Old Fashioned Fourth

Corrections or additions?

This article by Barbara Fox was prepared for the June 29,

2005 issue of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

Eclectic 4th: Fireworks to Fish

Motherhood, apple pie, and fireworks on the Fourth — what could be

more American? Maybe Allentown’s Fishing Derby, which takes place

every year on the Fourth of July, and is known around the state for

its old-fashioned friendliness.

That’s due in large part to Ron Dunster, the town’s 65-year-old

recreation commissioner. Dunster has a home-based family business,

building electronic safety equipment for fuel transfer, and he sets up

the derby as a family event. He works as a volunteer, and the golf

cart that he bought to monitor park trails gets used on this day to

monitor the excitement that goes with four-year-olds learning how to

cast and 10-year-olds taking hooks out of 15-inch squirming catfish.

“It’s hard holding a two-pound catfish, so we have plenty of adults to

help them,” says Dunster. “These kids go home and tell fish stories

and come back. The kids get to stock the pond, the teenagers and

parents help us take the fish in three-gallon buckets back to the

pond, and we give out a lot of prizes. It’s a beautiful thing.”

At 8 a.m. on the Fourth of July, Ron Jacobson, a coordinator from the

Hackettstown State Fish Hatchery, is scheduled to arrive with tanks of

pumpkin seed sunfish, bluegill sunfish, and catfish. On the sides of

the truck he hangs posters on how to attach a hook, sinker, and bobber

to a line and how to handle a catfish (take two fingers and hold it by

the head in front of the sharp-pointed dorsal fin).

The truck also has a 10-gallon aerated aquarium with “showfish” that

are likely to be caught in this pond (calico bass, largemouth bass,

brown bullhead catfish, and yellow perch). On the ground is a

four-foot-long tank filled with fish so that the children can actually

handle a fish (with lots of splashing and laughing). Jacobson gives

each child a “bobber” imprinted with New Jersey Division of Fish and

Wildlife logo. If a child does not have a proper hook (often the hooks

they bring are too large for the size of the fish they are catching)

Jacobson reaches into his tackle box and supplies one.

The children learn how to cast, hook a fish, and release it. Dunster

supplies the worms. “Then,” says Dunster, “each kid gets a five-gallon

bucket filled with fish, and they stock the lake before the derby

starts. They learn that when they release the fish, those fish will

live on for the next kids. It’s quite an event. Little kids with no

reels get big fish, because we just stocked the pond. And if the

politicians show up, we put them to work measuring fish and taking the

worms out.”

This is a “retirement” job for Jacobson, who, like Dunster, is 65 and

has decided that this time in his life is “give back” time. Like

Dunster, he loves working with kids. “When the kid has not caught a

fish and you show them how to do it, they have a big smile on their

face. That’s where the payoff comes,” says Jacobson.

He has his own childhood fish stories. “When I was four years old, my

mother would bring me to the pond in Irvington,” says Jacobson. “We

had a stick, a piece of nylon thread, a small safety pin, a piece of

white bread, and a sandbox pail, and we would catch goldfish for the

fish tank at home. When I began to get in trouble as a teenager, my

dad taught me how to fish for real, and I never got in trouble again.”

Jacobson had been a draftsman and a worker in a gunpowder plant, but

his avocation was writing “outdoor” columns for newspapers in North

Jersey, and that led to this seasonal job, working seven days a week

during the fishing season. Last year he ran 35 of the hatchery’s 100

fishing derbies. Allentown’s, he says, is one of the most interesting.

“It always has a great turn-out, and it has a hometown flavor.”

Dunster, as Allentown’s parks commissioner, keeps an eye on the parks

and the lake from his home on South Main Street, where he has his

business, Special Technical Services Inc. For 38 years he has been

building electronic static control indicators for refineries and

aviation refueling. The son of a longshoreman, he had only a high

school education, yet he invented, and holds the patents on, this

device, which he describes as a little PC board “that talks to valves

and pumps” to provide safety for gasoline flow.

It is a true family business, because his sons and his grandsons, ages

13 to 20, are learning the craft. But Dunster does not plan to slow

down any time soon. “I get up in the morning very early and go as fast

as I can,” says Dunster, “and about lunch time I try to go faster.”

— Barbara Fox

Annual Fishing Derby, Monday, July 4, 8 a.m. Allentown

Lake on Main Street, Allentown. 609-259-3151. Allentown’s famous

Fourth of July fishing contest starts with instruction at 8 a.m. The

contest is 9 a.m to noon for children 12 and under (and their helpers)

with lots of prizes. Bait provided. Canoes, oared boats, or boats with

electric motor engines only. Free.

