Bordentown’s Brenna Jobes on her upcoming lanternfly squashing festival and running Pride in tumultuous times

"I think people read too much into it, and whether kids feel gay, straight, trans, whatever, maybe they learn to be an ally that day at Pride, and that this is a positive day and will learn to include everybody.”

At night, Brenna Jobes cooks up food at the Heart of Bordentown (HOB), a popular restaurant in Bordentown where everyone knows your name.

But one could say that Jobes is also the Heart of Bordentown herself, as she runs an Instagram account dedicated to the square-mile city news, events and weather updates. You’ll also find an occasional cheerful meme on her account.

Jobes grew up in the Trenton area splitting time between Bordentown Township, Hamilton and Allentown. Even though she has roots in surrounding towns, Bordentown City captured her love and attention, largely because her grandmother worked in the old Ocean Spray factory in the city.

“Everyone who grew up in Bordentown probably had a relative who worked at the factory,” explains Jobes. “They were the largest employer in town, and she worked the night shift. She was in the bottling department and in my mind, I pictured her doing the same thing that Laverne and Shirley do and that’s how I always pictured her. My grandfather would pick her up every night and she loved that job. We would always get discounts on products and always had Ocean Spray products at our house.”

Along with bringing home juices, Jobes also got a sense of humor from her grandmother, as she would always have karaoke nights and loved singing songs from New Kids on the Block. The sense of humor also helped Jobes through tough times as a kid; she was bullied for her background as a child. 

“I was someone who always spoke up,” says Jobes. “For example, when we moved to Allentown and kids saw my mom who is half Japanese and they wanted to egg our house. Then they realized that I lived there and the kids were like, ‘Oh, we didn’t know that you lived there.’ It shouldn’t really matter, and it shouldn’t matter that it’s my mom; you shouldn’t egg someone’s house because they are different from you. I always spoke out and I’m a huge believer in if you see something, say something. It’s nice to have someone to support you and back you up.”

Soccer was also a huge outlet for Jobes growing up; she played at Notre Dame High School, Steinert High (Hamilton) and Mercer County College. Even though her soccer playing days are over, she still carries what she learned on the pitch with her today. 

“Teamwork is the biggest thing I learned,” says Jobes. “It’s not all about one person and you can equate that to the community. It’s not just about one person or one group. Bordentown has a lot of volunteer groups and we are a team making this town better. Also in soccer you learn how to accept others. In sports you don’t care about what anybody is. No matter what sexuality, color, religion, we were all there to play soccer as a team.”

Jobes has taken those lessons into multiple ventures, including planning the city’s Pride parade. Like other river towns such as Frenchtown, Lambertville and New Hope, Bordentown is a socially liberal city. The amount of Pride flags and Ukraine flags are on par with American flags and Eagles/Philadelphia Union flags. But like river towns upstream on the Delaware, there are still people who aren’t as accepting as others. 

In 2019, a white supremacist group posted stickers around town, and recently a couple members from a hate group protested the city’s Pride parade in July. 

“I knew about this early on,” says Jobes about the protests. “I talked with Commissioner Jim Lynch and Mayor Jen Sciortino, and we were all in contact with each other, and local law enforcement knew about it as well. We all knew they were going to be there, and I told people at the Riverline station at the beginning of the parade to just ignore them and march right past them. My concern was if they were going to yell something out and there were kids there. But we had people from town blocking them out, and Tyler with his drum blocking them out.’’

Jobes wanted to expand the 2022 Pride parade to have more activities for children, and she finds the increase in terms such as “grooming” weird.

“Last year we did this simple march on the sidewalk from Prince Street to the HOB,” says Jobes. “But there were so many families with children and once we got to the HOB, there was nothing for them to do. This year I wanted to make sure the younger generation was involved and that’s why we had a family area at Bordentown’s Home for Funerals. We had face painters, snacks, music and a pet fashion show. These people say, ‘Oh, you’re grooming children and you’re forcing your ideals on them.’ My answer to them is, ‘With what? A rainbow face-painting by a Girl Scout?’ It’s not really grooming, it’s face-painting people. I think people read too much into it, and whether kids feel gay, straight, trans, whatever, maybe they learn to be an ally that day at Pride, and that this is a positive day and will learn to include everybody.”

In addition to the Pride parade, Jobes also organizes other events in town such as clean-up days, and an event that has caught the attention of the New York Times, and former Trenton City Gardens bartender Jon Stewart. The event? A Spotted Lanternfly Murder Pub Crawl, which will be held on September 18. 

“It’s crazy how the thing we do in this one-mile town gets out to people,” says Jobes. 

The idea for a lanternfly pub crawl came when Jobes discovered what the visually appealing bug is actually capable of doing to the environment. 

“The first time I saw a spotted lanternfly was in the summer of 2020,” explains Jobes. “I had a friend over and one appeared, and I was like, ‘Look at this pretty moth,’ and my friend told me how bad they were, I looked them up and I was like, ‘Oh my god.’ These things are bad, and last year they were all over the place. I started killing them all the time, and started making music videos about it for my Instagram account. I wanted to come up with an idea to get people to come out as a big group and kill them as well. So that’s how I came up with the pub crawl.”

The pub crawl had about 80-90 attendees last year, and Jobes said over 6,000 lanternflies were killed. She expects the attendance to double this year. Farnsworth Avenue restaurants, bars and coffee shops are offering specials for the day. Jobes gives each attendee a kill card to list how many lanternflies they kill. Prizes are awarded for the people with the most kills and there is even a trophy presentation. 

Recently, there has been a debate about whether it’s moral to kill spotted lanternflies. Even though Jobes loves to save worms, she sees no use for lanternflies. 

“If people want to see lanternflies ruin the environment, and have the lanternflies kill trees, crops, decimate farms and maybe not have beer or wine then sure, let’s save them,” says Jobes. “For the rest of us, I’m sorry, they came over here by accident, but they are an invasive species.”

Along with having events to kill lanternflies Jobes also organizes city clean-up days. She gets the word out on her Instagram account, where account she provides weather updates, and also has done interviews with candidates for mayor on her pages. 

The area from Lambertville to about Florence is too south or west for New York media, and too north for Philly media. Social media accounts like Jobes’ fill the void. 

“One thing about doing this page is that we can see weather reports from Philly or from NYC, but we don’t see a lot local,” says Jobes. “I like to walk around town and show people what the roads look like.”