By Amy Batista, Special Writer
Thousands flocked to the historic downtown business area Saturday to partake in the annual Hometown Harvest Fair festivities.
The event, which was held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Oct. 10, was free to the public. The event was organized by a volunteer committee appointed by the mayor and was staffed by community-minded volunteers as well as local groups and organizations.
Mayor Larry Quattrone thanked everyone that worked on the fair.
“I think it was very good,” he said.
The fair is the largest event hosted by Hightstown. This year, sponsors included CCL Label, 1st Constitution Bank, Stitches-n-Ink and Voices of Hightstown. Additional sponsors included the Hightstown Diner, PakMail, Weidel Real Estate, and Windsor Nissan.
“The 13th annual Hightstown Harvest fair turned out to be a great day,” said Hometown Harvest Fair Committee Chairwoman Trish Egan. “It’s a great community event for our town.”
The fair was spread across the majority of the downtown business area stretching from the Franklin Street intersection at Main Street at the firehouse to the post office. Over 250 vendors and organizations were on hand offering a variety of items including art work, hand-crafted items, jewelry and accessories, children’s novelties, health and beauty products as well as home, garden and seasonal items and food.
“The harvest fair committee has discussed some improvements for next year and we have several vendors already committed for 2016,” Ms. Egan said.
The borough’s Cultural Arts Commission facilitated a variety of art activities at six stations throughout the fair for the first time. Attendees were able to participate in hands-on projects like large, colorful mosaics; meet portrait artist David Rivera; enter a drawing for a chance to win prizes and much more.
“We were happy to learn that so many people were interested in the arts commission and hungry for arts and cultural activities in our town,” said Cultural Arts Commission Chairwoman Ann Marie Miller. “Participating at the Harvest Fair was a great way to welcome the commission as we begin to plan future programs. It was heartwarming to see the two tables full of people working on the mosaic panels with Barb Harrington, asking Adam Welch questions while he demonstrated at the potter’s wheel and I had some young tree-huggers where I and a Hightstown High School student were yarn-bombing down by Peddie Lake.”
People were engaged and it’s clear they want more art, she said.
“We have a real need to fill and the commissioners are excited to offer some leadership and hard work to bring our community together through the arts,” she said.
The children’s area featured inflatable rides, pony rides, a petting zoo, vendors and a stage with youth-oriented shows including George the Magician, Mad Science and Story Time with Grandma Lee. There were a total of three stages offering a wide assortment of music and entertainment including performances by Kelly Dance School, A Place to Dance, Sofia Khorosh, Rise Fashion Show, Karl Dentino, Kim Yarson Bank and DJs.
Hightstown High School revived the dunk tank, which was located in the Jersey Appliance parking lot at 139 Mercer Street. Attendees were able to dunk their favorite football player.
The dunk tank was a collaboration between the Hightstown Fire Department, which filled the tank; Jersey Appliance, which provided the space; and the Hightstown High School Rams football team and volunteers. The Rams suited up to raise funds for the Rise Food Pantry, which provides provisions to over 500 local families each week. Attendees were asked to bring canned goods or cash donations to the event.
Hightstown High School Parents Club member Wendy McDade said that the team raised $675 in cash donations, a $25 gift card from Shop Rite, and approximately 100 canned food items during the dunk tank event. The proceeds will go to the Rise Food Pantry.
“The players responded to the event with great enthusiasm as the dunk tank bench was occupied all day,” Ms. McDade said. “Both Head Coach (Ethan) Jeros and the mayor of Hightstown lent their time on the bench as well, garnering great response.”
She said that the Rise Food Pantry is thrilled with the donations and looks forward to a long-term relationship with the football team. First-year Head Coach Jeros strongly believes in community service as a founding principle of his team-building efforts, she added.
“On behalf of the Hightstown High School football program I would first and foremost like to thank Wendy McDade for setting the ball in motion for this phenomenal experience,” said Head Coach Jeros. “Secondly, I would like to thank all of the parents that were a huge help, as well as all of the fine folks at Rise who supported this venture and the mayor too. Lastly, I want to thank all of the members of our team who actively participated throughout the day on Saturday.”
He said that his goal as the head football coach at Hightstown is to provide an experience for each and every member of the football team well beyond what he may learn on the football field.
“Giving back to the community and helping others is a way that they can learn to be selfless and see how truly lucky they are to have what they have,” he said. “It is my prerogative to further enhance their being a part of a team by working together to help others.“
He said this has been a great start to what he expects to be a long and lasting relationship not only with Rise but with the Hightstown community as a whole.
Mayor Quattrone said he enjoyed helping raise money for Rise.
“Rise: A Community Service Partnership was delighted to work with many organizations with the same goal to achieve genuine community impact, lifting our neighbors,” said Rise Executive Director Leslie Koppel. “We worked closely with the Hightstown Fair Committee who provided us with space, advertising and encouragement for all of our activities.”
Karla Gonzalez, case manager at Rise, who worked the dunk tank from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m., said that the tank was busy all day.
“People kept coming and coming,” she said.
Her favorite part was watching little kids try to dunk the Rams and then “they would just run up and push the button.”
“Sometimes water splashed out of tank and got the crowd wet,” she said. “Pretty cool when the coach went in and he goaded the crowd. It was a lot of fun.”
Rise celebrated its third thrift store, a resale furniture outlet, by hosting a “Grand Opening Extravaganza” in conjunction with the Hometown Harvest Fair. The newest store is located at 133 Broad St. behind Krauser’s on Franklin Street.
“The new Greater Goods Resale Furniture Store officially opened with warm fanfare and refreshments provided by WaWa on Applegarth Road on Route 33,” Ms. Koppel said. “The furniture store had its best day ever and many new people came in check it out and shop.”
Rise also sponsored a Greater Goods Fashion Show at noon by the lake.
“It featured many familiar community members and gave everyone a chance to shine,” she said.
The festivities ended with the fifth annual Ducky Derby organized by the Hightstown Apollo Masonic Lodge 41. The first place winner won a $500 Visa gift card, second place won a $100 Visa gift card and third place won a $50 Visa gift card.
“The Ducky Derby race went off with a grand fanfare,” said Hightstown Apollo Masonic Lodge 41 Treasurer Steven Romm. “Adults and children lined up at the Rocky Brook Falls and watched as the sold ducks were dumped into the lake and quickly went over the falls.“
He said that the ducks swam a bit slow but with the cheers from the large crowd assembled ultimately made it to the finish line.
“Hightstown’s Mayor Larry Quattrone plucked the winning three ducks,” he said, adding that winners were announced at the fair.
“I hope to see everyone next year,” Mayor Quattrone said.
By Amy Batista, Special Writer