Pigs, food and...slime Fourth annual Meadowlands 'Riverfest' will lure thousands to area
by Dave Hoffman
Jun 04, 2004 | 778 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Pig races, a bee wrangler, and an ultimate obstacle course are some of the attractions coming to Laurel Hill Park in Secaucus next weekend when the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission (NJMC) holds its fourth annual Riverfest.

"It's basically to celebrate the revitalization of the Hackensack River," said Kristen Deckert, Education Coordinator for the Medaowlands Education and Research Institute (MERI). "The river is getting cleaner every year, and this is a way to get people to celebrate what is right in their back yards."

Organizers are expecting 10,000 people to come down to the river for the festival, which will be held on Saturday, June 12 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. That will be 3,000 people more than last year's fest, which was held on a rain date.
According to Deckert, the organizers launched an aggressive advertising campaign this year including a Turnpike billboard, newspapers, flyers, and the sides of buses.

"We are adding some edu-tainment, which is education mixed with entertainment," said Deckert.

One of the new activities includes the Wild and Wacky Challenge, based on a Nickelodeon game show.

"The participants will come in and answer environmentally themed questions about the Hackensack River, animals that live along the river and their habitat," said Deckert. "What happens if they answer the question incorrectly is, they get slimed."

This year, school students from all grade levels will participate in the Riverfest Meadowlands Environmental Science Fair. Aimed at students in the Meadowlands District, the science fair is being run by Ramapo College, who entered into a partnership with MERI last year, combining the college's education program with the Meadowland's natural laboratory.

Secaucus has been the location of Riverfest since its inception. Secaucus doesn't pay for the event, but offers in kind services including police, fire, public works and emergency services. City employees also set up and break down the event.

From all over New Jersey

Public Works Director Mike Gonelli said that the event brings people from all over New Jersey to see the new park at Laurel Hill, and offers residents an easy way to attend.

"I love the pig races," said Gonelli. "They're a bit of Secaucus history. That's what this town used to be, a lot of pig farms."

Riverfest is geared for families and is free of charge, except for food. There will be a big barbecue, soda, juices, and water, but no alcohol.

According to Hugh Carola, program director for Hackensack Riverkeeper, this year's event is going to be less of a carnival atmosphere and more of an environmental festival.

"We'll have both of our vessels, [pontoon boats called] the Robert H Boyle and the Edward Abby, joining the commission vessels and offering free trips through the Saw Mill Creek Wildlife management area, the marsh located directly across the river from the park," said Carolla. "They'll be going consistently from the beginning of the day to the end. Anyone who wants a boat ride will get one."

Riverkeeper, which is a national environmental organization, will also have a booth set up and have information about the river and what people can do there. They will also be selling their own brand of bottled water, Keeper Springs.

For musical entertainment, the singing train man will teach about the history of trains in New Jersey and the history of the railroad. This will be the first year that the festival will be accessible from the Secaucus Transfer Station.

Another new feature is called High Touch High Tech, where kids can make slime and Silly Putty.

"It's a science and chemistry thing," said Deckert. "It'll let them know that science can be interesting and fun. That's what our goal is to do."

Other activities include rock climbing walls, face painters, pony rides, a reptile, mammal and bird show, and a petting zoo.

Various outdoors or science-oriented groups will also have exhibits. There will be a flycasting exhibit by East Jersey Trout Unlimited, and exhibits of live animals and liquid nitrogen from Liberty Science Center.

For directions, visit www.hmdc.state.nj.us/festival/festdir.html. Laurel Hill Park is at the end of New County Road.
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