Local Events

How We Build Community in Montclair

Earlier this month, I was on Facebook and noticed a post on the “Montclair Watercooler” page from a woman about to move to town. She asked what were people’s favorite way to be involved in the community. This woman's story was similar story to many of my clients': she grew up in a close-knit city community, hadn’t been able to find that same feeling in other NJ suburbs, commutes into the city for work, and hadn’t yet started a family.

The Montclair Watercooler is an online community group where members can ask for advice, recommendations, or guidance about all things local. By the time I’d come upon this post, there were nearly 100 responses.

I wasn’t super surprised by the suggestions. People pointed her toward running clubs, volunteer opportunities with music organizations like Montclair Jazz Festival or Outpost in the Burbs, or classes at the Adult School. A few suggested joining The Study Hall Gang, a Friday night social gathering started a few years ago by a husband and wife looking to meet people, which has grown into a 250-member friend group. 

There were invitations to join a local women’s group, a kickball league, and the YMCA. The library and art museum were popular suggestions, as was the Farmer’s Market, which usually hosts live music and has become The Saturday Morning Place to Go. 

One commenter said her neighborhood does a Wine O’clock on warm Friday evenings. (That sounds pretty fun!)

What did surprise me about the comments was something altogether separate from the suggestions themselves: namely, the community building that was happening right on the thread. People were reading the suggestions and thanking each other for telling them things they never knew about. Someone who lived in the poster’s neighborhood suggested they meet and hang out. In fact, people all over the thread were inviting each other to things left and right. 

One person suggested to the poster, “Strike up a conversation everywhere you go,” and I thought, “Yes! Montclair is absolutely a place where you can do that!”

I, of course, think we are more able to connect with each other here in Montclair because we have ample opportunities to walk the town. Without the constant barricade of a car enclosing us, we are naturally more open to meeting each other. 

The whole post reminded me of that old saying that, for me, always sums up our town, (and yes, I've taken some liberties with the wording): There are no strangers here in this walkable suburb; only friends you haven’t met yet.

Plant. Shred. Recycle. Upcoming Events To Make Your Spring Cleaner

Whether you’re buying, selling, or just staying put, spring always feels like the right time to clean up. Still, sometimes we could use a little extra motivation. Here are a few upcoming events that may inspire you to tackle one of those spring-cleaning projects sooner rather than later. 

 

Paper Shredding – two low or no-cost options.

April 20 Montclair Shred-fest - 9am - 1pm at the Community Service Yard 219 N Fullerton. Montclair residents only. Free.

April  27 - Homecorp Shred Day - 9:30am - 12:30pm. 8 Hillside Ave. Open to the public. Donation requested.

 

Plant Sale - Annual event to benefit Van Vleck Gardens. Experts on-site for advice.

May 3 - 6 — Times vary. Van Vleck Gardens.

 

Hazardous Waste Collection - Goodbye old paint! (Oil paint, that is. And fluorescent light bulbs. And old fire extinguishers. And anti-freeze.)

May 4 - 8:30am-4pm at the Essex County Public Works site, 99 West Bradford Ave, Cedar Grove

 

Electronics Recycling - Computers, DVDs, 8-Track Tape players (don’t laugh, I still see some around).

May 18 - 9am - 3pm at the Essex County Public Works site, 99 West Bradford Ave, Cedar Grove

Saturdays - 9am - 4pm at Montclair Community Service Yard, 219 N Fullerton. Residents only. Also 2-4pm Wednesdays and Fridays.

 

Book Donations - Ongoing collections for book sales to benefit education.

Sep - May - Lacordaire Academy at Park St. and Lorraine Ave. Drop off this year before May 3, 2019.

May - August/Saturdays 8:30—11:30am -  Montclair College Women’s Club Book Sale. Collections at 26 Park Street, Montclair. Check website for May start-up dates.

 

Most websites will spell out what the organizations do and don’t accept as well as any other details you may need.

 

If you’re planning a garage sale, I always suggest timing it so you can take advantage of bulk waste pick up or any relevant recycling events afterwards. (Most towns require permits; here's info for Montclair.)

 

For anything else that you might want to sell (or buy) — furniture, clothing, sports equipment, old lawn mowers — I always check out the local swap pages on Facebook (here's one for non-clothing items). One person’s trash is another person’s treasure!

5 Things To Look For If You're Moving From The City

Montclair has been a popular destination for people coming from the city – New York City or any city – for a long time. But unlike most commuter suburbs, Montclair offers certain benefits that make the transition very easy.

Here are the top 5 things most of my clients are looking for – and find! – when moving from a big city to a suburb.

1. Train and Bus Lines into the Nearest City 

People who work in New York City have access to inbound and outbound trains throughout the day from 7 different stations. There are also trains to Hoboken. Two bus lines can take you to Port Authority almost hourly, with pick-ups throughout town. Access to both train and bus means even the occasional transit delay (sadly, that’s a reality) can sometimes be averted by simply going for a bus rather than a train, or vice versa. 

2. Public Transportation Options in Town

Montclair is a very walkable suburb, however, sometimes traveling by foot is not ideal. A bus runs through town, however most people rely on Uber, Lyft or local cabs if they don’t want to drive. In fact, I know a few people who have downsized to a single car for the family and now rely on bikes or cabs rather than pay insurance for a second car. 

3. Able to Walk to Restaurants

I would estimate that half the homes in town are within a 15-minute walk to a restaurant. That’s because there are so many distinct shopping hubs throughout Montclair. There are parts of town where walking is easier, and that’s part of the beauty of this town: there are plenty of choices for people who want a completely walkable lifestyle as well as for people who crave a bit more seclusion. 

