The year was 1840: William Henry Harrison had just been elected president and in April the New Jersey Legislature created the Township of Harrison from part of what was then the southern portion of Bergen County.
In 1852, residents of the northern part of the township opted to return to Bergen, forming Union Township, and in 1867 the present-day Kearny was carved out. What remains was incorporated as the Town of Harrison in 1869.
But it is the initial creation that the town fathers are taking their cue from in marking Harrison’s 175th anniversary during a three-day period next month.
Harrison Fest, as the organizers have dubbed it, will take place during the weekend of Sept. 18 to 20.
The event will start with a celebratory Mass at Holy Cross Church – (the parish itself is observing its 150th year anniversary on Nov. 1) – on Friday, Sept. 18, in the evening, at a time to be announced, followed by a Gala dinner featuring international food stations in the Holy Cross School building’s banquet hall.
On Saturday, Sept. 19, and Sunday, Sept. 20, the Fest continues with a large street fair that will include antique, craft and retail vendors, an entertainment stage, children’s rides and other activities, including a Saturday afternoon multicultural parade and Saturday evening family movie night.
The town has contracted with New Memory Productions, New Memory Management and Brystra Corp. to co-produce the event with the Harrison Fest Committee, in partnership with the mayor and Town Council.
But Second Ward Councilman Anselmo Millan, who is serving as president of the nonprofit Harrison Fest Committee, with Mayor James Fife as chairman, insists that the town will not be saddled with any part of the $50,000 which he estimated the three-day affair will cost to put on.
“We expect to raise $60,000 in revenues from advertisements for our Harrison Fest souvenir book, from corporate promotion packages we will offer, fees charged to outside vendors, tickets to the Gala, fees for carnival rides and proceeds from a big raffle,” Millan told The Observer.
Robin Reenstra-Bryant, president of Bystra Corp and CEO of New Memory Productions, noted that businesses can receive name and logo recognition during the Fest by having their names added to:
• lamppost banners in downtown Harrison.
• event signs at the enter tainment stage, children’s ride area, the event information booth, the food court area or other parts of the festival.
• other event publicity.
• event arches over Harrison Ave.
• the event website and other social media.
• floats that will be part of the Saturday Multicultural Parade.
Businesses will also be invited to place ads in the souvenir book for the gala dinner, have their banner displayed on a fence in the festival area for several weeks leading up to the event, donating food for the gala or have a coupon inserted in a coupon book that will be distributed to thousands during the event. Outside vendors and businesses looking to be Fest sponsors may contact Reenstra-Bryant at 201-321-2756.
Meanwhile, Millan and his 80-member committee are busy lining up all the pieces for the ambitious celebration.
Millan is applying the theme of multi-culturalism to the Fest. Clerics from the town’s eight religious centers will be invited to participate in the Sept. 18 Mass. And the Gala will feature the presentation of 25 “Queens” from the community representing different countries and cultures and the crowning of a “Heritage Queen.”
Also at the Gala, Millan said, “We are also going to honor the Businessman and Businesswoman of the Year, Man and Woman of the Year for their philanthropic efforts, Veteran of the Year and Family of the Year.” Gala tickets are currently priced at $50 and the hall can hold up to 360, he said.
“The walls in the school banquet hall will be decorated with historical photos contributed by each of the departments – police, fire, DPW and so forth – showing changes over the years,” Millan said.
In the parade, led by the mayor as grand marshal, Millan said there will be three floats – to be built by students and staff from the local schools and transported by J. Supor & Son Trucking & Rigging of Kearny and Harrison – on which will ride the Heritage Queen, Family of the Year and Veteran of the Year.
For the Saturday/Sunday street festival, Millan said that Library Park will be a focus for family-oriented activities and the municipal parking lot across from Washington School will be dedicated to programs for adults.
Harrison Ave., between Patterson and Second Sts., will be closed to vehicular traffic that weekend and a variety of vendors, along with civic associations and nonprofits, will have booths stationed along the block, Millan said.