A Small Town’s Tradition Marks a Special Milestone

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The Septemberfest came back to Riverview Beach Park on Saturday with a rush of people and patriotism. 

The Septemberfest began in 1976 as a day-long bicentennial celebration. At the time, the Septemberfest committee liked this celebration so much that they continued the tradition every year. It is now held annually on the Saturday after Labor Day at the Riverview Beach Park in Pennsville, New Jersey. 

For some, the day begins at 2 a.m. where families line curb across the street from the park. Then, they wait until 5 a.m. to park in the Riverview Beach Park to have a place to stay for the day. 

For most, the day starts with the long, exciting parade and continues as a festival in the park. This festival includes amusement rides, musical entertainment at the gazebo, food and craft vendors and various exhibits. At dusk, the festivities conclude with fireworks.

Prior to Septemberfest, the Septemberfest committee sponsors several events, including various sporting contests, such as the Miss Septemberfest Pageant and the “Hot Summer Knight Cruise” car show — co-sponsored by the Road Knights.

“Historically, Septemberfest has been a time for our community to gather and spend a day enjoying fun, catching up with those who come home just for this day and honor those who contributed in an exemplary manner to Pennsville Township,” said Kathy Gralley Smalley, Septemberfest parade committee member. 

“Much like the U.S. uniting as one after 9/11 and emerging back into the world after months of isolation, Pennsville Septemberfest brings us all together as one proud community,” Smalley said.

Though the Septemberfest is a long-running tradition in Pennsville, N.J., it was halted in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. This hard decision came from a place of concern for the community’s well being, as the annual festival draws more than 10,000 people across the Delaware Valley.

With the advancement of COVID-19 health and safety guidelines, the Septemberfest was able to make its return in 2021. The Septemberfest committee, with the help of sponsors, volunteers and the surrounding communities, helped make the event possible.

This year’s festival, however, was quite different from those in the past. Yes, the pandemic changed some aspects of the festival. More people were wearing masks and socially distanced when possible. But the fact that the town of Pennsville was able to host its annual event and bring the community together again is a massive step in the right direction. The community was able to enjoy all of the typical festival activities and create new memories — or relive their own traditions — during the day once more. 

The day started like any other Septemberfest, with the long-awaited parade marching down route 49 which is Pennsville’s main road going all the way through town. Then festivities shifted gears to the gazebo in the park for the announcement of the town’s festival queen — Miss Septemberfest — as well as her court, Septemberfest and township committees and the national anthem.

Throughout the day, there were not as many people who attended the festival as in year’s past. But by the end of the day, the park was full of people waiting to see the fireworks display.

Patriotism was a common theme throughout the day due to Septemberfet being held on Sept. 11 — 20 years since the 9/11 attacks. The overarching feeling that everyone had was the sense of relief for being together again.

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