalk.
Some well-known New Jerseyans had their big break with the Wildwood Baby Parade. In 1928, former state Sen. Jim Cafiero rode through the parade dressed as a pilot in honor of the Spirit of St. Louis flight, according to the Sun.
The first winners of the baby parade were a pair of twins Ward Bright and Cooper Bright.
During a few years in the 1990s, the baby parade was halted, says Kay Sparkman, the parade's chair. But the Wildwood Civic Club brought it back and set for August 3 at the Wildwood Convention Center.
"It's a nice family event and it's amazing how many of the families dress up," Sparkman said. "Some of the floats they put out are very elaborate. I'm always impressed."
Take a look at the early years of the Wildwood Baby Parade.
Nowadays, the parade has eight different categories for babies to enter, including "Best Dressed" and "Best Decorated Baby Carriage."
About 90 to 100 babies and children participate in the show each year, Sparkman says.
Another integral part of the Wildwood Baby Parade is Queen Oceania. The queen rides in a float with her court and partakes in the annual Queen Oceania luncheon.
"Queen Oceania is chosen by various members of the Wildwood Civic Club after a set of interviews," Sparkman said.
Baby parades were actually very popular in New Jersey in the past. Asbury Park claims to have started the first baby show in the country in 1890, and Ocean City is celebrating its 107th annual parade in August.
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