As part of our Halloween festivities for the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library, we had a really special event on November 13th, 2013 for a new event we planned called “The Family Night Lecture” that we had just created. Our special guest that evening was Professor Angus Gillespie from the American Studies Department of Rutgers University. He is an expert and lecturer on folklore and myths including the ‘Jersey Devil’.
Professor Angus Gillespie with Professor and Chairman of the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library Justin Watrel
Professor Gillespie was a noted author and he had explained to me that when he originally wrote the book “The Twin Towers: The Life of New York City’s World Trade Center” that it had a press of 2000 copies in 1999 bought mostly by his mother as gifts to her friends. When the Towers fell two year later, the book took off and became a Best Seller and he was flown all over the world as an expert on the history of the Towers. His book “Folklore in the Pine Barrens: A Study of the Pinelands Cultural Society of Waretown” was when the interest of the Jersey Devil began.
‘The Jersey Devil’
It has been a very interesting lecture that had everyone spellbound on the story of the Leeds family. The legend began with the story of Jane Leeds ( or in some historical cases Deborah Leeds) on a stormy night in 1735. Tired and frazzled from her 12 other children who over-worked her, she found that she was pregnant for the 13th time. She exclaimed ” I hope it’s not a child; I hope its the Devil”.
The Leeds former home in the Pine Barrens
On a dark and stormy night she gave birth to the child with friends gathered in the home to witness the birth. The child was born normal and then transformed into a monster of hoofs, a goat’s head, bat’s wings and a forked tail. It then attacked people in the room before it escaped up the chimney. It disappeared into the Pine Barrens and over the years people have claimed to have had encounters with it the latest being in 1909.
Chairman Justin Watrel with Professor Gillespie and members of the Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library at the Junior Friends “Family Night Lecture”
It spellbound most of the crowd who were eager to ask questions. Professor Gillespie lead a discussion on the occurrences and accounts of the sightings over the years that got people thinking, was this thing still alive? The crowd had a wonderful time asking questions and getting a feel for the legend.
It was the last event of the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library that year and a wonderful way to celebrate Halloween. We had a small reception afterwards in Professor Gillespie’s honor.
Chairman & Professor Justin Watrel with Professor Angus Gillespie and Library Director Mimi Hui
I dedicate this blog to great fellow Cornellian and former Giants football player, Kevin Boothe, who took time out of his busy summer schedule to come to the Hasbrouck Heights Library to visit the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library for the “Celebration of Books” event for the Library’s Summer Reading Program. We had over one hundred children and their parents attend the reading and reception for the event in July of 2013.
I had founded the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library in 2011 on the premise that there should be more for kids to enjoy at the library other than ‘kiddie things’ like “Mommie & Me” classes, teen book clubs and arts and crafts for kids. As a child I hated all that ‘baby stuff’ preferring ‘Nanny & the Professor’, ‘The Lucy Show’ and ‘That Girl’ over shows like ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood’. I thought the shows were for ‘little kids’ as early as six. When it came time for movies, I enjoyed ‘On a Clear Day you can see Forever’ and ‘What’s Up Doc?’ to any of the kiddie fare they make kids watch at that age.
When Disney films like ‘Escape to Witch Mountain’ and ‘Freaky Friday’ and ‘The Bad News Bears’ came out, it really showed how kids behaved back then and the independence our parent’s generation gave us as children. They expected us not ‘little adults’ but kids to be mature, have responsibility and respect for the people around them as well as be our own person. We were the last generation to mature at our own pace and probably the last.
I wanted to share this experience with other kids who were like minded, who wanted more than just the run of the mill activities. Plus I was patterning the organization on some of the groups catering to kids in the City at the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Forum, bringing the City to the kids of Hasbrouck Heights with sophisticated programming that including classic and independent films, celebrity visits and contemporary activities. The year 2013 was the zenith for the organization with goal of innovative programming and special guests and we exceeded it in every way.
I had the goal of bringing a famous athlete to the Hasbrouck Heights Library for the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library’s Second Annual “Celebration of Books” event. After the successful visit from Mary Rodgers the year before in 2012, I wanted to do something to top it.
Mary Rodgers with us the year before for the ‘Freaky Friday’ event in 2012
Here’s my write up of that event in 2012 in MywalkinManhattan.com:
I had been contacting the Giants and Jets organizations for almost six months before the event trying to talk to their PR Departments and it was coming down to the wire. The Jets would not help us and stop responding to my emails and calls.
Kevin Boothe welcoming everyone
Our Library Director had left for vacation and could not be reached and our then President of the organization was at her beach house for the Summer when we got the last minute call that Kevin was available for a visit in a week. We had that one week of opportunity before Training Camp would begin. We jumped at the chance and arranged it for the next Wednesday and all had to pull together to organize the event in one week. When our Library Director arrived back from vacation that Monday, it was all hands on deck for the organization. I don’t think anyone knew how fast and hard we had to work for a one hour visit.
The Children’s Librarian at the time, Marie Joyce, jumped in and helped me out. She picked the book “Everyone can learn to Ride a Bicycle” by author Christopher Rashcka as an inspirational book for children to achieve their goals.
Author Christopher Rashcka and I in 2016 at the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library event I ran for their library “Teens, Tots & Toys”. I am holding the book “Everyone can learn to ride a Bicycle”.
Here’s my write up of that event in MywalkinManhattan.com:
It was an interesting children’s book about trying something new and accomplishing goals. It is something for kids to learn something new and be proud of it.
Our Children’s Librarian Marie Joyce with Giants player Kevin Boothe
There was a lot of excitement in the library that afternoon as the place filled with children and their parents many of the them coming from the town’s Summer Camp and a lot of them wearing Giants jersey’s. It had been a difficult afternoon as their was so much going on in the building at the time.
