Community Day canceled

Community Day, which is Lawrence Township’s annual celebration of itself, has been called off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawrence Township officials were reluctant to hold Community Day on Oct. 4, which draws hundreds of visitors, because of the pandemic. Township officials said they thought it was the responsible choice, and pledged to make sure that Community Day 2021 will be bigger and better than ever.

Community Day is the latest township celebration to be canceled because of COVID-19. The annual Fourth of July fireworks show, which is held on the Rider University campus, also was canceled because of the pandemic.

Community Day is intended to showcase the township and all that it has to offer. During previous Community Day events, nonprofit groups and businesses based in Lawrence had set up tables and displays to share information about themselves.

Last year, nonprofit groups such as Womanspace, the Lawrence Township Education Foundation, Lawrenceville Main Street and the Lawrence Historical Society, set up tables to acquaint visitors with their respective missions in Central Park, off Eggerts Crossing Road.

Crafters set up booths and offered everything from artwork, wreaths, wooden signs, candles, jewelry and quilts to handmade doll clothes.

The event last year featured an inflatable bounce house; a tractor-drawn hay wagon ride; and the popular Touch-A-Truck, which encouraged children to explore a dump truck, a snow plow truck and other equipment from the Lawrence Township Department of Public Works.

Community Day is the brainchild of former Mayor Gloria S. Teti, whose focus was on building a sense of community. Many towns, including Trenton and Cranbury, held their own version of Community Day, Teti said, noting there was no reason that Lawrence couldn’t have one, too.

The first Community Day was held in 1992 at the Lawrence Township Municipal Building. The day kicked off with a 10K race, and the presentation of a proclamation from the Lawrence Township Council to Nelson Diebel, a Princeton University student and Olympian who won two Olympic gold medals in swimming during the 1992 Summer Olympics.

The focus of Community Day was multi-faceted. Those facets included sports, the environment, history and the fine arts, which included music and art.

A post of the “The Doorways of Lawrence,” which mimicked a similar poster of “The Doorways of Princeton,” was one of the highlights of the first Community Day. The former Lawrence Arts Council set up a display of artwork by several painters and sculptors.

Buoyed by the success of the first Community Day, the event was moved down the street to the campus of The Lawrenceville School to further encourage a sense of community. Civic groups set up tables to let visitors know what they do.

The event was held again at The Lawrenceville School, before moving to Village Park, off Bergen Street, in 1995.

The event continued to grow and was popular among residents, but after nearly 25 years at Village Park, township officials opted to move it to Central Park, off Eggerts Crossing Road, in 2019. Central Park is more centrally located in Lawrence Township, officials said.

Relocating the event to Central Park also was viewed as an opportunity for residents to explore a different park and a different playground, Lawrence Township officials said.