MANCHESTER – Some scorching heat didn’t keep township residents away from Harry Wright Lake Park to enjoy the community’s annual double celebration of Manchester Day and Independence Day.
The event, sponsored by the township recreation department, kicked off at 2 p.m. and concluded with some amazing fireworks.
A full schedule of fun-filled activities kept adults and children happy. Games, limbo and hula hoop contests plus a scavenger hunt was played during the day. A number of free raffles were drawn throughout the celebration as well.
DJ Cass provided the musical entertainment during the event accompanied by the Pinelands Symphonic Band. Before the fireworks lit up the evening sky the sounds of the band Rubix Kube were heard. Radio talent for the celebration and concert series was provided by radio station WJRZ 100.1 FM.
You couldn’t go hungry at Manchester Day as a variety of delicious food and snacks were available for sale from a diverse group of vendors. Such treats included funnel cakes, Italian ice, kettle corn, sausage (hot or sweet), bacon wrapped chicken kebabs and for more specialized bacon items you could wander over to the pink truck of Bacon Broads. To wash it down you had the option of picking your favorite of Wild Bill’s Olde Fashioned Soda and Pop Co.
By far one of the most popular stops of the day which reached temperatures into the 90s was ice cream and many people started their day in the park by making a stop at Mr. Softee operated by Don Pittman of Cherry Hill.
His mother Barbara Furman was there to help out. “This is our second year in a row at this event and all our kids can enjoy it while we work,” she said.
“I got the truck four years ago and we do parties and weddings. This event is a lot of fun,” Pittman said.
Guests browsed and shopped the numerous craft, vendor and information tables within the park.
Rose Keat of Crestwood Village in Whiting was using her walker and was enjoying the shade under a tree. She came to Manchester Day for the first time. “I’m glad it has handicapped parking. It is very hot but my husband and I figured we’d come out and stay as long as we could and then we will go back home to the air conditioning. This is a very nice park.”
Others kept cool by participating in a water balloon contest. Even Mayor Kenneth T. Palmer and Councilman Craig Wallis took part in that event. Wallis learned that even when you catch a water balloon, it can still explode. “I caught it,” Wallis said with a little disbelief as the mayor laughed.
Nicole Beyer’s 9-year-old daughter, Nicole, took part in the water balloon contest. “We just moved here from Ocean Gate. All three of us are here today,” Beyer said. “With this heat she was excited about the water balloon fight. We are going to the lake afterwards.”
Many visitors to Manchester Day utilized the lake to cool off. The lake was filled with swimmers of all ages. No badges were required during the day.
The event also provided for a chance for township-based organizations ranging from Cub Scout Pack 44 to the Manchester Municipal Alliance to showcase what they do within the community.
Tracey Sloan was among those who manned the Municipal Alliance table, which was offering up sand art for children to take part in. “Our mission is to bring awareness to prescription drug abuse. We sponsor projects like our Project High School Graduation where we take students to the YMCA in Freehold as an activity on the night of graduation.”
Sloan added that other initiatives of the alliance include students building better self esteem and to have mutual respect for their peers.
“We also work with seniors to have them drop off their expired medicine so it isn’t lying around the house. Instead we let them know it can be brought to our drop off box at town hall,” Sloan said.
“We are seeing a ton of people here today. I got here five minutes before we started and it has been a steady flow of people,” Sloan added.
Zoraida Aponte and her husband Mike traveled from Springfield Township in Burlington County for Manchester Day. They never miss it.
Aponte screamed with joy when she saw Smokey the Bear in the woods greeting children and adults. She wanted her photo taken with the big bear whose message is “only you can prevent forest fires.”
“We love it out here. The people are so nice and it is a beautiful lake,” Zoraida Aponte said.
“We come here all the time,” her husband added.
The couple was clearly dressed to enjoy the lake after they enjoyed some of the other activities of the hot day.