EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Cheerleading teams from all around New Jersey coming together, celebrating their shared love for a sport- this seems like a sweet, distant memory from a pre-COVID world. However, on Saturday, September 24th, athletes gathered to participate in an exposition of their skill and talent in a secure environment, proving that safe and successful gatherings remain possible.
Located outdoors, at East Brunswick’s Community Arts Center, a total of 17 cheerleading teams from central New Jersey performed their routines for an admiring audience of friends, family, and local cheer fans at the exposition, aptly named “A Season to Remember”.
The event started shortly after 11 AM. Parents and supporters purchased snacks, bows and apparel before setting up their chairs around the stage...cameras in hand. The Milltown Black Eagles' flag cheer team took the stage to abundant applause, and opened the exposition with a phenomenal routine to an upbeat pop song. After completing their routine, the athletes celebrated by taking a picture at the photo booth with their coaches and trainers. An enthusiastic DJ announced each team’s entrance, and the event continued with just as much liveliness and pep from supporters in the audience.
The admission cost was simply a nonperishable food item, which was donated to a local food pantry. This is more necessary than ever, as unemployment and homelessness have spiked in New Jersey due to COVID-19. According to NJ.com, 1.3 million NJ residents have qualified for unemployment benefits. The generosity of the expo’s attendees is touching in these uncertain times.
St. Bart’s Buffalos organized the safe and successful cheerleading exposition with six New Jersey towns. Coordinators from the Holmdel Hornets, Hunterdon Huskies, Middlesex Bluejays, Middletown Eagles, Sayreville Junior Bombers, and St Bart’s Buffalos worked tirelessly for weeks to provide the best experience possible for everyone. The teams worked together to plan, arrange, and schedule the event.
Athletes worked just as hard to prepare for the expo, such as 10 year old Ava and 11 year old Solana from the Sayreville Junior Bombers cheer team, who trained for three weeks prior to the event and were filled with anticipation and excitement to compete, with Ava saying that “it’s really fun” and she “loves cheer”. Solona echoed this sentiment, saying that she’ has wanted to participate in cheerleading “ever since [she] was really young”. With the majority of sports and activities previously at a standstill ever since being altered or canceled in March, the Season to Remember Expo was a welcome event for both athletes and cheer fans alike.
Given the abundance of young athletes and excited supporters at the expo, safety was, of course, crucial, and the event stayed within New Jersey’s Covid-19 guidelines. The first precaution taken was the outdoor location, as social distancing outside has been proven to reduce the risk of transmission compared to indoor gatherings. Additionally, masks were required for spectators.
In the past few months, life has become unrecognizable to many. The inability to participate in enjoyable social events, such as sports competitions, remains a challenge for both participants and spectators. Despite the unresolved COVID-19 crisis, St Bart’s Buffalos and coordinators from the local teams managed to bring together residents of numerous towns in safe conditions, united by a passion for cheer. The donations to charity and the celebration of young athletes was admirable, and the support and unity demonstrated by the 17 competing teams remains a source of inspiration and positivity for New Jersey athletics.