BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ - The crowd at this Saturday's 20th annual Charter Day celebration in Basking Ridge arrived early this year — and were likely to stay late, with food and some attractions scheduled to last to 10 p.m. and beyond.
Bernards Township "Town Crier" Hank Barre led the procession to the main stage at noon for the opening ceremony for this year's Charter Day, which celebrates the 254th anniversary of King George II signing a charter that created the Township of Bernardston in 1760.
Over the course of the day, about 10,000 people were expected to drop by Charter Day, Sean O'Grady, assistant director of the Bernards Township Parks and Recreation Department, said beforehand.
During the opening ceremony, Bernards Township Mayor John Carpenter pointed to the "silent witness" to all of the Charter Days, and the local history that led to the celebration — the white oak tree at the Presbyterian Church believed to be 600 years old.
By that count, an oak acrorn sprouted in the ground in 1440, he said. "Colonial troops rested under what was already an old tree by then," Carpenter noted.
He asked the gathered crowd to glance at the tree while enjoying the day's activities, which included an array of foods, music and booths set up by more than 120 vendors, civic groups and service organizations, as well as the fire companies and first aid squads, township police and school sports programs.
Carol Bianchi, the Township Committee's liasion to the Charter Day Committee, said she hadn't realized all of the work that went into making the event happen, and thanked all of the volunteers and officials who planned and pulled the day together.
The history of the township was to be further on display at The Brick Academy off the green until 5 p.m.
Several of the food providers, serving funnel cakes, corn, cheesesteaks, samples of local restaurant fare and more, were to continue serving into the evening, O'Grady said.
Rides and inflatable amusements and carnival games attracted children to the field behind Oak Street School. Student art and photo displays were at Westminster Hall at the Presbyterian Church.
Awards for the Battle of the Bands of local student musicians were due to be awarded at 6 p.m.
A new band for Charter Day, Funktion 11, was set to hit the main stage in front of The Presbyterian Church of Basking Ridge at 7 p.m. and remain until possibly 11 p.m., with dancing in the street.