The hatchery also sponsors a Fishing Derby on the

Delaware River in Trenton’s Stacey Park on Saturday, August 13, at 9


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Independence Day Celebration, Montgomery Recreation, Orchard Hill

Elementary School, 609-466-3023. Festivities begin with grilled food,

childrens’ games, and inflatables, followed at 7:30 by the ‘60s

musical group, The Infernos. Fireworks start at dusk. No raindate.

Sunday, June 29, 6 p.m.

Fireworks, Spirit of Princeton, Princeton Stadium, 609-683-4008.

Independence Day celebration to be held in the field behind Princeton

Stadium, between Fitzgerald and Western Way. DJ music starts at 6:30;

picnickers should bring blankets or chairs. Fireworks begin between

9:15 and 9:30, rain or shine. Ample parking on campus. Thursday, June

30, 6:30

Fireworks, Franklin Township, Municipal Complex, 732-873-2500. Juried

art show, kids’ amusements and inflatables, games, crafts, and food

vendors. Fireworks begin at 9 p.m. Rain date is Friday, July 8.

Friday, July 1, 7 p.m.

Freedom Fest, Mercer County, Mercer County Park, 609-448-6576 or

800-ALLEGRO. Festival with music, food court, and fireworks. At 7:30

p.m. the New Jersey Symphony’s “Hollywood Salute.” Fireworks to

follow. Bring chairs and blankets. No raindate. Free. Saturday, July

2, 3 p.m.

Concert Under the Stars, Riverside Symphonia, Tinicum Park, River

Road, Erwinna, Pennsylvania, 215-862-3300. This popular annual July

Fourth concert features patriotic favorites, American show tunes, and

movie themes performed by the 60-piece professional orchestra. Advance

tickets available at Gates open at 6 p.m.

$18. Saturday, July 2, 8 p.m.

State Fair Meadowlands, Giants Stadium Fairgrounds, East Rutherford,

973-450-1070. State Fair through July 10. Fireworks on Sunday and

Monday, July 3 and 4 after dark.

Independence Day Celebration, Freehold Boro, Freehold Raceway, Route

33, 732-946-2711. Annual independence day celebration features rides,

food, and vendors. Music by Frank Watson and the Highlanders and the

Jazz Lobsters. Fireworks at 9:20 p.m. Raindate is Tuesday, July 5.

Sunday, July 3, 5:30 p.m.

Fireworks, East Windsor Township, Etra Lake Park, 609-443-4000.

Concert by Jerry Rife’s Rhythm Kings Dixieland Band, followed by the

Trenton Brass Quartet Plus One at 7:30. Fireworks begin at 9:30.

Raindate is July 9th. Sunday, July 3, 6 p.m.

Concert and Fireworks, Veterans Park, use South Entrance on Kuser

Road, Hamilton, 609-581-4116. Music by the Mahoney Brothers starting

at 7:30, followed by fireworks at dusk. Raindate is July 5. Sunday,

July 3, 7:30 p.m.

Fireworks, Lawrence Township, Rider University, 609-844-7065.

Fireworks display at dusk. No raindate. Sunday, July 3, 9 p.m.

Independence Day Celebration, Ewing Township, Green Lane Field,

College of New Jersey, 609-883-2900. Festivities include a

Philadelphia-based band playing movies from the 1040s to the ’90s,

funnel cakes and other refreshments, fireworks at 9 p.m. Call Harry

Masterson at 609-538-7602 for potential rain date. Sunday, July 3, 7


Independence Day Parade, Ewing Township, Parkside Avenue,

609-883-2900. The 42nd annual parade, which starts at Moody Park, will

feature 3,000 participants, 13 bands, and numerous floats. Call

609-538-7602 for details. Monday, July 4, 10 a.m.

Fireworks, Cranbury Township, Village Park, 609-395-0544. Performance

followed by fireworks. Tuesday, July 5, 6 p.m.

Fireworks, Manasquan, 732-223-0544. Festivities start with a parade

beginning at the Coast Guard Station at 6:30 p.m., followed by a

concert by Billy Lawlor at 7:30 p.m., followed by fireworks on the

main beach at dark. Raindate is July 3. Friday, July 2, 7:30 p.m.

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Old Fashioned Fourth

Old-Fashioned Fourth of July, Fonthill Museum, East Court Street and

Swamp Road, Doylestown, 215-348-9461. Turn-of-the century games and

activities include horse-drawn wagon rides, stilt walking, a bucket

brigade relay, wheelbarrow races, and tug-o-war. Also, pony rides,

sack races, patriotic music, watermelon-eating contest, town ball, and

Civil War encampment. Decorated bike parade. $3. Tuesday, July 5, Noon

to 5 p.m.

Fonthill is open for tours beginning at 1 p.m.$3 additional.

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