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.
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