LIVINGSTON, NJ - To celebrate the commencement of Livingston’s 20th Anniversary Youth Appreciation Week, the West Essex YMCA hosted a town-wide Diversity Festival, while a New Jersey Hall of Fame mobile museum was set up next door.

A five-hour presentation of song, dance and international fashion show was displayed on the YMCA lawn Sunday, as New Jersey’s leaders and legends were presented to a diverse group of visitors through images, artifacts, film and a suite of interactive tools.

At the annual Diversity Festival, country tables displayed cultural items from around the world and various ethnic food samples were offered throughout the day. The goal of the festival was to provide a learning experience for children and adults alike. Kids received a stamp for each country they visited and received goody bags for their participation.

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"It was magical to see our community come together in volunteerism, in celebration of our differences, and in working together to create this beautiful, harmonious environment," said West Essex YMCA Associate Executive Director Cheryl Francione. “The West Essex Y was so happy to be an instrument in bringing everyone together — we couldn't be happier to host it and harmonize it.”

Francione, the chairperson for the event, said the festival is a day to celebrate the diversity of the community. She said that the performances, food and family activities portrayed the YMCA’s message that each of Livingston’s individuals plays an important role in making the community a special place. International tables and performances by many of the community’s performance groups represented different cultures, religions and every different age group for guests to enjoy.

“Our community shines its brightest when we join together to embrace its diversity,” Francione said. “There's so much horror in the world because people don't understand each other's differences and this was just the opposite. It was like exploring each other's differences and celebrating them." 

Livingston Public Schools won the NJ Hall of Fame Mobile Museum visit on behalf of the New Jersey School Insurance Group and donated it to the community. The mobile museum, which traditionally welcomes thousands of visitors in communities across the state, came to Livingston to join in the Youth Appreciation Week festivities.

A 53-foot double-expandable trailer was transformed into 850 square feet of exhibition space set up in the Town Hall parking lot next to Livingston’s Skate Park and adjacent to the Diversity Festival. Youth Appreciation Week Event Chair Alan Karpas said the committee was especially excited about the visit and expected the entire community to enjoy the curriculum the mobile museum had to offer.

According to the New Jersey Hall of Fame, the mobile museum presents a side-by-side exhibit of the Garden State’s greatest legends and their accomplishments. It celebrates New Jerseyans who have “survived war, overcome the bleakness of poverty, conquered fear and disability and rebounded from untold rejections and failure.”

Livingston’s Youth Appreciation Week, which was organized by the Healthy Community Healthy Youth Initiative of Livingston, Livingston Youth and Leisure Services, and the West Essex YMCA, will run from Sunday, May 17 until Memorial Day, Monday, May 25. Some of the events being offered to the community’s youth include Color Wars, Stuff the Bus, Mr. Ray children’s concert, LANCETalks, Ga-Ga tournament, Lego events, a visit by a well-known author, a Movie Under the Stars, and ends with the annual Memorial Day Cole Bros. Circus and parade. Click HERE for a full list of events.

“A week-long event celebrating Livingston’s youth and everything that they do throughout the year, their achievements and contribution to our community — it is a great week of activities and showing off just how terrific Livingston is,” Mayor Michael Silverman said.