“Everyone can learn to ride a bicycle” by Christopher Raschka
There was a BCCLS meeting going on in the conference room that had ended by 2:00pm and the Senior’s were having their Summer picnic in the parking lot so parking was at a premium all over the building and they were also ending by 2:00pm. People were scrambling to leave the building as the air conditioning had broken down and they were trying to fix it while the event was going on. It was crazy afternoon.
Our event was at 3:00pm so things were just calming down when Kevin arrived with the Giants representatives. It has always amazed me that people don’t know what goes on behind the scenes before a visit. We had a to scramble to set up the tables for the reception, someone had to buy the food and set the tables and in the meantime someone bought jersey’s for a raffle that I knew nothing about. I was always last to know.
Kevin Boothe had a great football career when we met him. Kevin had been an All American when he played in Pine Crest Prep School in Florida. He played football at Cornell University (my Alma Mater as well), where he was a three time All Ivy League player and a member of the Quill & Dagger Society. Then in 2006 he was drafted in the sixth round by the Oakland Raiders where he played Right Guard for a year before coming to the Giants. He stayed with the Giants from 2007-2013 as a Left Guard and helped the team win Superbowl XLII and XLIV winning both times against New England. Kevin played for one more year with the Giants as a free agent and then finished his last year of play with the Oakland Raiders in 2014.
Kevin with his son at the Superbowl
I have to say that it was really stuffy in the library that afternoon with all those people and the air conditioning down. Kevin and Marie were both sweating through the reading but it all went by well. They read the book together while the books pages (which had been scanned earlier in the day) were shown to the audience. After the reading was over, we had a Q & A with the audience which all the kids were in awe.
Kevin at the Q & A with the kids in awe
For a group of small children, they asked some interesting questions especially on playing for the Giants and how he got into football. I was impressed by how he approached the kids and talking to them on their level while being engaging to everyone in the room. One thing was I was impressed with is when he said, ” Whether is its learning to ride a bicycle or playing football like me you can go after any dream in life. If your heart is in the right place, you can achieve anything.” (Patch.com). He talked about winning with the team the two Superbowl’s as the underdog team and how their coach inspired them to win.
After the Q & A, Kevin took a group shot with the kids and we had everyone join in the reception. It then got a little crazy as all the kids wanted autographs. Since Kevin was about to start Training Camp, he had to get back to the stadium as he had other work to do. I had agreed with the Giants Organization that there would be no autograph session as there would be no time but that didn’t stop the kids from banging on the office door where he and everyone else were cooling down in the only room where the air conditioning worked.
It was there that we took the picture with members of the Junior Friends of the Library for our group shot. It was a lot to track the kids down in the crowd and keep the other kids from coming in but we got the shot in which also made the Cornell Alumni Magazine.
Kevin and I with some of the members of the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library representing Cornell University for the Alumni Magazine
The afternoon ended a little crazy with a raffle I had to run (which I did not know about) and Kevin and the Giants Organization representatives leaving through the backdoor without me having to say goodbye and thank you. Still the reception went by well and the kids ate everything we put out. It was another great success for the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library and was one of the reasons why we were recognized by the BCCLS organization the next Fall for our outstanding work.
I wanted to dedicate this blog to Kevin Boothe, who made so many children and their parents happy that afternoon. You are a real gentleman and make Cornell University proud!
This blog is dedicated to the great and wonderful author, Mary Rodgers, in honor of her visit six years ago to the Hasbrouck Heights Library in honor of the 40th Anniversary of her best-selling book, “Freaky Friday” on July 13th, 2012. This was one of the best Special Events programs that I ever ran outside “Parent’s Weekend” my senior year at Michigan State University. It was a big thrill for me to meet an author whom not only I had grown up with but whose books and movies I enjoyed not just then but even now. The original ‘Freaky Friday’ I saw as a kid when it first came out in 1977 and I still enjoy it today.
I had founded the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library in 2011 on the premise that there should be more for kids to enjoy at the library other than “Mommie & Me” classes, teen book clubs and arts and crafts for kids. As a child I hated all that ‘baby stuff’ preferring ‘Nanny & the Professor’, ‘The Lucy Show’ and ‘That Girl’ over shows like ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood’. I thought the shows were for ‘little kids’ as early as six. When it came time for movies, I enjoyed ‘On a Clear Day you can see Forever’ and ‘What’s Up Doc?’ to any of the kiddie fare they make kids watch at that age.
When Disney films like ‘Escape to Witch Mountain’, ‘Freaky Friday’ and ‘The Bad News Bears’ came out it really showed how kids behaved back then and the independence our parent’s generation gave us as children. They expected not ‘little adults’ but kids to be mature, have responsibility and respect for the people around them as well as be our own person. We were the generation to mature at our own pace and probably the last.
I wanted to share this experience with kids who were like minded, who wanted more than just the run of the mill activities. Plus I was patterning the organization on some of the groups catering to kids in the city at the Museum of Modern Art and the Film Forum, bringing the city to the kids of Hasbrouck Heights with sophisticated programming that including classic and independent films, celebrity visits and contemporary activities. The year 2012 was the leap year for the organization with goal of innovative programming and special guests.
I put my game plan of ideas together and came up with a “Freaky Friday” night at the library on Friday the 13th and because of the way Friday the 13th landed that year, July 13th that year was around the opening of the library’s Summer Reading Program. So the Junior Friends would tie their event around that. I never thought in a million years Mary Rodgers would come. I knew nothing about her whereabouts or her life. This is why I love Google.
One late night I was Googling her and did not realize that she had been the President of the Richard Rodgers Foundation and at the bottom of the screen there was a comments section. I went to it and wrote that the library was having a 40th Anniversary of her book, “Freaky Friday” and we wanted her to be our guest. Would she consider coming to the library to read the book? I could not believe it when she said yes the next day!
