With the Miss America competition skipping town this year for Connecticut, many folks in our area may have expected the weekend after Labor Day to be a dull, quiet affair marked only by the glaring absence of the Show Us Your Shoes parade that was traditionally a part of the annual Miss America festivities. But parade fans will have reason to celebrate after all, as Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City has decided to continue the tradition by holding their own Celebrate America parade on the Boardwalk at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 7.

The parade is sponsored by Pepsi as well as The Press of Atlantic City and AC Weekly. The theme honors the American heroes who serve in the armed forces, as well as police officers, firefighters and other servicemen and women. Those attending are encouraged to dress in patriotic colors and bring American flags to wave as the floats go by.

“We couldn’t be more proud to show our support to the men and women who serve our country by coming together with the community to present a parade appreciating our nation’s heroes,” says Joe Lupo, president of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City in a recent press release. “A hero can be in many forms and our goal with this parade is to be inclusive to all of those who serve, protect and honor our country each and every day. We’re happy to celebrate them during this parade.”

One hero in particular who will be honored during the parade is New Jersey State Police Colonel Patrick J. Callahan, who will serve as Hard Rock’s official “Community Hero” for the event. Callahan has served as a member of the State Police for more than 24 years and is a highly respected member of the force, yet he remains humble about receiving this honor from Hard Rock.

“I’m not so sure that I deserve the title (of hero),” Callahan says. “It’s hard to define, but I know a lot of first responders and those in law enforcement and in the military that really put their lives on the line day in and day out. I guess that would be my definition of a hero. One who puts others before themselves.”

Callahan may be the one receiving the honor today, but growing up he never had to look far to find his own personal hero. “My number one hero was my father. He was a Jersey trooper for 29 years. So as I always say ‘my father didn’t tell me how to live, he lived and let me watch him do it.’ I’m blessed that he is still alive and that I get to talk to him each day. He is still my hero, even today.”

For Hard Rock the choice to select Callahan to be honored was an easy one.

“The Community Hero is someone who truly stands out in our region for the work they are doing to serve and protect others,” said Lupo. “We could not be more grateful to have Colonel Callahan join us during this special event where our region will come together and show our collective support celebrating America and our heroes.”

The big names

Though the Miss America Competition may have departed Atlantic City, the Celebrate America Parade will feature Miss America 1984 Suzette Charles, a singer, entertainer and Atlantic County native as grand marshal. In addition, a group of Miss America 2020 contestants from Washington, D.C., Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania will ride in the parade. Philly sports fans will be in for a treat as appearances by Philadelphia sports legends Larry Bowa (of the Phillies), Dave Shultz (of the Flyers)and Bill Bergey (of the Eagles) will all be participating in the festivities.

What will come ‘floating’ by

The parade will be 90 minutes in length and will feature a variety of floats as well as giant 16-foot patriotic cold-air parade balloons — which have never been used on the Atlantic City Boardwalk before.

Both string and marching bands will be among the entertainment for the day, with various groups from eight states participating, including Washington D.C., Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The Atlantic City Police Department and Atlantic City Fire Department will also participate in the parade, as well as patrol vehicles from the HERO Campaign, the Valley Forge Military Academy Band and Platoons, the Marching Cobras and the 78th Army Band.

A moment of silence for the victims of 9/11 will take place as well.

The parade route will span 1.4-miles, starting at Metropolitan Avenue and concluding at Arkansas Avenue.

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