It was just the Woman's Club of Weehawken turning the area into an old USO Canteen, complete with the atmosphere and music, for a good cause.
More than 150 people jammed the Lodge to take part in the Woman's Club of Weehawken's fundraiser that will help the long-standing club contribute to the countless charitable causes that it addresses every year.
"It was extremely successful," said event co-chairwoman Rosemary Lavagnino, who is also the councilwoman for the township's 2nd Ward. "So many people came out to support us. The food was wonderful and the music was wonderful. Community support is always so extremely important with events like this. We're now getting younger women involved, young mothers, young professionals, who all want to do good things for the community. We had about 30 to 35 people just show up and buy tickets at the door. The great weather helped."
Music was provided by the famed Wooster Street Trolley Band, headed by Weehawken native Bob Leive, who plays trumpet and piano.
"The music was sensational," said Carol Kravitz, the other co-chairwoman of the event. "Everyone was dancing all afternoon. There was a sing-along. Everyone had a really good time, a fabulous time."
Leive, who travels the country playing with his band, brought a quartet of performers to the Elks with him.
"I always have a good time coming home, especially there at the Elks," said Leive, who said he got his first break as a musician playing at a dance at the same Elks Lodge some 40 years ago when he was still at student at Weehawken High School. "For me, it's like coming back to my roots. I look forward to coming back to Weehawken. The view from that spot never ceases to amaze me. We decided this year to go back to the 'Swing' era and it went quite well."
Music and food Leive brought vocalist Patty Graham with him to perform some of the songs of the era, but by the end of the afternoon, many members of the Woman's Club were grabbing the microphone and singing along with the band. "The day just exuded life and energy," Leive said.
Several members were dressed in military uniforms, making it feel and seem just like an old USO canteen. Kravitz was in charge of preparing most of the food for the day, but she had a lot of help. The highlights were her meat loaf and her special recipe for Italian Wedding soup, complete with the meatballs.
"We also promised good hometown cooking and delivered with recipes from the kitchens of Carol Kravitz, Janet Tava, and Elizabeth Mulcahy," Lavagnino said. "Janet made some rich chocolate brownies, and Elizabeth Mulcahy made mince tarts. They were so yummy."
Helped the needy The St. Lawrence Youth Group, organized by Holly Pizzuta, brought several teenagers who volunteered their time as servers, bus personnel, and cleaning up. The Weehawken Elks, with Past Exalted Ruler Donna Oppella and George Pizzuta in charge, also lent a helping hand.
Lavagnino worked hard to get food donations, getting contributions from businesses such as Pathmark of Weehawken, Whole Foods Market, Dunkin' Donuts/Baskin Robbins of Weehawken and Union City, and Failler International Food Design.
"They were all more than generous in response to our requests," Lavagnino said. "We're just people helping each other help others less fortunate."
In fact, there was so much food prepared that after the event was over, the club brought eight trays of food to the St. John's Shelter in Union City to donate to the needy.
"There was all kind of food we brought to the shelter," Kravitz said. "Food, desserts, salads. It was amazing." All of the proceeds will go to the Woman's Club endless array of charitable causes.
"It was a wonderful event and a good way to raise money for all the charities we support," Kravitz said.
"Already, people are talking about next year's event."
The event raised twice as much as last year's fundraiser.
Woman's Club of Weehawken president Marie Alberian was overjoyed with the response.
"There were a lot of people there and something attracted them to come," Alberian said. "I think they all had a fantastic time. I saw people the next day and they were all talking about it. It's a good fundraiser, enabling us to donate to local charities, but I think it helps to develop camaraderie with the residents and the new members we have of Weehawken. I'm pleased that our residents are supporting us. We have new members now and that's important to get the younger generation involved. If we don't do that, the club will die. I was very encouraged by the turnout."
Alberian said that the USO Canteen was such as success that the Woman's Club might hold another event in the spring.
"There are now a lot of possibilities," Alberian said.
If anyone cares to join the charitable causes of the Woman's Club of Weehawken, the club's next meeting is Monday, Nov. 14, at the Senior Nutrition Center on Highwood Avenue, beginning at 7 p.m.