Thus started the plans for her visit. We bought copies of the novel, organized a small reception and had an area set up in the early afternoon for the reading. We would show the original 1977 film first in the private meeting room across the hall to be followed by the 2003 remake. We had planned something a little more elaborate but I could not get anyone to agree to it.
I had long emails for the next three weeks back and forth with her assistant, Ruschika, getting everything organized. It was like planning D-Day with all the conversations on a two hour visit. The way I was understanding it was that I was dealing with a very frail woman but when I met her she could have been nothing further from the truth. She was a spunky big kid who could not have been more engaging to both the adults and the kids. I knew that when I first introduced myself.
Me with Mary Rodgers and the Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library Executive Board and Library Director on Friday, July 13th, 2012
I kept saying Mrs. Rodgers this and Mrs. Rodgers that and she finally said to me “Justin, after all this just call me ‘Mary'”. I knew she was cool even at 83. She could not have been more engaging and openly friendly with everyone there and the kids loved her. Most of these kids were two generations ahead of her, she being the R.K. Rowling of her time. You could not have asked for a bigger author of kids books with comparison to Maurice Sendak, Norton Juster and Judy Bloom. For my generation, she was huge! (It would be years later that I would discover that she had been suffering from terminal cancer at the time of the visit and she died just a few months before my dad in 2014).
Author Mary Rodgers reading her book “Freaky Friday”
It could not have been a better afternoon as the weather cooperated and because it was early traffic, she arrived over an hour early so she was able to settle in and talk with all the patrons on a personal basis. It really was a magical afternoon.
Mary talked to the audience of about 40 patrons about growing up as Richard Rodgers daughter and living in the shadow of fame while carving her own career out of it. She talked about growing up in a musical family, writing stories with her sister and time creating such shows as “Once Upon a Mattress” and “A to Z”. I even remembered when she worked on “Free to be you and Me” that Marlo Thomas had created in the 70’s for kids.
The best part of the program is when she talked about growing up and said, “Annebelle is me! I was a tough kid when I was growing up and had my own opinions.” She and her mother had obviously butted heads when she was growing up and based the book on her early childhood growing up in New York.
She then talked about working with Disney Studios to adapt the book into a movie and writing the screenplay. She told us of having to write a sexy secretary into the script to please one of the studio heads. She talked about the rewrites and finally how proud she was when the movie came out. She admitted though when asked whether she liked the original film or the 2003 remake, she admitted to us “I thought the remake was more true to the theme of the book.”
After a long discussion, we made our presentations to her. I made her the first ‘Honorary Member of the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library and the Mayor of Hasbrouck Heights at the time, Mrs. Rose Heck, read a proclamation declaring it ‘Mary Rodgers Day’ in Hasbrouck Heights. We even had the electric board out front of the Municipal Building read “Welcome Mary Rodgers”. We then had the book signing and she continued the discussion with many of the patrons and kids.
Mayor Rose Heck presents Mary Rodgers with our version of the ‘Key’ to Hasbrouck Heights
After that she joined for a bit for the reception and then headed back into the City before rush hour began. We did keep in touch for bit writing to one another and me sending out press clippings and pictures from the event. (Years later after she passed away, Mayor Heck had told me she had just sent her a birthday card. Even the two of them had kept in touch long after the event).
After she left, we watched the original 1977 film with Jody Foster and Barbara Harris, then we stopped for intermission and had a pizza and brownie dinner and then showed the 2003 film with Lindsey Lohan and Jamie Lee-Curtis. The original film was a big hit with the kids many of whom had never seen it before. We ended up being at the library for over four hours and the last of the patrons walked out at 9:15pm with everyone raving about the event.
All these years later when older members of the organization get together, we still talk about the wonderful afternoon we had when Mary Rodgers visited us.
So on this Friday the 13th, six years to the date of the original event on July 13th, 2012, I dedicate this blog to a true New Yorker, Mary Rodgers-Guettel and the wonderful afternoon we had sharing stories, reading the book and watching her films. The kids may not known who she was when they came but they sure knew who she was when she left.
In Memory to the very first ‘Honorary Member of the Junior Friends of the Hasbrouck Heights Library and one of my literary idols, Mary Rodgers-Guettel January 1931-June 2014.
The Opening of the Original “Freaky Friday”
Closing Song from Freaky Friday remake 2003
Special Note: I was very proud to discover in 2014 that BCCLS, the governing body Bergen County Cooperative Library System for all libraries in Bergen County, New Jersey, honored the Junior Friends of the Library for our 2013 programming and the organization itself. It was nice to see that someone noticed!
Some articles that were posted online of the event:
This is the second time I have hosted the “Teens, Tots & Toys” holiday event at the Lodi Memorial Library. The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library created “Teens, Tots & Toys” as an alternative to many libraries having a “Story Time with Santa” event that can leave out some children who don’t celebrate Christmas.
Our mascot for the event, “Tinker Street” was created by myself to set the tone for the event and can be seen on YouTube in the video from last year’s event with special invited guest, US & World Figure Skater Elaine Zayak and with this year’s event with Best Selling and Caldecott Medal Winner, Christopher Raschka. We were so happy that two such prominent people wanted to join us for this event.
Chris and I at “Teens, Tots & Toys”
The premise for “Teens, Tots & Tots” is as a holiday event that caters to all children and their families. The Friends wanted to build the event on having a toy drive, a celebrity visit and showing a holiday movie. Last year, we donated toys and books to the Emmanuel Cancer Center in Midland Park, NJ. This is in partnership with the library when they run their Annual Gingerbread House Making event.
This holiday season we were very excited when Best-Selling Children’s Author and Caldecott Medal, Christopher Raschka, decided to join us. I have to admit, we had a lot of communication between each other for over a year and there were a lot of emails going back and forth and time commitments we both had and I was glad that he could join us for our holiday event. I was very excited that he was coming to our library. As the expression says. “Good things come to those who wait” and the visit went beyond my expectations. Everyone had a such a good time.
