More vendors, people and hours of sunshine greeted the newly expanded Hometown Celebration festival Saturday in Egg Harbor City.
For years, the celebration was held over two evenings at Lincoln Park near the train station. The event was moved to the 100 and 200 blocks of Philadelphia Avenue, which is the city’s main street, and started earlier in the day.
A concentrated effort to recruit more vendors also resulted in more people walking the streets.
Gina Ciaburri, 38, and her sister-in-law, Jacquelin Ciaburri, 43, of Simply Sweet Cupcakes in Egg Harbor City, convinced more businesses to participate.
“We wanted to get 100 vendors. I believe we got it. Hopefully, the vendors will see the people and see how cute things are (in Egg Harbor City) and open stores,” Gina Ciaburri said. “We want outside restaurants, shoe shops. We want to see women with shopping bags in their hands.”
Gina and Jacquelin Ciaburri received national exposure as winning competitors on an episode of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” in May.
The businesswomen were scheduled to be honored with a proclamation Saturday for appearing on the show and for their efforts to increase participation in the annual Hometown Celebration.
With the expanded hours of 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., the husband-and-wife team of Elena and Louie Cuomo decided it would be worth it to travel 130 miles round trip from Old Bridge, Middlesex County, to sell their LiveLaughLoveGod faith-based merchandise. The street fairs in their area usually only last from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. This was their first appearance at the Hometown Celebration.
“We look forward to a good day,” said Elena Cuomo, who added this was the farthest they ever traveled to sell their goods.
The celebration featured a dunk tank, inflatable bouncers, face painting, a tarot card reader and vendors selling food, crafts, clothing and jewelry. The first-ever Hometown 5K Race and 1-Mile Fun Walk was held, as well as a bicycle parade. Men’s and women’s cupcake eating contests were scheduled for later in the day.
Patti Kenney, 55, of Hammonton, stops in Egg Harbor City about once every six months.
Kenney didn’t know about the previous year’s Hometown celebrations. She said she would not have bothered even if she knew about them, because they were held in the evening. Kenney and her partner, Ellie Gibson, 64, also of Hammonton, stopped by this year because of the earlier hours. They had breakfast at Harbor Diner in Egg Harbor City before they started walking on Philadelphia Avenue.
“It’s possible they (the vendors) will get our money,” Kenney said.
Nadina Fornia, 41, has lived in the community her whole life. With temperatures in the 80s, she missed the shade from the trees when the celebrations were in the park, but other than that, she thought this year’s celebration was “fabulous.”
“There are a lot more vendors, triple the number from last year,” Fornia said.
The Philadelphia Avenue location is more spacious, which gives vendors more room to make money, Fornia said. Fornia purchased a bracelet within an hour of her arrival. The crowd doubled in size while she was there, Fornia said. She expected the lunchtime hours to attract everyone from the city.
Designer Heidi Leledakis has lived in Egg Harbor City for the past 20 years and has sold her “YOUniquely YOUrs” handcrafted jewelry and accessories at the Hometown Celebration for the past four years. Leledakis thought the new location on Philadelphia Avenue made it safer for families because the people on the north side of town would not have to cross the White Horse Pike, as they did when the event was held in the park.
“I usually do very well. They don’t do a lot of events in town, so it (the Hometown Celebration) draws the people out,” Leledakis said.
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