4. Nearby Entertainment and Cultural Events 

There is always something to do here. There’s a big music scene -- from Outpost in the Burbs shows to Jazz at Trumpets, from concerts at the Wellmont to bar bands at Tierney’s. There’s a great movie theater and additional screenings from Montclair Film. There are live performances – local theater, opera, improv, and Montclair State University's Peak Performances series, which offer world renown dance and music in an intimate setting. Yogi Berra Stadium is also located at the college if you want to catch a baseball game. And the public library hosts a lecture series that’s often standing room only. All in town!

5. Close Enough for Friends to Visit

We are only 12 miles (as the crow flies) from midtown. Friends can take the bus out on weekends (or the train to Bay Street), or they can drive from most of Manhattan in under an hour. My New York friends still consider a trip out here like “going to the country.”

Comments

  1. PREETHAM on

    Montclair is such a vibrant suburb and for people who move from NYC, they are not going to miss the city vibe. Having lived here for 4 years now, I totally agree with Lina Panza's blog post.

    Happy Halloween

    What's the one day of the year when it seems almost everyone is out walking door to door? Halloween! Walkable towns like Montclair, Glen Ridge, Bloomfield and Maplewood are made for this activity. But if trick-or-treat is not your thing, there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the spooky season.

    Friday October 26th - 6-9 PM  Gardens Aglow at the Presby Iris Garden

    Saturday October 27th - 2-4 1st Annual Zombie Walk @ East Side Mags

    Sunday October 28th- 1:30 Rosedale Cemetery Tour

    7:00 PM - Film on the Lawn at St. Luke's Episcopal Church - "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"

    Wed October 31st  4:00-7:00 Montclair Police Department on Valley & Bloomfield Ave, rear parking lot 2nd Annual Trunk or Treat.

    You're Welcome!

    I usually stay away from anything political in my blog, but this week I am making an exception. On Wednesday, June 27, I had the great honor of attending a local reading staged to raise money to support one of the many organizations fighting to help immigrant children being separated from their parents. 

    Montclair, New Jersey is a liberal town. That’s no secret. But this event, like so many initiatives – big and small -- started by residents who cannot sit by and watch people being treated inhumanely, reminds me so why I’m so proud to live here. This is a town that speaks out for families – all families.

    Families come in all shapes, sizes, and colors – and that is one of the many reasons people want to live here. We all want our children to grow up in a community where families with two moms, or two dads, or no mom, or no dad, or different color moms and dads, or grandmas as moms, or grandpas as dads are all as commonplace as families with one mom and one dad. That’s the community mindset that sparked an event like Borders of the Heart: Writers Read in Support of Migrant Families.

    In eight days, a few local writers put together this reading in an effort to do something to help. Donations were collected through Facebook and at the event. Nearly two dozen writers read pieces on the subject of immigration. Some readers were people I knew personally and never knew their story. It was heart-wrenching and uplifting, and I walked out of that room –appropriately, a local temple sanctuary – feeling so very right about the work I get to do: helping people find a community where their values and ideals can thrive.

    I write this on July 4th, the “birthday” of my country. Today, I will dress for the heat as I walk the few blocks to Midland Avenue and take a spot on the curb to watch Montclair’s 90-minute July 4th Parade. I will cheer for floats celebrating local ice cream and local music lessons and the local Irish pub. I will cheer for organizations that provide free tutoring for kids and free meals for adults. I will cheer for the bike advocates and the football team and the Community Pre-K. And, of course, I will cheer for my home away from home, Keller Williams Realty.

    Like the reading, our parade reminds me how we take care of each other here. Everyone is welcome to show up with their stories. 

    Everyone is welcome.

    My Trip to the Montclair Farmer's Market

    A few weeks ago, I was headed to Brooklyn for my brother’s 50th birthday, and on my way, I stopped at Little Daisy’s Bake Shop to pick up a birthday cake and some cookies for the occasion. Before I got on the highway, I decided to swing by the Montclair Farmer’s Market -- a regular Saturday destination, although usually one that I hit on my way home, not on my way out of town. 

    I can’t really explain what came over me, but the next thing I knew, I was buying my brother Brussels sprouts. For his birthday. I’d never given my brother vegetables as a gift before. I don’t think I’d ever gifted vegetables to anyone. But when I saw the giant stalk with funny little cabbages hanging from it, it seemed so preposterous and funny. (Carrots aren’t funny, certainly not in the same way.)

    I left the Farmer’s Market not even considering how I might present the Brussels sprouts. None of the farmers seemed to have gift wrap, so I just brought them along naked with the bakery confections. 

    If you’re looking for gifts, the Farmer’s Market has plenty of more traditional fare: pies, local honey, granola, plants, and flowers. Sometimes they have shearling throws and often they have a variety of interesting spices. I love the fishmonger and the fresh-baked bread, and I’m also kind of a sucker for the pickles-on-a-stick. That was an idea whose time could not have come soon enough for me!

    In the years since I’ve moved here, the Farmer’s Market has grown into a true marketplace, where people come to meet and gather. It’s like a party. And the Walnut Street eateries complete the scene, with Montclair Bread Company, Gina’s Bakery, Le Salbuen, Ray’s, Red Eye Café, The Spot, The Corner, and Egan’s offering all manner of delectable fare. 

    For me, the Farmer’s Market was a happy pit stop that Saturday, but it’s a ritual destination for many every Saturday. I love seeing people walk and bike there from all over town – singles, couples, families, pets. If you’re coming to check out Montclair one Saturday, try and stop by. The offerings may not make you laugh, but I bet they'll make you happy.

    Montclair Farmer’s Market
    Walnut Street Train Station Parking Lot
    Saturdays  8 a.m. until 2 p.m.
    June through November
    And some vendors stay throughout the year!

     

    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.