"It was an excellent day," Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner proclaimed. "Once again, it was bigger and better than ever. The place was jammed. It might have slowed down a little when it rained, but it picked right back up again and no one wanted to leave. Everything we had was given out. Every last bit of food was distributed."
The township-sponsored festival was complete with music and dancing for the elderly and rides and games for the kiddies. There was free food galore and activities to last the day away. It was a way to celebrate the small town wonderment that is Weehawken, a free celebration for residents to get together and have a good time on the Hudson River waterfront.
Most of the day's activities were free to residents, with only a handful of the games of change requiring a slight fee.
The food - hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers, soda, cotton candy and popcorn - was all free. It was estimated that more than 15,000 hot dogs, hamburgers and veggie burgers were cooked that day, spearheaded by Township Manager Jim Marchetti, who spent the entire afternoon slaving over the grill.
Turner thanked the nearly 400 volunteers who worked in some capacity enabling the day to run very smoothly.
"It was a beautiful day and the crowd was evenly distributed," Turner said. "Everyone was working all day to make sure everyone had a good time. The police, the Department of Public Works, the Parks Department; it was a major town effort. But it all ran well and there were no incidents and certainly no complaints."
Kids dig in
Seven-year-old Shane O'Rourke said that the festival was "way cool."
"I was just hanging out with my friends, having a lot of fun," O'Rourke said. "I went on a few rides. I went on the hayride, but I got hay in my pants and that hurt. I got to have fun with friends I don't normally get a chance to have fun with."
Little Shane was also impressed with the array of insects that were there as part of a demonstration from the Liberty Science Center.
"I saw all those bugs and got to touch some," O'Rourke said. "That was way cool. I also had my picture taken on a motorcycle. I've been going to the Weehawken Day since I was little, and this was pretty much the best. I was so busy with all the different things they had."
Steven Higgins, who is 9 years old, was happy that he could play football and win prizes at the same time.
"I won a bear and a rocket," Higgins said.
Sounds like a full day.
"I went on all the rides, especially the spinning rides," Higgins said. "I did the rock climbing wall and made it all the way to the top. I'm proud I made it. It's good to have a day like this, especially for the kids. I look forward to it again next year."
Turner said that there was more of an emphasis this year to cater to the teenagers.
"We made sure that there were more things for the teenagers to do this year," Turner said. "The kids last year made suggestions that there wasn't enough for them to do, so we made it a priority this year."
One of the more popular features with the teenagers was the mechanical bull, right out of the set of the movie "Urban Cowboy."
"There was a long line to get on that thing," Turner said.
The kiddies were taken care of. They had popular characters, like SpongeBob Square Pants, Elmo, Spiderman and Bob the Builder performing around the grounds. They had face painting and arts and crafts, hayrides and pumpkin picking.
"The face painters were going all day long," Turner said.
Even fun for seniors
The senior citizens also had a blast as well. Mickey Kallert is a life-long resident of Weehawken.
"I had a good time, mostly working the [information] table for the Women's Club of Weehawken," Kallert said. "But I did get a chance to walk around. I saw a lot of people I don't normally see. I think it's wonderful that they have such a day like this for the children. I think it's a great event for the whole town. You see everyone is having a real good time, talking and laughing. Everyone I spoke to said they had a great time."
Fellow senior citizen Ann Dellaquila agreed.
"It's the most beautiful event," Dellaquilla said. "Everyone is so happy to be there. I know all of my friends can't wait to get down there. There's so much to do and so much to talk about. I think it's good for everyone, not just the seniors. It's good for the children as well. I hope they keep doing it. It's just perfect. We didn't even mind the weather. It was perfect."
Seemed like the prevailing theme of the day.
"It just keeps getting bigger and better," Turner said. "We tried new things this year, like a baby crawl contest. We're always getting new ideas. The original intention of the day was to encourage Weehawken's small-town atmosphere. We have people from all walks of life, all economic, social and ethnic backgrounds coming together. They see each other in our close-knit small town."
Turner said it is also a good way for new residents to learn more about Weehawken, with all of the information booths and tables set up to inform residents of township activities.
"They're all able to learn more about their community and have a great time in the process," Turner said.
All of the day's activities were free of charge to Weehawken residents, courtesy of a state grant provided to the Weehawken Against Drug and Alcohol Alliance.
Incredibly, plans are already underway for next year's celebration.
"We have to start now and get everything blocked in," Turner said. "It's a 12-month thing now with the planning. [Recreation Director] Chuck Barone and his staff start booking things now for next year, because other towns have festivals and fairs at the same time. We have to make sure we're able to get everything people want."
Weehawken just wouldn't have it any other way.