BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - Update: Family fireworks are ON for Friday night. On Friday night, The "Mini" Family Friendly Fireworks will start at 9:30 p.m. There will be no parking on the fairgrounds, July 14th for safety reason and in order to allow more room for viewing the show.
The Berkeley Height’s community members and those from surrounding towns, once again gathered at Mount Carmel Field, to engage in the fun filled, four night festival, which ends in fireworks, July 15. In its 108th year of existence, the festival continues to attract new as well as regular faces.
Helene Pipia, from Gillette, remembers attending the festival in 1969 when she first moved to the area from Brooklyn. “I come here now for my grandchildren, my husband comes here for the Zeppoles.” Pipia recollects on how as a teenager, her and her parents would attend the festival, and afterwards watch the fireworks from a friend’s house.
With Pipia was her daughter Tina Fortino and her three children. Fortino remembers coming to the festival at a very early age, Pipia chimed in, explaining, “Her first time coming here was in my womb.” Something Fortino replicated, as she too came each year, she was pregnant with each of her three children. “It is part of my summer ritual,” explains Pipia.
While Pipia and Fortino have established a tradition, which now spans 3 generations, others like Kathleen Beale, who just moved to the area are just getting started. “I heard about the event from a friend,” explains Beale. Beale was with her father, who was visiting from Pennsylvania.
Other attendees like Esther and Jack White, who have been attending the event for over 60 years, are deeply invested. Jack White has been a member of the Mount Carmel Society for 35 years and like Pipia, but before Pipia, Esther White recollects coming to the Festival from Summit. “We used to park our cars right here on the lawn,” Esther reminisces as she points to a space on the field “and watch the fireworks from the top of cars,” she continues. “I’ve been coming here too many years to count,” Esther explains with a smile.
The night started slow, but quickly began to get lively. The smell of Zeppoles, steak sandwiches, hotdogs, and other foods filled the air. As one walks through the rows of booths, you could hear the steak and onions sizzling on the grill. Children began lining up to play one of the numerous games or hop on some of the rides, like the Zipper or the Tilt – a – Whirl.
While today’s festival has drastically changed from the time Esther White and Helene Pipia attended, the family oriented atmosphere is one characteristic that is cemented in the festival.
The Mount Carmel Festival is made possible by many generous sponsors, including Garden State Fireworks, Investors Bank, Chimney Rock Inn and the hard work of the Mount Carmel Society members.
Related article and details regarding parking for night of the Fireworks Extravaganza held on Saturday, July 15 and Friday's "Family Friendly Show" presented by Garden State Fireworks and the Santore family. Mt. Carmel Festival is Coming to Berkeley Heights July 12-15