By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Middletown, NJ, unlike its myriad namesakes up and down the East Coast, can boast of certain things that make it particularly noteworthy in the small-town America category. In between its oft-congested nerves of commerce, Routes 35 and 36, lie acres of cherished open space; a burgeoning arts center pulses; a high school football team that hangs championship banners regularly; and, still, a cinematic landmark sells cigarettes to touristy film wonks.
It’s for these diverse reasons and more that plenty of people, including high-profile folks like Bon Jovi and Debbie Harry, choose to call it home. Others, like legendary football coach Vince Lombardi, choose to stay forever.
“There’s people who are filthy rich and there’s working class,” said Tim McCarty, who’s lived in Middletown for 15 years. “It’s not pretentious in any way.”
The editors at MONEY Magazine seem to think Middletown (population: 69,000) is pretty OK, too. The magazine named Middletown No. 89 on the 100 Best Places To Live list in its August edition.
This is not shocking news: Middletown ranked on the list in 2006 and 2008.
But the magazine doesn’t cite the breathtaking views of the Navesink or the evil roadside clown as reasons that make Middletown so great. It went for schools, crime rate, sense of community, air quality. Yes, air quality.
Most of that stuff people from Middletown can agree with.
McCarty, for example, loves the annual spring parade, where parents and kids swarm the streets in preparation for a full day of baseball.
“It’s amazing,” he said. “It’s a wall of kids. It’s really a nice thing for the start of the year.”
Bill Creighton, who’s lived in town for 27 years, said simply, “it’s a good town,” and the schools and location make for a pleasant life.
“It’s a nice place to live,” he said.
Gina Graham, a 19-year-old who at first raised an eyebrow when she learned of Middletown’s ranking, thought harder about it and said, “it’s home.”