Local Events

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.

 

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.