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
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
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.
Delaware River in Trenton’s Stacey Park on Saturday, August 13, at 9
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
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 www.riversidesymphonia.org. 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.
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.
Corrections or additions?
This page is published by PrincetonInfo.com
— the web site for U.S. 1 Newspaper in Princeton, New Jersey.