Sunday, June 07, 2020

New Jersey is a state rich in history, and within that state the township of Bergenfield boasts its own background as well. This summer, the Bergenfield invites community members to come together and celebrate 125 years since its founding. Known as the quasquicentennial (try saying that five times fast), the celebrations aim to encompass Bergenfield’s history as well as embrace the town’s current vibrance.

Of course, like any grand celebration, no one wants to wait to get the party started, so celebrations have already begun. The town kicked off their anniversary with a government day open house. Held at Borough Hall, this event featured a touch-a-truck activity with fire trucks, police cars, recycling trucks, motorcycles and more. They also had car seat checks, information about the new recycling programs and historical documents from Bergenfield’s founding days. The anniversary celebrations will continue at the annual Bergenfield Family Fun Day, on June 23, and throughout the summer and into the fall, and take place at Bergenfield landmarks, such as the Franklin School, Historic Bergenfield and Cooper’s Pond. Some of the focus will be on the history prior to Bergenfield being incorporated in 1894.

“The borough of Bergenfield is a culturally diverse community, and our hope is to have all the different components of the community represented at our celebration,” said Laurie Shestack Phipps, a volunteer with the celebrations who also serves on the library’s board of directors. Anyone who has been to the Bergenfield library knows the extent of its inclusive offerings. From the books in many different languages and about a multitude of cultures, to the fact that they have Sunday hours specifically to provide weekend opening to the shomer Shabbat community, Bergenfield aims to foster a sense of unity throughout the township.

The committee wants to extend an invitation to the entire community, not just to attend, but to participate in the planning, organization and any detail involved. “We want everyone to know about the celebration and have the chance to participate,” said Phipps. “The town officials are very aware of the community’s kashrut needs,” said Phipps, and explained that they are making every effort to ensure the cotton candy and other treats supplied at the Family Fun Day will be kosher.

With the festivities in the works, the community’s organizational committee looks to the community to step forward and be a part of the planning as well. “The invitation is out there to everyone to volunteer on any level,” said Phipps. Any area is open to volunteer participation, but the main jobs include volunteering at Family Fun Day at a booth, sponsorship of any part of the event and staffing activities. All groups are welcome to step up and join the preparation, whether a formal group such as a shul, or an informal block association.

In the meantime, planning is well underway. The town has been trying to find one or more kosher food trucks or food vendors who would be interested in setting up during the day’s activities and the evening fireworks, but have not yet received any applications. Any licensed food vendors wishing to sell their products during Family Fun Day should contact the borough administrator, Corey Gallo, at [email protected] or 201-387-4055, extension 6, for further details.

Any community groups, whether affiliated with a synagogue or not, who wish to set up a table or booth with activities or information on the field are encouraged to contact a member of the organizing committee. The committee is co-chaired by Tom Neats and Joe Verga, and representatives of the Jewish community on the organizing committee include Yavneh Academy’s Terry Infield and Bergenfield Library Trustee Laurie Shestack Phipps. Borough Council President Ora C. Kornbluth ([email protected]) and Mayor Norman Schmelz have been supportive of the efforts throughout the process.

Though the borough’s touch-a-truck event already passed, more activities are planned over the next few weeks, including a town-wide scavenger hunt from the side of Bergenfield by Teaneck all the way to the border of Dumont. This will be a great way to see various parts of town and become familiar with all the ins and outs of the area.

For those interested in learning more and getting involved behind the scenes, there will be a meeting on Monday, April 29, at 5:30 p.m. in the Friends Room in the basement of the Bergenfield Library for any and all community groups that are interested in manning a booth or table at Family Fun Day, and all are invited to attend.

Follow Go Bergenfield 125 on Facebook to stay up to date on future happenings, or visit www.bergenfield.com.

By Jenny Gans