Letters to the Editor

No Great Falls Festival?


No Great Falls Festival?

What a shame for all of Paterson that Mayor Jeffery Jones has cancelled the annual Great Falls Festival. Citing financial reasons for cancellation reminds us too much of Mayor Frank X. Graves’s 1982 cancellation. Graves similarly expressed concern over the city’s financial resources, which many thought a thin excuse for discontinuing an event so closely identified with the administration of his predecessor, Mayor Lawrence “Pat” Kramer.

It was not until 1992 when newly elected Mayor (now Congressman) William J. Pascrell, Jr. brought back the Falls Festival to cheering crowds. The festival has since continued to evolve with the incorporation of new ideas and entertainment. Former Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres was a huge supporter with enthusiastic participation in the dunking tank to raise money for charity. Is it possible that Mayor Jones – like Frank Graves before him – simply can’t bear to continue a tradition upheld by his predecessor?

Sign Up for E-News

How tragic that the celebration created over 40 years ago by the late Mary Ellen Kramer, the mayor’s wife, and a fervent group of volunteers, is not being continued! Mayor Jones has missed a major opportunity to demonstrate how a city beset by financial challenges can rise above them by mobilizing an effort – in the spirit of Mary Ellen Kramer – to enlist the support of local business, foundations and ordinary citizens to bring it to life.

It’s important to understand the history of this event. The first festival, a four-day cultural and entertainment celebration, was held on Labor Day weekend 1971, to honor Paterson’s industrial heritage and its role in labor and manufacturing. The 89-acre Great Falls/SUM Historic District had recently been entered on the U.S. Department of Interior’s National Register of Historic Places. This single act eventually led to the saving of the raceway system and the bulk of the district’s buildings from purchase and demolition by the NJ Department of Transportation for a proposed peripheral highway connecting to Interstate 80.

The festival was opened by then Governor William T. Cahill who arrived by helicopter in Hinchliffe Stadium. It inaugurated Great Falls Park in which an unused and ignored area was turned into a beautiful accessible park largely through Mary Ellen’s ability to energize volunteers and solicit donations of labor and materials. A deck was placed over the Passaic Valley Water Commission’s arch bridge which carried a water pipe, thus opening access to pedestrians to the new park and providing a spectacular view close enough to feel the spray of the Falls. The festival spawned the annual Labor Day parade from the American Labor Museum/Botto House in Haledon which ends at the Great Falls. Great Falls Park was renamed Mary Ellen Kramer Park after her death in 1993.

The festivals attracted tens of thousands. A primary feature invariably was some form of daredevil act. There was a variety of practitioners including: Karl Wallenda, who at age 68, not only walked a wire across the falls, but stood on his head; Philippe Petit’s walk, one month after his famous World Trade Center wire walk; motorcycle and helicopter trapeze acts; and even a human cannonball! Civic and nonprofit organizations showcased their services. Local and national entertainers participated on three stages providing free shows. Ethnic foods, often sponsored by local churches, were a big attraction. Antique auto shows and flea markets were held in Hinchliffe Stadium. Carnival rides and games were a big hit with children.

And of course there were fireworks!

The city’s financial condition and the influence of the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs’ control on expenditures has been known for months. The undertaking of such a major event as the festival requires months of planning and effort by Celebrate Paterson, the nonprofit organizer, and the cooperation of the city and many others. Work should have started long ago to meet this challenge.

Sponsorships from media organizations and beverage companies have been available in the past. Vendors and amusement companies pay fees to participate. The public safety unions may be willing to negotiate for services. The FMBA in the past has run the beer concession. Events and entertainment might have had to be reduced.

Local entertainers and artists have been deprived of an opportunity to have their crafts seen by thousands. Nonprofits and churches are being denied an opportunity to showcase their services and traditions. It is especially sad to have missed the opportunity to capitalize on the tremendous public interest generated by the designation of the Great Falls National Historical Park. The Park Service could be available to talk about, and receive input on, the ongoing planning effort for the Park.

To hold some form of scaled-down festival in October misses the whole point of the celebration – the highlighting of Paterson’s historic role in labor and industry while providing an end-of-summer entertainment experience for the children and families of the entire Paterson region.

