One of the highlights of the Lake Hopatcong Block Party on Saturday, May 11, was a demonstration by Defender 2. The brand new Jefferson Township Fire Department boat replaced its 36-year-old predecessor, the original Defender, and made its public debut at Hopatcong State Park.
Although the boat is considered a vehicle for fighting lakefront fires, the spray can reach houses that are not directly adjacent to the shore. Firefighters demonstrated the length of the spray without cranking up the power to 100%, because the wind would have carried it to the shore and doused spectators. They also demonstrated the boat’s maneuverability.
Other demonstrations, including CrossFit and martial arts, took place near the central pavilion where bands had performed at previous block parties. Event organizers felt that guests would find demonstrations more enjoyable than constant band music. According to Lake Hopatcong Foundation board president Marty Kane, about 4,500 people (including volunteers) were at the party.
Rizzo’s Wildlife World, known more familiarly as Rizzo’s Reptiles, brought some critters to visit at their table and two were part of the show. One of the Rizzo volunteers, who performs as Miss Sam, brought out two reptiles. The first was Junior, a three-year-old American alligator. After explaining to the audience the difference between an alligator and a crocodile, Miss Sam took him around for up-close views, although audience members were prohibited by law from touching him. Jelly Bean, an albino Indian python, was touchable. Miss Sam explained that as constrictors, pythons are not venomous. Jelly Bean seemed to enjoy being wrapped around Miss Sam and patted by children.
The mayors of the lake communities were invited to talk about their towns. Congress members Mikie Sherrill and Tom Malinowski had a table, and Assembly member Tony Bucco, known as a strong supporter of the lake, walked through the crowds greeting lake residents.
Some of the businesses around the lake had games or projects for children. Circle Lanes offered a toss game, others provided games and contests, and face painting and henna tattoos were available.
One of the mainstays of the block party has been the truck from the Charles O. Hayford State Fish Hatchery in Hackettstown. Ron Jacobson, a former wildlife columnist for area newspapers, is a longtime volunteer with the hatchery. He showed children the various fish that live in the lake and the Musconetcong River, and brought out a “touch tank” for the kids to get to know the fish. Bill Leavens from the Musconetcong Watershed Association also chatted with visitors about the importance of clean water and the opportunities for recreation on the river, especially since many of the dams have been removed.
The fisherpersons were all celebrating the return of shad to the Paulinskill River in Warren County following the removal of the Columbia Lake Dam. They explained their excitement to those who stopped by their tables, including those who do not fish.
The lake municipalities and several social service agencies also had informational tables set up. Many lake area businesses offered games and giveaways. An entire section of the parking lot near the Lake Hopatcong Historical Museum was devoted to food trucks.