A reported $60,000 in tickets were sold to the Secaucus “Winter Blast” festivities before the Super Bowl a week ago. After a chilly Thursday debut with a few opening night glitches and a light turnout of attendees, the events launched into high gear on Friday and Saturday with a full complement of entertainment, food, and fun.
“Kids were free so I’m going to estimate between 8,000 and 10,000 people showed up,” said Mayor Michael Gonnelli. The event raised more than $20,000 for charity.
Families made up a good percentage of the attendees during the day on Saturday. “I came for my son,” said Jersey City resident Young Mi. “And the food.”
Her husband Yong Kim was more specific. “First thing we had to do was hit up the beer garden.” Their infant son Noah seemed more interested in the color and the bustle of activity on the ball field of Buchmuller Park, where kids could choose to play on a huge inflatable obstacle course, climb in a giant snow globe, have a snowball fight, pet a life-size animatronic dinosaur, and much more.
“It’s a nice day. The weather wound up being not as bad as everyone was predicting,” said Matt Cokeley, who attended with his wife Carissa, son Riley, and daughter Keira from their home in Rutherford. “It’s a wide open space, it’s really well run, security feels tight. We’re enjoying the food trucks. Definitely indulging a little bit too much in this post-holiday season.”
“The Super Bowl’s in Jersey, so let’s give Jersey the respect it deserves.” --Paul Shimbovitz
“They have an awful lot of food trucks,” said Secaucus resident Robert Glover, cruising the extensive “food truck mash-up” with his wife, Elizabeth. “We’ve only been through half of them. We have to get the lay of the land and choose the best food.”
Inside the crowded beer garden a stage offered various musicians throughout the weekend. A transparent truck at the main entrance held additional performers. Nearby, graffiti artist Getlostalot exhibited his artistry, while sports legends held meet ‘n greets and autograph signings.
Inside the ice rink, local teams held hockey tournaments, and free skating was available to attendees between games.
“We’re cheerleaders and we were stunting before, doing flips and stuff,” said ninth-grader Stephanie, returning from a food run with her friend Olivia. “It’s fun. We had a tug-of-war fight before.”
Angelina Mendez from Passaic enjoyed wandering the fairway with her kids. “I came to see the big football and for my sons to enjoy and have a nice time,” she said.
A 14-year employee of Toscana Cheese--where she met her husband--Mendez was proud of the nearly 350-pound mozzarella football created by her company to land them a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records and raise money for nonprofit Spectrum Works. She couldn’t wait to show her kids the giant ball. “I come to teach them what we do and to feel proud of our company,” she said.
Speaking of football…
“This is Giants territory we’re in right here,” said Paul Shimbovitz of Wayne. “The Super Bowl’s in Jersey, so let’s give Jersey the respect it deserves. The NFL didn’t really help out. That’s terrible.”
Most of the attendees at Winter Blast came from Secaucus and surrounding towns, rather than tourists attracted by the big game on Sunday. Ted Carter, the beer and bacon cupcake fan, said, “The NFL won’t let you use certain words for these events and it won’t sponsor the stuff. What the hell? They knew years ago this was going to be in New Jersey but of course everything says New York. Most of them say it’s in New York. But we know it’s in New Jersey.”
Attending with his brother Greg and sons Donte and Ted Jr., Carter had further words about the Super Bowl hoopla on Broadway in Manhattan. “The New York thing is a gazillion people. I went over there the other day. More towns should have things like this. I went to Hackensack because I got a paper that said it was going to have these things, and there was nothing there. I’m really surprised.”
“Our town’s event got canceled,” said Cokeley. “Rutherford had a similar event planned and for some reason it got canceled due to lack of sponsorship.” In fact, many towns in New Jersey considered holding Super Bowl related events, although Secaucus was one of the few to actually pull it off.
Near the ice sculptures of NFL logos slowly melting in the afternoon sun, Matt Cokeley was beaming as he gathered up his family to check out the rest of the event. “We’re going to go explore a little bit more before the kids pass out,” he said.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.