JACKSON – There was a huge crowd at the Jackson PBA 168 Pig Roast, but it wasn’t just food that brought people out. It was a feeling of community.
For five hours police officers, their families, and other attendees enjoyed an abundance of food ranging from hamburgers, hot dogs and salads along with barbecue chicken, beer, wine and ice cream. But food wasn’t the only thing – there were also games and music on the menu.
The all-you-can-eat event of course included a pig roast. There were also giveaways, children’s games, inflatables, face painting, rock climbing and carnival games. The band Moondoggie also took to the stage.
As always, the event allowed for interaction between the community and the officers in blue. It also showed the partnership between the PBA and the Jackson Kiwanis Club whose members were busy cooking up hamburgers and hotdogs during the day.
Alexis Wands, 19, was present with three fellow members of the Jackson Police Explorers who were helping out with the event. “I’ve been involved with this for four years. The program is run completely through the Jackson Police Department. I’ve always had a thing for helping people and I felt this was a great program to get involved with.”
She added, “we do community events and toys for tots every year. We are big on bringing the community together and helping out where we can. It is putting a good face to the police department. We try to make it more community based and build a relationship because we are there to help.”
“I am at college right now but I was able to come back home this weekend and was able to be a part of this. I am at Cookstown University in Pennsylvania between Allentown and Reading so it is a little over a two-hour drive and I’m there for my second year. I’m a social work major with a psychology minor and my goal with that is to work in the foster care system to place children in good homes and to take them out of bad ones,” Wands said.
“A big thing we do (in the Jackson Police Explorers) is ride-alongs. We also have weekly meetings on Thursdays at the police department. We do drills and scenarios and we learn the ins and outs and during the ride-alongs we learn what goes on in the vehicle, how to do a traffic stop and real-life experiences,” she added.
Wands noted that for those who are interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement, “it gives them a foot in the door and for those who are not it provides a better understanding of what it is like for the daily routine of an officer. It is a good thing to be a part of, especially first hand.”
As to membership Wands said, “we used to have a much bigger group about 25 or 30 but now we’ve been dwindling down a little bit to about 10 or eight. Hopefully, that number will get back up especially since I only have one more year with the program.”
“You can start as early as 14. You have to be 16 to do ride-alongs and you stop at age 21. I turn 20 in November so I have one more year left with the program but I’ll always come back to do my part, just not in uniform,” she added.
“The sun’s coming out it is going to be a good day,” Officer Joseph Pante said early on during the event. “We never know how many people will turn out as it all depends on the weather. I don’t know how many officers we have helping this year as they come in and out.”
The Ryan family – made up of Jim and Katie Ryan, Cory Ryan and Katie Goelz, whose husband is a township police officer, have made this event a family tradition for the last 10 years. “It is a good way to support the police,” Jim Ryan said.
Katie Ryan said her grandchildren, “can’t wait to get over to the rides.”
“These guys really know how to cook a pig,” Cory Ryan added.
“The Kiwanis Club does that and they are awesome,” Katie Ryan interjected.
Mayor Michael Reina started off his day early with the Wounded Warrior Parade that was held that morning at the Justice Complex. He was enjoying the Pig Roast and meeting up with officers, residents and some old friends during the afternoon.
“What a beautiful day it has been to not only support our troops (at the Wounded Warrior Parade) but our men and women in blue as well. The township is very proud to be supporting both and that will never waver. God bless our troops and God bless our police,” the mayor added.