New Morristown Cultural District plans ‘Family Fun Day’ for charity, May 20

morristown cultural district, family fun day flyer


Morristown has a famous Green and an Historic District.

And now, it has a Cultural District.

“May is our coming-out party,” said Pastor Dave Smazik of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown.

Overflow crowd cranes for peek at 'Goosebumps' author R.L. Stine, at 2016 Morristown Festival of Books. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Overflow crowd in the Presbyterian Parish House at the 2016 Morristown Festival of Books. The Festival planted the seeds for the new Morristown Cultural District. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

The Presbyterians are teaming with their South Street neighbors, the Morristown & Township Library and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and the Mayo Performing Arts Center and Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen across the street, in hopes of highlighting their section of town while benefiting charities.

On Saturday, May 20, 2017, this Morristown Cultural District will host its first event, Family Fun Day, from 11 am to 2 pm on the Vail Mansion lawn at 110 South St. 

Look for balloons and face-painting and kids activities. Combined choirs from the two churches will sing. Mayor Tim Dougherty is scheduled to read aloud a children’s story.

St. Peter's tower in Morristown will be getting a new roof next spring.
St. Peter’s has been a South Street icon since the 19th century.

The festivities are free, but donations will be accepted for memberships at the town pool for disadvantaged youths and their chaperones this summer.  A goal of $25,000 has been set.

“We have so many families who would love to have their kids swim, but they can’t afford it,” said the Rev. Janet Broderick, rector of St. Peter’s.

She hopes enough money can be raised to provide swim lessons, as well as passes to the town’s Burnham Park pool. St. Peter’s started a program last year, but ran into red tape that resulted in kids being turned away even when the pool was empty, Broderick said.


On Saturday, restaurateur Chris Cannon of Jockey Hollow will offer $15 wine tastings for visitors aged 21 and over, with proceeds going to the cause. Lunches will be available for purchase, and so will rubber ducks floating in the Vail Mansion reflecting pond.

These institutions did a test run of sorts back on Christmas Eve 2016, when they staged a carol sing that raised nearly $25,000 for the Community Soup Kitchen and Outreach Center.

“We all as group believe that culture and community have a central role in our lives,” said Cannon, who transformed a century-old mansion built by an AT&T magnate into a top-rated restaurant.

Morristown's historic Vail Mansion, future home of the Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen.
Morristown’s historic Vail Mansion, home of the Jockey Hollow Bar & Kitchen. ‘Family Fun Day’ will take place on the lawn; rubber ducks will bob in the reflecting pool.

“In the current political atmosphere with funds being taken away from The National Foundation for the Arts, school lunch programs being curtailed, etc., we agreed that as a group, we could support culture, the arts, local farms, learning and in general, those in need in our community,” he said.

With the motto “Inspiring Spirit, Body and Mind for over a Century,” the organizations aim to join forces for a couple of charity events annually.

“We have these great institutions in this part of town, and it’s a great chance to cooperate, and get out of our silos, and do great things for the community,” said Ed Kirchdoerffer, general manager of the Mayo Performing Arts Center.

MPAC began as the Community Theatre in 1937.  The library and St. Peter’s can trace their Morristown roots to the 19th century, and the Presbyterian Church owned the Green long before General George Washington came to town. (The church sold the square in 1816, with the stipulation that it “remain as a Common forever.”)

The MPAC marquee is now electronic--but don't expect flashy videos or special effects. Town and theater officials don't want rubber-necking by motorists on South Street. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
‘We all want to give back to the community that has supported us over the years,’ says Ed Kirchdoerffer, g.m. of the Mayo Performing Arts Center. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

More recently, these Cultural District founding members have provided venues for the Morristown Festival of Books.

Library director Chad Leinaweaver said Pastor Smazik got everyone talking about how to expand those collaborations, which started four years ago.

“Collaboration is the name of the game for non-profits like the library. We’ve been collaborating together — think of consortium online catalogs, group delivery of items, shared services– almost from the beginning,” Leinaweaver said.

Each member’s role in the Cultural District will evolve over time, he anticipates.

The Morristown & Township Library, Dec. 10, 2013. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
The Morristown & Township Library has promoted collaborations large and small for years, says its director. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“For the May 20th event, our Children’s Department got a handful of oversized books about ducks and swimming for the mayor to read to children at our kick-off,” Leinaweaver said.

The library also will offer sign-ups for library cards, just in time for summer reading. 

“Since the library is an information center, that may often be our role: Get the word out, promote literacy, archive the history or be a resource for the community,” Leinaweaver said.



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