Enthusiasm overflows at Union Township’s Fourth of July extravaganza

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UNION, NJ — Families and groups of friends came out in droves to Union’s Fourth of July concert and fireworks celebration at Biertuempfel Park on Sunday, July 4, and Union Township’s superintendent of Recreation and the main organizer of this event, Robert Cowper, could hardly stem his enthusiasm.

“Today, we have a concert with the Grease Band, starting at 7:30 p.m, and then, at 9 o’clock approximately, we have a fireworks show for all the residents here and guests,” Cowper said on Sunday, July 4, adding that township assistant administrator Bill Reyes was instrumental in organizing the event. “We have five food vendors. We have one vendor selling novelty items for the children, and we’re just joined by Star 99.1, the local radio station, as well.

“Regarding the people, it’s hard to say, just because we’re returning to this annual tradition after a year off last year. Typically, I would say we probably have about a thousand people here,” he continued. “This year … maybe a little less, maybe a little more, but we’re expecting a good crowd, because it’s a beautiful day. We’re very excited to return this year. It’s great to be able to get back out and have some fun with our residents in the surrounding communities. We’re very excited to bring this annual tradition back for 2021 and are looking forward to a lot of future events in the fall, to get everyone back out and having fun in the community.”

Spending her time taking orders and serving customers was Ashley Martin of concession stand and catering company Johnny Zeppoli.

“We’re from Totowa. We just have a bunch of different trucks and a bunch of different foods,” Martin said on Sunday, July 4. “We’re just hoping to get people eating our food, make sure everyone has a good time, enjoy the music and enjoy everything. Over here, we’ve had about five customers so far, but over there by the fries and cheesesteaks, they’re pretty busy. We anticipate more customers tonight and we hope to have a huge turnout, good music and watching the fireworks for the Fourth of July. It should be a good time.”

Echoing the sentiment was Ethan Shaw, who also took orders at Johnny Zeps.

“Hopefully, when the fireworks start and the band plays, we’ll have a lot of people,” Shaw said on Sunday, July 4. “I’m sure it’ll be very busy, and I’m looking forward to it and see how well it turns out. I worked at this event two years ago and it was actually really fun, so not being able to do this last year was definitely unfortunate…. Being able to come back and work this event, I was definitely thrilled. Having the band here and just seeing all these people, it’s definitely really cool to be back.”

John Chiavola, the owner of the two food carts selling treats such as fried Oreos and funnel cakes, said he was glad to be back.

“I own Johnny Zeppoli concessions, and we’ve been coming here to Union, for these fireworks, for the last 18 years,” Chiavola said on Sunday, July 4. “It’s always been a very good turnout. I love to come here, and I’m always looking forward to it…. We’re really happy to be back. I’m expecting big crowds, because everyone’s happy to get out. It seems everyone’s happy to be out of the house and doing their regular thing again.”

In a short while, residents began turning out for the festive affair, enjoying music, food and the festive atmosphere.

Right before the concert began, Deputy Mayor Joseph Florio took to the stage and addressed the crowd, letting them know how glad he was to see Union Township back on its feet again.

“We’ve had fireworks here for many years,” Florio said on Sunday, July 4. “Last year, everyone missed everything, but we’re back with our great fireworks show, which will happen at about 9:15 p.m. We also, during the summer, run about five concerts. This is the first one here, and it’ll be followed by four other concerts, every Thursday night for the next four weeks. There’s a great band up here tonight, the fabulous Grease Band.

“Later, we’ll have about 5,000 here,” he continued. “So, it’s a great event here in Union. We’re proud of it, and we’re just so glad everyone has gotten back here together. As for the people, right now, the whole field is packed, and everyone is having a great time. We’re all glad to be back here again. I’m here with Manny Figueiredo, who is one of our committeemen, and Clifton People Jr. The mayor will be here in a little while, but we’re expecting a great night. I’ve been in this town for 54 years and this was going on before me. Every year, we’ve had them. We’re all recovering from last year.”

Committeeman Figueiredo also said he was thrilled to be there.

“We’re one of the few in the area that are doing this tonight,” Figueiredo said. “I know other towns are doing it, but on other nights. So, we’re glad that we’re doing it, and we’re glad that we have this kind of crowd. We’re glad we’re able to create this environment to have people come out safely and be outside, enjoy some good music and enjoy some good fireworks.”

Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman