Marty Kane noticed that people around Lake Hopatcong identify themselves as being from Hopatcong or Jefferson or Mount Arlington or Roxbury – by municipality rather than by relationship to the lake.

Kane, chair of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (LHF) board, thought there must be a way to help create a united identity. He remembered block parties from his youth in New York, and more recently had attended one in Madison that seemed to bring out the entire town. “It was neat to see,” he recalled.

So he suggested a block party and the LHF board agreed. The sixth annual Lake Hopatcong Block Party will take place on Saturday, May 11, opening at 10 a.m. and closing at 5 p.m. at Hopatcong State Park (260 Lakeside Boulevard, Landing). The four towns will provide buses to the party from off-site parking as well as police and emergency service personnel.

In the Beginning

Kane proposed that the foundation approach the state park about holding a block party there. Park officials were open to having such an event outside the busy summer season. In order to get the warmest weather possible and not interfere with either the Hudson Farm walk or Memorial Day, the LHF chose the Saturday before Mother’s Day.

They could have waited until September, said the foundation’s president, Jessica Murphy, but it would not “feel new and exciting.” Kane added that in May, “it’s a welcome to the season.” He noted that as soon as the ice is gone, people are fired up about the lake.

The enthusiasm of lake area residents matches the enthusiasm of the vendors, crafters, and nonprofit groups that take tables. Beth BaRoss, one of the block party’s three co-chairs, stated that the goal is to have one-third businesses, one-third crafters, and one-third nonprofits. According to Murphy, the organizers made a big push in the first year for crafters and other artisans as well as antique dealers, but found that a lot of local businesses really wanted to join the party.

The Lake Hopatcong Block Party visitors together with businesses, non-profit organizations, craft vendors, community groups and food merchants. (Photo: Lake Hopatcong Foundation)

“The first year we grouped all the nonprofits together,” said Kane. In subsequent years, they were interspersed with the others. “We tweak things every year,” he added. Booth space is 10 by 10 feet and does not include electricity. Quiet generators may be used.

The first year, the block party was run by an experienced event coordinator unaffiliated with the foundation. The next year, LHF supporter Lee Moreau stepped up to serve as chair, said Murphy. He was soon joined by Beth BaRoss and Barbara Kraus.

BaRoss noted that most of those who have booths return each year. Returnees can sign up starting in January at a reduced rate, before the open rate begins in February. “It gets people moving when they know they have to get their money in soon,” she observed.

About 200 volunteers are required to run the block party, said BaRoss. People are needed to take charge of parking and traffic control, set up and break down, and handle many other duties.

Sponsoring the Foundation’s Missions

In addition, the LHF solicits sponsors to defray the cost of the event. Kane said that while some block parties are instituted as fundraisers, the Lake Hopatcong event is intended to bring the communities together. Murphy acknowledged, however, that “it’s nice to know we have a net gain.”

The six levels of sponsorship are Five Star ($10,000), Four Star ($5,000), Three Star ($2,500), Two Star ($1,500), One Star ($1,000), and Friend of the Lake ($500). Money generated above the cost of the event goes into the six missions of the foundation: environment, education, public safety, community and historical preservation, arts and culture, and recreation.

These missions are defined on the website. Environment involves maintaining and improving the lake through programs focused on water quality and invasive species control. Education centers around Study Hull, the foundation’s floating classroom for the study of lake ecology. Public safety means improving security on the lake with added police shifts during busy summer weekends and the B-SAFE dock numbering program. In addition to the block party, a major component of community building is the restored Lake Hopatcong Train Station. Now serving as the foundation’s office, it will also be used for community meetings and arts and cultural programming. For recreation, the LHF has blazed 11 miles of hiking trails so far, and envisions circling the entire lake with trails.

New Initiatives at the Block Party

New initiatives are brought in each year. The “Passport to Adventure” is a card stamped at various booths for a prize. A child’s scavenger hunt can net the prize of a coupon for free ice cream, redeemable on another day.

The party also features a “Mayor’s Corner” where representatives from each of the four municipalities can talk about their services. This year, a representative of the 11th congressional district’s constituent services will also attend. No politics are allowed, Kane emphasized. Political party representatives and candidates for office are not permitted.

One change for 2019 will be the absence of live music. Murphy said that rain the past few years was worrisome for live bands and the music was sometimes distractingly loud. Instead, there will be recorded music with breaks for announcements. In addition, a number of demonstrations will be scheduled throughout the day.

The Lake Hopatcong Block Party boasts a children’s area, varied demonstrations, entertainment and free boat rides provided by Bridge Marina and Lake Hopatcong Cruises. (Photo: Lake Hopatcong Foundation)

For more information about the block party, visit the Lake Hopatcong Foundation (www.lakehopatcongfoundation.org) and click on Events.

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