HAMILTON TOWNSHIP — The township is planning a yearlong series of events to mark its 200th anniversary.
“The township wants to recognize it,” said John Kurtz, president of the Mays Landing Merchants Association. “It’s a big deal. It’s like a birthday.”
Township officials kicked the celebration off in a low-key fashion, with Mayor Amy Gatto cutting a cake at the Feb. 4 meeting. Since then, the township has handed out “Celebrate 200 Years — Hometown Celebration” magnets and hung banners from downtown Mays Landing lampposts.
The main event comes at the end of June, when Arlene Blosch, the celebration event coordinator, anticipates about 30,000 people will attend festivities June 29-30 at Lake Lenape Park.
Kurtz explained the association was partnering with the township to expand the annual Hometown Celebration, which is held every year in late June near the Fourth of July.
He said organizers expected so many visitors that they planned to provide transportation between different parking lots and the lake.
“This vehicle will run all the time during the day, both days, and we find that that is something new for us, too,” he said.
John Ash, president of the township historical society, said Hamilton Township was created in 1813 from parts of Egg Harbor and Weymouth townships.
The township originally included what is now Buena Borough, Buena Vista Township, Folsom and the southern portion of Hammonton, taken in 1866 and 1867, according to the reference book “The Story of New Jersey’s Civil Boundaries.”
As the township grew, it included a host of small communities — seemingly every cluster of homes got a name, he said.
The township grew after Atlantic County was created from Gloucester County in 1837 and Mays Landing was designated the new county’s government seat.
“Because of the transient nature (of people with government business, Mays Landing) had a surprising number of hotels: Baker, American, Lafayette, The Homestead,” Ash said. “It was fascinating to have so many hotels.”
Other early industries included ironmaking at the Weymouth furnace and elsewhere and shipbuilding in Mays Landing. In the early 1900s, the damming of the Great Egg Harbor River created Lake Lenape, and with electric lights appearing soon after.
“When you look back and see other communities in Atlantic County, you can see that this was one of the earliest communities,” Ash said.
Kurtz said he hoped area children would be encouraged to learn more about their town through an essay contest. “That forces them to do a little bit of research,” he said.
“We got a lot going on, actually,” added Blosch, an independent travel consultant and secretary with the Mays Landing Merchants Association.
The events feature between 50 and 60 antique and classic cars, along with such childrens’ activities as bounce tents, a train ride and arts and crafts. Blosch said they also expect more than 100 merchants, plus food and crafts.
The June 29 events include line dancers from the Fairways age-restricted community, as well as bands and a movie under the stars. Blosch said Sunday would have a battle of the bands for children between 12 and 15 at Young’s Skating Center.
Events culminate with fireworks the evening of June 30.
“I think the whole idea is a great community event,” Kurtz said.
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