MOUNTAINSIDE, NJ — If the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Union County Youth Board throw a party in the woods, does it make a sound?
Not if it’s a silent party.
The field next to the Trailside Nature and Science Center in the Watchung Reservation will be transformed into a dance floor for “Youth Chella” on Thursday, Aug. 16, from 1 to 4 p.m.
This silent party — a phenomenon popular with high school and college-aged youth — has recently started to emerge into the mainstream.
However, the term “silent party” is a bit of a misnomer.
To the outsider, it is silent and perhaps a little strange. After all, imagine stumbling upon a roomful of people dancing, but without blaring music or voices straining in an attempt to talk over the music. The only sound might be feet stomping and shuffling on the dance floor.
There’s a party going on, however, in the ears of the attendees, who wear headphones that allow them to sync to a style of music.
But, dancers can change their headphones and music, allowing them to fist-pump to techno, pop and lock to hip-hop or get groovy with old-school disco, and to switch styles. Typically, the music is mixed by a DJ.
“I recently attended one last year and it’s such a great environment where you have a crowd of individuals of youth basically all dancing along to their own mix of music, type of music, but there’s no noise going on,” Freeholder Sergio Granados said recently. “So, you see some kids dancing techno, some kids dancing freestyle, you see hip-hop and they’re all interacting with one another without” a sound barrier, he said.
Granados said there will be three genres of music, two DJs, some lighting effects and plenty of headphones for students ages 12 to 18.
Youth Chella, a play on words based on the annual outdoor Coachella Valley Music Festival in California, was the brainstorm of the members of the youth board. Granados said the silent party is a perfect example of the type of input and feedback the freeholders sought when they established the board.
“One of the major things I like about this, I’ve always been somebody who believes we shouldn’t be dictating what happens in our communities, but listening to the voice of our residents,” Granados said. “And that’s why it’s so great that we had this youth board. This youth board, I have to give credit where credit is due. They helped bring this idea to the table and bring it to fruition.”
But Granados said it’s not all parties and good times for the youth board. He said the members work hard to enlist other students to help volunteer at food pantries and clean up parks.
There is even a service-related component to Youth Chella. Admission and refreshments will be free with the donation of a packed snack.
The donations will be donated to students in the county’s juvenile probation program.
“We believe in second chances and trying to help out other youth to find .. the light … and make sure they come out of … the juvenile probation program a better individual and being a more productive member of society,” Granados said. “Having our youth bring donations that will be donated to students who are part of the juvenile probation program shows that there are people who care about you here.”
The location of Youth Chella is also important, Granados said.
The event offers a way to enjoy the natural setting of the Watchung Reservation without creating noise pollution.
“Most people don’t even know about our Trailside Nature and Science Center, and hopefully these youths will be able to visit this location see the tremendous nature-related activities that take place there. It’s almost like a mini Liberty Science Center,” he said referring to the Jersey City museum.
“We also have the Watchung Reservation area there. We have horses they can ride throughout the summer and throughout the school year. We have party areas where the can set up. So, I think it’s a great location so we can showcase to our youth some of the activities that take place there.”
Experience tells Granados that Youth Chella will be a hit with students. After all, he once had a great time at a silent party he attended at a library.
“They put the headphones on me, so I was dancing a little bit with some of the youth,” he said. “We had a great time. Even speaking to them afterward, because I wanted their input, and they were ecstatic. A lot of these kids had never heard of this before and for them to participate in it and it’s something their peers had never heard of before either, and they’re all partaking in it for the first time was a truly great experience for them.”
Register online for Youth Chella at ucnj.org/youth. Participants must be between the age of 12 and 18, and bring their school identification. Partygoers are encouraged to bring blankets, lawn chairs and umbrellas. Free parking is available at Trailside and nearby at the Loop playground.
For more information about the Youth Board, call the Union County Division of Youth Services at 908-558-2520 or visit ucnj.org/youth.