ROSELLE PARK, NJ – A Ferris Wheel lit up the sky as crowds surged onto the parking lot next to the Assumption Church on Westfield Avenue for what has become a rite of spring, the annual St. Anthony Festival, taking place from June 4 through 7.
Now in its 15th year, the festival has been steadily growing in popularity. “I’m guaranteed to get into heaven,” laughed Bryan Peterson, who with his wife Ann Marie, has been organizing this event for the last nine years. “We plan all year long, re-capping how to keep improving and growing. This year is our biggest. Last year was our biggest then, so we keep growing.”
On Saturday, the festival had the added attraction of The Jersey Four, a Four Seasons cover band. Songs of the legendary band had people dancing and singing along. The band’s music director caused some excitement. He’s Joe Long, a former member of the Four Seasons. He was kept busy posing for pictures.
For younger attendees it was all about having fun. Little Guiliana Vitale liked the dragon ride and pizza best. She had traveled from East Hanover with her dad, Anthony, to see her grandfather, Jerry, who was a festival volunteer.
Although the festival is the parish’s biggest fund-raiser, Rev. Jim Spera said it wasn’t the top priority. “First, the festival builds community. Second, it shares the message of the Gospel. Last, it’s a fund-raiser. It builds our parish community and the extended community. The workers now know each other’s name, which they didn’t know before. That’s what this is all about.”
Agreed church volunteer Sharon Pawlowski, who was at the festival with her son, Michael, daughter-in-law, Susan, and her three-year-old granddaughter, Samantha. “I just love my church and would do anything for it.”