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Despite Incidents, Backwoods Called a Success

Two assaults took place at 'substance-free' high school dance, but organizers and police say there were fewer problems than last year and the event was an overall success.

A student dance jointly organized by civic groups brought together nearly 1,000 Ridgewood students on Friday night with fewer behavioral hiccups reported than last year, police and organizers said.

A collaboration between The Ridgewood Guild and the Ridgewood Municipal Alliance, the origins of the dance can be traced back to parent David Zrike and former RHS principal Jack Lorenz finding an .

Partially attributing the heavy drinking to a lack of engaging options for youth after 8 p.m., they sprang into action, creating a high-energy, substance-free dance in the park.

"We're creating a safe environment for students to have a fun, healthy time," said Zrike.

Though Zrike and police reported – under ten – the dance was not without its tumults.

One 14-year-old boy attempted to enter the dance while heavily intoxicated, according to Lt. William Amoruso, one of eight officers who policed the event at Van Neste Square. When the juvenile was confronted by police, he punched one officer in the stomach before being subdued, Amoruso said. The officer was not injured.

The student's parents were notified and he was transported to for alcohol treatment, Amoruso said. The boy's condition worsened and he was became unconscious while en route to the hospital, police said.

In a separate incident, the mother of one youth reported to police her son was punched in the face while dancing in the tent area. Additionally, an 18-year-old was charged for possession of alcohol, according to Amoruso.

"We had a very low percentage of incidents with the kids," the lieutenant told Patch on Saturday. "There were 928 kids that attended and less than ten required police action. All in all, we consider it a very successful event."

Zrike stressed that numerous precautions were taken and proved effective. Twenty chaperones monitored the crowd and screened individuals prior to entrance. If teens are caught not obeying the rules of sobriety, they're barred from future dances.

"We've seen a tremendous improvement in appropriate behavior," he said following the dance. "It [Backwoods] has caused students to take notice and talk about the dangers of drinking. They're saying, 'we can go out and have a good time without drinking.' It's really been a positive development."

Guild members – including , , , and others – also offered deep discounts to participating students.

A few "bad apples" aside, Zrike believes the Backwoods dances are providing a unique opportunity for teens and will continue to reduce unsupervised heavy drinking.

"We're going to continue to put on events that bring together the students, the businesses of the guild, and the greater community to make this a better Ridgewood," he said.

Have a question or news tip? Contact editor James Kleimann at James.Kleimann@patch.com, or find us on Facebook and Twitter. For news straight to your inbox every morning, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Chris Gubb June 17, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Thanks so much to all organizers. From a mom of a teen who had a great time. Grateful for the venue, Chris Gubb
Ron Verdicchio June 17, 2012 at 01:57 PM
James, your posting is misleading. The event, which appeared to be a success with the exception of a few transgressions, was a community event attended by Ridgewood youth. The use of the terms high school and students implies it was a school event which it was not.
James Kleimann June 17, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I disagree, Ron. It's called "RHS Backwoods" (http://www.ridgewoodguild.com/RHSbackwoods.html) though it's not an official school dance. Attendance is probably around 95-99 percent Ridgewood High School students. Ridgewood High students are involved in the organizing of Backwoods. Here's a bit more: http://abrunner.wix.com/rhsbackwoods#!about-backwoods
News Man June 17, 2012 at 04:21 PM
Another great "Fathers Day Story" for Ridgewood. It reminds me of the many last final day Food Fights at many High Schools. It's why school officials still have gray hair.
Ron Verdicchio June 17, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Mine is white
Moist Cake June 17, 2012 at 05:58 PM
Allow me to re-write this article for you: "Despite Incidents, Backwoods Called a Success..." Despite good intentions the event was a failure, with more than 9 arrest including one for assault on a police officer! Which in most states is a felony offense! There is a reason why the schools stopped handling these functions, maybe the appropriate response should have been to wait till the kids learned that bringing alcohol is not going to be tolerated and no dances till it happens period! If the mission is to have an alcohol free venue, then clearly this is not working hence multiple arrests. An embarrassment to the town.
James Kleimann June 17, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Thanks for the rewrite, except that it's not accurate. There were not nine arrests. There were several (less than ten, police did not specify as to the exact number) juvenile release forms that were written, requiring the parents to pick the youths up. Also, in New Jersey we do not have felonies; they're degrees of charge. The case involving the 14-year-old allegedly striking an officer has been referred to the detectives; I do not believe charges have yet been filed but plan to follow up next week.
RHS Student June 17, 2012 at 10:29 PM
With over 970 kids having a great time, only one serious incident, and way fewer incidents than previous years or similar events this event is undoubtedly a success. The incidents are becoming less and less common and people are starting to learn that you can have a good time without drinking. Also maybe it's time for you to check your facts: the school still has its own dances and there weren't even CLOSE to 9 arrests. Someone being kicked out does not equate to them being arrested. This event is not an embarrassment to the town, but an example of what great time people can have when they come together.
News Man June 17, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Perhaps, the presence of this New ambulance bus might calm things down a little. Click here for photos and story: http://www.northjersey.com/news/159154295_New_ambulance_bus_will_assist_village_on_Independence_Day_.html long url but, worth the trip. .
Ridgewood1 June 18, 2012 at 08:05 PM
It is an absolute disgrace to call this event a success. Having one 14-year old student be rushed to the hospital with unhealthy alcohol intake is an incident to ruin an event. Along with the other mishaps I am sure that many other underage students drank before the dance, just didn't get caught. You are simply allowing the Ridgewood youth to gather for a place to party. Can't wait until RHS Backwoods decides to bring together another 928 Ridgewood youth, 8 police officers and 20 chaperones for a night of "high-energy substance free dance."
Rock June 18, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Why is someone showing up to an event drunk, a reflection on the event itself? Try not to be governed by the minority here. Over 900 kids had a great, sober, fun evening.
kerry June 19, 2012 at 06:46 PM
My daughter and her friends had a great evening! I am grateful to the organizers willing to put themselves out there to make positive things happen for our kids.
RHS Student June 20, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Why do the actions of less than 1 percent of the people reflect the success of the event? Also don't be so sure that "many other underage students drank before the dance". Judging by your warped perception of the dance you were not there and did not see that nearly a thousand kids managed to have a safe and fun time as opposed to drinking/partying in someone's basement somewhere.

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