I had first become acquainted with Chris’s work when a few years earlier I had done another event at my old library with Giant’s player and fellow Cornell University Alumni, Kevin Boothe. Kevin had read from the inspirational book that Chris wrote and illustrated, “Everyone can learn to Ride a Bicycle”. I thought the illustrations were very unique and creative and that is when I thought it would be interesting to have the author come out to the library. It took almost a year and a half of planning.
Giants Player Kevin Boothe reading “Everyone Can Learn to Ride A Bicycle”.
Chris Raschka is a graduate of St. Olaf College in Minnesota who graduated with a degree in Biology. He also has a love for music as he was a member of both the Ann Arbor and Flint Symphony Orchestra’s. While working as an intern at a children’s orthopedic clinic in Germany, he experienced an interest in working with children.
He has received many awards and recognition’s for his work. In 1992, he won the Best Books of the Year citation, the Publisher’s Weekly, the Notable Children’s Book citation, the American Library Association (ALA) and the Pick of the Lists citation, the American Booksellers Association, all for ‘Charlie Parker Played Be Bop’. In 1994, he received the Caldecott Honor Book Award and he was the ALA and US winner of the UNICEF-Ezra Jack Keats award, both for ‘Yo! Yes?’. In 2005, he received the Boston Globe/Horn Book Award nomination for ‘The Hello, Goodbye Window’.
Chris Raschka was awarded the Caldecott Medal in 2006 for his illustrations in the ‘Hello, Goodbye Window’, written by Norton Juster (one of my hands down favorite authors since I was a kid and the author of the ‘Phantom Tollbooth’), a story about a child’s visit to her grandparents. In 2012, he won his second Caldecott Medal for his wordless children’s book, ‘A Ball for Daisy’, that chronicles a little dogs loss of his most prized possession and is a tale of loss, recovery and friendship. We were very lucky that he read from both of these books and from’ Yo! Yes?’
This was no ordinary author visit in that the author sat down, read the books and then led a discussion. Chris got up and engaged the audience with storytelling, acting and illustrations. I have seen many book signings but none like this.
Chris could not have been more personable with both the adults and the children in the audience and had the younger set completely engaged in his books. We first started off with a introduction of his work and a little about himself. Chris started his program with a drawing of his two cats. These two amusing drawings of the little cats made quite an impression on the kids, many of whom had pets at home.
What impressed me the most is when he got the children from the audience to get up and act out his books in character. You don’t see many authors doing that. Chris had children who volunteered from the audience act out the books ‘Yo! Yes?’ , ‘Goosey Goose’ and ‘Buggy Bug’ in a series of short plays. The kids were really excited to get up and act. He also got the audience to participate as well .
Then he did a series of drawings creating pictures using people’s names. He took kids from the audience and asked them to write out their names and then developed a figure of the letters of the names. The best part was each of the children were able to take the picture home. I have the most unusual picture of a person using the my name “Justin” (Yes, I did have it framed).
Chris engaging with the children of Lodi, NJ
Chris followed this with a book discussion of the Caldecott Medal Winning book ‘A Ball for Daisy”, the all picture book. He went through all the frames of the book and then got a group of the children to get up and act out the book using some balloons as props for the ball. He really got the kids to use their emotions in the play and it made the rest of the program very personal because the children could relate to him as another kid. Chris knew how to enter their world.
During the question and answer session, the children had some very interesting questions on how he published his books, where he got his ideas and he put his books together. He even explained how he came up with the idea for ‘A Ball for Daisy’ on an incident that happened with son when he ball was damaged by a neighbors dog. He also discussed how long a book took to develop and where some of his inspirations came from. It really was nice participation from the audience.
To honor Chris’s visit, the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library presented him with an ‘Honorary Membership’ to ‘The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library’ and our Mayor of the Borough of Lodi, Emil Carafa, presented Chris with a Medal of Honor from the Borough of Lodi.
Chris receiving an Honorary Membership to the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library
It was a fun and engaging afternoon and we were very honored to have Christopher Raschka be our guest for the Second Annual ‘Teens, Tots & Toys’ holiday celebration. We will see everyone next December for the Third Annual “Teens, Tots & Toys” celebration.
Chris with the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library
Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year from the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library!
(The Legend of Tinker Street was created by Justin Watrel for the holiday event, “Teens, Tots & Toys” for the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library)
Teens, Tots & Toys Mascot, the holiday elf, Tinker Street, is a lovable little prankster who lives in the valley of the Catskills Mountains in which the downtown Main Street of Woodstock, NY is named after.
Tinker Street is a gregarious, generous elf who represents the happiness, generosity and thoughtful charity during the holiday season. Tinker Street does not represent one holiday but all holidays celebrated where love, family and get-togetherness are found. Coming out of his home only on December 1st of each year, you can never truly see Tinker Street. You can only feel him when good thoughts pass through you, when a good deed is done and when helping another person is done with great kindness.
Tinker Street is an elf of great kindness and tolerance and where you find him is in the understanding that no two holidays are alike so respect for all of them is very important. The true meaning from a visit from Tinker Street is the generosity to charity, the thoughtfulness of a distant family member or friend and looking back to the kindness and remembrance of someone who is gone but not forgotten. When we receive a visit from Tinker Street, we see only the best in ourselves and others around us.
When you see a big smile on someone’s face or happy laughter in a gathering, you know Tinker Street has been there. So to be part of the holiday celebration of “Teens, Tots & Toys”, we wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season and experience the magic in the days ahead.
Only Tinker Street can add a certain joy to the holidays and that’s the symbol of “Teens, Tots & Toys”.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year from the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library!
The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library with World Champion Skater, Elaine Zayak, at the first “Teens. Tots & Toys” in 2015.
The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library at the Second Annual “Teens, Tots & Toys” with Best Selling Author Christopher Raschka in 2016.
