ROXBURY, NJ –  During World War I, residents of New York City’s East Side began holding informal gatherings in the streets to honor people from their neighborhoods who were serving the Armed Forces. One hundred years later, “block parties” have become a favorite festive way for neighbors to strengthen their bonds and enhance their sense of belonging.

That fact is not lost on organizers of the 5th Annual Lake Hopatcong Block Party, scheduled for May 12 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Hopatcong State Park in Landing.

“It’s a great way to meet or reconnect with neighbors while being entertained outdoors after a long winter,” said Co-Planner Beth BaRoss. “Everyone knows what a block party is, and this is one like you’ve never seen before.”

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Hosted by the Lake Hopatcong Foundation, the Block Party will feature 180 booths, showcasing equal numbers of small businesses, non-profit organizations and crafters. Live the Lake New Jersey is the main sponsor of the event.

Guests will also enjoy live music, raffles, giveaways, boat and trackless-train rides, on-the-water demonstrations, a children’s activity area and a food court with seating for about 100 patrons.

“Our vision to make Lake Hopatcong a premier destination will help build and strengthen not only the lake, but the surrounding communities,” said Lisa Palanchi, chief operating officer of Camp Six, which oversees all of the Live the Lake New Jersey businesses. “The Block Party reminds us how important the lake is to our economy, and that we need to take care of it for future generations.”

The Lake Hopatcong Block Party started as an annual event in 2014, taking up only a small fraction of the park. Now the event fills the park and an anticipated 3,000 guests will find their way in by shuttle buses from several offsite parking lots.

“The Block Party is for all four towns, so there’s nothing else that would work like Hopatcong State Park. We’ve taken every space available in the park,” said co-planner Lee Moreau. “And the shuttle bus service works. No one should have to wait longer than 10 or 15 minutes for a ride.”

Besides parking at the State Park for a minimum $6 donation, free spaces will be available at the Landing Park Recreation Complex, Landing Shopping Center, Hopatcong Senior Center and Wayne L. Threlkeld Hilltop Sports Complex, up the hill from the senior center.

This year, a new Passport Adventure program will encourage guests (1 passport per household) to check in at sponsors’ booths, collecting stamps to qualify them for entry in a raffle. Prizes will include patio boat rentals and box seats for events at the Prudential Center in Newark.

There will also be a “Mayors’ Corner” that will enable guests to interact with town officials from Jefferson, Mount Arlington, Hopatcong and Roxbury.

“One of the objectives of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation is to be inclusive of the communities around the lake,” said Moreau. “It’s a testament to the leadership in those communities that they’re so involved and invested in this event. Even though they may have differences of opinion, they all contribute to making it a success.”

Other municipally oriented involvement will include Roxbury Community Policing doing a children’s ID program, fire and emergency vehicles for inspection, first aid units from Jefferson Township, Roxbury and Hopatcong, and the Hope One van from CARES (Center for Addiction Recovery, Education and Success) in Morris County.

“For this year’s Block Party, we’ve kept some attractions that we know, from past years, are solid gold, but we’ve also added some new things,” said Moreau.

“And this year,” added BaRoss, confidently, “it’s going to be sunny and warm.”

Volunteers are still needed for the Block Party and even though all vendor spaces have been taken, a waitlist is being kept. For more information, visit their website, email or call 973-663-2500.

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