Parsippany Mayor James Barberio received a unique visit in 2011 from a member of the community which led to an unlikely friendship.
Barberio, who is used to calls and meetings from adult residents, was surprised to find 10-year-old Jamie Yenzer requesting an audience with the mayor to discuss the restoration of Parsippany's Fall Festival.
After eight years, Parsippany's Fall Festival had to be eliminated in 2010 because of fiscal constraints.
“When I was running for mayor in 2009 I was upset that I had to remove the festival,” said Barberio. “We had to keep only the essentials in the budget.
“Jamie was very persistent,” he said. “I didn't know if we could bring it back but she wouldn't take no for an answer. She was right that we could do it and we will.”
“It's a good time to bring the community together, and its a good experience that we don’t have anymore,” said Yenzer now 11 years old. “And it's a good reason to bring everyone together and at the same time raise money for different organizations.”
The fair would feature music, rides, food and carnival games, but most importantly, booths to raise money for charitable organizations, she added.
Team Zoey is one such organization that is dear to Yenzer Three-year old Zoey Penny of Verona was diagnosed with progeria, a fatal rapid-aging disease, when she was just five months old.
Yenzer met Zoey at a fundraising event and was immediately drawn to helping the charity.
“She really touched my heart,” she said. “I want to raise money because progeria is a fatal disease. It makes you look much older and you have a hard time walking and moving. It was really hard and every time I see her I always play with her, and this is something that is really important to me.”
After meeting with the mayor, Yenzer began writing letters to potential corporate sponsors.
“This year in the budget we were fortunate enough to see an increase in revenue by 5 percent,” said Barberio. “We calculated in the street fair and it worked out with no tax increase. Our whole crew is working on it, but we still need budget approval.”
The revenue came from substantial increases in construction, hotel tax, increasing square footage of commercial properties and the slowing down of the decrease in ratables, said Barberio.
“We had a good 2012 and are hoping to have a great 2013,” he said.
Some national corporations have not yet responded to Yenzer's letters but she remains optimistic about local businesses.
“Jamie doesn't get discouraged,” said her father, Jim. “Some corporate sponsors don’t write back but that doesn’t deter her at all.”
If you are interested in corporate sponsorships contact the Mayor's Office at (973) 263-4297.