The Jefferson Township Gazebo Committee was formed in 1998 in an attempt to realize the dreams of constructing a township gazebo. According to Jack Kelly, Township resident Susan Ransegnola initially approached the Township Council about building a gazebo in the township and was told to contact Jack Kelly, then President of the Jefferson Arts Committee. Discussion ensued, Ransegnola volunteered to start a fundraising effort with a donation from her own family, and a committee was formed.
The committee members included Linda Bormann, Horace Chamberlain, Melissa Dugan, Jack & Rose Kelly, Aileen Maloney, Darin & Julie Mastricola, Patti Otto, Nick and Susan Ransegnola, Roberta Shaw, Ben & Debbie Smead, Roland Sparling, and Phyllis Toli. They elected a Board of Directors to pursue the project – President Jack Kelly, Vice President Susan Ransegnola, Secretary Debbie Smead, Treasurer Rose Kelly, and Directors Patti Otto and Aileen Maloney, They prepared a Constitution, and By-laws that were adopted on November 18, 1998 and decided the gazebo should be sited in the Jefferson Township Municipal complex. The committee was incorporated as a “Not for Profit” corporation on December 12, 1998.
The members of the committee visited gazebos in the area as close as Dover and Rockaway and as far as Cape May to get an idea of the type of gazebo that would fit the character of the township and would be feasible to build and fund.
At the same time, donations were obtained from businesses in Jefferson adding to the substantial donation from the township itself. Over the next several years, fundraising events including an art auction, a tricky tray, a hypnotist show, a petting zoo, a hayride, and selling engraved pavers were held to fund the project.
On February 17, 1999, the Gazebo Committee made a presentation to the Township Council outlining the location of the structure and the construction plans. Authorization was granted by the Council for the committee to move forward.
Next on the agenda, committee members researched companies that built large gazebos and proposed a 30-foot, 8-sided gazebo. Rose and Jack Kelly went to Lancaster, PA to determine if Amish contractors could build a gazebo to their specifications. Amish Roadside Structures indicated they could build a 25-foot, 12-sided gazebo that could be mounted directly onto a concrete base. To build a 30-foot gazebo, a floor would have to be required in order to maintain stability.
Darin Mastricola and Jack Kelly met with the Town of Dover Engineer Michael Hantson to discuss how Dover’s gazebo had been built. Hantson, also a township resident, explained how the gazebo was selected, reviewed the construction details, and presented the committee with several drawings.
With the assistance of then Jefferson Township Engineer David Hansen and Darren Phil of Suburban Engineering, a specific site was selected on municipal property at 1033 Weldon Road.
The Jefferson Township Planning Board provided a courtesy review of the plans and discussed the location and construction. The site plan was approved by the Planning Board on August 10, 1999 and memorialized on September 14, 1999.
On December 20, 1999, a gazebo was ordered from Amish Roadside Structures in Lancaster, PA for $14,850 with construction scheduled for the spring of 2000. A ground-breaking ceremony was held on March 4, 2000, the base for the gazebo was built by Victor Simonelli of Oak Ridge, NJ, and preliminary electrical work was installed by Ed Newsom of Lake Hopatcong, NJ.
When the base was completed, Amish Roadside Structures arrived in Jefferson at 6 am on the morning of April 29, 2000 and completed the construction by 4:30 that afternoon. The entire cost of the gazebo upon completion was $35,000.
PNJ Landscaping completed the landscaping and construction of the walkway and apron, and Master Gardner Roberta Shaw took over maintenance of the areas and the engraved pavers.
So, the dream became a reality in 2000 when the project was completed and a beautiful Victorian style gazebo structure was constructed. Situated in the Jefferson Township Municipal Complex on Weldon Road, it stood and still stands majestically beside the entrance driveway leading into the complex and can easily be seen from Weldon Road.
A dedication ceremony was held on Sunday, June 4, 2000 with Darin Mastricola as Master of Ceremonies. Mayor Russell Felter welcomed everyone, Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen was the guest speaker, and the Jefferson Township Community Band (one of the performing arts groups under the umbrella of the Jefferson Arts Committee) performed the very first concert at the new gazebo.
