Cultural Festivals in New Jersey
New Jersey has a long tradition and history of celebrating the culture and heritage of dozens of different ethnicities who have settled in the Garden State from countries all around the world. The following annual events encourage the state's diverse residents to showcase their equally diverse backgrounds and offer glimpses into a variety of cultures and traditions.
Mexican-Americans in downtown Passaic celebrate their history and culture on May 5 with a Cinco de Mayo parade and festival featuring marching bands, cowboys, dancers in colorful skirts, and authentic cuisine.
The African-American Heritage Parade and Festival in Newark is a perennial Memorial Day weekend crowd-pleaser, with up to a million people attending the three-day celebration. The event's signature attraction? Skydivers landing in front of City Hall.
At the end of May through early June, the annual NJ Greek Fest at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Westfield showcases Greek culture in all its glory, with live music and dancing, flavorful culinary specialties and cooking demonstrations, a Greek marketplace and a kid's zone with family-friendly activities.
Puerto Rican Heritage Festival, held in August, is a tribute to Puerto Rican culture that's been an annual tradition in Jersey City since 1961. On opening day, the festivities kick off with music, food and entertainment, then continues the following day with a 2-mile Puerto Rican heritage parade, which is the largest and oldest event of its kind in New Jersey.
Since 1926, September brings the Hoboken Italian Festival. This four-day festival on the Hoboken waterfront celebrates the traditional Feast of the Madonna Dei Martiri, the patron saint of Molfetta, Italy. Amidst the pizza- and cannoli-eating contests, musical performances (including Sinatra, Bennett and Martin classics) and grape-stomping competition, there is also a full-day procession through the city. In the latter event, an 800-pound Madonna sculpture is carried to a ferry in the Hudson in order to re-enact the traditional Blessing of the Fleet. Other Italian heritage festivals also take place in Garfield and Mercer County, along with other towns throughout the state.
Born in 1971, the Heritage Festival Series is held each September. Sponsored by the Garden State Arts Foundation, which presents a slew of annual ethnic events at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, each festival features traditional music, arts, crafts and of course, food. Also in September, the annual Scandinavian Festival (ScanFest) in Budd Lake features cultural demonstrations from the six Nordic nations: Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Estonia and Finland. You'll listen to authentic music, meet "Vikings," watch traditional competitions and try Scandinavian fare. And in Bridgewater, the Indian-American Festival includes classical, folk, movie, Garba and Bhangra dance competitions with traditional Indian music, rides and shopping.