Local Events

Hillary Clinton Visits Montclair

Last night at Back to School Night, I sat in on my daughter’s 8th period class and turned to a mom sitting nearby, “This class seems so empty.”

“It’s because of Hillary,” she said.

I was not one of the lucky 1,000 people to score a ticket for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s book signing here at our own Watchung booksellers. Apparently, they sold out in an hour.

A friend went and was telling me about it this morning: people started showing up at 2:00 pm for Clinton's 6:00 pm arrival. Over the next few hours, the line wound around the corner to Watchung Field.  “You could feel the love,” my friend said. “Grown-ups. Children. There was such a sense of camaraderie.”

One of the things I love about Montclair is how that camaraderie shows up everywhere. Exercise classes. Library events. Town soccer. The Van Vleck Plant Sale. We have big town amenities (art museum, indie movie theater, a minor league baseball stadium) and a small town vibe.

In my opinion, Watchung booksellers contributes a lot to the overarching feeling of community. They support all the local writers (of which there are many!) through readings and book events, they host tons of book groups and children’s programs, they always have enough staff available to advise and recommend.

And last night they brought us Hillary.

In fairness, Back to School Night provides its own brand of camaraderie, especially at the high school. People you’ve seen throughout the years watching your kids play sports, serving together on PTAs, sitting against the window of Montclair Music Studio waiting for Abigail’s violin lesson to end – all come together for a few hours. Clumps of old friends convening in front of the Nurse’s Office or outside one of the stairwells during their children’s lunch period. It honestly feels like a great big cocktail party (although without any cocktails).

I’m the mom who always looks forward to Back to School Night, especially for the feeling of community. But I will admit this: If I’d gotten a Hillary ticket, I would have happily cut class.

 

Montclair's July Fourth Parade Is No Joke!

If you’re moving to Montclair and you happen to purchase a house on Midland Avenue, there will be a rider in your contract about the 4th of July – namely that you’re required to have a lawn party for the parade.

Okay, I’m kidding about the rider but you’d never know it if you lived here.

For as long as I’ve lived in Montclair, our July 4th Parade has been one of my favorite events.  The parade starts around 11 o’clock at the library on South Fullerton Avenue, turns onto Bloomfield Avenue, and then travels the entire length of Midland Ave, ending up at Edgemont Park. It always begins with antique cars, then come the marching bands, local groups and businesses -- the beloved Community Pre-K marchers, the always-festive Egan and Sons’ float, the high school football team, the Boys Scouts, Bike and Walk Montclair, School of Rock. The list goes on and on.

Midland Avenue is an extra wide street, centrally located and easily accessible. Some families pull a few lawn chairs to the curb and settle in for the festivities. Others set up food and drink for dozens of guests. For nearly two hours, this usually-quiet, mile-long block turns into a massive party – a meandering mingling, of happy and fun.

If you happen not to buy a house on Midland, your first order of business should be to make friends with someone on the block so you have a parade perch. Actually, I’m kidding again. People from all over town stroll Midland’s sidewalks and can plop down on a curb anywhere.

Still, I’ve heard of Midland Avenue sellers adding a clause in their contracts reserving a curb spot for their family in perpetuity. Here, I’m only half-kidding. Families often do return, year after year, to take in the music and merriment that is the Montclair July 4th Parade. We have so much pride in our town and community, and at the parade, it's like you can taste it.

 

Montclair Makes Music Today!

I discovered Make Music Day by accident, it somehow having slipped by me for the last few years. In fact, when I walked past the string duet in front of Montclair Local, it still didn’t occur to me that I’d stumbled upon a town-wide event. But then I walked over to watchung booksellers, saw the amps and microphones set up outside the shop, and became more curious.

Make Music Day has been going on in Montclair for the past three years, our own local event inspired by Fete de la Music – a “music holiday” that began in France in 1982 and has become a worldwide phenomenon. Celebrated on the Summer Solstice, Make Music Day is a day-(and night-)long offering of free musical performances all over town.

I got myself a schedule and was even more excited to learn that many of the free evening gigs were taking place on and around Church Street – in other words, all walkable to one another!

The other thing I loved was how many young people were participating.

If you’ve already made your home here, you’ll know that this event feels “so Montclair.” This is an artistic community with a wealth of residents committed to bringing the arts to the public as often and awesomely as possible.

If you’re considering Montclair as your future home, you’ll find that this is just one example of how festively we roll here: free music days, yoga in the street, food fests, jazz fests, art walks, and one of my personal favorites, the bus parade of high school graduates that wends its way through town after the commencement ceremony so that the rest of us can bang pots and scream out our congratulations – a spectacle that can feel like New Year’s Eve.

If you’d like to find out more about Montclair or our also-festive neighboring communities, please reach out. I love showing off my town.

A Walk To The Wellmont (in Montclair)

Jim Gaffigan Tour PosterThe weekend before Thanksgiving, I went to see Jim Gaffigan at the Wellmont Theater. If you’re not a Gaffigan fan, all I can say is LOL. This guy is consistently hilarious without being crude and it was the perfect way to de-stress before the holiday.

