BAYONNE, NJ - To paraphrase a classic Hollywood musical, the streets of Bergen Point in Bayonne were alive with the sound of music, on Saturday, Oct. 19, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Peninsula City.
Once known as “Newport on the Hudson” for its spot as a summer resort for prominent dignitaries after the Civil War, Bergen Point was home to the legendary La Tourette Hotel which reportedly welcomed prominent guests including President Ulysses S. Grant and humorist Mark Twain. Remnants of Bayonne’s Victorian past are still most evident in the Bergen Point section of the city and includes the Atlas Boat Club and the sunken feet of wooden ships still evident at low tide.
Many still see Bayonne as a small town, even though it has a population in excess of 65,000, and fairs like the Bergen Point Festival tend to bring out that aspect of the community.
Native Americans first occupied Bayonne, but even before a number of local villages were brought together to form the city of Bayonne, it has been a place attractive to immigrants, and has always had a diverse population.
While Uncle Milty’s Amusement Park is long gone, the Bergen Point Festival included inflated rides, a petting zoo, balloon sculptures, sand art, face painting and a balloon competition complete with water guns – a challenge even visiting Rep. Albio Sires could not pass up.
The annual festival took place in the Bergen Point area located from 5th Street to Cottage Street on Broadway.
“This is all about Bayonne,” said Council President Sharon Ashe Nadrowski.
The festival, hosted by the Bayonne UEZ and Bergen Point Merchants the event was supported by a grant from the New Jersey Department of State’s Division of Travel and Tourism.
The main stage featured live music and people sang and danced in the street while vendors of every sort lined both sides. A number of local organizations also occupied tables, giving out information to a cheerful public.
The petting zoo provided kids with the opportunity to get up and close with a number of animals, even a small baby sheep that kept sneaking out under a fence meant to contain large creatures – including donkey, llama and a pig. Nearby, local animal rescue organizations handed out information and sold various trinkets that would raise funds to allow them to continue to help animals in need.
“We help a lot of feral cats in throughout the city,” said Kathy Henderson, a member of the foundation.
Scores of people brought out their pet dogs to take part in the dog costume contest, sponsored by the Animal Clinic of Bayonne, Bayonne Veterinary Medical, and Bayonne Animal Hospital. With several furry superheroes on hand a few pet owners dressed up to match beloved animals.
Sponsors also included a host of prominent business such as AP&B Co., Catchmaster, the Bayonne Hometown Fair, My Orthodontist, International Matex Tank Terminals (IMTT), Retro Fitness, and Bayonne Shops-Larken Associates, as well as the city’s two largest healthcare providers, CarePoint Health and RWJBarnabas Health
Roving around in the midst of the festival was Marty Correnti – in his guise at The Gasman, the arch enemy of Captain Bayonne, and featured in a new film called “Revenge of Gasman.”
“I play the villain that Captain Bayonne must defeat,” Correnti said.
Veterans were also celebrated as members of Joyce-Herbert VFW Post 226 helped promote an upcoming “Field of Heroes” event scheduled for Nov. 11 at Bayonne High School, which will honor members of the armed forces, past and present.
“This is something very special,” said former Schools Superintendent Dr. Patricia McGeehan, of the effort.
Whether it was for the crafts or the games, the food or the animals, residents crowded into Bergen Point by the thousands for what was universally accepted as a major success.
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