Rain Fails To Dampen Lavallette Founders Day

Crunchy the T-Rex greets a startled child during the Lavallette Founder' Day. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

LAVALLETTE – It began as Lavallette Heritage Day, a time to honor the borough’s long heritage as a resort community, boat building industry center and year round family town. Founder’s Day, which replaced it six years ago, had a slightly different focus, to show that Lavallette was back after Superstorm Sandy.

Symbolic to that was the fact that attendees to this year’s event didn’t let some periodic rain spoil their fun and frolics.

“The Mayor (Walter G. LaCicero) asked us to show the community that we were back and we’ve been doing this ever since,” Susan Kotch, Founders Day co-chair said.

Members of the Mojo Monks perform in the Lavallette gazebo during Founders Day. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

She noted that unfortunately many of those who guided the similar fall celebration of Heritage Day were up in age and many had been displaced after the events of Superstorm Sandy. “We had no group to organize it so we put together a new group. This event is done through donations. There is no tax dollars involved. We are able to provide free children’s games and we invited our businesses in town to come out and showcase their services.”

Kotch added that the borough’s First Aid Squad provided free blood pressure screenings during the day, the Police Benevolent Association served up some beer while the fire department sold hotdogs and hamburgers.

“Sure it’s rainy but what else can you do on a rainy day but go to the mall or movies. People are having fun here and the rain isn’t that bad,” Kotch said. “This event is funded through the efforts of the Lavallette Founder‛s Day Committee members, who solicit donations and contributions from local businesses and various other entities.” She said the group’s purpose was to provide an event that would show unity among the residents of the community, allowing them to celebrate themselves, each other and life in Lavallette.

Nicole Szwed, Brick of My 3 Cobbs Kettle Corn looks over a vat of freshly made kettle corn during Founders Day. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

Mayor LaCicero and Congressman Thomas McArthur (R-3rd District) took part in the opening ceremonies and then it was time for the booths to open and the entertainment to start.

Five sisters from Montreal Canada were dancing to the tunes of the Mojo Monks, who were performing at the Bayfront gazebo. “They are a great band,” Johanne Jutras said. She may have been a little biased as their relative Billy Bieber is a member of the band.

“We’ve played here at Founders Day and at Sail Fest in Island Heights,” Bieber said. “We play classic rock, pop and The Beatles.”

Odette Jutras of Montreal said that she and her sisters are French Canadian and that they were visiting their Aunt Marielle Jutras of Toms River.

“This is the first time we all came here together outside of a special event. We are really enjoying this event,” Odette Jutras said.

The smell of freshly made kettle corn was in the air along the vendor area. Several kettle corn vendors were present including My Three Cobbs Kettle Corn of Brick. Nicole Szwed, Kim Docimo and her husband Jim were busy operating the stand.

Oceanaires Barbershop quartet members Joe Mack, left, joins Jim Donahue, Rob Sorino and Pat Kelly as they sing during Founders Day. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

“Last year we sold corn on the cob,” Kim Docimo said.

“We’ve been doing festivals like this for two years now. We were hoping for sun today but the rain stopped and we’re good,” Jim Docimo said.

The event allowed for various organizations to bring awareness to what their groups do. Members of the Ocean County National Organization of Women (NOW) were busy providing information about the Women’s Health Initiative.

NOW member Lynda Fote said “we’re talking to voters in Ocean County about the importance of women’s health care – be it cancer prevention, domestic violence, family planning – and we’re talking to candidates about what their position is on these subjects.”

Fote said that NOW has a program that includes voters receiving a postcard to let them know how candidates feel about women’s health initiative subjects.

Members of the Northern Ocean Habitat for Humanity were present at their booth to talk to attendees about their mission to provide affordable housing and aid county residents with restoration and upgrades.

“We’ve seen our 19th new construction in Ocean County and 17 Superstorm Sandy repairs. We’ve helped many aging veterans through our Brush with Kindness program and there is a serious concern for those who faced flooding recently in the Greenbriar section of Brick,” organization volunteer Gerry Pizzi of Toms River said.

Visitors from Montreal Canada dance in the rain and enjoy the music of the Mojo Monks in front of the Lavallette gazebo during the borough’s sixth annual Founders Day. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

“We just did a roof for a man suffering with MS who is shifting from having a walker to being in a wheel chair. We helped him with a new kitchen. We’ve also done a lot of work in trailer homes. We consider ourselves as gentle re-constructors as we often have to scope out the work which often gets more complicated,” volunteer Jeff Dicker of Plumsted said.

Bob Conway, the group’s senior construction supervisor, said that the organization has between 20 to 80 volunteers and that some of their sponsors bring in groups. “We could always use more volunteers.” The group can be reached by calling 732-228-7962. Their office is based at 1187 Washington St. Suite 3, Toms River.

Joe Mack, Jim Donahue, Rob Sorino and Pat Kelly, each members of the Oceanaires barbershop quartet were busy strolling around the event singing and having their photo taken. This year marks 61 years for the chorus group. The group is gearing up for a big concert taking place 4 p.m. Sept. 30 at Toms River High School North. For information call 732-451-4838.

Other activities included police K9 demonstrations, face painting at the sparkle bar, gaming station at the firehouse, rides and games, rag timers, the gyrl band and an Elvis impersonator, the Matt Noffsinger Band, and Left South Paw.

One attraction that stood out was the return of Crunchy the T-Rex a rather realistic looking dinosaur who greeted amazed and sometimes scared children and who even got a dog to bark at him as he strolled about the crowd appearing much like an escape from the latest Jurassic Park movie.

“This is his second year here and he’s a big hit with the kids and adults,” Kotch said.