Join us again at the Lodi Memorial Library next December for ‘Teens, Tots & Toys 2017’
I have had to put my walk on hold again for a month as I was organizing another visit from the Bergen County Zoo to the Lodi Memorial Library. The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library decided to do a series of events with the theme “Follow the Yellow Brick Road Back to You Library”.
Our first event was the visit from Miss New Jersey 2016 Brenna Weick and finished with a huge fundraiser at Friendly’s Restaurant in Woodland Park, New Jersey. We reached out to the Lodi Community and the surrounding towns with engaging, innovative programming that appeals to all ages.
This event featured two innovative programs that were created by the Bergen County Zoo exclusively for the library, “Dorothy’s Barnyard Animals” and “The Tales of Flying Monkey’s”. Both programs included a reading of the book ‘The Wizard of Oz’ tailored to that program.
The Tales of Flying Monkeys was the first theme of the event
In the first program, “Dorothy’s Barnyard Animals”, zoo educator Carol Fusco created a program to show the children and their parents what animals live in a barnyard and what animals ‘Dorothy’ might have taken care of while working on the farm. She went through what animals are available to see at the zoo versus what animals you might see on a working farm in New Jersey and beyond. She then asked the kids what animals they have seen recently to a very engaging discussion of what is in their own backyards.
Dorothy’s Barnyard Animals was the second theme for the event
Then she brought out a special guest, ‘Butterscotch’ the chicken, who came out to visit us all the way from the Bergen County Zoo. This gentle little bird was so friendly I swear that she smiled at me. The kids just loved her and some of them got to pet her. I can tell you that that chicken did not blink and the kids got such a kick out of it (I could tell the parents did as well with the big smile on some of their faces).
The second program, “The Tales of Flying Monkey’s”, Carol and her partner from the zoo read a section of the book after Dorothy had melted the Wicked Witch of the West and how the monkeys were indebted to Dorothy for freeing them from the clutches of the evil witch. They explained who the monkey’s really were to the kids and made them less afraid of them. I thought it was an interesting they took that perspective on how misunderstood the characters were in the movie versus the book.
“Tales of Flying Monkeys”
Then there was a discussion of mammals who fly and there place in the wild. There was an interesting discussion how animals fly and the place in nature that they had. The educators passed around pictures of different animals and explained how they live in the wild. For a program that was geared to kids from the first grade to third grade I really learned a lot. I never knew that much about animals from the perspective of the zoo keepers but it opened my eyes on their place in society. Plus I got a kick out of holding the chicken. It is really a great chicken.
We had about 30 people at the event and a mixture of age groups including a lot of parents and grandparents join us for the afternoon. I even had the parents walk up to me and say that they learned a lot as well. That made me feel good that the Friends could offer such a nice educational program that engaged the kids and got them off their cell phones. It was a younger crowd then I had thought we would attract but it seemed to me that the families all had a good time and were happy that the zoo came to them.
The program was followed by a light reception with all sorts of cookies, fresh fruit, wrap sandwiches and chicken fingers that were donated by Inserra ShopRite of Lodi. We want to thank them and Inserra Supermarkets for their support. Thank you!
For those who have never been to the Bergen County Zoo, it is a real treat. It is located in Paramus, New Jersey in the Van Saun Park off Forrest Avenue. It is a real treat and has a nice selection of animals to visit and more creative programming to experience. A big Thank you to Carol Fusco and her team for creating such a great program for the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library.
Thank you to everyone who participated and we hope you enjoyed the program.
Articles on the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library events:
I took time out of my walk in Manhattan to run another event for the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library. The Friends had planned a series of Fall events around the theme “Follow the Yellow Brick Road Back to Your Library”, to encourage residents of Lodi to come back and see the changes at their library and in celebration of the 116th Anniversary of the novel “The Wizard of Oz”. In celebration of the books anniversary, we invited Miss New Jersey 2016 Miss Brenna Weick to join in the celebration.
Miss Weick is a 22 year old college graduate from Mantua, New Jersey. She earned a BS in Psychology with a minor in Communications from High Point University. She is the recipient of a number of scholastic awards including the High Point University Academic Achievement Award Scholarship and the Alpha Gamma Delta “Strive for Pi” Academic Excellence Award. She was the recipient of both the Miss New Jersey and Miss America Community Service Awards and earned the Bronze medal for participation in the Duke of Edinburgh program through the Miss America Organization.
This delightful afternoon started with a reading from the novel “The Wizard of Oz”, with Miss Weick reading to an audience of over 60 children and their parents. She read several passages on the trip to Oz and some of the background stories of the main characters.
The reading was followed by a Q & A on Miss Weick’s role as Miss New Jersey and being an ambassador of the Miss America Pageant. She also engaged the audience with her time at the recent Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City. It was interesting to learn how the pageant worked, the experiences she had meeting all the other contestants and her role at the pageant as the home town favorite.
She also talked about the work she is doing all over the state with her platform “A World of Difference: Navigating the Cybersphere”, where her aim is to teach generations (young and old) how use the Internet safely and with integrity. She has utilized this platform to host seminars for parents and senior citizens in an attempt to bridge the gap that has been created with the growth of technology.
Miss Weick, in keeping with the theme of the event sang “Over the Rainbow” to the audience. Miss Weick had played the role of ‘Dorothy’ in her high school production of the ‘Wizard of Oz’ her senior year. It was a delight to the whole audience and everyone enjoyed it. We also asked if she could sing the song that she sang at the Miss America pageant ‘Someone like You’ from the musical Jekyll & Hyde. Her perfect rendition of the song brought the house down with a loud applause from the audience.
When the Q & A was over, the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library made a special presentation to Miss Weick. Friends member Marie Shrieks made a presentation to Miss Weick from the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library making her an ‘Honorary Member’ of the Friends of the Library and Library Director Karyn Gost presented her with a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the library staff. Councilwoman Patricia Licata from the Lodi Borough Council greeted Miss Weick as well.
