Autumn Fun At Thompson Park Day

October 22, 2017
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The Kessler family of Middletown was among 12,000 people who turned out for the annual Thompson Park Day celebration on Sunday. The festive event showcases a variety of outdoor autumn-themed activities, as well as a costume contest for people and their dogs.

By Jennifer Driscoll | Photos by Bart Lentini |

LINCROFT – The kids ran up to the observation beehive, putting their faces up to it and tapping on the glass. Watching the hundreds of bees inside make the honeycomb, some cheered, some gasped and some were too stunned to do anything but stand with their jaws open.

“I can see the queen! I can see the queen!” one boy shouted.

The beehive was part of a display by the Central Jersey Beekeepers Association at Thompson Park Day, held Sunday, Oct. 15. “We want to educate people on how honeybees are very important to the environment,” said Geff Vitale, 42, of Kingwood, the president of the association.

The stand held jars full of different types of honey, ranging from shades of dark brown to bright yellow. It also featured beeswax candles, formed into the shapes of pine trees and pinecones, and pamphlets on how to help honey bees and other pollinators. An employee of the association talked to the kids and taught them how to identify the queen in the hive.

Thompson Park Day is held annually by the Monmouth County Park System. The event has a variety of things to do, including games, rides, face painting, sand art, and archery. New this year were additional activities, such as laser tag, as well as a new wristband system. The wristbands cost $10 and allowed kids to participate in all of the activities, excluding pumpkin painting and “Grab & Go Ceramics.” The park system estimated 12,000 people were in attendance Sunday.

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The sky was overcast and it was breezy most of the day, but people could still be seen all over enjoying the event in shorts and other warm-weather attire.

The food vending area was a popular spot, selling hot dogs, hamburgers, surf and turf, funnel cakes and more. Children walked around with their faces painted, holding balloon hats and swords, and dogs of all shapes and sizes were present — some wearing costumes.

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The “Strut Your Mutt” Doggie Costume Contest was one of the highlights of the day for many, with dogs dressed up as hot dogs, bumblebees, sheep, donuts and more. Many kids and adults were in costume as well.

One family was dressed as superheroes with their dog, a Maltese-Yorkie mix, dressed like Wonder Woman. They also carried a bundle of red, white and blue balloons.

“It was my first grader’s idea,” said the mother, Jennifer Kessler, 45, of Middletown. “He wanted to dress up like the Hulk.”

The family has participated in the contest in prior years as well, previously dressing as characters from The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Pokémon. “We’re the reigning champs,” said the father, Jonathan Kessler, 45.

They explained the event allows them to bring their family together and enjoy the day with one another.

Another popular activity at the event was the Scarecrow Contest. The scarecrow designs were very creative and included a giraffe, an astronaut, a mermaid, and one that was emoji-themed, plus some more traditional scarecrows as well.

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Julie Hickey, 37, of Middletown, and her husband, Richard, 36, were hard at work building their scarecrow while their sons, Lucas, 4, and Harry, 2, played in the hay.

“My 4-year-old loves scarecrows,” said Hickey. It was their first time competing in the contest, and they confessed they had never made one before. Their vision was to create an Irish-themed scarecrow, decorated in St. Patrick’s Day gear. It may have been their first attempt, but their finished scarecrow was a fine addition to the competition.

At the end of the day, the Hickey family took their scarecrow home with them, along with a new happy memory.


This article was first published in the Oct. 19-26, 2017 print edition of The Two River Times.

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