ROXBURY, NJ – More than a thousand people were inching their way out of Roxbury’s Horseshoe Lake Park on Friday night, having witnessed what many described as a fantastic fireworks display that included three finales. Then they got a surprise: Turned out the over-the-top fireworks crew wasn’t quite finished.
The sky over Succasunna lit up, and trees echoed the booms of a few more unexpected explosions. “Awesome” was a word heard quite a bit at that point.
For Roxbury Councilman Fred Hall, those final aerial blasts were a welcomed, happy ending to a stressful day. He and the other organizers of the Beach Blast - Roxbury’s tenth – endured a day of intermittant rain and a forecast that didn’t make postponement of the event to Saturday seem any safer than just sticking to the plan.
“We will decide by 3 p.m.,” said Roxbury Arts Alliance President Genevieve Schmidt at 10:20 a.m. “If you don’t hear from me by then, it’s on.” Once 3 p.m. came, there was no turning back. If the rain returned, so be it.
It didn't, but as the event’s 6 p.m. start rolled around, things looked rather dicey. A sparse scattering of people walked the Horseshoe Lake Fairgrounds. The band, Under a Ton, was setting up in the Horseshoe Lake bandshell, but its drummer – stuck in traffic - was nowhere in sight. The truck carrying the bounce room and other kiddie attractions was delayed due to a breakdown. The skies, though not raining, were a dreary blanket of gray.
However, people kept coming. The clouds held their rain and by 8:25, the parking lot was full and Under a Ton, it's drummer having arrived, was finishing its last set. Law enforcement officers, on hand because this year's Beach Blast was also Roxbury's installment of National Night Out, chatted with visitors. Roxbury firefighters, including a shivering Mike Kovach, were being dumped into chilly water by kids with good arms over at the Dunk Tank.
By all accounts, the Beach Blast was a good time even before the fireworks began.
“I think it was a success,” said Mindy Goss, who does marketing for the Roxbury Arts Alliance. “It was better than I thought it would be because of the weather. The fireworks were fantastic. The food was good and the prices were good.
In fact, there was no price for entry. For the first time, the Beach Blast was free. The Arts Alliance, which raises money at the event for scholarships, collected donations at the entry point.
It tried to count people as they entered, even if they didn’t stop to donate. Alliance member Cindy Donaldson said there were 1,248 people counted, a number Hall had trouble believing. By the time the fireworks started, the fairgrounds were full of people; a lot more than 1,248, Hall figured.
He said the decent turnout justified a decision this year to move the event from the Horseshoe Lake beach over to the fairgrounds. Nevertheless, Hall - waiting for the traffic to lighten before he headed home - was exhausted; happy it worked out, but tired.
Nearby, Roxbury emergency medical service personnel began giving free funnel cake to the few folks still hanging around the grounds. The Roxbury Rotary Club, having sold a lot of hot dogs and hamburgers during the night, discussed what to do with leftover rolls. The Roxbury Police Department stowed away whatever tchotchkes it had left at its booth.
A mist – bordering on light rain – passed in front of the departing cars’ headlights. Just enough to require windshield wipers.