Imagine a picnic for more than 70,000 people, and you might get an idea of what the Jersey City Freedom & Fireworks Festival was like on July 4. Although not exactly like the legendary Woodstock Concert, plenty of cars lined up to get into the park site, and people by the hundreds spilled out of the Hudson Bergen Light Rail for the long walk to the park’s green where the festivities took place. Along the way, hawkers sold novelty items and water.
Known as one of the most historic locations in the nation for its proximity to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the masses that made their way from the light rail seemed to reflect that history. Ethnically diverse, the crowd looked almost like the immigrants of old, carrying with them a variety of gear from large sun-blocking umbrellas and fold out seats to barbecue grills.
The aroma of grilled meat filled the air from countless cookouts along the grassy sides of the road into the park. The tantalizing scents also came from the line of food vending trucks that set up near the main celebratory grounds and the beer garden with food tents on the other side.
“It was a great day and the best place to celebrate America’s Independence.” – Mayor Steven Fulop
Unlike last year, the air was free of rain, although heavy clouds hung over the park for most of the day. Packs of helicopters crisscrossed the skies providing aerial security while scores of public safety vehicles did the same on the ground. But neither rain nor fear of potential terrorism managed to dampen the good feelings, especially near the two stages which provided non-stop entertainment through the day.
Fun for all
The kid’s stage provided everything from magicians and clowns to Pre School of Rock performances. Down at the main stage, the bands Sons of Seymour, Macnoche Bag, Jersey Rollers, Judah Tripe, Prime and Gordon James gave people a wide selection of music. DJ Gorge Soul and MC Michael Billy (complete with his red, white and blue hat) gave the event the atmosphere of one large dance party.
This was only made even more evident by violinist Miri Ben-Ari who has played with some of the most prominent hip hop artists in the world.
But not everything was fun and games. The event also benefited Folds of Honor, a non-profit organization that provides scholarships to the spouses and children of fallen soldiers, and featured a Special Olympics competition as well.
Still, for the whole day, the anticipation mounted in the long wait for dark and New Jersey’s largest fireworks show.
“We started this event in Liberty State Park last year and couldn’t be more proud to have a world class event for our residents and at the same time showcase our city to everyone else,” said Mayor Steven Fulop. “Well over 70,000 people attended, with families enjoying amusement rides, live music including Grammy-award winning violinist Miri Ben Ari, and one of the best fireworks displays in the nation. It was a great day and the best place to celebrate America’s Independence.”
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.