Patricia Licata, Brenna Weick and Justin Watrel at “Celebrating Books: the 116th Anniversary of ‘The Wizard of Oz’
After the program was over, Miss Weick stayed and signed autographed head shots from the pageant and “Wizard of Oz” books that the Friends were selling to raise money. She was engaging to residents and Friends of all ages.
The afternoon was followed by an light reception in Miss Weick’s honor that everyone was invited to that was sponsored by Shoprite of Lodi and we ended the afternoon with a showing in the upstairs screening room of the 1939 version of “The Wizard of Oz” starring Judy Garland.
Justin Watrel presenting Brenna Weick an Honorary Membership to the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library
It was a wonderful afternoon to everyone who attended and the Friends got many compliments about the event. Hats off to Miss New Jersey 2016 Miss Brenna Weick who is representing the State of New Jersey with grace and dignity and being a true “Friend of the Library”.
Brenna Weick singing “Over the Rainbow” to the crowd
Think about joining the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library.
I want to credit this video to Marc Nazeh for this video at the Lodi Memorial Library
The video presentation of the wonderful afternoon on YouTube.
We asked Miss Weick to sing this song from the ‘Miss America Talent’ portion
Check out Articles on the Event and others for the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library:
National Library Week at the Lodi Memorial Library on April 18,2016
I took some time out from my walk to organize another celebrity visit to the Lodi Memorial Library for the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library. As part of National Library Week, we extended the event by one day and welcomed to the library NY Red Bulls II goalie Rafael Diaz, a local New Jersey resident who is becoming a much talked about player on the NY Red Bulls MLS.
Rafael Diaz reading “Oh the Places you will Go”
As with all the events for the library, this one took about four and a half months to organize. One of the younger patrons who had come to ‘Teens, Tots & Toys’ when Elaine Zayak visited the library asked after the event was over would it be possible to bring in a professional soccer player. I said that I would try and the next day I found myself emailing the NY Red Bulls MLS Organization. I was very lucky that I found a person in the PR Department of the Red Bulls who was very nice and really wanted to help me out. I have to say that the event exceeded all my expectations and we had a really good turn out of over 50 kids and an additional 30 adults at the book reading and Q & A after the reading.
The following is the bio of Mr. Diaz that we read at the event:
“Welcome everyone to the Lodi Memorial Library on the final day of National Library Week. The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library and staff of the Lodi Memorial Library welcome with honor a young man who is making New Jersey proud, Mr. Rafael Diaz.
Mr. Diaz was born in the Dominican Republic and spent part of his early childhood locally in Paterson, NJ. Later he moved to Rockaway, NJ with his family and is a graduate of Morris Hills High School. While with the Scarlet Knights of Morris Hills for three seasons he was the starting goalkeeper and served as team captain his senior year.
He earned NSCAA New Jersey Player of the Year and New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year honors his senior year. He was two-time NSCAA High School All-American and two time NSCAA High School All-Region selection, two time first team All-State, All-Area and All-Morris County and a three time All-Conference
As a student at St. John’s University majoring in Sports Management, as a Red-Shirted Freshman, he earned Second team Soccer American All-Freshman Honors, a Big East All-Rookie of the Year and started all 18 games with a posted record of 10-6-2. As a sophomore, he started 15 games and went 9-4-1 and recorded seven shutouts. As a junior was a second team NSCAA All-Northeast Region selection, a first team All-Big East honoree, started all 19 games and posted a record of 10-5-4 with eight shutouts. He was the All-Time shutout leader at St. John’s University.
Mr. Diaz at the Q & A at the Lodi Memorial Library in Lodi, NJ
After finishing at St. John’s University, he signed his first contract with the United Soccer League’s Orlando City Soccer Club and made his first team debut with Orlando on May 14, 2014 with a 4-1 win. During the 2015 season, he went through a trial with the Red Bulls Major Soccer League Club and signed with the New York Red Bulls II for the season and made the game day roster for the side in its first ever match on March 28, 2015 and his debut with the team on April 12, 2015 and his debut as a starter for the New York Red Bulls II on April 18, 2015 in a 1-1 draw against the Charleston Battery.”
The event was extremely well received by the library patrons and the community as well. We had a very long question and answer session and it was fun to watch many star-eyed children ask engaging questions to Mr. Diaz. Mr. Diaz was every bit the gentleman talking to all the kids and adults alike about his career, his goals and his own heroes.
The Q & A was followed by a presentation by our President of the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library, Mrs. Judy Schroeder, who presented Mr. Diaz with an Honorary Membership to the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library and our Library Director Siobhan Koch, who presented Mr. Diaz with a special gift set of the books of “Oh, the Places You will Go” and “Oh, the Places you want to Go” by Dr. Seuss.
The highlight of the afternoon was being joined by our Mayor of the Borough of Lodi, Mayor Emil Carafa. Mayor Carafa gave an enlightened talk about reaching your goals through hard work. He then presented Mr. Diaz with a proclamation from the town and a medal from the Borough of Lodi. We could all see that Mr. Diaz was touched.
Mr. Diaz with his Honorable Mayor Emil Carafa
After the event was over, we had a reception with light refreshments to everyone who joined us that afternoon. Mr. Diaz and staff from the Red Bulls joined us later to tell us what a nice time they had at the library.
The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library want to thank the NY Red Bulls II for letting Mr. Diaz visit us and a big hats off to Rafael Diaz, who showed true sportsmanship and a real role model to all of our patrons.
Thank you to everyone who helped with the event.
Enjoy this video of the event with Rafael Diaz!
