Last Saturday was South Jersey’s unofficial start to the fall season. Despite preconceived notions about the state, southern NJ is filled with small towns with 1930s era Main Streets, lush farmlands, and artisans and crafters galore. An amazing display of this New Jersey could be seen at last weekend’s fall fests.
The weekend started with Pitman’s Fall Craft Fair. Pitman is a tiny town with a rich history as a resort location for northerners. Only an hour from NJ’s famous beaches, 20 minutes from Philadelphia, and filled with charm, Pitman attracts those looking to live in its eclectic mixture of historic-era homes. The town is known as one where “everyone knows everyone” but I never mind that. Broadway, the center street of action in town, has been revitalized in recent years. It now includes multiple restaurants, antique shops, paint studios and galleries, and the famous Broadway Theatre which shows live action productions on weekend evenings.
The Fair is a mile long event stretching down Broadway and to the surrounding streets. Some favorite vendors arrive each year like Pennsylvania Soy Candle Co. The owner is so sweet and has my Pumpkin Roll candle melts ready for me each year. Other artisans include those making dainty sterling silver earrings, the coolest wind chimes made from old beer cans, and a countless number of fall decorations. Local businesses also open so the fair is a great way to see the town for how adorable and homey it truly is.
- DO bring cash, a tote bag, and a light jacket.
- DO opt to take the shuttle instead of parking.
- DO avoid strollers and dogs. (They may seem like a great idea in theory but these are tiny, old streets we’re talking about.)
After the craft fair, I was ready for food. Not that there wasn’t any offered at the fair- all the local spots put out a spread and offer indoor seating- but I had in mind what I was after. You see, that same day about 10 minutes away in the adjacent town of Glassboro was the Italian Festival on Rowan Blvd.
Glassboro is a friendly neighbor to Pitman. Having humble beginnings, the town’s heart was in the glass factory which gave it its name. The employees eventually helped truly colonize the area and those outlying towns. In fact, families which still reside in Glassboro and have been there since the factory era are affectionately called “Townies”. Though now more recognizable as a college town, the home of Rowan University, there are still strong ties to the surrounding community.
Rowan, originally founded in the ’30s as the Glassboro Normal School for teacher education is now one of the premier universities in the southern part of the state. A generous donation was made to the college a decade ago which has been used to create one of the top ten engineering schools in the region, two medical schools (awarding MDs and ODs) and a large, developed street which connects the college to downtown. This physical connection was the final step in cementing the highly symbiotic relationship between the college and the town.
It was down this street, Rowan Blvd, that the Festival took place and boy was it a blast. On the BN green space, a band played and people brought out their chairs to listen. Local restaurants brought out their best sellers. There was a food tent with cocktail tables, carnival games, and local vendors displaying their products. Rowan gear could be seen everywhere but clearly there were many out-of-towners attending as well, based on the fullness of the free parking lot.
- DO bring a lawn chair.
- DO try the mac and cheese bowl with fresh pulled pork from PB’s. (I know, I know, it’s not Italian.)
- DO bring your kids along to this one! The little ones will have plenty to do and the security presence will make you feel free to let them run.
The Pope himself even made an appearance!
(Love you, mama!)
If you live in the area, you should definitely put these events on your to-do list. They are a great representation of the NJ I grew up to love and cherish. These events are also an amazing opportunity to shop small and support mom and pop businesses which employ locals and put money into your economy.
Happy fall, y’all!