MILLTOWN, NJ - The Main Street Dunkin Donuts did not have a line this morning and chairs did not frame both sides of the street from Van Liew and beyond, but that didn't mean that Milltown was not decked out in the red, white and blue spirit that makes the borough's Fourth of July festivities legendary. The Milltown Fourth of July Committee was forced to cancel its usual July 4 celebrations that include a 5K, parade, park festivities and evening fireworks because of the coronavirus pandemic. In its place is a series of events held virtually to help keep some of Milltown's Independence Day traditions alive during the COVID-19 crisis.
At 9 a.m. in the backyard of the home of Milltown Fourth of July Committee President David Potter, a small group gathered to get the day's activities off to a patriotic start. Fellow committee member Russ Einbinder is managing the live-streaming of events via Milltown's YouTube Channel and the Milltown Fourth of July Committee's Facebook page from his home.
"We had to as they say do an audible, but we will enjoy the day," Potter said of the virtual theme of this year's July 4.
Planning Milltown's July Fourth extravaganza is a labor of love for Potter and the other nine core members of the committee. The organization typically begins planning the following year's Independence Day shortly after the day ends with the bang of fireworks.
Potter said planning this year's socially distant, virtual events was actually more difficult than putting together the day-long festivities that has made Milltown the Fourth of July hot spot in Middlesex County.
Independence Day began with Milltown Troop 33's Color Guard presenting the flag. Potter's son Logan as the senior member of the Boy Scout Troop, ran the ceremony for the final time. Logan Potter is stepping down from the troop as he ages out and moves on to college in the fall. He recently graduated from the East Brunswick campus of the Middlesex County Vocational and Technical School. Logan Potter also led the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
Milltown resident Rosie Monaghan followed with the singing of the National Anthem. Monaghan concluded the first live event of the day with the singing of "God Bless America."
Borough Mayor Trina Mehr was also on hand to virtually address Milltown residents before children's entertainer Mr. Ray was scheduled to hold a virtual concert from his home at 10 a.m..
"We certainly value traditions here in Milltown," Mehr said. "I want to say a very special thank you to the Milltown Fourth of July organization. They work hard all year and this year they continued to do so much work to plan other activities given the COVID-19 crisis."
The mayor went on to say that while today's virtual celebrations around town are not the norm for Milltown, residents still had "a lot to celebrate."
"I hope you can enjoy the day with family and friends and maybe come up with some new traditions," Mehr added.
Residents can follow the events of the day online at Milltown's YouTube Channel and the Milltown Fourth of July Committee's Facebook page. Uncle Sam will be making his way around town this afternoon courtesy of Milltown's Fire Department and Rescue Squad.