JACKSON – If you were looking for a fun, family-oriented, community event this weekend, you might have found yourself at the annual Jackson Harvest Festival in John F. Johnson Jr. Memorial Park. Held on Oct. 28 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., the Jackson Day festivities were brimming with laughter and music as children and parents alike paraded around in their Halloween costumes or painted pumpkins in the children’s event tent. Beautiful, sunny weather and a warm fall afternoon made this festival even more enjoyable as families and local organizations mingled in the sunshine.
“Even though Jackson is the third largest town in New Jersey, it still has a small-town atmosphere,” said Helene Schlegel, the business administrator of Jackson Township and an organizer for the event. “The Harvest Festival is a day bringing neighbors together and a free day for the kids.”
From the commencement of the day’s events, the centerpiece of the festival was the vendor tents–comprising 106 local vendors, businesses, schools, and community members–these stalls served up an incredible variety. From homemade fall crafts for sale made by Jackson community members to fundraising with local non-profit organizations, the Harvest Festival provided a fun and fantastic range of activities for everyone.
At these vendor tents you could find Gloria and Diana and their handmade crafts; first time vendors at this event, yet long-time attendees. A little farther down you could stumble across the Jackson Memorial High School Dance Team performing a choreographed routine for everyone. Cornerstone Presbyterian Church also came out for the event to help foster hurricane relief. The festival even drew people in from beyond the Jackson community, like Jill Petterson.
“I don’t even live in Jackson, this is my first time here” said Petterson, “It’s really great.”
Over the course of the day, local bands serenaded the crowds on the Jackson Township stage, where people danced and sang along to well-known tunes. From the Sensational Soul Cruisers, the 11-man horn group playing classic soulful hits, to the American doo wop group, The Capri’s, music filled the air from the beginning of the festival to the end. In between live acts, DJ’s filled the gaps with music hits for the kids to run and jump to.
Beginning at one in the afternoon, you could find families flocking to the blow-up bouncing slides or festival rides near the children’s event tent for a little more fun. The day began with a pumpkin painting session in the event tent with Let’s Bloom Together, an organization that aims to educate children about the Earth and environment in a fun and exciting way. Children could stick around for a silly, costumed concert by children’s performing artist Yosi or be entranced by a little magic show by Anthony Salazar Magic. With a Halloween bouncer, a 70-foot obstacle course, swings and a carousel, this festival had an endless array of activities for kids of all ages.
In the midst of all of this excitement, the food trucks attracted everyone with the scents of delicious desserts and savory snacks. Serving a wide range of food such as pierogis, shaved ice, and fresh lemonade, the food trucks lined the edge of the park from the children’s area to the performance stage so that everyone could enjoy some treats no matter where they were.
The festival was held in the summer last year and the change in date from summer to fall brought with it much nicer weather, noted Schlegel. “We have a gorgeous day and we’re ending it with fireworks tonight,” said Schlegel. “It continues to be a bringing the community together event.”