Francis J. Blesso





The opinions expressed herein are the writer's alone, and do not reflect the opinions of TAPinto.net or anyone who works for TAPinto.net. TAPinto.net is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the writer. Click here to submit a Letter to the Editor.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Upcoming Events


Tue, July 24, 11:00 AM

Paterson Courthouse Plaza, Paterson

Tuesdays in the Plaza


Thu, July 26, 6:00 PM

Vreeland Ave. Park, Paterson

Occupy Vreeland Ave. Park

Arts & Entertainment Community Calendar


Tue, July 31, 11:00 AM

Paterson Courthouse Plaza, Paterson

Tuesdays in the Plaza

Readers Says Let Developer Bring Paterson Back

July 13, 2018

Dear Editor: 

It is no secret that Paterson is in dire need of revitalizing, restructuring, rebuilding, and, quite frankly, rebranding. As a city, we have struggled to pay our municipal debt, to reduce crime substantially, to create sustainable employment opportunities for our youth and to provide assistance for our city’s most vulnerable residents. 

Today, we face an uphill ...

Murphy Administration Takes Action to Help Smokers Quit

July 19, 2018

Eliminates Prior Approval for Medicaid Tobacco Cessation Medications; Counseling Options to be Expanded

July 16, 2018

(TRENTON) – The Murphy administration on Monday announced new steps to help New Jersey Medicaid recipients quit using tobacco by making it easier to receive tobacco cessation medications and counseling.

“Tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of death ...

Pascrell, Renacci, Senators Celebrate House Approval of Congressional Gold Medal to Baseball Pioneer Larry Doby

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representatives Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) and Jim Renacci (R-OH-16) hailed the passage in the House of Representatives of H.R. 1861, the Larry Doby Congressional Gold Medal Act. The legislation awards the Congressional Gold Medal to the late baseball star, Larry Doby, who broke the American League’s color barrier in 1947.

“A proud ...

Newark Lures Amazon With $1 Billion Payroll Tax Incentive

July 12, 2018

NEWARK, NJ - Amazon will get a payroll tax break at a cost of $1 billion to the city should the company open its second headquarters here.

It’s one of two ordinances that were approved by the Newark City Council council to sweeten the deal for the corporate giant and stand out among other locations vying for Amazon’s so-called HQ2.

“The City Council has brought Newark a ...

Big Plans for Small Park in Newark’s North Ward

NEWARK, NJ- An under-utilized pocket park on Mt. Prospect Avenue in Newark’s North Ward has become a symbol of what can be accomplished in neighborhoods throughout the city through effective public-private partnerships. 

The park’s supporters have big plans for the public space, located directly across the street from the busy North Ward Center, located in an historic ...

I'm Sorry Mr. Jackson... I Am For Real

July 8, 2018

Hello again, Paterson. 

So much has changed since the last time I’ve written… as I’d hoped, Andre Sayegh is our new mayor and it seems an exciting new dawn is upon us. I think when any change comes, especially one as major as this, there is an opportunity for reflection as well as for hope. This election taught me quite a bit, seeing some of the best and worst sides of ...

RU Ready for Rutgers Football? Tickets on Sale

July 18, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - There's a lot of promotions planned this fall as part of the Rutgers football season.

Single game tickets go on sale Thursday, July 12, with seven home games. There's matchups against Big Ten East opponents Michigan and Penn State, and a first-time cross divisional meeting with Northwestern.

If football is not your thing, there's plenty ...

Westfield to Hold 3-Day ‘AddamsFest’ Celebrating Charles Addams and His Creations This Fall

WESTFIELD, NJ — It’s creepy. It’s kooky. And it’s taking over Westfield from Oct 26 to 28. AddamsFest, a town-wide celebration honoring Westfield native Charles Addams and his most famous creations, The Addams Family, will be a destination event this fall with family-friendly activities, lectures, exhibits and film screenings, the town announced Thursday.

Watch the ...

Belmar Parasail: Soar Into Summer with a High-Flying Adventure Along the Beachfront

BELMAR, NJ — As Belmar finally basks in picture-perfect weather, it may be time to check off a summer activity on your bucket list. And for many, parasailing is one of those “must-do” experiences.

At Belmar Parasail, the season is in full swing, offering boat trips from the Belmar Manutti Marina to the beachfront where passengers are lifted 500 feet above the Atlantic Ocean ...