By mvitale, OCNJDAILY
Get ready for a night of camaraderie, food, live music and kids’ activities at PBA Local 61’s second annual Fall Food Festival on Friday outside of the Ocean City Community Center.
The free rain or shine event will be in the lot in the 1600 block of Haven Avenue (the 17th Street entrance to the Ocean City Free Public Library).
It will run from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and promises to bring neighbors together with some of the city’s police officers for a great time, organizers said.
Police Chief Jay Prettyman said he is looking forward to another terrific family-friendly Fall Food Festival.
“We are very excited to hold our second annual event in which we continue to build relationships with our community,” he said.
While last year was a success, the second festival will have more vendors and activities, said Ocean City Police Officer Kayla Ricci, who is in charge of the event.
“People came back from last year and we expanded it with some more vendors,” Ricci said in an interview Tuesday. “We have all local food establishments from Ocean City.”
In addition to an assortment of free food, the band Ian & Christina will be performing. And weather depending, there will also be cornhole games to play, Ricci noted.
For those who didn’t attend the first PBA Local 61 Fall Food Festival, Ricci gave a glimpse at what it was like and what made it such a wonderful experience for police and community members.
And even in rainy weather last year, Ricci said there were still 200 festivalgoers.
“The best way to describe the event last year was it felt homey. It was a really good community event. There were no expectations. Everyone enjoyed themselves, even the vendors. They all enjoyed it,” Ricci said. “It was a really good, low key local event. We don’t get to do that in the summer because we have so many tourists.”
PBA Local 61 President Rich Wilent said he hopes the festival will be even better than last year’s inaugural event because it is wonderful for the community to join, and the PBA wants to give back to the community.
“This is our end-of-the-summer thank you for the residents. We look forward to serving them through the year,” Wilent said. “These events are huge to us. They are generational. At this year’s festival, there will be some new things. There will be many different food cards and they are all local businesses who support us and we in return are supporting them.”
The event not only brings the community together with police, but also the library staff.
“I believe the Fall Food Festival that is being sponsored by our local PBA helps to build strong relationships, appreciation and goodwill throughout our Ocean City community,” Library Director Karen Mahar said.
She noted that the library and the Ocean City Community Policing Unit have enjoyed partnering on community events and projects for many years.
Some of the highlights for this year’s festival will include some activities courtesy of the library, she added.
“The library will have the bookmobile available for tours and there will be giveaways from the library,” Mahar said. “Staff will help with set-up, games and getting the word out about the event.”
Mahar described her experience at last year’s Fall Food Festival.
“It was a blast last year,” she said. “And a great community event.”