Annual festival attracts residents

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Photo by Marielle Sumergido |

Local residents explore the different attractions at the Raritan River Festival on Sunday. The annual event began in New Brunswick 33 years ago.


City residents saw a downpour of rubber ducks spill from an enormous egg above the Raritan River in New Brunswick yesterday as a part of the 33rd Annual Raritan River Festival.

The festival, which attracted hundreds of people from the surrounding areas, included robotic demonstrations, cardboard canoe racing, a golf contest, live music performances and the annual Beez Foundation rubber duck race.

The event took place at Boyd Park and lasted from noon to 6 p.m.

Bill Shultz, Raritan Riverkeeper, said one of the goals of the festival is to get people to recognize the value of the local waterway.

“What does Mommy always tell the little kid? ‘Stay away from the highway, stay away from the road,’” Shultz said. “In [New Brunswick], it means stay away from the river. So how does the kid find out that the river is in his backyard? What does it mean to him?”

The Raritan River, which flows for 30 miles from central New Jersey to Raritan Bay, was instrumental in the development of New Brunswick, said George Dawson, chair of the New Brunswick Historical Association.

“New Brunswick developed here because it’s the headwater of navigation on the Raritan River,” Dawson said. “But above New Brunswick, the river is non-navigable … so the shipping developed here, and it was a river port developed just upstream of the city at Raritan Landing, where [goods] were shipping to other markets.”

The city of New Brunswick has partnered for the last 12 years with the Beez Foundation, which raises funds and brings publicity to brain cancer, said Susan Giardina, co-founder of the nonprofit organization.

“It’s the No. 1 cancer killer of children,” Giardina said. “Nobody knows that.”

The Beez Foundation was named for Giardina’s late daughter Jennifer, who died in 2001. Today, the organization raises money for patient services and contributes to first phase cancer research, which she said is the point at which most research tends to get stifled.

“We try to do this in ways that [Jennifer] would have done it,” Giardina said. “She loved family … so our fundraisers, we try to make them family-oriented. What could be more family-oriented than a rubber duckie race?”

The fundraiser also included a playground, a beer garden and an environmental-awareness campaign.

Although the University itself had no affiliation with the festival, students were involved, both as participants and as volunteers.

“We had a lot of Rutgers input this year,” said Mike Blackwell, co-chair of the festival.

John Giardina, co-chair of the festival, said organizers were happy about the turnout, especially since it gives them a chance to educate more local residents.

“The benefit to New Brunswick is that we have the New Brunswick environmental commission. They help to teach about the river, about the environment, recycling [and] everything to do with environmental consciousness,” John Giardina said.  

Although organizers seek to use the occasion to inform the community about brain cancer, Susan Giardina said it is important the festival is also seen as an entertaining event.

“Everybody that is here is asking us about the giant egg that’s suspended over the river, and that gives us the opportunity to say that it’s for pediatric brain cancer research and to talk to them about it,” she said.


By Oren Savir

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