Last night, Dan and I took our friend Kate to the Italian-American Festival in Ocean, NJ. We had never been before, but we know that many of the locals attend the festival each year, so we decided to check it out.
Parking: The festival takes place for five days in Joe Palaia Park. Thankfully, the police really have the traffic situation under control, and it wasn't difficult to drive to and from the event, even leaving at the end of the night. It was worth the voluntary $1 parking donation to the Ocean PD.
Attractions: My favorite attraction was the petting zoo. There were not many animals, but at least there was a variety. We were surprised that patrons had to pay $2.00 to enter the petting zoo and an additional $1 for two cups of feed, but I guess it is understandable considering there was free admission to the festival. I got up the courage to feed and pet the animals. It was very cute! The alpaca felt like a teddy bear. The zoo also had the typical over-eager goats, sheep, baby goats (kids), chicks, ducks, rabbits, a cow, and a pony. I enjoyed feeding the cow and giggly like a child as its tongue tickled my hand. There are other events and attractions like spaghetti and cannoli eating contests, gymnastic demonstrations, make-you-own sand art, carnival games, free chair massages, and hourly 50/50 raffles, where we heard them giving away things like battery-operated blenders and car wash packages.
Shopping: There were not many booths of merchandise for sale at the festival. The two booths that stood out were the Native American booth and the Italian T-shirt booth. The Native American booth had lots of jewelry, pretty summer dresses, and handmade tchotchkes for sale. There was also a booth selling gaudy Italian merchandise, such as bracelets and T-shirt brandishing phrases like, "I only date guidos." I considered getting a red V-neck ladies shirt that read, "Sicilia." Represent! Just kidding. I may live on the Jersey Shore, but it's nothing like the MTV reality show.
Food: The whole reason we went to the festival was to enjoy some good Italian food. Instead, the festival was full of your typical carnival food, which is not always a bad thing if you don't mind food dripping with grease, covered in cheese whiz, and/or coated in powered sugar. Between the three of us, we had a deep fried brownie (oreos were also available), mozzarella sticks, a cheesesteak loaded with onions and peppers, a couple beers, a giant lemonade, and what was called a "bucket o' fries" swimming in cheese "sause." We enjoyed the misspelling of "sauce" on the sign as much as we did the fries, which were served in what resembled a large dog bowl. Festival patrons could also purchase alcoholic beverages, kettle corn, old fashioned soda served in a metal stein, funnel cakes, caramel apples, meatball sandwiches, butterfly fries, gyros, and much more.
Rides: For the first time in my life, I got up the courage to brave the Zipper. I grew up hearing all the tales of riders vomiting and being tossed in the cage along with it for the remainder of the ride. I also know my stomach's low tolerance for spinning rides. After paying $12.50 for 10 tickets so Dan and I could ride, I stood in line behind a bunch of squealing pre-teens as Dan, my fellow rider, slugged two beers before we rode the Zipper. As the cage of the ride closed before us, I couldn't help but think about all the carnival ride casualties you hear about on the news. I think it was the lawyer part of me trying to get out of the death trap. I survived what I affectionately labeled as "a swingset on crack," but I screamed every time our cage flipped or my butt left the seat and pleaded with Dan to stop trying to flip us as we waited to disembark the ride.
We all had a great time and it was a wonderful way to spend a cool summer night in Monmouth County. The Italian-American Festival runs until Sunday. If you're in the area, you should check it out. They're having a firework display tonight. For other nightly events, check out their website.