A sackful – well, many sackfuls – of Weehawken children from toddler to high school size stood at the starting line on the football field of the Weehawken Waterfront Complex on Tuesday. Surrounded by a record turnout of their friends and their friends’ families, they hitched their burlap sacks tight around their waists (or armpits, depending on their height) and screwed their faces to focus intently on the finish line.
“Are you sad school is starting soon?” they were asked.
They screamed out a collective “Yes!” and after a “Ready, set, go,” hopped and stumbled, laughing their end-of-summer angst away, toward and eventually across the finish line.
Tuesday evening was a finish line of sorts for the long and many-faceted summer recreation program run by the town. The sun set over sack races, soccer relays, hula hoop stations, pie eating contests, and a so-called “bouncy house” that was truly more of a bouncy condo, with its many levels of inflated obstacles the kids bumped around in.
“Imagine living in all this urban-ness, next to a gazillion people, and yet still getting that small-town atmosphere.” – Robert Sosa
Such a large scale event required the time, effort, and organization of the same scale. Many volunteers from the school’s Peer Leadership program, athletic teams, cheerleaders, and marching band came together to paint faces and run races. They were joined by park employees and the recreation staff to be sure the fun ran smoothly.
Amanda Gonzalez, who is “almost 15,” and her fellow soon-to-be-sophomore Alissa Dippolito handed out the racing sacks. They said they are both huge fans and members of the high school marching band.
“Band is my life,” Gonzalez said. “They ask us to volunteer and we say yes, because we would do anything for band.”
“It’s our religion,” Dippolito giggled. They agreed they were sad to see the summer go, but were both psyched for the upcoming band season.
Jailene Ortez, 16, took her paintbrush to her tenth child that evening, artfully rendering a replica of Mario from the popular kids’ video game on a young man’s face. This year’s event was her second.
“I draw a lot at home,” she said. As for her favorite part of the evening, “I like the whole thing,” she added.
Small town feel
Of the many fun offerings found at End of Summer Fun Night, a large line snaked behind one section of the football field enclosed by mesh dividers to form a makeshift sporting ring. Inside the ring were pairs of children, donning large, inflatable, donut-shaped devices the kids called “Belly Bumpers.” Think sumo wrestling minus the gargantuan diet.
Amelia Osborne (9), Izabella Lizarazo (10), Daniel Inaba (10), and Baljaa Borgil (10) waited semi-impatiently to knock each other over.
“This is my first time here and I think it’s amazing,” Lizarazo said. “I get to see all my friends before school starts again and have a lot of fun.”
“This year is definitely better than last year,” Borgil noted. “There’s a lot more people and the Belly Bumpers are awesome.”
Though well-attended and backlit by the lights of New York City, the night had a distinctly intimate feel.
“Imagine living in all this urban-ness, next to a gazillion people, and yet still getting that small-town atmosphere,” Sosa said. “We get to participate on many levels with no distinction between cultures and races. It is pretty awesome if you ask me.”
Gennarose Pope may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org