EO city pride runs high for Halloween

Photo by Chris Sykes East Orange 1st Ward City Council members Chris James and Amy Lewis stand with Recreation Department and Cultural Affairs Manager Carl Simmons and a group of children and adults who came out to their ward's Halloween event at the Jersey Explorer Children's Museum on Dodd Street on Monday, Oct. 31.
Photo by Chris Sykes
East Orange 1st Ward City Council members Chris James and Amy Lewis stand with Recreation Department and Cultural Affairs Manager Carl Simmons and a group of children and adults who came out to their ward’s Halloween event at the Jersey Explorer Children’s Museum on Dodd Street on Monday, Oct. 31.

EAST ORANGE, NJ — East Orange marked Halloween on Monday, Oct. 31, with a citywide celebration for children and adults of all ages in most of the city’s five wards.

“In the city of East Orange, we’re setting the standard for urban excellence and we’re being that destination city,” said East Orange Recreation Department Director Osner Charles on Monday, Oct. 31, during a stop at the Civic Fellowship Circle in the 4th Ward to participate in the community Halloween party organized by Councilman Casim Gomez. “Point me to another city that’s doing what we’re doing. As a city, as a collective team, that’s all we do is strive for urban excellence. I think, right now, what we’re doing as a city and as a team is looking to setting the standard for urban excellence. I don’t see it as a competition between the wards. I see it as one collective, one body trying to uplift the city all at once.”

Charles didn’t want to characterize the Halloween events taking place simultaneously across the city at the Jersey Explore Museum on Dodd Street in the 1st Ward, Civic Fellowship Center in the 4th Ward, and the annual Haunted House in the Elmwood Park fieldhouse in the 3rd Ward as competing events. But he should have told that to 1st Ward Council members Amy Lewis and Chris James, who threw down the gauntlet, challenging the 3rd Ward’s traditional Halloween supremacy by throwing up their fingers and stating their ward was “No. 1.”

“On Halloween, we want to make sure that the kids have a safe environment in the 1st Ward. They came out of school, were able to go through the whole museum, have some fun, get some candy, have some pizza and we always want the kids to have a safe environment,” said James on Monday, Oct. 31. “It always starts in the 1st Ward. It always starts in the 1st.”

And Lewis proclaimed, “The best is the 1st Ward because we’re always the first.”

Gomez said he respects Lewis and James and what they planned for Halloween at the Children’s Museum, in collaboration with Gary Patnosh, as well as the tradition that his 3rd Ward council colleagues Quilla Talmadge and President Ted Green have with their annual Haunted House.

Gomez thanked Charles, Mayor Lester Taylor and the rest of the city for working with him to make the Civic Fellowship Center Halloween party happen.

“I understand that this party used to happen, but there was a little break, so we’re trying to bring it back and reinvigorate the community and I have to thank Mr. Charles and the mayor for making it happen, because I came to them at the last minute, asking for help to make this happen,” said Gomez on Monday, Oct. 31. “I heard something about the 1st Ward, the ‘mighty’ 5th Ward and in the 3rd Ward, they’re always doing it with the Haunted House, and all of these things inspired me to do this in the 4th Ward. I take inspiration. I’m not trying to compete; I’m trying to collaborate. I’m trying to coordinate, because it’s actually just one city. But I will say this: The 4th Ward is the soul of East Orange.”

Green said he wasn’t having any of that. He said he always represents the 3rd Ward, “the ward that holds up all the other wards.”

“We’re in the middle of the city, so when you’ve got the 3rd Ward, we make sure that everything else is balanced out and we’re No. 1, you know what I’m saying,” said Green on Monday, Oct. 31. “This is our ninth year with the House of Horror. We had close to 700 people come out today. We had the Trick or Trunk, where individuals volunteered their time to come out and do it right here in Elmwood Park. We had a great time today. We had a great group of kids and people came from as far as Middlesex County to be a part of our House of Horror.”

Green said he’s all for Taylor and Charles’ vision of urban excellence in East Orange and turning it into a destination city. But he said, when it comes to the friendly competition to see which ward holds the best Halloween event for residents, it’s a good thing and a win-win situation for everyone involved, because it means they’re all working together and working hard to make the city the best it can possibly be for residents.

“We’ve been doing this for nine years and we’re very happy that I was a safe environment in the 3rd Ward and a safe environment across the city,” said Green.

“These events are not only for people that want to come out and celebrate the holiday, but anyone that just wants to come out and have a good time. We welcome everyone.”