About 700 attend first-ever township arts fest

At the event, Sidney Rowland was named Lawrence Township’s first poet laureate.

By: Lea Kahn
   Examples of the fine and performing arts — including sculpture, music, drama and poetry — were in abundance Saturday at the U.S. Army National Guard Armory at the Lawrence Arts & Music Festival.
   About 700 people stopped to check out the artwork on display and to listen to music or watch a play during the daylong festival, said township Recreation Superintendent Steven Groeger.
   A hot air balloon was tethered to the ground outside the armory in the morning, offering rides to the adventurous. Budding artists could try their hand at one of several easels set up in the field near the hot-air balloon.
   Some children took advantage of the afternoon breeze and made kites that they tried to get aloft. Other youngsters opted to have their faces painted with various designs.
   Inside the armory, amateur artists displayed their works. The creative endeavors — painting and sculpture — of senior citizens at the Lawrence Senior Center were set up on tables and portable partitions. Some of the sculptures were made by students in a sculpture class at the senior center.
   The Chinese Year of the Horse was exemplified by the work of kindergarten students from art teacher Anthony Colavita’s classes at Ben Franklin Elementary School. The students made papier-mâché horses, which were fenced inside a corral.
   Members of the Delaware Valley Poets and the New Jersey Poetry Society Inc. read poetry for a few minutes at the beginning of every hour.
   And for the first time ever, the New Jersey Poetry Society Inc. named Sidney Rowland as Lawrence Township’s first poet laureate. Mr. Rowland has published several books of poetry.
   The poet laureate advances the cause of poetry, and writes poetry to the best of his or her ability, according to the society’s guidelines.
   But the festival was more than artwork and poetry. A trio of teen-agers played classical music. The threesome, consisting of two violinists and cellist, played on a stage in a small room off the large drill room.
   3 U See, a group of hip-hop dancers, performed on another stage in the drill room as a crowd watched intently.
   The Lawrence Repertory Theater showed off its thespians in a play, held in one of the smaller rooms.
   Also, the Lawrence High School Improvisation comedy troupe took the stage. Students acted out their version of "the world’s worst commercial." One student dead-panned, " ‘PAG.’ It’s GAP spelled backwards."
   Then, it was the turn of the Lawrence Community Band to show off its musicians’ talent. The band, led by director Robert Bonitz, celebrated its 10th anniversary at the arts festival. Deputy Mayor Pam Mount presented Mr. Bonitz and the band with a proclamation signed by Mayor Doris Weisberg and Township Council.
   Band member Carol Nicholas briefly recounted the community band’s history. A township resident suggested to then-Mayor Gloria Teti that it would be nice to have a community band. Mrs. Teti worked with Desi Maik, a tuba player with a military band who played at the township’s Fourth of July fireworks display — and the Lawrence Community Band was born.
   Saturday afternoon, the Lawrence Community Band played an assortment of tunes. It started off with a rousing march. Shifting gears, the band played a medley of Frank Sinatra tunes. A couple of folks standing behind the band could not resist, and began to dance.
   Soon, the Lawrence High School Band joined the community band — for the first time ever, according to high school band director Eric Haltmeier. The student musicians and adult musicians started off by playing a medley of Elton John songs.
   Lawrence resident Melissa Benford and her 6-year-old son, Nick Bosted, said they enjoyed the arts festival. Ms. Benford said they enjoyed the dancers and the artwork — by both the adults and the children.
   "We don’t often get the opportunity to see the talent of the people of Lawrence," said Mary Gadde. "I think next year, you will have a greater crowd. It’s good for the community."