In the absence of a local group stepping up to take over Jefferson Township Day, the township will take it over for 2020, Mayor Eric Wilsusen said.

The summer festival was run for 30 years by the Jefferson Arts Committee. It was modified three years ago, Wilsusen said, when the arts committee told the township administration it was getting difficult to run all of the aspects of the extensive festival, including a parade. The festival was cut back to food trucks and entertainment, culminating with fireworks after dark.

This year, Wilsusen said he met with the recreation department and determined the township could take it over.

“We’ll take it slow the first year,” he said, adding the township has not decided if music will be provided by a band or a d.j.

Other organizations are welcome to step in to provide games or other entertainment, he said. “We’re game for any organizations who want to do something.”

Carol Punturieri of the Jefferson Arts Committee said the current board of the committee will hold a meeting to discuss its role in the festival.

She said the committee could decide to continue to assist Trout Unlimited (TU) with the children’s fishing contest. The arts committee just secures use of the pond from Morris County, she said, and TU does the rest.

Punturieri said she isn’t sure if the committee that coordinated the Irish Road Bowling will do that again this summer; however, she noted that members of the committee could approach the township about other aspects of the festival such as Touch-A-Truck or face painting.

The original plan was for the arts committee to mentor another group that would step up to run the festival, but that didn’t happen, Punturieri said.

She said there are about 15 members of the arts committee but not all are active.

Wilsusen noted that while the arts committee “did a great job,” the group has lost members over the years.

In the Facebook post, Punturieri said wrote:  “As there is very little if any profit in another organization taking over this event and the fact that many township organizations lack enough volunteers to run their own events, it was very unlikely that we would be able to find another organization will (sic) to take on Jefferson Fest. So the Mayor and Administration decided last week that the Township of Jefferson would take over the event this July 11 going with a more modified undertaking with several departments involved in implementing it. They do not feel the need to have us work side by side and mentor anyone but have asked for us to turn over our notes and planning materials to them knowing that they could consult us if necessary.”

Wilsusen said the township is still considering exactly how the planning will unfold.

The mayor noted the fireworks are the big draw. The township pays for the fireworks and entertainment, he added. The budget line item for both is $36,000, of which about $33,000 is for the fireworks.

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