Articles on the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library:
I took some time out from my walk to run an event for the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library which is located in Lodi, NJ. I started to get involved in the Friends group last September and that has lead to many interesting visits from celebrities and athletes. Our latest guest helped us welcome in the first day of Spring (which ironically came after a snow storm the day before in which the heat melted all the snow before the event). His name was ‘Lodi Larry, the Rabbit’ and his home is the Bergen County Zoo.
The event was in response to our version of ‘Groundhog’s Day’, when we could not find a groundhog anywhere in Bergen County, NJ. Not one zoo or natural center had one. So when I approached a friend of mine who works at the zoo about one and she could not find one, she suggested the rabbit that they use for children’s events. With that in mind and not wanting to get caught in a snow storm for the event, we moved the event to the first day of Spring with the theme “Lodi Larry comes to the Library”.
Members of the Lodi community on the “First Day of Spring Event”
I was supposed to have only 25 children and their parents but word got out and we ended up with almost 40 children and almost 50 parents and grandparents. This was the first of the three events that I ran for the library since I joined that was a complete sell-out and then some. It was nice to see kids of all ages out to hear the program and participate in the question and answer session.
The only big problem we had was one of the volunteers from the zoo. The program was called “Lodi Larry comes to the Library on the First Day of Spring”. She got up and said, “I don’t know about the rabbit being from Lodi, but this rabbit’s name is Roger, not Larry.” Then she proceeded on with the event. If ever there was a time that someone screwed up, it was then. I was lucky that no one really noticed and the kids and parents had such a good time for the two programs that it was forgotten. I pulled her aside later and explained everything in detail about the program.
The Bergen County Zoo staff with the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library 2016
Outside that little mishap, the programs went off without a hitch. Our first event was a program called ‘Wild & Crafty Animal Tales’, where the kids listened to the story “Make room for the Bunny” and then did a bunny craft. After that the kids got in line to meet the rabbit. That was a big deal for all the small kids. The rabbit seemed very happy with the kids and did not make a fuss. All the kids seemed to enjoy petting the rabbit.
Then our second program “In My Backyard”, took place right after the first program. The theme was that the zoo is a great place to see exotic animals but children can see wild animals every day right in their own backyards. The program induced children to identifying and safely observing New Jersey’s wildlife. Here the kids got to see a real turtle, something that has become very rare in the wilds of New Jersey. I was amazed on how children were so excited on seeing a turtle.
After both programs were over, we had a question and answer time with the staff from the zoo. Some of the questions these kids had were so observant and interesting. So much for the theory that kids today are obsessed with their cellphones. Put a turtle or a rabbit in front of them and they are no different then we were in the 70’s and 80’s.
When the question and answers were over, we had a really nice reception that was catered by our local ShopRite supermarket. Everyone was really impressed with the food. We had a six foot Italian sub that was cut into pieces for us, five pounds of Italian cookies, five pounds of cut fruit, bags of salty snacks and assorted water and juices. I have never seen such a reaction to food before. The site of a colorful buffet of refreshments really brought out the excitement of people. They formed two lines and when I am saying there was not a crumb left of food, there was nothing left. The platters were stripped clean. I was happy that there were no leftovers.
Special Events Chair Justin Watrel of “The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library”
People left and they were all saying that they had a good time. The kids loved their little crafts and clean up was so easy because they brought everything home. Its nice to see a crowd of happy faces leaving the library and hopefully this starts a trend of very successful programming.
I wanted to send a big ‘thank you’ to Mayor Emil Carafa and the entire Lodi Borough Council for their support, Superintendent of School’s Frank Quatrone for all his help getting the word out to the schools, the Lodi Boys & Girls Club, the Lodi Senior Club, Library Director Siobhan Koch and her staff for the filming of the program, picture taking and for helping with the reservations. A big ‘thank you’ to the Lodi Memorial Library’s Library Board and a another big ‘thank you’ to Friends President Judy Schroeder, Treasurer Edith Witte and Board Member Marilyn De Molli for all of their assistance on the event plus all the support from the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library.
Now back to the ‘Walk in Manhattan’.
Enjoy this three part video of the event at the Lodi Memorial Library. It would have been one solid video but one the volunteers made a serious boo-boo during the event:
Articles on The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library:
One of the projects that I was working on as the Junior Friends Chair of another Friends group two years ago was the holiday event, “Teens, Tots & Toys: the Holiday Festival” an all day event that was filled with movies, craft making and celebrity visits all to raise funds and collect toys for the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation of Midland Park, NJ. It had all been planned and then got cancelled. It was an omen too as it snowed the entire day that year and all holiday events had to be cancelled.
It was time to put the event into motion. As my holiday activities were in full swing, we had just finished Christmas tree sales selling 240 trees through our Men’s Association, Christmas Decorating judging with the Mayor’s Celebration Committee, visits to help out in the Soup Kitchen, the fire department’s Annual ‘Santa Around Town’ and volunteering for the Sinterklaas parade, ‘Teens, Tots & Toys’ was the last big event on my list of holiday events.
We invited US Champion, World Champion and Olympian Elaine Zayak to join us for a book reading, Q & A and then an autograph session to be followed by two movies and then lastly gingerbread house making. I knew it was going to be a long day. It had taken six weeks to plan.
Even though the crowds were low (I never understand the patrons of this library that don’t appreciate a really great free event), the event went off nicely. Elaine showed up with her son, Jack and could not have been friendlier. She had just come back from teaching at the Hackensack Ice House and was dressed in her US Figure Skating jacket. She was a true professional.
Elaine Zayak in 1994 when she came back at the United States National Champions
I felt embarrassed by the turnout but Elaine was like don’t worry about it. She had been through this before at book signings. She had been at ones where there were five people and some where there were fifty. She told me she wanted to have something where she and Jack could spend the day with each other and she could involved him. The afternoon was perfect for that.
We started the afternoon with a warm welcome to the crowd that was there and wished everyone a Happy Holiday season. Then I went on to talk about the Legend of ‘Tinker Street’, the magical elf, who the event was honoring and then I introduced Elaine.
