CRANBURY, NJ – Downtown Cranbury came alive Saturday, with hundreds of people enjoying the annual Cranbury Day celebration.

Initially started and sponsored by the Cranbury Business Association, the event was designed to bring people into the downtown area to promote local businesses.

It has expanded to include many civic clubs and organizations, and now is a showcase for the community as a whole, officials said.

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“It has become an institution almost for the town,” Township Committeeman David Cook said, standing in front of a booth promoting his and fellow committeeman Jay Taylor’s re-election this November. “It is the one day that (not only) all the residents of Cranbury get together, but a lot of other persons come here from out of town.”

Cook said the day highlights the township’s preservation of its historic past and commitment to preserving the “character” of the community, with a population of around 3,000.

“It is very ‘Americana,’ it has something for everybody,” Cook said. “It is very diverse, with everything from arts and crafts, to antique cars, hot dogs and hamburgers from the fire department and police. It’s ideal that way.”

And indeed, booths offering a wide variety of merchandise and services including jewelry, financial services, pet grooming and training, personal care and cooking products, chair massages, face painting, real estate, and crafts lined Main Street, as well as sidewalk sales and displays from the local businesses.

In addition, community clubs, political groups, governmental organizations and even an eighth grade bake sale booth from the Cranbury School took part in the day.

The Library Foundation hosted a “jail” that imprisoned volunteers in order to raise money for the proposed $3.2 million library building.

The volunteers would be released when pledges reached their fictional “bail” amounts.

Children were able to scrawl the streets with chalk, have their faces painted and even take a chance on winning a fish by throwing a ping-pong ball into a fish bowl.

Attendees with a taste for adventure could get a ride in a helicopter for $45 each, lifting off from the field across from the school and then up, over, and around the festivities.

Teddy’s Restaurant put out Greek dining specials for the attendees to enjoy, and donated hot dogs and buns to the Cranbury Fire Department’s hot dog booth additionally.

“We’ve sold hot dogs (at Cranbury Day) as long as I’ve been in the company,” Fire Chief Mike Kervan said. “We had a great turnout and the (threatening) weather held off.”

Only a brief five-minute downpour interrupted the event in the afternoon.

Bands performed on either end of the street and a DJ played in the center, energizing the crowd with dances from Jazzercise students, and games and dances for the young and the young at heart.

“It’s been a very good day, busy,” Teddy’s owner George Nikitiades said. “We sold a lot outside of our Greek dishes.”

Residents from the town who attended Saturday said that they always look forward to Cranbury Day as a chance to mingle with other residents and bring their children for a nice day out.

“It’s nice to support the local businesses and see them support the community,” resident Greg Michlit said. “(My favorite part) is watching the kids enjoying being with one another.”

State Sen. Linda Greenstein, D-14, said she “really enjoys” attending the event each year because of the sense of community and “small town feel” the day has.

“Cranbury Day is always one of my favorite fairs (to attend) in any town,” Greenstein said. “It is well organized and well attended, and I get to see people from all over the 14th district.”

Greenstein said that many other fairs have out of state vendors and attractions, whereas Cranbury Day is more organic to the community, giving it that sense of local pride.

“It doesn’t give you the flavor of community this (event) does,” she said. “They have it here on beautiful Main Street and it gives you the feel of ‘small town America.’”

Dominique Jones, of Cranbury, said her son and some other boys in town ran a lemonade stand to learn a bit about business, especially customer service.

“They learned about interacting with people,” she said. “It was great.”

Studio 43 owner and business association member Juliana Lako said Cranbury Day has always been a favorite part of her life.

“I love Cranbury Day. I think it’s amazing,” Lako said. “It’s nice to see the town come together and people from the outside come in. I’m such a Cranbury Day enthusiast.”

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