Camden, NJ—Cannon shots rang out along the Delaware River waterfront in Camden on Thursday afternoon, however, there was no immediate threat to the city.
Instead, the blank blasts were to mark the passing of the tall ships that sailed up and down the Delaware River, and hundreds gathered aboard the deck of the Battleship New Jersey to not only welcome them, but to start Memorial Day Weekend on the most decorated warship in the nation.
The tall ships, traditionally-rigged sailing vessels, are in town for the weekend as part of Sail Philadelphia 2018 Festival. For a $10 donation, the Battleship New Jersey opened its doors to allow anyone to take in the views.
In addition to fans of tall ships and the curious citizen, there were veteran groups on board, along with both elected officials and hopeful candidates to mark the start of Memorial Day Weekend.
"This is special, very special. I came here when it first birthed many many years ago," said Riverside resident Ron Naylor, Jr. on watching the tall ships from the deck of the Battleship New Jersey. He has been an avid fan of tall ships for years.
"I remember tall ships from the bicentennial," said Naylor. "And I really was impressed with them. Boston had their milestone anniversary in 1980, and I went up there then to see the tall ships."
Bob Hugin, an independent candidate running for United States senate against Bob Menendez and Marine Corps Veteran, said being on the Battleship New Jersey Thursday helps put the coming Memorial Day Weekend into perspective.
"I think today its an incredibly inspirational and poignant that we’re on the Battleship New Jersey, because we have the opportunity to see the tall ships parade—and at the same time the battleship really helps you think about the veterans and Memorial Day Weekend."
Also on board was Jack Gangluff of Berlin, who was there to carry on the legacy of his high school friend, Joseph E. Lauer.
"The reason we were here today is that to honor someone who gave their life 50 years ago for this country, and to keep memory of him and his service alive at Eastern High School in Voorhees, New Jersey," said Gangluff.
Gangluff, along with two other friends of Lauer, are fundraising to build a memorial at the Voorhees Township high school.
United States Congress Donald Norcross also stopped by the warship, and not only stressed the importance to remember those at the "head of the spear," but also those who were a part of "the rest of the spear."
"Certainly the ones on the front lines are the head of the spear, but without the rest of the spear, nothing works," said Norcross. "Those who built the ships and the planes, were as valuable as anybody."
For others, like Ken Freynik of Delanco, Thursday was an opportunity to see the tall ships for the first time.
"It's a unique thing," said Freynik about the tall ships, adding, "It’s kind of neat, being on [the Battleship New Jersey].
On Saturday, May 26 at 7 p.m., the Battleship New Jersey will also be open for fireworks viewing.