Kearny preps for 150th birthday


The Kearny Sesquicentennial Committee is laying out an ambitious agenda for celebrating the town’s 150th birthday next year: a big concert, historical musical production, lecture series, Civil War camp and more, stretching from April to November 2017.

But it has yet to project what it will cost to throw the party.

Whatever the cost, it looks like it will be pay as you go.

The committee, chaired by Mayor Alberto Santos, is hoping that the guests coming to the start of the extended party will bring sufficient gifts – of green – to cover the expenses.

For a start, it has scheduled a fall 2016 golf tourney as a fundraising vehicle for which the proceeds are intended to be used for future anniversary-related events.

Santos said: “My goal is not to use town money and to plan within our means. … We, at this point, while planning the events, want to see how much we raise [from the golf outing] to determine our future financial needs.”

If the committee can get the optimal participation hoped for with the Oct. 3 tourney at the Minebrook Golf Course in Hackettstown, it could be off to a good start.

Councilwoman Susan McCurrie, a committee member who is organizing the day on the links, said the plan is to sign up as many as 144 duffers to play 18 holes during the 4½ hours allotted to the Kearny contingent. Each player is being asked to pony up $125, which includes the golf fees and prizes, a cart, continental breakfast and lunch.

“The golf course is charging us $4,500 for the day,” McCurrie said.

If all 144 slots are filled, that would generate a total $18,000 in payments minus the $4,500 to the golf vendor, leaving $13,500 in proceeds, assuming there are no other expenses to be deducted.

In addition, the committee is sponsoring a “post-tournament luncheon,” to be hosted by the Lithuanian Catholic Community Club on Davis Ave., at $50 a head, for which it’s hoping to draw between 150 and 200, McCurrie said. How much it will have to pay the LCCC wasn’t readily known but there could be some profits from this event.

Plus, the committee is soliciting individual 150th anniversary “sponsorships” ranging from $100 to $5,000 with varying degrees of perks associated with each category of giving.

Sept. 19, by the way, is the deadline for registering for the golf outing.

McCurrie acknowledged that there’s been no crunching of numbers involved in plotting out the calendar of events but pointed out that the committee members are all “volunteers” with limited time available.

“We’ll see what happens,” McCurrie said. If the committee runs short of cash, “we can always have more fundraising activities,” she added.

Down the road, Santos said, the committee is considering paying an outside consultant “who has experience in organizing and essentially carrying out special events as needed. We don’t have an employee in town who has the time to do that type of organization.” But that will depend on whether there is money available for that purpose, he added.

Meanwhile, here is a general overview of what to expect as part of the anniversary observance, beginning next spring:

A “Town Crier” at Town Hall will launch the official opening, according to Santos and committee member Julie McCarthy, a former Kearny Public Library director, sometime in late April – tentatively Thursday, April 27 – by announcing what’s to come as the celebration unfolds, followed by a concert in Town Hall Park.

McCarthy, who is helping organize this event, said the committee is looking to engage the services of the 20-piece Silver Starlight orchestra, a Glenn Miller tribute band to present a medley of tunes from the post-Civil War era to the present, including several reflective of Kearny’s history.

To that end, McCarthy said, Kearny High history teacher Michael Bayer has been enlisted to draft a “narrative” about the role played by the town since its incorporation in April 1867 that will be integrated with the music.

Another event being planned is a lecture series on the town’s history that would be presented in various municipal buildings around Kearny, Santos said. Among the “four or five” speakers anticipated, he added, will be local Civil War historian Bill Styple, a particular expert on Gen. Phil Kearny, for whom the town is named. Light refreshments will be served at each venue.

Also in the works, Santos said, is a re-creation of a “Civil War camp” to be set up along Belgrove Drive on the site of the Old Soldiers’ Home occupied by an estimated 40,000 veterans between 1887 and 1932 when the state closed it and deeded the property to the town.

“The grounds of the Home occupied the entire hill which extended from the present American Legion and VFW halls, encompassing Veteran’s Field and beyond and it was believed to the second or third largest in size in the country,” he said.

“We are envisioning this project as a day-long event where citizens – especially young people – can go and see what it was like and ask questions,” Santos said.

Executing the proposal will be daunting, the mayor acknowledged, “because assembling authentic Civil War re-enactors is an organizational challenge,” given the demand for such re-enactments around the nation.

During the spring, the committee will be “working directly with the children in Kearny schools” on projects related to the town’s history, according to committee member Barbara Toczko, a retired teacher and chair of the Kearny Museum, which, she said, will be “bringing in the New Jersey Mobile Museum” to Kearny – also in the spring.

Together with the West Hudson Arts & Theater Co. (W.H.A.T.), the committee, Santos said, is hoping to produce, in September or October, a musical with rap lyrics – evocative of the Broadway musical “Hamilton” – whose contents will reflect “historical accuracy” about Kearny. The show will be presented in W.H.A.T.’s home at First Lutheran Church on Oakwood Ave.

Civic and fraternal groups in Kearny will be holding individual events tied to the anniversary, Santos said. “The committee is doing outreach trying to put that together.” And, he added, it is also working on organizing a day tour of local houses of worship, from the oldest known to those with unusual architectural features and/or histories.

“We’ll also be doing a commemorative ornament like a miniature Town Hall replica that we will offer for sale,” he said.

For a closing event, Santos said the committee is exploring the idea of a giant block party with food and entertainment at a location still to be determined.

Further details will be posted as they become confirmed on the town’s web page, the mayor said.


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