'Best Spot In America For Small-Town Carnival:' Night Of Family Fun Returns To Paramus

You've likely seen the colorful ferris wheel looming over the crossroads of Route 4 and Route 17, right outside of the one of the highest performing malls in the United States.

The Paramus L.E.A.D Fest Carnival runs through June 9 at the Westfield Garden State Plaza.

The Paramus L.E.A.D Fest Carnival runs through June 9 at the Westfield Garden State Plaza.

Photo Credit: Cecilia Levine

Law Enforcement Against Drugs and Violence (L.E.A.D.) founder Nick DeMauro knew what he was doing when he put the carnival there. 

"It's the best location in the nation for a small-town carnival," he said.

And it's back.

The annual L.E.A.D. Fest Carnival is running every Wednesday to Sunday through June 9, at the Westfield Garden State Plaza. Admission is $5, while tickets for rides and games, and food purchases are sold separately. Gates open at 5 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, and at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

The event raises money for local L.E.A.D programming, which in Paramus is helmed in part by Paramus Police Officer Lou Cardone.

"It's not so much about drugs and alcohol as it is teaching life skills, management of emotions, decision making, and peer pressure refusal strategies," Cardone said from the carnival on Friday, May 31, in between high-fives and hugs.

Half the year, Cardone teaches 12 classes a week to 300 Paramus students, and the other half, he works as a school resource officer at the high school.

Another part of L.E.A.D. programming is taking youngsters on trips to places like Humdingers and Medieval Times.

"The idea is to show the kids that there are alternatives to doing things that could get them in trouble," Cardone said. "It's about fostering relationships between the police department and the community, and gaining the trust of the kids, who know they can come to me with anything."

DeMauro says L.E.A.D. uses the carnival to send a "signature message" to each community the organization works with in the United States: "We will work with a local town to serve them."

"We want it to be community based and spread the message to people of all ages that this is a safe town," he added. "L.E.A.D. takes kids to events to show there are alternatives to lead a good life, and it's not about doing drugs or alcohol, but about doing positive things that are safe."

Click here for the L.E.A.D. Fest Carnival Schedule.

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