Performance Gazebo Officially Gifted To Township

The performance gazebo has already been used for wedding couples’ photography.

The Franklin Township Cultural Arts Commission performance gazebo was officially gifted to the township at the Feb. 12 Township Council meeting.

The gazebo, located in the municipal complex, next to the township library’s main branch, was the brainchild of Bill Grippo, the MacAfee Road School principal and former township politician known for his fundraising prowess.

Grippo partnered with CAC members John Felix and Michael Steinbrück in developing the gazebo’s plan. The  group turned to the East Millstone Historical Society to act as the pass-through for donations so they would be considered tax-deductible.

The gazebo had to be totally paid for before it could be given to teh township. Felix certified that that was the case.

Grippo said he fist approached state Assemblyman Joe Danielsen (D-17) about the idea, who suggested he speak with Mayor Phil Kramer.

“I did and Mayor Kramer was 100 percent in from day one,” Grippo said.

Kramer then suggested that Grippo contact Felix and Steinbrück, he said.

“The beautiful gazebo that sits only yards away was the work of many hands and minds and shoe leather,” Grippo said.

He said donations totaled more than $125,000, with $75,000 in cash and $50,000 in in-kind donations.

Grippo also thanks the East Millstone Historical Society’s John Herrling for his bookkeeping of the donations.

“This July 3rd there will be a welcoming band on the gazebo as the crowds enter the main stage area,” he said. “The gazebo will be dressed in red, white and blue as a community in America will celebrate its independence in a special way.”

Kramer said he and Grippo met in a local coffee sop to discuss the plan.

“That was his brainchild, he couldn’t do it alone, didn’t do it alone, but it couldn’t have happened without him,” Kramer said.

Felix, co-chair of the FTCAC, noted that he and Steinbrück last appeared before the Council to give it an update on the gazebo fundraising effort.

“We return with a gift today, the FTCAC leadership and its members in collaboration with the East Millstone Historical Society, proudly presents the performance arts gazebo to the township of Franklin,” he said.

“The gazebo, with its eight columns, signifies the eight villages of our beloved community, we envision active engagement of the community with the gazebo and a robust and continuous use of the gazebo by local artists, organizations, with the ultimate objective of increasing participation in the arts in Franklin,” Felix said.

Steinbrück, who will be in charge of programming for the gazebo, said “now the work really begins.”

“We want to create programming through the use of that venue to really strengthen and bring our community together through diverse programming and events,” he said. “We’re working on a program … we’re looking to do a lot in the future.”

Herrling said he enjoyed working with the CAC, adding that the historical society was “happy to help provide the township with this excellent resource for the people of Franklin Township.”

In-kind contributors to the gazebo project include Fama Nursery, Cedar Hill Landscaping, Trap Rock Industries, Franklin Electric, Monarch Electric and Clayton and Murray Concrete, Grippo said.

Major financial contributors included the Sodhani Foundation, the Steve Zavodnick Family and Friends, Micro Corp., Assemblyman Danielsen, the Franklin Townshhip Education Association and Franklin Township PBA Local 154, he said.

Councilman James Vassanella (D-Ward 5) thanked the project’s organizers.

“That was a gift that’s going to be around for a long time to come and I’m looking forward to hearing that cliché band music on the Fourth of July as we all roll into the municipal building,” he said.


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