The Kennedy Branch of the North Bergen Free Public Library celebrated its fifth anniversary with a carnival two weeks ago. Kids enjoyed free rides and games, along with free hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy, snow cones, and churros.
According to Library Director Sai Rao, the carnival had been held before, but this year’s event was bigger and better. Typically, it’s held in the library parking lot, but this year it also included the Dunkin Donuts lot next door, and 22nd Street, which was closed to traffic to allow for more games and attractions.
Rao and the library staff worked for three weeks to ensure everyone had a great time and one librarian even volunteered to climb into the dunk tank and endure repeated spills into the chilly water at the hands of the kids.
The attractions included miniature golf course and several bounce houses, as well as a vertical climbing course and slide. The event also included a magic show complete with live animals.
Inside the library itself, face painters created elaborate designs helping to transform kids into spiderman, butterflies, and more.
The North Bergen Health Department also held a bone marrow drive to sign up potential donors.
Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez visited with several detectives from the prosecutor’s office to hand out free smoke detectors and entertain kids with fingerprinting demonstrations. They ended the day by raffling off a free iPad.
Mayor Nicholas Sacco was among the hosts of the event, joined by Commissioners Julio Marenco and Allen Pascual, Freeholder Anthony Vainieri, Parking Authority Director Robert Baselice, and other township officials.
The Kennedy Branch officially opened on Sept. 20, 2013, at 2123 Kennedy Blvd. It was established on the south end of town to ensure that every resident throughout North Bergen has access to the many services and activities the library system provides.
“To get the branch itself was a big achievement for the township,” said Rao. “So this carnival is very rewarding. It celebrates the success of the library and really brings everybody together.”
Rao said before the branch opened, a lot of people from the south end of town would take the bus to get to the library’s main branch at 8411 Bergenline Ave., so she and the township knew there was a demand for their services.
“On average we now get 120 children every day in evenings from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.,” said Rao.
The site also serves as a community center, with teachers, police, and other groups holding activities there in addition to the many educational and entertainment programs the library provides. These include free homework help, English classes, and computer classes.
“We really do a lot,” said Rao. “It’s a nice hub for the community come together.”
Photos by Art Schwartz.