WESTFIELD, NJ — Looking to change up an average night out in downtown Westfield? That’s exactly what local resident Morgan Toriello had in mind when she was making plans for the weekend.
“I had reached out to a few friends to see if they were free the Friday before Memorial Day. As it turned out, everyone was staying in town and up for a night out to grab drinks and kick off the holiday weekend. As the weekend approached, I thought it might be fun to add a little twist to the night,” said Toriello.
And that’s when the idea of a Downtown Westfield Trivia Tour was launched. Toriello, along with a few of her friends, tapped into the online archives of Westfield’s history and dug up some interesting facts about our town.
“Westfield is such a closed knit community with a vibrant downtown, rich with history,” said Toriello. “I wanted to find a way to incorporate the rich local history with a fun ‘Trivia Town Crawl.’”
Once the trivia questions were confirmed, it took a few simple store visits and some phone calls to local merchants to see if they would be willing to “host” a trivia question. “I reached out to about ten local businesses, all of whom were extremely excited and open to the idea,” said Toriello.
On the day of the event, Toriello dropped off the trivia questions to NosVino, 16 Prospect, Vicki's Diner, Bovella’s, Baron’s, The Rialto and Tinga Taqueria. While some questions were relevant to the stores’ specific locations, other trivia questions covered general Westfield history. For example, trivia participants were tasked with identifying the original name of modern day Mindowaskin Pond as well as determining the significance of the street corner where Bovella’s currently sells their baked goods: What business was at this location in the late 1800 and how did it keep the town “connected”? (Answers at the end of this story.)
One of the highlights on the trivia tour was a modern day interpretation of “The Flip” — a well-known beverage in the mid to late 1800s. According to Tamaques Elementary School’s “The History of Westfield” page, “The Flip” was a popular drink served by John Marsh, the innkeeper at the Westfield Hotel. It was a blend of rum and beer heated with a hot poker. 16 Prospect’s resident mixologist Tyler Posytan was happy to take a stab at the concoction, which he served in miniature beer mugs.
“Anything that gets people to come in is a good thing,” said Tim Boyle, owner of 16 Prospect. “These groups are fun- they always come in in good spirits.”
Not only did party-goers learn a bit about Westfield history, they also helped stir up a bit of local business. NosVino was the first stop in the evening which allowed party goers to partake in the complimentary craft beer tasking.
“It’s always fun when friends find a creative way to make their weekends bigger and better,” said NosVino store manager Chris LoBrace.
It also gave trivia tourists the opportunity to stock up on wine and beer that was then brought over to BYO restaurant Tinga Taqueria, the final destination on the trivia tour.
“It’s always nice when tasters become shoppers. Morgan definitely brought shoppers,” said LoBrace.
According to Toriello, a lot of her friends have a common interest in maintaining a healthy downtown along with learning more about the town they live in.
“Learning about Westfield’s roots and traditions while enjoying a fun night out with friends who are all committed to our town’s past, present and future was perfect a much needed parents’ night out and a history lesson all rolled into one,” said Westfield native Krista Aslanian.
Westfield newcomers also felt the activity was a fun way to experience downtown.
“We've been in town for just under three years, and while the downtown was a big reason for our move, this is the first time we've made an active effort to participate in the 'night life' beyond dinner,” said Ashley Pagelow, who recently moved to Westfield from Hoboken. “What a fun way to get to know more about the town’s history while having fun with new friends.”
Answers: According to Tamaques Elementary School History Page, the original name of Mindowaskin Pond was Clark’s Lake. It provided the town with ice during the early 1800s. On the corner where Bovella’s currently stands used to be Trenchard’s Drug Store. It served as the town’s first switchboard, installed in 1895, connecting Westfield to Plainfield.