MAYS LANDING — Pop music blared from the trunk of an Egg Harbor Township police car parked outside the Atlantic County Special Services School.

Officer Mike Palmentieri, of Egg Harbor Township, used the township’s tricked-out Drug Abuse Resistance Education Mercedes to provide the soundtrack for Saturday’s community-safety day, a chance for local police departments and the Atlantic County Sheriff’s Office to socialize with the county’s teenagers.

Hundreds of families showed up to listen to live bands, eat festival food and meet members of law enforcement.

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Palmentieri, a D.A.R.E. officer, visits township schools to talk to students about making good choices in life, he said.

“You just try to tell them to believe in themselves and do what’s right, not what the crowd is doing,” he said.

The 1987 Mercedes 420 emblazoned with the department’s police logo is a good ice-breaker, he said. The vehicle was forfeited as part of a drug seizure. The department had help from private sponsors to restore it for use as a police car.

“It’s an older car. Back in the day, this was the car of choice for drug dealers,” he said.

Students gathered to watch the professional BMX team Hell on Wheels perform stunts using a huge metal ramp in front of their travel trailer.

Rider Kyle Wescott, of Manuta Township, is recovering from a crash eight months ago that tore his anterior-cruciate ligament.

“I was doing a front flip when a gust of wind knocked me off my bike,” he said. “I’m not cleared to ride yet.”

He spent the day videotaping his teammates’ high-flying tricks instead.

Wescott said his team performs for huge crowds at NFL and NBA halftime shows and for NASCAR. But spectators on Saturday got front-row seats that allowed them to see just how much air — 20 feet or more — the riders could catch.

Sheriff Frank Balles roamed the parking lot, sharing his plate of funnel cake with festivalgoers. Balles said his department’s D.A.R.E. officers approached him in January about sponsoring a festival. They organized local sponsors to pay for the entertainment and vendors.

“I think it shows that police officers are everyday citizens, too,” he said. “We want to have fun with the kids.”

Teachers and students used the festival to raise money for programs and supplies. Teacher Heather Moller, of Egg Harbor Township, sold scented candles the students made in class. Teacher Robert Moss, of Mays Landing, sold hand-painted jewelry boxes the students decorated. Proceeds would help pay for art supplies.

“I try to impress on the students that if they do something, they should do it the right way and not cut corners,” he said.

Contact Michael Miller:


More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.

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