RUTGERS UNIVERSITY, NJ - All 5 local campuses of Rutgers University came alive Saturday for the annual Rutgers Day event and the New Jersey Folk Festival.  It was time to dig deep into our Jersey roots and recognize new growth and deep traditions.

Like every great event in America, it began with a parade.  Rutgers musicians were joined by the North Brunswick High School Raiders Marching Band, the Rutgers cheerleaders, the Rutgers Marching Scarlet Knights, and the Scarlet Knight mascot.

The Busch Campus in Piscataway hosted dozens of workshops for children, prospective students, and adults ranging from "Flexibility for All Ages and Stages" presented by the Physical Therapy Program; to informational sessions given by the New Jersey Medical School Office of Admissions; and a creative take on non-alcoholic "mocktails" demonstrated by the Culinary Club.  East Brunswick's Anneleise Mueller (a 1990 Rutgers alumna who makes the soup for Elijah's Promise) joined her husband Ernst at Busch to explore engineering programs and see the labs on campus: "It's exciting to see what's new to learn, " said Mueller.

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In New Brunswick, thousands of visitors occupied the streets and by-ways of the Cook and Douglass campuses to view and participate in programs presented by university organizations, local artisans, folk musicians, farmers, and historians.  There were speeches and songs, plants and pigs, traditional crafts and innovative creations.  And there was lots, and lots, and lots of food, with trucks everywhere selling everything from vegan burgers to university-grown meats to lobster mac and cheese.

The event lasted from 10:00 to 4:00 and featured performances on 3 stages by bluegrass singers, harpists, Lenni-Lenape tribal performers, and a Turkish band.

On the Cook Campus, Rutgers let its agricultural soul shine.  Families visited Rutgers cows, sheep, and pigs.  (I must confess to waving at them from Route 1 South occasionally.)  The farm store, which serves both the farmers' markets in New Brunswick and at Rutgers Gardens Farmers market, was open, selling packages of local non-GMO meats.

And there were plants.  Varietal tomatoes, especially.  Visitors were carting around plants and seedlings to usher in the spring on the 80-degree day that graced the festival after a night of apocalyptic lightning and thunder in Middlesex County.

East Brunswick's Dave and Jeannine Lonski were, there, too, after having celebrated their daughter Kathleen's recent choral performance at Rutgers Voorhees Chapel on the Douglass Campus.

Rutgers Day was a both a promotion and a celebration of Central New Jersey's university.  Older than America, but offering something new every year.