It's not every day that a town gets to celebrate its 200th anniversary, so, this year, Hamilton Township is going all out.
Already a popular tradition and summer highlight for locals, this year's Hamilton Township Hometown Celebration will be bigger than ever, stretching over two days and boasting an increased number of vendors and activities. This year's event will take place June 29 and 30.
With just a few weeks to go until the event, excitement is building in Hamilton Township and beyond, said Mays Landing Merchant Association President John Kurtz.
"I think it's just community spirit," Kurtz said. "In these times, everybody needs to have a place to get away."
This year's expansion was made possible through a partnership between the Mays Landing Merchants Association, which organizes the annual celebration, and Hamilton Township government. Both groups were planning their own anniversary celebration, so merging the events - and budgets - proved a win for the community.
While this year's Hometown Celebration will dwarf those of previous years in size and scope, one thing has remained constant from previous years: cost. As usual, everything is free but that sold by vendors.
"What's big about the whole thing is it's free," said event planner Arlene Blosch. "All the activities that we're doing, and all the entertainment, is free. Where can you go and say that?"
The celebration usually takes place on Main Street, but this year it will be held at Lake Lenape. The new venue has allowed the planners to increase the footprint of the event, and this year 150 vendors will participate, up from the usual 100.
Among the attractions slated for this year's event are train rides, waterslides, bounce houses and karaoke. While the celebration has included some of these in years past, all have been expanded and improved to fit the larger celebration.
Demonstrations and shows, including dive team and fire department demos, magic shows and pet parades will occur periodically throughout both days.
A sunset showing of Disney's "Oz: The Great and Powerful" on Saturday night will be a big hit with families, and an afternoon performance by local musician Mia Bergmann will perform Sunday, and for the first time ever, the Hometown Celebration will close with a fireworks display over Lake Lenape. Kurtz said the Hamilton Mall-sponsored display should prove to be a doozy.
The event typically draws between 3,000 and 4,000 people, and this year the Merchants Association expects to more than double this. To accommodate increased traffic, there will be overflow parking at Atlantic Cape Community College and free shuttles to take visitors to and from the lot.
With everything on offer for this year's event - and all of it for the low, low price of free - it's looking like the 200th anniversary celebration will be the best yet.
"We're just looking forward to good weather and everybody having a good time," Kurtz said.
Contact Braden Campbell:
If you go
What: Hamilton Township Hometown Celebration
When: 10 a.m.-night, June 29-30.
Where: Lake Lenape, Mays Landing.
How much: Free.
More info: Visit mayslandingmerchants.com or call 609-625-1800.