The occasion was the township's sixth-annual Junior Olympic program, held in the Weehawken High School gymnasium on Saturday and Sunday.
The event has become so huge locally that they now have to hold it over two days.
"Two long days," laughed Weehawken Recreation Director Chuck Barone, the organizer of the event.
Nearly 200 youngsters from first through sixth grades participated in the event, sponsored by both the Weehawken Department of Recreation and the Board of Education.
The participants were four boys and four girls for each event from each classroom in Webster (first grade and second grades) and Roosevelt (grades three through six) schools. They were chosen by the respective physical education teachers at the schools, Mike Finnizio (Webster) and Jose Perez (Roosevelt).
The youngsters then competed in several events: high jump, long jump, shot put, discus and javelin (using special rubberized equipment), obstacle course, hurdles, the 400 and 800 meter runs, and a relay race.
Each of the participants received a T-shirt representing their school for participating. The Webster School kids received a green shirt, while Roosevelt School students proudly wore their school colors of blue and gold.
The Weehawken Junior Olympics are part of the national program set up by the President's Council for Physical Fitness. The students are taught the proper techniques of the events in their respective gym classes during the school year, then practice before the two-day event.
"The gym teachers basically act as coaches in preparing the kids for the Olympics," Barone said. "This way, they have a feel for the different events, and they know what to expect when the Olympics come up in March."
According to Barone, the program also enables youngsters who don't necessarily have a chance to succeed in the township's other major sports [football, basketball and baseball] to excel in another venue.
"It gives those kids who don't participate in the other sports a chance to showcase their talents," Barone said. "They all seem to have a good time and get really excited about being in it. We really try to give it an Olympic flavor, complete with the flags of different countries, a parade of competitors and a torch bearer."
The opening ceremonies Saturday featured the parade, followed by the presentation of the torch bearer, who read the Athletics and Olympics Creed.
"They march into the gym to the Olympic theme," Barone said. "We really try to give it the feeling of the Olympics. We played on the fact that the Winter Olympics just ended."
Some of the day's winning participants were Dante Cieri (top boy) and Cara Keating (top girl), both of whom won four medals each.
Barone said that each competitor was limited to only four events, in order to give everyone a fair chance at collecting a medal.
"We tried to give every kid a chance to win a medal," Barone said.
Sure enough, when the competitors collected their medals, they did so while on a medal stand, complete with first, second, and third place pedestals.
"You can see the excitement in their faces when they receive their medals," Barone said. "When they're on the stand, it's really something to see."
Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner was on hand to help present the medals.
"It's great fun," Turner said. "There's nothing more rewarding than seeing the kids standing on the podium, receiving the medals, and seeing their faces absolutely beaming with pride. The parents are thrilled, the kids are excited. It's a great way to end the winter months."
Barone credited the efforts of the gym teachers who volunteered their time during the two days to coordinate the program.
"They give up their time all weekend," Barone said. "Incredibly, they want to see if they can add more events for next year. They're really dedicated. Joe Perez wants to see if he can keep adding more and more kids, because he has so many who want to participate. The gym gets so loud with excitement."
Barone is impressed how the program has grown over the years.
"I think when we first implemented it, we weren't sure how many kids would get involved," Barone said. "But now, we have 200 or so kids involved over a full weekend. It's great to have so many kids involved."