Milltown to celebrate nation’s b-day in style

Longtime first-aid volunteer will serve as grand marshal


After years of being on call as a rescue squad member during Milltown’s Fourth of July festivities, Don Hohner will be able to relax and enjoy himself this year.

That’s because he has been named grand marshal for Saturday’s parade, the borough’s way of saying thanks to Hohner for his many years of volunteer first-aid service.

The lifelong resident, who has spent 30 of his 47 years on the rescue squad, including his time as a junior member in high school, was surprised to learn that he was selected to helm the parade.

“I didn’t know I was nominated,” Hohner said. Generally, rescue squad members are busy all day long on the Fourth of July, but as grand marshal, Hohner said he will be able to “hang out and enjoy myself.”

Hohner served as president of the rescue squad for 10 years, captain for a year and a half, and is now the chief driver. He was on the committee that planned an expansion of the rescue squad headquarters in 1995, and the squad is now finishing the second floor of the building. “We ran out of money in 1995,” Hohner said.

The Milltown Rescue Squad is among a handful of all-volunteer squads remaining in Middlesex County. Hohner said it presently has 28 regular members and six junior members. “We are always looking for volunteers,” he said.

The squad answers about 1,000 calls a year, or two to three per day. Last year, Hohner went out on approximately 180 of those calls, or about three a week. Hohner volunteers in his free time away from his work as a chief meter technician with PSE&G. He noted that his employer has awarded grant money to the squad based on his volunteerism.

The Milltown Fourth of July parade is one of the biggest and oldest celebrations in Middlesex County. The parade will kick off at 10 a.m. Saturday, rain or shine. It begins at Van Liew Avenue and continues along Main Street to East Lincoln Avenue to John F. Kennedy Drive and concludes at the park on Violet Terrace. The parade involves numerous community organizations and entertainment.

Entertainment will continue from noon to 3 p.m. at Borough Park, beginning with Emily Johnson singing the national anthem. In addition to various activities, participants can enjoy free music, hot dogs and soda. Additional food vendors will be on-site with products available for purchase. Food vendors will be available for both the day and night festivities. As the theme this year is “Lights, Camera, Milltown!,” music at the park during the day will be from famous movies. The Hollywood theme will include look-alikes of celebrities such as Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra, who will march in the parade and be available for photos afterward.

However, according to Councilman Randy Farkas, who has chaired the Fourth of July Committee for the past seven years, the people of Milltown and the businesses that donate to the event are the real stars. In the past, donations have totaled up to $50,000, but due to the difficult economy, they are down to $42,000 this year, Farkas said. For the past seven years, money was always put aside for a contingency fund, so this year’s festivities will not be affected. Farkas said next year’s event may be impacted.

“The money we’re raising this year is for next year’s parade,” he said.

Farkas said he has been blessed to work with a great committee to plan the annual events, and its members agreed they will have to focus more efforts on fundraising in light of the economy’s impact.

Saturday’s schedule of events is as follows:

• 6 a.m., annual Fishing Derby sponsored by the Milltown Rescue Squad;

• 7:30 a.m., Fun Run; • 8 a.m., 5K Run; • 10 a.m., parade kick-off; • Noon to 3 p.m., Fun at the Park; • 1 p.m., Mr. Ray performs; • 7 to 9:30 p.m., live music; • 9:30 p.m., fireworks.