‘Tinker Street, the Elf’
A lot of the audience did not know of the contributions to figure skating that Elaine had done. She had introduced so many triple jumps into her skating program when she was starting out that the famous ‘Zayak Rule’ had been created to limit the amount of jumps that you could have in a program. She also brought a sense of athleticism to the sport by encouraging skaters to not just use a sense of style but a sense power to the sport. This gave it a strong point after the ‘figures’ went away in the judging.
Elaine read along with her son, Jack, from the book the “Skating Shoes’ by Noel Streatfeild. This book was made famous by the movie, “You got Mail” when Meg Ryan mentions the book to a bookstore patron. It was a very uplifting book about two friends and fellow skaters who were starting to compete against each other. The two of them took time to read from the book.
Elaine Zayak and her son, Jack
During the Q & A, there were some interesting questions that many of the Friends members had such as her competitions, what it was like to be in the Olympics, many of the famous skaters that she competed with and against, the Tonya/Nancy affair that was taking place at the same time at Nationals in 1994 and what she was doing today. She took a lot of pride in what she was doing with her teaching and encouraging young skaters.
Ms. Zayak with the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library
We filmed the entire event and unfortunately the Mayor had been a little late because of a mix up in the time so we were able to refilm this segment of the program. We as the Friends, lead by our President Judy Schroeder, presented Elaine with an honorarium making her a member of the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library, the Library Director Siobhan Koch presented Elaine with her own copy of the book, “The Skating Shoes” and then the Mayor made his presentation.
Lodi, NJ Mayor Emil Carafa with Ms. Zayak
Lodi Borough Mayor Emil Carafa presented Elaine Zayak with an official medal from the Borough of Lodi, New Jersey and then placed the medal on her and read a proclamation from the Borough of Lodi honoring her many accomplishments. It was very touching to both her and the audience. Another nice thing about it is that the Mayor remembered when she was still skating as a teen and helping raise money for her to compete. Elaine also donated her fee to her two favorite charities, which we thought was very nice of her.
Mayor Carafa with Ms. Zayak
Everyone then joined us for a reception in honor of her visit. We had a beautiful spread of food donated by Inserra Shoprite of Lodi, New Jersey. The reception included a six foot Italian hoagie, a platter of fresh cut fruit, three trays of assorted cookies, assorted chips and assorted juices, bottled waters and sodas that the patrons could enjoy. Elaine’s son, Jack, really seemed to enjoy himself, first helping his mom with the book reading and then enjoying the good food.
The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library presenting Ms. Zayak with a membership to ‘The Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library’
After Elaine and Jack left for the afternoon, we showed the film ‘Arthur Christmas’, the story about one of Santa’s two sons who helps save Christmas for one little girl whose gift was left behind in the North Pole. It is a very uplifting movie about the true meaning of the holiday and the spirit of giving.
After the movie, about fifteen families with about thirty children participated in the first annual making of Gingerbread houses, in which everyone looked like they had a lot of fun. You should have seen some of the creations that came out of that afternoon, made of icing and candies.
Although we did not have the crowd that we thought we would, everyone who came had a very nice time with the event. There is still a lot we have to learn about running these events, the patrons who came had a nice time meeting Elaine Zayak and her son, watching the film and creating the gingerbread houses.
This is what I read from the Legend of Tinker Street, the Magical Elf:
‘The Legend of Tinker Street’
Teens, Tots & Toys Mascot, the holiday elf, Tinker Street, is a lovable little prankster, who lives in the valley of the Catskills Mountains in which the downtown Main Street of Woodstock, NY is named after.
Tinker Street is a gregarious, generous elf who represents the happiness, generosity and thoughtful charity during the holiday season. Tinker Street does not represent one holiday but all holidays celebrated where love, family and get-togetherness are found.
Coming out of his home only on December 1st of each year, you can never truly see Tinker Street. You can only feel him when good thoughts pass through you, when a good deed is done and when helping another person is done with great kindness.
Tinker Street is an elf of great kindness and tolerance and where you find him is in the understanding that no two holidays are alike so respect for them is very important. The true meaning from a visit from Tinker Street is the generosity to charity, the thoughtfulness of a distant family member or friend and looking back to the kindness and remembrance of someone who is gone but not forgotten.
When we receive a visit from Tinker Street, we see only the best in ourselves and others around us. When you see a big smile on someone’s face or happy laughter in a gathering, you know Tinker Street has been there.
So to be part of the very first celebration of “Teens, Tots & Toys”, we wish you and your family a happy and healthy holiday season and experience the magic in the days ahead.’
This event also raised the awareness of the Emmanuel Cancer Foundation of Midland Park, New Jersey and the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library donated the next week around fifty toys and forty children’s books from the library that were donated to the charity, which helps families with children with cancer. It was a big plus to the Foundation of our donation and it helped so many children in a tough holiday season.
For all you patrons who attended the event or donated toys to help, thank you all from the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library for making such a big difference in a strangers life. You all show the true meaning of the holidays by giving of yourselves and commitment to charity.
Merry Christmas to you all!
Please enjoy this two part video of Elaine Zayak’s visit to the Lodi Memorial Library and her ‘key to the city’ presentation by the Mayor of Lodi, Emil Cafara!
Elaine Zayak’s Reading at the Lodi Memorial Library’s “First Annual Teens, Tots & Toys”
Elaine Zayak being presented Honorariums from The Lodi Memorial Library and the Mayor of Lodi, NJ presenting her the medal from the Borough of Lodi, NJ.
Elaine Zayak receiving a “Key to the City” medal to Lodi, NJ
Elaine Zayak at the U.S. Nationals
Elaine Zayak in the 1994 National Championships
Articles on the event for the Friends of the Lodi Memorial Library:
Our full page coverage in The Community News December 2015