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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Did South Plainfield sucker punch Plainfield?

Patriotism on display at a recent July 4th Parade.

Did South Plainfield sucker punch Plainfield?

For decades, two events bracketed the summer: Plainfield's July 4th Parade and South Plainfield's Labor Day Parade.

Plainfield was the top dog: it was a regional shopping mecca with retail stores that drew folks from miles around to its department stores and specialty shops, its movie theaters and ... it's public festivities, such as the
July 4th Parade.

South Plainfield was sort of a Johnny-come-lately (at least in Plainfield's eyes), a formerly rural borough whose original claim to fame was Hadley Field, a terminus of the earliest air mail flights in the country.

World War II and the growth of defense industries brought changes to South Plainfield which only quickened pace with the building of Interstate 287, the local piece in President Dwight Eisenhower's grand federal emergency highway scheme.

When I first arrived in Plainfield 25 years ago, the two parades were still on a par. Plainfield's
July 4th Parade was touted as the largest (and one of the last) in Central Jersey, and South Plainfield's was getting due respect as the event that signalled the end of summer.

Plainfield's parade drew together about a dozen towns that helped to organize and underwrite the parade, along with a corps of volunteers that worked most of the year to prepared for the annual event.

Bagpipe bands? Fife and drum corps? Multiple marching bands? Had 'em all.

Scores of decorated floats? Parading veterans units? Lights and sirens from emergency vehicles from all the towns? Shriners in their madcap mini-cars? Had 'em all.

Crowds thronging the sidewalks from one end of the parade route to the other? You betcha.

Plainfield's parade has recently become a mere shadow of its former glory.

South Plainfield's parade drew candidates Corzine, Christie AND Daggett, as well as a slew of Assembly candidates.

None of the top dogs showed for Plainfield's
July 4th Parade.

There is no longer a committee of volunteers from the area communities to put it all together (in fact, North Plainfield has struck off on its own, and drawn in some of the former communities that worked on the Plainfield parade).

Nothing should be taken away from the individual groups that work hard to show their stuff in Plainfield's
July 4th Parade, but it is overall leadership and vision that used to regularly put the parade over the top.

That leadership and vision seems lacking now, and it shows in the overall comparison between the two parades, which ought to be seen as sort of twin events of similar size and importance, setting off the beginning and end of the summer season.

Had reason to reflect on this even more in recent days in the light of how Plainfield pulled off two other summer entertainment events: the Music in the Plaza concerts (in its 2nd year) and the Outdoor Festival of Art (celebrating 46 years).

Music in the Plaza suffered this year from not planning on the need for rain dates, and then not communicating the rescheduling to the public when it had to be done. The rescheduled car show was a fizzle. Was there ever a rescheduled movie showing? This is in addition to not having a real good handle on WHY the concerts should be held and what the BENEFIT to Plainfield and its businesses should be.

If I were a sponsor, putting up hard cash to pay for the entertainment, plus paying the wages of employees who were on hand to give stuff away to attendees, I would have asked what I was getting for what I was paying for. (For another perspective, check out Bernice's commentary here.)

As for the Outdoor Festival of Art, while I commended the City last year for picking up the reins and keeping it going, I now wonder if the Robinson-Briggs administration understands what exactly it is all about.

The Art Festival had, over the years, become a draw for artists and art collectors from the tri-state area (New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania). The show was promoted by cultural calendar listings in everything from the Star-Ledger and the NY Times to New Jersey magazine. Feature stories in the Courier News were customary. Professional and amateur artists and photographers competed for cash prizes in a juried setting, where the jurors were arts professionals. Crafts was a relatively minor element in the overall picture. With upwards of a hundred exhibitors, the event drew thousands upon thousands of visitors (and thankfully, from the artists' viewpoint, buyers).

This past weekend's show was an indication the City has either lost its way or doesn't understand what it's all about. The show was sparse, less than half the normal size. It was far more weighted with crafts than artists. There was no live music, no food stands. And no crowds of out-of-town arts aficianados with open checkbooks.

(I won't even go into the plans -- for the second year in a row, despite a suggestion there is a better way -- to use Washington School as the backup 'rain location' instead of the much more logical and logistically appropriate High School just down the street.)

From my vantage point, it seems that the Robinson-Briggs administration is letting Plainfield's outdoor cultural heritage slip through its fingers, and I wonder if things can be recouped even if there is a desire to do so.

Meanwhile, South Plainfield gets the recognition Plainfield used to count on as its natural due.

Was Plainfield sucker punched by South Plainfield?

It could only be a sucker punch if you didn't see it was coming.

  • Labor Day Parade: "South Plainfield's parade still largest in state" --Ledger | Courier |
-- Dan Damon
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Anonymous said...

Yes, Plainfield was sucker punched - but not by South Plainfield. We were sucker punched by the voters who chose to elect Robinson-Briggs not once - but possibly twice!

Is it still called a sucker punch when you do it to yourself?

Rob said...

Per Anonymous at 7:54 AM, no it's not called a sucker punch, it's called being a glutton for punishment.
And, no candidates at Plainfield's 4th of July Celebration ??? WHY BOTHER??? THE SUCKERS IN PLAINFIELD DO WHAT MAYOR JERRY TELLS THEM TO DO LIKE THE GOOD SHEEP THEY HAVE BECOME. Obviously South Plainfield must be considered a field of intelligent voters who can make their own decisions hence worthy of campaigning for. Plainfield, no, no such luck. In the booth this November, starting at the top of the column with CorSlime and hitting Mayor Jerry and his Assistant Sharon toward the bottom of the column. And I MEANT the bottom of the column in more ways than one. Here's to South Plainfield NOT Sucker Punching Plainfield, but rather knowing how to intelligently navigate the political sea of sewage that encompasses politics in NJ Government.