VINELAND — The largest municipality in New Jersey’s most unhealthy county is turning to some fun and games to help eradicate that designation.

Fourth Fridays in June, July, August and September will feature what local officials are calling a free Family Fun and Fitness Festival.

The events, which run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the 600 block of Landis Avenue, will each have a different theme but will all involve stressing a healthy lifestyle. The theme for this Friday involves the military and safety, and includes members of the New Jersey National Guard and the Marine Corps leading exercises.

Released in March, the annual County Health Rankings & Roadmap study by the Princeton-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin once against listed South Jersey as the least-healthy region in the state.

The study ranked Cumberland County as the least healthy county in New Jersey for the fourth consecutive year. The study placed the county last in five of the six measurable categories, which are mortality, morbidity, health behaviors, social and economic factors, physical environment and clinical care.

The festivals were proposed earlier this year by City Councilwoman Maritza Gonzalez and officials with the city’s Health Department.

“We wanted to do something that would bring health and fitness awareness to the community and provide an opportunity for residents and visitors to get out and enjoy family time on a Friday night,” Mayor Ruben Bermudez said.

Those attending Friday’s event can enjoy an obstacle course, rock-climbing wall and a firefighter challenge course, and get health screenings and information on good nutrition, said city Health Department Educator Emma Lopez. There will also be healthy cooking demonstrations throughout the evening, she said.

This is not the first action the city has taken to try to improve the health of its residents.

Work was completed recently on the city’s first officially designated bicycle lanes on Elmer and Wood streets between East and West avenues. City officials said they hope the lanes will encourage residents to pedal their way to the downtown area.

Contact Thomas Barlas:

609-226-9197

Been working with the Press for about 27 years.