LIVINGSTON, NJ — The 23rd annual Youth Appreciation Week (YAW) culminated in Livingston on Saturday with Family Festival Day, enjoyed by hundreds of families inside the Livingston High School Fitness and Wellness Center despite the rainy weather.
Usually held at the Oval, the daylong event was moved inside due to weather, with a petting zoo, pony ride, Touch-a-Truck and other activities being held under tents nearby. Inside, food was available for purchase while craft tents, face painters, bounce houses and giant slides, balloon creations, games, GAGA pit, Livingston Robotics Club state exhibition and competition and more was free to the public.
Alan Karpas, YAW chair, said he was thrilled with the turnout because moving the event inside was a risk, and also involved the support of many township organizations, including the school district and the township.
“I guess people, because it was raining so heavily all week, wanted to get out of their houses,” said Karpas. “It was very stressful to have to do what we did, and I can’t thank the high school, [LHS Principal] Mark Stern and all those people enough for what they did for us. [Athletic Director] Dave Cohen had tournaments in there that he cleared out and put at Heritage and other places so that we could use the gyms; the custodians were incredible because we were up against a tough schedule as far as setting up; the DPW guys were there helping; and the high school guys were just incredible, I can’t thank them enough.”
Karpas said he wrote a letter to Superintendent of School Christina Steffner thanking her for accommodating the event and also extended his gratitude to the many organizations who participated in the event. Some of these included the West Essex YMCA, which provided activities like hula hoop contests, relay races and more; the Livingston Young Families Club, which hosted light-up crafts upstairs; Girls Scouts, who led an arts and crafts booth; the Livingston Municipal Alliance Committee; LYCS Leaders; the Livingston Animal Shelter; Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter; and more.
“The whole village chipped in,” said Karpas. “It was incredible the way everybody pitched in and people stepped up and got it done.”
Livingston Deputy Mayor Al Anthony, who attended with his wife and kids, was not surprised to find it was another successful YAW, with “so much fun in Livingston” despite the weather.
“The rain didn’t slow anyone down, and in fact my 7-year-old daughter, Gabriella, said she liked it even better inside as she jumped, climbed and raced on all the inflatable rides in the gym,” said Anthony. “Martha Ackermann and Alan Karpas along with so many other volunteers and town employees did an outstanding job in providing fun and smiles for all our children.”
Anthony also gave “a special shout out” to Cohen, who he said was instrumental in making sure everything ran smoothly once the event was moved indoors.
“This is another example of the teamwork and volunteers who make our town so special,” said Anthony.
The township council often states that Livingston has the best volunteers of any town and that YAW is another outlet for volunteers to work hard and put on an event that they can be proud of. The council also feels that it is important to be able to express gratitude toward the township’s youth and to help provide opportunities like this for them to enjoy themselves in town.
This event concluded a week full of activities for children held throughout town, including favorites like Building Blocks Workshops, a Little People’s Concert featuring Guitar Joe, a scavenger hunt sponsored by the Business Improvement District (BID), Livingston Trivia and a talent show hosted by the Livingston Advisory Committee for Disabilities.
The Town-Wide Campout and Movie Under the Stars originally planned for Saturday evening will be postponed to a later date, to be announced.