At the site are four plaques:
- a plaque on the right side of the walkway is memorialized with the names of the members of the original gazebo committee
- the names of the contributors to the Gazebo Fund are memorialized on a plaque to the left side of the walkway
- the names of the members of the Jefferson Arts Committee who have passed away are memorialized on a plaque under a lovely tree and include Debbie and Ben Smead. Sadly, several names have yet to be added to this plaque including Marian Petti, Alfred Sorokach, Anne Littlehales, and Brooke Hardy
- the names of the original Gazebo Committee who have passed away are memorialized on the adjoining plaque and they are Debbie and Ben Smead.
Beginning in the summer of 2001, a summer series of concerts was started at the gazebo, and the first one scheduled was The Silver Starlight Band. Unfortunately, the event was rained out and had to be re-scheduled. From then to today, the summer concerts continue to be held at the gazebo.
In March of 2006, the Gazebo Committee dissolved the corporation and became part of the Jefferson Arts Committee, and the gazebo itself became the property of the Township of Jefferson.
Landscaping of the site has continued to grow over the years, and the gazebo has even become an icon in the community as a popular place for wedding and prom photographs. The gazebo also serves as the location for the township’s Christmas Tree and the structure is beautifully adorned with white lights for an annual tree lighting ceremony and Santa’s arrival to officially open the holiday season in Jefferson Township. It still is the starting point of the Junior Woman’s Club’s annual Wrobo Run in October every year, and the gazebo has been used for a variety of activities over the years.
The brick walkway around the gazebo was extended several years ago (another dream of the late Debbie Smead) to provide a larger performance area for the musicians and singers to use outside of the structure itself and an area large enough for the public to dance if they are so inclined.
A Buy-a-Brick program has continued for what is now referred to as The Walk of Pride were members of the public purchase commemorative brick pavers that are engraved per the buyer’s wishes for an anniversary, birthday, graduation, in memoriam, as a thank you, in a family name, etc.
While not many things are free these days, thanks to the Jefferson Arts Committee, the Jefferson Township Public Library, the Township of Jefferson, and the free will donations of appreciative concert attendees, exciting concerts featuring professional entertainers are in fact still free to enjoy on a summer night right in Jefferson Township through the annual free summer concert series that continue to this day to take place there. And as Debbie Smead envisioned, many of the performers actually perform on the paver extension and many people often can be found dancing there as well.
The Jefferson Arts Committee’s Gazebo Concert sub-committee reviews entertainers’ websites, submissions, CDs, Facebook pages, etc. around February each year and works hard to choose a variety of music genres that they feel will entertain the general population. It’s not always easy as there are so many talented people out there!
This summer’s 2017 line-up includes country, swing, oldies, Big Band, pop, R&B, the Beatles, Broadway tunes and more. There’s definitely something for everyone.
The Jefferson Township Community Concert Band and its more recently formed Jazz Band – both under the umbrella of the JAC—and still directed by Pete Tummillo — opened the 2017 concert series on June 30 and presented a wonderful repertoire of the classics, Broadway musicals, marches and patriotic salutes.
The Concert series continues this summer — bring a chair or blanket, a picnic dinner, refreshments, snacks, etc. and enjoy a relaxing evening with family and friends. In the event of rain and/or the threat of inclement weather this season, concerts will be relocated just up the road to the Jefferson Township Middle School gym at 1000 Weldon Road as the Jefferson Township High School auditorium is under major renovation. Thanks to the cooperation of the Board of Education, folding chairs will be set up in the gym as no personal chairs will be allowed on the gym floor. Call Gazebo Chairman John Focacci at 973-697-2032 or call 973-697-3828 for updates and/or check www.jeffersonarts.org and Jefferson Arts Committee on Facebook. No pets, smoking or alcohol allowed and attendees must take their own trash with them.
- Friday, July 7—no concert as the 2017 Jefferson Fest is scheduled the next day
- Friday, July 14—Tequila Rose
- Friday, July 21—The Richard Reiter Swing Band
- Friday, July 28—Reminisce
- Friday, August 4—The Symphonics
- Friday, August 11—South Street Station
- Friday, August 18—Carnaby Street
- Friday, August 25—Fab Forward
And so the dream lives on….
“May all those who come to enjoy it be reminded of the infinite possibilities when we work together” (author unknown)
NOTE: A special thank you for the historical information and details provided by Jack Kelly, long time Jefferson Township resident, volunteer extraordinaire!