MONTCLAIR, NJ - Local residents and visitors gathered together for the 3rd Annual Canterbury Park reunion on August 5. Sponsored by the Friends of Canterbury Park, a group of local citizens who organized 3 Years ago to create a day of music, food and memories of growing up in the neighborhood park.
Stuart Chase, event organizer, along with James Long (DJ Buzz) jointly agreed, "This day is a way to celebrate the legacy and history and the importance that Canterbury Park played in the lives of the families that resided and currently live in the South End section of town.
The history of Canterbury Park dates back to more than a century ago, and was known as the Flint Farm.
Stuart Pearman, a lifelong Montclair resident, fondly recalled growing up with the farm behind his family home.
"At a young age, my paternal grandmother would send me to purchase eggs, butter and milk to do her baking."
He added, "After the park was opened in 1963, it was our place to play and our parents knew where we were. We had signals..." In Pearman's case, his mother used a clanging bell, other families called or whistled when it was time to come in, he explained.
When the farm was sold, it was designated as a park and in 1962 the transformation of Canterbury Park began with community input and involvement from families living in the neighborhood. One of those families being that of 4th ward councilor, Dr. Renee Baskerville.
Prior to the start of the day, one could see where William Scott, the unofficial caretaker, had trimmed and cleared the area for the Canterbury Park sign to be clearly viewed .
Entering the park, attendees were greeted with an opening set by DJ Kevin Chilis who grew up a few blocks from the park. Chillis fondly recalled playing basketball in the park. He provided an eclectic mix of old school ,R&B and dance classics, as people assembled tents and chairs.
Many of the elders shared their stories of a time when horses and other farm animals were the norm, with fields and Tony's Brook running through the property.
Canterbury Park consists of tennis courts, which Althea Gibson is said to have played on, it also has a basketball court, children's playground and walking trail. The coasting hill at the center of the park is said to have been constructed for winter activities.
Donations from Calandra's Pizza & catering located 322 Orange Road Montclair), B London' located at 307 Orange Road, as well as a donation from the Do Drop In, Senior Citizen Group, located at the Wally choice community center, made the day's activity very much a community effort contributed to the community food table.
Vendors included: Aquil's, which is located at 406 Orange Road. Davis Integrated helped to organize the food donations. Sirus Hair and Beauty and Supply (401-4 Orange Road Montclair ); and Denesha's Delights (Ice Cream), were also vendors.
Also on hand to support the day, was the Montclair Public Library mobile bike library, Freeholder Brendon Gill and the Township of Montclair.
Among the attendees, local leaders were Wally and Celine Choice (Montclair Grass Roots), Albert Pelham (MNDC), Bonnie Taylor (MAAHF), Katherine Nicholas (Do Drop In ), Froncel Anderson (Purchased Possessions) Cynthia Walker and Kelly Moore (S.O.F.I.A), DJ/ Photographer Steven Lucky Benson (son of George Benson) and recording artist Vanessa L.Smith.
Entertainment for the afternoon opened with host Eddie Nicholas singing and introducing an array of performers starting with :
Adam Cruz Label owner of Mixtape Sessions performed two songs, one entitled "Diamond Girls" written at the time of the adoption of his daughters.
Jacquelyn Graham, aspiring singer/actress, providing the crowd with 3 cuts coming from her forth coming EP. Harvey Morris brought a combination of Neo Soul, Gospel and Hip Hop. Ivan McDaniel, Rap Artist Yo$i and drummer Billy Bongo also delighted the crowd.
Closing out the evening, Corey Scott Anderson (DJ Hardcore) got folks up and dancing with his lively set of House and Dance classics.
In ending the evening Stuart Chase thanked everyone for coming out and looked forward to others joining him and The Friends of Canterbury Park (Aleasha Spillman, Tiffany Booker, Stanley White, William Scott, James Long).
"I hope that people realize to not take the parks for granted in the community and to be thankful for the work that others and regular people did to make sure that these lands were created for greenspace and for people to enjoy and its up to us to keep and preserve. "