LAKEHURST – Pumpkin picking, pumpkin tic-tac-toe, pumpkin bingo, pumpkin bowling and a few non pumpkin-related activities were a fun part of a special fall festival recently.
The Proving Ground Church on 1 Proving Ground Road was filled with booths and vendor tables providing games, prizes and enjoyable activities for children and adults. Also featured were members of the borough fire and police departments who showcased their services.
Arriving early was Marie Fircha and her family of Whiting. Her 3-year-old daughter Abigail was dressed as a pumpkin which kept in the theme.
She was shy about having her photo taken but not so shy about her tasting of cotton candy that was available. She told her mom that she didn’t want to go on the fire truck that was present for a visit.
Nearby was Joan Guido of Manchester and David Monti of Toms River. Adults weren’t exempt from enjoying the festivities in costumes. Monti’s COVID-19 mask blended well with her skeleton costume. He was there to help the church with giving out snacks.
The church has been active in providing family events to the area for months now with its concerts, outdoor movies, game nights, food drives and free flea markets and that was before it officially began holding services last month.
Pastor Nick Daleo said “this is one of the events that the borough asked us to be a part of. Initially they borough was going to hold their Halloween Parade on the same day. It was supposed to line up but it didn’t but that’s okay.”
Borough officials had forgotten that last year the Halloween Parade to be held on October 24 had already been put on the calendar so the idea of having it prior to the church’s Fall Festival was changed when that was discovered.
“We went to their recreation meeting and we said we would go forward with this in the safest manner. People are showing up. All the events that people are doing they enjoy. Right now things are just weird and if you give people an outlet to come out in a safe environment for families and the kids have a little normalcy, they enjoy it,” the pastor added.
His wife Tracy said, “we didn’t officially open the doors for services but we’ve been having virtual services. We do a taping on Wednesday nights and we plan to open up on November 1. It has been going really well. We only let it be 100 spots for social distancing and we pretty much fill it up every week.”
“We get new families every week. We get people to sign up because they have to sign up to come and it has been good,” she added.
“No one had to register for today,” she added. Attendees signed in at the entrance for purposes of tracking should anyone show signs of the coronavirus but masks were a must and the tables were socially distanced.
Activities also included axe throwing with a soft Nerf like adhesive to a target, a pumpkin patch, a scavenger hunt for older children and refreshments.
“We are so thrilled to be involved and the fire department is involved with us again,” the Pastor added. Previously the fire department whose firehouse is across the street from the church, held a fire prevention program and allowed children to inspect their vehicles.
Pastor Daleo added, “if there is anything we can do for them, fundraiser-wise we want to help because they lost the ability to hold all their annual fundraising activities.”
Lakehurst Fire Department members Michael Sinton, Lawrence DesJardins, Matthew Cadmus and Bob Morris were on hand to meet and greet attendees.
Police Officers Madelyn Waltz, Harry Paul and William Bowers represented the borough police department at their table which featured a Halloween decorated police vehicle.
Maria Colatarci of Lakehurst manned a table that featured her 250 colorful bead bracelets that she was selling for $3 or two for $5 to support autism research. Maria said she has autism and wanted to help others with autism. She is also a cancer survivor.
“Families and especially the kids are pushed to the limit as is, with schools being partly remote learning, being hybrid with days on, days off. They’ve been through a lot. We just wanted them to come out, have some fun and smile,” Pastor Daleo added.