And I wasn’t the only one who thought so. People young and old were in attendance, which is not unusual for the Wellmont – our own local concert venue hosting everyone from Tom Jones to One Direction to Max & Ruby in the Nutcracker Suite. I think Jay Leno was there the night after Gaffigan.

Growing up in the Manhattan, I loved being able to see live performances easily and locally. And living in Montclair, I’m afforded that same luxury. In addition to the Wellmont, we have a “grassroots” concert series called Outpost in the Burbs, bringing folk artists like David Bromberg and Joan Osborne practically into our living rooms.

And Montclair State University has an incredible series called Peak Performances – interesting (and sometimes avant-garde) music, dance and theater events that are often written up in the New York Times as “not to be missed”. (By the way: tickets are usually $20 each and there is truly not a bad seat in the house.)

But here’s the coolest thing for me: I picked up my Gaffigan tickets at the theater (rather than through Ticket-Master), because I happened to be walking around downtown when they went on sale. The night of the show, we had dinner at Fusion Empanada, window-shopped our way down to the theater, and returned hours later to our car where (unlike Manhattan) we’d parked easily (and freely) on the street.

Just to keep it real: we don’t walk everywhere all the time. But we all relish that we often have the option of ditching the car and being out among our neighbors – doing fun things, eating good food, and having a few good laughs.

 

Hot and Cool ? Montclair Jazz Festival Aug 13, 2016

 

I know I tend to go on and on about the events in Montclair – the Montclair Film Festival, Taste of Montclair, the YMCA 10K and Family Fun Run. Even the weekly Farmers Market feels more like a social happening than a produce-buying excursion. All of these popular gatherings started up since I’ve moved here. But it feels like the one that’s grown the most is the Montclair Jazz Festival.

August can feel so quiet in Montclair, with so many families off on vacation. But on the day of the Jazz Festival, people seem to come out of the woodwork.

This free event began seven years ago, an outdoor sampling of jazz performances where people tossed a blanket on the grass and soaked in some sun and some great music. Back then, 300 people showed up. Last year there were 10,000!

I am so excited to have Keller Williams sponsoring one of my all-time favorite events. We even have a tent where we’ll be giving out lemonade and cookies. (Consider yourself invited!)


I’m not sure how set in stone the schedule is, but here’s the proposed line up:

12 p.m. - 52nd Street Big Band
12:30 p.m. - Philly Soul Big Band
1:00 p.m. - Bright Moments Big Band
1:15 p.m. - Afro-Latin Big Band
1:45 p.m. - The Big Solid Sax Mob
2:15 p.m. - Jazz House Vocal Large Ensemble
2:45 p.m. - Jazz House Faculty Collective celebrates Bowie + Prince
3:45 p.m. - Michele Rosewoman + New Yor-Uba
4:45 p.m. - Dynasty Big Band featuring Louis Prima, Jr.
5:15 p.m. - Jazz House Big Band featuring Louis Prima, Jr.
6:00 p.m. - George Coleman Organ Quartet
7:15 p.m. - A Christian McBride Situation
8:30 p.m. - Dee Dee Bridgewater Quintet

Come and go. Bring a cooler. There are shuttles from parking and plenty of grass for lounging. Cool music on a hot day with a cold beer. It really doesn’t get any better.

 

 

 

Montclair Fireworks and Footpaths

I love fireworks.fireworks

My mother grew up in Copenhagen near the Tivoli Gardens where there are fireworks every Saturday night. It was a source of great joy to her and I think she "infected" me because, come July 4th Weekend, there's nothing I'd rather do than sit back and watch the sky explode.

When I first moved here, the town fireworks display took place at the high school football stadium. My young family could easily walk there - it was about a mile away if you drove on the streets but the walk was made easier by some of the "shortcuts" between my house and the field.

When my kids were young, we referred to these shortcuts as "secret pathways," but with their own street markers, they are anything but. These little paved footways were created so that people walking to the bus or train didn't have to go all the way around a long block to reach the bus line. They allow you to "cut through," as if you were going through someone's backyard to take a more direct route to the bus line. There are about half a dozen of these little corridors throughout Montclair, and if you live in the middle of one of the longer avenues, they can cut your walking time in half.

We used to call them secret pathways because we often discovered them accidentally, while on a walk. This has been one of my great joys - discovering the quiet amenities of a town that upholds a commitment to walkability.

The fireworks have moved from the high school stadium to the stadium at Montclair State University - too far for us to walk, although there are always non-car options. That show always takes place on July 4th. There's another show each year at Brookdale Park - this year it's on Friday, July 1st. I, of course, go to both, because I can't get enough fireworks. If you're like that too, here's a list of all the surrounding fireworks shows this weekend.

And if you want a tour of Secret Pathways, or to talk about any of the other ways Montclair rules as a walkable suburb, please call me. It would be my pleasure to walk you through them! 973.809.5277

 

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May in Montclair 2016!

edgemont

I'm practically breathless, and it's not from the pollen. May in Montclair is in full bloom and there is truly not enough time in my days for it all.

