Washington Park, located across from 33 Washington Street in downtown Newark, is like an outdoor museum. Tall trees surround the grounds and there are many statues commemorating historical figures. The statues, each built in a distinct manner, are dedicated to the following noble men: George Washington, Don Luis Munoz Rivera, Christopher Columbus, Seth Boyden, Jose C. Articas, and Abraham Coles. There are also rocks with bronze plaques that tell interesting stories about Newark’s past.
One of the most striking sights is the bronze statue of George Washington, standing gallantly with his horse, on a hill surrounded by a low fence. J. Massey Rhind sculpted the statue in 1912. George Washington crossed Washington Park with his troops during the Revolutionary War.
Usually Washington Park is a quiet place as there are commuters and business people living their daily lives. But on Wednesdays, during the summer months, the mood is livelier because there is a Farmer’s Market. The Farmer’s Market is open free to the public.
The Farmer’s Market, there are vendors selling food, others sell merchandise, and there is a band playing live music. Some people eat at their tables while others move to the rhythm of the jazz-playing band.
Lannara, who was at the Farmer’s Market, with her young granddaugter, really enjoyed listening to the band. “The music at the Farmer’s Market reminds me of the free concerts that they had at Roy’s Market 40 and 50 years ago.”
Ocatvio Pires, Mr. Anthony Moraes, and his wife Mrs. Kelly Moraes were vendors at the Farmer’s Market. All three of them own a business called “Art Kitchen.” They were selling fresh organic lemonade, cupcakes, and fresh baked cookies.
“I support the community effort to establish the Farmer’s Market in the community of Newark,” Mr. Moraes said.
Virginia Watson, who was a patron at the Farmer’s Market, is a native Newarker. “I really love the band. It reminds me of the music that I heard years ago,” Watson said.
Khaliyah Washington, who was a vendor at the Farmer’s Market selling jewelry, is proud of the city of Newark. “I grew up in Newark. Despite the bad press about this city, you always appreciate this city for being so culturally rich and diverse.”
“After living in upstate for 20 years, it is wonderful to come to listen to the free jazz and blues. These musicians in the band are really first rate,” Washington said
Derek Ware, who is the Executive Director of the Commons Community Development Corporation, graduated from Seton Hall with an MBA in international economic studies, currently teaches Economics at Essex County College.
“In order to make the Farmer’s Market a reality, we try to seek out ways to get help from our community partners, stakeholders, the museum, the library, and even small businesses. Rutgers University loans us their tables and chairs. Some of our sponsors are Berkeley College and the Department of Recreation in Newark,” Ware said.
“On Wednesday nights, we show international films from around the world right here at the park. We set up a big open screen.”
Ware described other events that take place at Washington Park. “On Friday nights, we have a jazz performance from 5pm to 9:30pm. The Event is called “Bling It” and performers play jazz in their own unique style using any medium. We are trying to find an original sound that defines the City of Newark. We are trying to find a sound similar to the jazz Mecca in Newark that was prevalent during the 1940’s. Every great city has a great sound.”
Washington Park certainly looks clean, much better than it did years ago. Ware explained that the Washington Parks Commons Conservative, is the organization that takes care of the park. Washington Park is truly a gem. “One of the oldest parks in the country is Washington Park. It was founded in 1668,” Ware said.
“We have added flowers to the park and in the fall we plan to plant new trees. The Washington Park Commons Conservative is responsible for garbage cleanup, graffiti removal, and gardening.”
The park will even improve more in the future. “We plan to have tables and chairs permanently installed, add a bathroom, add backdrop lighting, and relocate some statues to the corners,” Ware said
All the fun in Newark does not end in the summer; there will be other events in the fall. There will be a corporate 5k run at Washington Park on October 6th. For more information about activities in Newark interested individuals should log on to the following website: commonscommunity.ord.
Newark New Jersey The Making of America Series Jean Rae Turner and Richard T. Koles 2001