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Harrison Township’s party planners

The Recreation Commission – which is looking for two new members – has pressed on during the pandemic, with drive-in movies and an upcoming concert, too.

Lights on Main is among the many events the Harrison Township Recreation Commission organizes throughout the year. (KRYSTAL NURSE/The Sun)

The nearly two dozen people who work on the Harrison Township Recreation Commission refer to themselves as “the party planners of the town,” according to Recreation Coordinator Sharon Chew.

Whether it’s Harrison Township Day, the Halloween parade, Easter egg hunt, or the wildly successful Lights on Main, the recreation commission is front and center in making sure everything runs smoothly. And when events are over, they go back to working together to brainstorm new ideas to entertain the masses.

Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a bit of a party pooper. 

The restrictions brought forth by the pandemic have postponed and canceled many events and have created challenges of how to continue to provide the community with activities. But the rec commission presses on.

In two weeks – on Saturday, Sept. 12 – the Harrison Township Recreation Commission is hosting the “Concert at the Wilt,” a live music event at the William Wilt Soccer Complex that will give families a chance to enjoy the summer weather while practicing social distancing, too. The concert, scheduled from 4 to 8 p.m., will feature The Company, a musical act that includes two Harrison Township natives, Andrew Bevacqua (on drums) and Stephanie Owens (one of the band’s vocalists).

“We’ve just really been trying to think outside of the box and work with what we have to make sure we can have things for families here,” Chew said. “Not only in Harrison, but we’re open to a lot of the surrounding towns – Woolwich, Swedesboro, and Elk – they don’t have recreation (commissions), so we get all of them, too. And we love it.”

Chew, the department’s coordinator for 14 years, loves everything about her job, including working alongside others dedicated to serving their community. If that sounds interesting to you, you’re in luck: the Harrison Township Recreation Commission has two openings for volunteer positions.

The board, which includes seven active voting members, four alternates and nearly a dozen active volunteers, currently has two vacant positions among the alternates. 

“The only difference is in the voting,” Chew said. “The alternate members jump in when an acting board member steps away, and then move into regular board member positions. And people outside of town are eligible, too, although we limit (board members) to two people outside of town … And the more people involved, the more ideas get thrown around and take off, and it becomes a great working relationship.”

Chew said that interested candidates can apply directly through the commission’s website through the Citizen Leadership Form Harrison Township page.

Chew said to make sure candidates include any prior experience with volunteerism or event planning, as well as how long you’ve lived in the township, among others details. 

“That helps us to see where they’d fit in best,” Chew said.

The majority of the people on the board will be at next month’s concert and have also played a pivotal role in the commission’s ability to monthly drive-in movie events at the William Wilt Complex. “The One and Only Ivan” and “Mulan” are on tap for Sept. 18 and Oct. 16, respectively, in the next editions of the family movie series. 

The Concert at the Wilt will be family-friendly, too, with a magician performing in between music sets. The event will also be social distance-friendly, too, with the commission selling reserved spaces for individual families.

“We’re selling circles – they are $30 a circle – so families can reserve their circle and bring their own chairs, their own coolers and food,” Chew said. “We’re not having food trucks because we don’t want people standing too close in line. (Once a family arrives), they’ll be escorted to their circle.”

Each circle will include a six-feet buffer zone from each other to ensure all attendees can enjoy the music and late summer weather safe and stress-free.

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