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25th Jefferson Day draws in the crowds

Local dignitaries watch the 25th Jefferson Township Day parade from the reviewing stand set up in front of the high school. Mayor Russell Felter, town council members, former mayors and others joined announcer Carol Punturieri to cheer the participants.One of the new features at Jefferson Day was food competitions run by resident Elisa DeYoung. The contests included a hot dog eating contest, pie baking competition and the water melon eating contest shown here.

From the start of the parade up Weldon Road until the final glow of the fireworks faded into the night sky, Jefferson Township Day on July 9 drew crowds of all ages to its rides, booths, food vendors and music. The 25th annual town celebration appeared to be a big success, as it offered something for everyone, including new attractions brought to the celebration for the first time.

“We tried to offer something of interest to all ages and tastes,” said Carol Punturieri, president of the Jefferson Township Arts Committee, the group that organizes and runs Jefferson Township Day. “We reached out to everyone to try and find new things that would draw people in.”

Questioned near the end of the day, Punturieri said she thought the day was a big success, and that participation was very good and better than the last few years. She gave much of the credit for the success to Jefferson Township Day Chairman John Focacci.

“John worked extremely hard to get the donations and sponsors that enabled everything to happen,” Punturieri said.

The day officially began with the traditional parade from the Municipal Complex on Weldon Road to the Jefferson Township High School. Crowds of residents lined both sides of the street, and the parade moved up through a giant hanging American Flag to the reviewing stand in the street in front of the high school. Town Crier Bill Joseph and the Jefferson Township High School Marching Band lead the march, followed by a wide variety of walkers and riders.

The parade featured representatives from town organizations, local businesses, youth groups like the cub scouts and girl scouts, performers from dance academies and other marching bands, and representatives of all the town fire departments and emergency squads. The Tri-County Motorcycle Club roared up the street, as did a group of children and adults riding decorated bicycles as part of the yearly contest. The Fairways Lawn Chair Drill Team performed for the crowds, and the North Jersey Jeep Club impressed everyone by demonstrating how one jeep rode over the wheel of another. Bringing up the rear were all the many vehicles from the fire and emergency squad companies, horns and sirens blaring.

Punturieri acted as master of ceremonies, narrating the events over the loud speakers for the crowd. She stood on the reviewing stand along with a group of dignitaries that included Mayor Russell Felter, town council members and several former mayors. Once the parade finished, the high school field opened to the crowds. Booths, vendors and tents filled the field, and hundreds of people wandered around taking advantage of all the attractions, and listening to the performances. Admission was free until 5:30 when a $2 charge per person was required with the money going to pay for the fireworks that ended the day.

Attendees took advantage of nearly 100 booths featuring arts and crafts, merchandise for sale, organizations presenting information and, of course, plenty of food. Performances ranging from the Jefferson Township Community Band to a live animal show were on the main stage. For the second year in a row, the Young Rockers tent rocked to the sounds of live youth bands all day, showcasing local talent. There were games for children of all ages to play, and several huge inflatable rides for the kids. Contests were held, too, including the annual fishing contest and food competitions, and Phydeaux’s Flying Flea Circus roamed the field performing.

The day ended with a rousing two-hour concert featuring the Robert Murdock Band’s British Invasion Tribute, featuring music from the 1960s (see accompanying article). Felter presented citizen of the year awards to both a male and female resident (see page 6), and the annual 50/50 raffle was held.

“This year’s $1,000 prize is the largest we have had in many years,” Punturieri told the crowd before calling the winning ticket.

She said this was another indication of the success of this year’s event.

Thanks to both the concert and an intermission where the awards were presented, the huge day-capping fireworks display went off about a half hour later than planned. This highly acclaimed fireworks presentation is the largest draw for Jefferson Township Day, and crowds lined the field and surrounding areas with lawn chairs and blankets to catch the display. The crowd’s enthusiastic reaction was obvious by their applause and cheers, especially as the fireworks crew teased the audience with several false finales, and then wound up with a massive aerial display full of light and sound.

In addition to the tribute band, which Punturieri said was something they had not done in recent memory, there were several other new things that appeared to be highly successful at this year’s celebration. One of the crowd pleasers that drew in constant participants among children and teenagers was the Gamin Ride Mobile Video and Game Theater. This large van was set up with video games for kids to play, such as the popular xBox 360, Play Station 3 and Wii Game systems. The interior of the van boasted a state-of-the-art 4D lounge theater that was climate controlled with “smell-a-vision” that seated 16 gamers at one time. Outside the van the Positive GamingTM iDance Multiplayer System let people dance and appear on screen.

The day featured several additional inflatable rides for the children, which added to these popular activities. Volunteer Elisa DeYoung also spearheaded food competitions under a tent set up for this purpose. There was a hot dog eating contest, watermelon eating contest, pie baking competition and chili baking contest. These turned out to be popular with dozens of participants of all ages. The Young Rockers tent, although not brand new, was a widely attended draw for the second straight year.

Another unique attraction was the pink fire truck named Gemma. The truck represented the Northern New Jersey chapter of the Guardians of the Ribbon, and was a publicity draw for this organization that raises money to fight cancer. The truck is covered with the signatures and comments from people who have had personal experience with cancer, either themselves or someone close to them. Fire Company #2 Chief Tom Jardines belongs to the organization, and they had a booth selling items to raise money for the cause.

Volunteers and town support

Jefferson Township Day is a huge undertaking spearheaded by the Jefferson Arts Committee and involving many volunteers, participation by local businesses and organizations, and the support of the town itself. According to Punturieri, the day costs about $45,000 to hold. The town donated $25,000 for the effort this year, and the rest had to be made up by donations and sponsors. There were different tiers of sponsorships, with organizations and businesses donating to specific events. For example, Jefferson Township Fire Company #1 had the highest level sponsorship – a Platinum Sponsor – that went towards the fireworks display.

Focacci was the driving force behind raising funds for the event, and he was able to get another $10,000 in donations. He also rounded up a wide range of sponsors. They included McDonald’s Restaurant on Route 15, the Bowling Green Golf Course, PNC Bank, Lakeland Bank, Skylands Bank and Fredericks Fuel Oil. Other sponsors included the Jefferson Township Public Library, Jefferson Township Recreation Department and the Arts Committee. The town’s many emergency service organizations also donated their time and support to the day, as did the Jefferson Township Police.

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