HAMMONTON - The Hammonton Sesquicentennial officially kicked off Friday during the Founders’ Day celebration at New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance, 840 Twelfth St.

The ceremony opened with a selection from the Hammonton High School Choir, and a greeting from John Runfolo, master of ceremonies. The event was packed with speeches that praised the town.

“This is just the beginning of a yearlong celebration ... It’s going to be one hell of a party,” said Runfolo.

The event was attended by Congressman Frank A. LoBiondo and members of the Atlantic County Board of Freeholders. Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno was scheduled to attend, but canceled due to a scheduling conflict.

LoBiondo compared the town to a Norman Rockwell setting.

“Tradition, culture, family, heritage — it all comes together in Hammonton,” said LoBiondo.

Mayor Steve DiDonato presented a plaque of the town’s Sesquicentennial Proclamation to Harry Stafford, president of the Sesquicentennial Celebration Planning Committee. The plaque will be hung for the next 50 years in Town Hall, said DiDonato.

“I just want to congratulate everybody on 150 years. It’s a beautiful accomplishment. It’s a beautiful town. We are very fortunate to live in Hammonton. I’m honored to be the mayor at this time, and I thank you all,” said DiDonato.

“We hope to make this a successful year,” said Stafford. “We have many events planned that I think will be exciting for many us.”

NJM Insurance Company hosted the event.

“It’s a special day for Hammonton, and it is a pleasure for NJM to be with you,” said Bernard M. Flynn, president and CEO of NJM Insurance Company. “When NJM decided to expand its operations into South Jersey, Hammonton was a natural fit from its ideal location near major highway arteries and its strong and dedicated work force to its town and community leaders who welcomed us with open arms.”

Brian G. Howell, Esq., of Hammonton cited the qualities of the town that carried it to its 150th anniversary during his keynote address. He listed its location, land, labor force, love of place and the town’s resourcefulness and resilience.

He talked about the people, places and things and the history that made Hammonton stand out.

“The soil was special. It could grow fruits and vegetables like no other place,” said Howell. “What really sets Hammonton apart is its people: some of the most colorful characters you will meet anywhere. Their stories are legendary,” he continued.

“What will Hammonton look like in 50 years, that’s 18,250 days from now? All the pieces are in place to make it what it’s always been: a special place,” concluded Howell.

Special events as well as annual events will celebrate the historic anniversary throughout the year. The Sesquicentennial Formal Gala is March 19 at Tomasello Winery. “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder will be presented at The Eagle Theatre in May and June.

Other notable events include the Red, White & Blueberry Festival on June 26; the Independence Day Parade and fireworks on July 4; the Feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel on July 16; the annual Halloween Parade on Oct. 26; the Firemen’s Christmas Parade in December, and the Sealing of the town time capsule at the end of the year.

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