"May in Montclair" is not simply a town during the spring. "May in Montclair" became a "thing," in 1979, when the town first distributed a calendar of events listing everything to see and do. From the Presby Iris Gardens to the blossoming Van Vleck estate, it's a month-long celebration of one of the most beautiful places in New Jersey during one of its most beautiful moments in time.

Do I already sound like a commercial? It may get worse.

As I write this, we're in the middle of the Montclair Film Festival, a 10-day extravaganza of screenings, discussions and parties that has grown so much since its inception in 2012,  it's hard to believe it hasn't been part of May in Montclair forever.

There are parent workshops, lectures, lunches, garden tours, walking tours, dance performances, choral performances, cooking demos, book sales, art talks and art walks. And garden events galore!

Also, over the next two weekends, the high school is staging Pippen on Friday and Saturday nights. Aside from being a wonderful show, this is a great way for parents to get a sense of the amazing arts education available in the district.

There's a bike tour and dining alfresco and Saturday night music on Church Street - and even though that kind of thing happens even in non-May months - well, it just feels more special in May.

If you're considering buying here, please spend some of your May in Montclair. It's like seeing our town in its most flattering outfit and having its best possible hair day. I know you know what I'm talking about. Dig in!

Veterans Day in Montclair

It's almost impossible for me not to think of Edgemont Park on Veteran's Day.Edgemont_Park

I used to live across the street from the park - one that I consider among the most beautiful in the area - and every year, I could watch people from all over town walking along the footpath from every direction, assembling at the island bridge to take part in the service commemorating our veterans.

The park itself is about 20 acres of mostly field space, with two ball fields, picnic tables and an all-access playground that was put in not long ago. There's an incredible climbing tree - you could hide up there in the summer - and an enormous stocked pond that people can ice skate on in the winter if it gets cold enough.

When I first moved here, Edgemont Park was nice enough, but it has truly become the go-to park in town, a hub of activity all year long. This is the place where kids learn to ride bikes, where neighborhood schools take recess, and, most poignantly, where residents come to honor those who have served.

The statue built on the pond's island was originally designed as a WWI memorial, but has come to memorialize all those who have served in all the wars since. It is one of the landmarks of Montclair and it truly anchors us on this day. I love how this one spot in town - a spot that draws people from all over the community - is a reminder that our real community is much bigger than our neighborhood or our town; it's our nation.

Thank you to all the veterans who have made such a brave commitment to that community. You have made life better for all of us.

Drop or Shop: Montclair's Hillside Swap This Weekend

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PING-PONG TABLE CLUTTER!

Sometimes, the biggest obstacle in getting your house ready for sale is figuring out how to get rid of your clutter. This is often not an easy task, but it can be a fascinating one.

I wouldn't have believed this a few years ago, but as someone who has recently down-sized, I now know you can sell almost anything. The Montclair area has a Sell/Swap page on Facebook and between that and Craig's List, I have sold (I kid you not) used garbage cans, a banged up file cabinet, and an old radiator. One time a guy bought a used fan from me and paid me in eggs from his backyard chickens!

Of course, you can always take advantage of Bulk Waste Day and put your oversized belongings curbside once a month. But I'd often rather relegate something that still may have a useful life to someplace other than a landfill. In addition to the Facebook Swap and the local Freecycle listings, and apps like Wallapop and Letgo, Montclair has an in-person swap a few times each year at Hillside School. You can drop off clothing, bikes, books, sports equipment, or baby equipment on a Friday afternoon and come Saturday morning, every item is displayed and free for the taking to whomever shows up to "shop." This "tradition" began seven or eight years ago and is one of my all-time favorite means of decluttering. And, coincidentally, there's a Hillside Swap planned for this weekend!

If you have things to get rid of, you can drop them at the Hillside School gym, 54 Orange Rd, Montclair on Friday, October 16 from 4:00 - 6:30 p.m. Items are available to take on Saturday, October 17, from 9:00 - 11:00 a.m. You don't need to "drop" in order to "shop," and vice versa. I try to make this a regular event in my decluttering arsenal. It helps keep my environment more manageable, and will (I hope) help my neighbors in need as well.

Joe Walsh Plays Montclair High School!

joe walshAt the risk of sounding like a 14-year-old, OMG! Joe Walsh is playing at the high school this weekend!

I can't even say I am a huge Eagles fan, but still: OMG!

OMG because he's playing in the high school auditorium, a lovely but relatively small theater space, especially for Joe Walsh.

And OMG because, as a former Montclair High School student, Walsh is performing to benefit the high school - proceeds will be funding library renovations and helping to create a state-of-the-art media center.

But mostly OMG because I can walk to it! How many concerts have I been able to walk to since leaving the city?

Actually, there's plenty of live music here in Montclair and, depending what part of town you live in, much of it walkable. From big-ticket shows at the Wellmont Theater to folk artists in small, intimate settings from Outpost in the Burbs; from avant-garde performances at Montclair State University to Montclair's home grown music scene that pops up you-never-know-where.

Not a day goes by that I don't feel grateful to have found myself a suburban town that has the vibrancy (and walkability) of a city - a town in which my dancing shoes and my walking shoes are sometimes one in the same. It makes me so happy I want to do a little jig.