By MADDY VITALE
Philadelphia Flyers mascot Gritty made quite the entrance at the Ocean City Sports & Civic Center on Tuesday afternoon.
The orange, googly-eyed, paunchy and jovial creature was dressed for the beach complete with a “lifeguard uniform.”
The Flyers Community Caravan rolled into town as part of a summer “Shore Tour.” There was plenty for fans to do, including hitting a puck around an inflatable hockey rink, testing out the slap shot target and giving a bungee run a try.
Flyers fans lined up around the block outside of the Civic Center to see their favorite mascot, Gritty.
They also go to meet some Flyers alumni, including legendary former players Bob Kelly and Dave Schultz, and just enjoy an afternoon of completely all-things Flyers fun.
Dave and Antoinette Palardy, of Doylestown, Pa., brought their children, Claire, 6, and 2-year-old son, Colin, to the family-friendly event.
“We are down for the week and we love the Flyers. We just found out about this and decided to come check it out,” Dave Palardy said, shortly after a family photo with Gritty.
“My grandpa said, ‘You’re going to see ugly face,'” explained 7-year-old Egg Harbor Township resident and major Flyers fan, Dante Brunelli, of his grandfather’s remarks about Gritty before the family headed to Ocean City.
Dante and his brothers, Enzo, 6, and Angelo, 4, got into the family fun. They had plenty of giveaways in hand, including an “ugly face,” or rather a Gritty doll.
They also had autographs from some of the Flyers and even tried out the bungee run.
“We love watching the Flyers on TV,” the boys’ mother, Deana Brunelli, said. “We haven’t gone to a game yet, though. I hope to. When I found out about this event, I kept it a surprise until today. We are having a great time.”
Mike and Kristen Casel, of Media, Pa., and their son, Jonah, are huge Flyers fans.
They came out for the event and also to play a little hockey.
For a time, Kristen sat on the bleachers and watched her husband and son in their game.
“They will keep playing,” she noted with a laugh. “Jonah does roller hockey at home. They still have that you know.”
Suzy Krzaczek, who lives in Bucks County, Pa., and has a second home in Ocean City, has season tickets to the Flyers.
“My husband and I don’t miss a game,” she said. “It’s always fun.”
Both Krzaczek and her sister-in-law, Suzanne Loftus, who is also from Bucks County, Pa. enjoyed some friendly competition with a game of baggo.
Last year, the Flyers Community Caravan made its way through the downtown and up to the Boardwalk.
But this year, it was decided to keep the event in one centralized location and the Sports & Civic Center was chosen for the festivities.
Ocean City Deputy Fire Chief Bernie Walker, of Upper Township, and his son, Joseph, 11, waited in line for autographs from some Flyers players.
“It’s another great event in Ocean City,” Walker said. “We are big Flyers fans.”
The caravan, now in its sixth year, is set to make its way around the Tri-State area throughout its summer-long event series to connect with fans in the surrounding region. The caravan will be in Sea Isle City on Thursday.