Fourth of July tradition lives on in Cherry Hill’s Erlton South neighborhood

With the cancellation of Cherry Hill Township’s fireworks show, numerous residents were left without their favorite Independence Day tradition for the first time in more than 20 years.

It wasn’t too long ago when residents in the Erlton South neighborhood were feeling the same way.

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Beginning in the 1950s, Erlton South held an annual parade on July 4. Interest decreased as the years went on, and eventually the parade stopped taking place during the 1970s. It wasn’t until a decade ago when Cherry Hill resident Eileen Tootle brought the parade back to Erlton.

Now, with the township-wide fireworks no longer a fixture for residents, the focus has shifted to neighborhood-specific events such as the Erlton parade.

Dan DiRenzo, the vice president for the Erlton South Civic Association, said the parade is easily the biggest annual event for the neighborhood. He said it particularly showcases the residents’ sense of community and volunteerism.

“It’s a tight-knit neighborhood,” he said. “It wasn’t too difficult to get support.”

The parade has seen a few changes as far as organization is concerned. The civic association has taken over the event planning from Tootle since the parade was revived.

The parade has also thrived thanks to the support of the local community. Some of the larger sponsors from when the parade first started left, leaving the residents to pitch in for the cost.

“When we first brought it back, we had a large corporate sponsor,” DiRenzo said. “The last three to four years, we haven’t had that corporate sponsor, which is a big hole to fill.”

The Erlton South residents provide most of the funding for the event. They are also helped by the participation of smaller local sponsors such as Chick-Fil-A, Chick’s Deli and the Erlton Fire Company.

The community support isn’t just about money. DiRenzo said the number of people who volunteer each year is enormous. Prior to this year’s parade, a number of resident took some time to line the neighborhood with about 200 American flags.

“We also have others taking crossing guard positions along the side streets, and different people take care of the food and contacting residents,” DiRenzo said.

The Erlton parade has drawn entertainment and dignitaries both in and out of the township. The grand marshal of this year’s parade is long-time Cherry Hill councilman and Erlton resident N. John Amato. Other members of council also attend the parade on an annual basis.

In addition, the civic association has reached outside the township for entertainment. The Ferko String Band, an annual group known for performing in the Philadelphia Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day, will be marching through Erlton South this year.

It has been a long time since the Erlton parade has received so much attention. Now that it has once again become the main Fourth of July attraction for the neighborhood, DiRenzo hopes the parade will keep going strong for decades to come.

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