Story by Lourice Angie
The Annual Florida Family Fun Fest on Sun., Aug. 12 in the Village of Florida continues to showcase the best of the community. Now in its 21st year, the daylong celebration grows each year with a larger turnout of people then the year before.
The festival opened in the afternoon in the heart of the Village. The annual function continues to showcase all of the wonderful things that a community can achieve when they work together. Preparations are ongoing year round and the Florida Family Fun Fest committee works very hard to make every year better than the one before.
The event offered fun activities for all ages including free rides and vendors offering a variety of foods and unique merchandise for sale. Music added a special touch throughout the day. MC Natalie “Nat the Cat” Gubala, a radio personality at WTBQ in Warwick, was on stage announcing special acts and happenings.
The Matt Mulhare Band could be heard playing a blend of country music and rock. Grammy Award-winning recording artist Jimmy Sturr and his Orchestra, voted the number one polka band in the country for the past ten years, delighted the crowd later that evening with polka and country music. There were also performances by the Somerville Brothers and Tangent.
Every year, the Fun Fest Committee recognizes Floridians who have contributed their time, special skills, and talents to help better the community. Nominations are solicited and the committee selects these recipients who afterward are publicly awarded on the main stage during the Fun Fest.
Highland Engine & Hose Company Receives the Lifetime Achievement Award
During the year 1885, the citizens of Florida met at Seward’s Hall, on the site of the Sam Cohen building at the corner of North Main and Bridge Streets. After listening to the pleas from some of the patriotic citizens and taxpayers, a group of men decided to form a fire company. It was agreed that the men would sign up as volunteer firemen and drop whatever business or work they were engaged in to rush to the scene of a fire. There, under the direction of an elected foreman or assistant, they would use their intelligence and strength in subduing the fire.
Over the past 133 years, these men and later women of the Highland Engine and Hose Company, as it came to be known, have answered the call for thousands of fires, auto accidents, ambulance needs, hazards, public service calls, and more. They have answered the calls of their own district as well as neighboring communities with distances as far as Buffalo, Manhattan, and Long Island.
The fire service and its equipment have changed a great deal over the years. What initially included a dozen red pails has evolved into the modern day pumpers, tanker, rescue truck, and the jaws of life. The call, however, remains the same – help friends and neighbors whose lives or property are in danger and serve the community in whatever way they can. This includes events like the Halloween parade, Christmas tree lighting, rides at Fun Fest, and the Memorial Day barbecue.
The Highland Engine and Hose Co. thanks the Fun Fest Committee for this auspicious award and dedicates it to all members and families of the Highland Engine and Hose Co. past, present and future.
Citizen of the Year Lona Olejniczak
There are people in the small Village of Florida who exemplify the meaning of community. Lona Olejniczak is one of those people. Lona is a prime example of how one person can affect the lives of almost every single person she encounters.
She has been a member of the Florida Fire Department and Rescue Squad for nearly 40 years. Throughout this time, there have been countless occasions when Lona has rushed to give aid at motor vehicle accidents, in turn making vital decisions that have saved lives.
In addition to these rescue efforts, she has continuously been involved in countless fundraisers, raffles, dinners, and blood drives that have helped benefit the community. Not only does she manage the magnitude of large scale events, she is an integral part in advising, training, and mentoring the new members of the rescue squad. Whether Lona is overseeing an event, a new member of the corps, or an accident victim, the common response is this, Lona’s here and it will all be okay.
Lona was raised in West Milford, NJ and moved to Warwick with her family in 1966. She married Zig Olejniczak in 1970 and they settled in Florida in 1971. To this day, they still live in the same house, where they raised their two daughters, Brigette Lewis and Erin Scoville. For those who live in Florida, there’s a good chance they’ve been to Lona and Ziggy’s home for a celebration of sorts, perhaps as a guest for a Thanksgiving dinner, a Halloween party, or one the of the weddings hosted at the house known for the big grey barn.
Lona has always exhibited a love for organizing social gatherings and it has become a continuous practice for her. She has not only applied this love to her home and the fire department but she has also organized several middle school and high school functions for the Florida youth. Lona has always been an advocate for the kids and she continues to enrich the lives of this community through her involvement in the local Presbyterian Church, the American Legion Ladies Auxiliary, and the Flowick Senior Citizens group.
Although Lona could retire, she continues to work at Ramapo Valley OB-GYN. She is a woman of almost boundless energy. Her dedication to getting the job done extends outside of the office and into her everyday life. Even while on vacation, her EMT skills are often called upon. For example, on three separate occasions while flying, she tended to two possible heart attacks and a post-surgery emergency, all of which had potential to ground the plane for an emergency landing. The pilot awaited Lona’s assessment of the passengers. Yes, she had the power to ground the plane!
And for those who know Lona, control and authority comes naturally. To everyone’s relief, she determined the causes of the misinterpreted symptoms which kept the plane in route and on-time. The airlines showed their appreciation with complimentary food, drinks, and airline tickets.
It is through these types of humanitarian acts that Lona is recognized. Her presence in the community is a constant reminder of just how much her acts of kindness, concern, action, and care have had an everlasting effect on all in Florida. The Fun Fest committee thanks and recognizes Lona as Citizen of the Year and that translates into one very big “thank you”!
For more information on the Florida Family Fun Fest visit http://www.floridafamilyfunfest.org/.