"I was on the dance floor from the minute I walked into the place," said Lyons, a resident of the Cullum Apartments in North Bergen. "I have no idea what I'm doing, but I just kept dancing. I never got off the dance floor. I had one of the best times of my life."
Lyons wasn't the only one. Nearly 1,000 North Bergen senior citizens were treated to a day of music, food, dancing and fun, courtesy of Mayor Nicholas Sacco and the township, at the annual picnic, which continues to get bigger and better with every passing year.
"The first one we did in 1991 had about 300 seniors," Sacco said. "It was a new idea and it took us time to find the means of reaching the people and telling them about it. I remember that there used to be a senior picnic a long time ago, but then it was discontinued and we decided to bring it back and do it in our own style."
In the early days of the Sacco administration, the idea was to have the senior picnic outdoors, but when the numbers grew, the site was shifted indoors to Schuetzen Park to accommodate everyone, to a point where it now has become one of the most highly anticipated events in the township.
"Some of the seniors don't go anywhere all year," said Terry Murray, another Cullum resident who has lived in North Bergen for the last 50 years. "I think a day like this is wonderful to get those people out of their homes and see other people. I look forward to this day for months. It's a chance for me to get to see people I don't normally see from the other buildings in town. I think we all look forward to it every year."
The event was held last Wednesday on a bright, sunny day, but even if it rained, the seniors inside Schuetzen Park were not going to let anything dampen their festivities. There was food galore, from coffee and cake in the morning, to hot dogs and sandwiches, free of charge. Of course, there were desserts. Seniors can't exist without desserts.
"There was always enough food, even with so many people there," Murray said. "Some people took doggie bags and brought some food home. You can't go wrong."
A disc jockey spun music from all different eras, causing people like Lyons to show off their best moves.
"I enjoy myself no matter where I go," Lyons said. "But an event like this was fantastic for me."
The event was held with help from all the different township agencies, all chipping in and volunteering their time for the cause. The North Bergen Housing Authority, under the leadership of Diane Pierano-Ingvaldsen, and the North Bergen Senior Citizens, under the guidance of Karen Giannoros, were the driving forces behind coordinating the event. More than 250 township employees and officials volunteered their time to work the picnic. Transporting the seniors from all over the town to Schuetzen Park is a task in itself. Keeping the seniors happy once they arrive is another.
"It's a lot of work," Sacco said. "But the volunteers giving of their time make it work."
There were plenty of prizes given out, like Housing Authority jackets, which were spotted throughout the crowd.
Commissioner Theresa Ferraro, a senior citizen who has been a civic leader for many years when it comes to the rights of seniors, applauded the efforts of everyone involved.
"Everyone chips in to help the seniors," said Ferraro, who served on the township's Housing Authority for 31 years before becoming a commissioner six years ago. "It's a wonderful day. Everything is free for the seniors and it works because it's a team effort. The mayor gives out the orders, but everyone helps. We absolutely make this day a priority."
Louise Noble, who was the 2003 North Bergen Senior Citizen of the Year, said she had a tremendous time, even though she spent most of the day working, handing out food and such.
"I think this year seemed to go better than others," Noble said. "Everything seemed to run so smoothly. I know everyone enjoyed it, because I could see everyone smiling and laughing. I know the people in our building [the Cullum] loved the music and the dancing. There was enough activity to go around. It didn't bother me that I was working. I like to stay busy. I'd rather do that than sit around. But everyone I talked to said that they had a good time and they stayed until the very end."
It is believed that Michael Lyons has just now stopped dancing.
"I was so happy," Lyons said. "Especially for me, because I can't get out much. A day like this means everything."