img_5665112709As usual, several thousand people are expected to pack Red Bank’s Broad Street for a Holiday Express concert and overall merriment Friday night. These pix are from 2009. (Click to enlarge)


Even hardcore humbugs and web-shopping wetblankets can agree that there’s no better time for a bit of light therapy than Black Friday.

This Friday evening, for the 17th consecutive year, Holiday Express — the all-volunteer force of musical goodwill — pulls into station stop Red Bank to perform a free outdoor concert that sounds the keynote to the annual Town Lighting ceremony.

If you’ve spent at least a year of your life in the area, you’ll know the event as the “real” kickoff to the holidays — not just in Red Bank but all around the greater ‘green. And it’s just the tip of the icicle for a sleighload slate of activities that begins in earnest this weekend.

img_5528112709Check out redbankgreen’s slideshow of scenes from the 2009 Town Lighting event, right here.

Boasting a set list that ranges from the sacred and serene (“O Little Town of Bethlehem,” “Silent Night”) to the secular and silly (“Run Rudolph Run,” “Disco Santa”), the concert gets jingling at about 7p on the Tiffany corner of Broad and Canal, with Broad Street between Harding Road/ Reckless Place and Monmouth Street closed to vehicular traffic from 4 to 11p.

A rotating squad of more than 70 Jersey-fresh musicians — a band that’s featured the talents of Jukes/Jovi shorecat Bobby Bandiera, as well as many other folks who are headliners in their own right (Lisa Bouchelle, Linda Chorney, Pat Guadagno, Layonne Holmes, Eryn Shewell, and the sisters McCrink, to name but a few) — brings a Spector-inspired Wall of Sound down the chimney.

The Express website claims more than 1,200 volunteers as active in the organization — adults and kids who do everything from packing gift bags, loading trucks and working the phones for those crucial private donations, to dancing and “giving hugs and smiles” to the people they visit.

With the Broad Street blockade in effect, one alternate way to catch the Holiday Express is to catch a train of a different track — the Santa Express, back for its ninth annual excursion thanks to the sponsorship of The Galleria and Sourlis Realty.

The trip begins at 4p at the Little Silver Train Station (Branch and Sycamore Avenues), with Santa and Mrs. Claus taking pictures with kids while hot cocoa and other holiday goodies are served up. The special train all-aboards at approximately 6:25p, arriving at station stop Red Bank with a parade down Monmouth Street in time for the Holiday Express concert, at which that cute Claus couple will be sure to make a guest appearance. The Galleria can answer questions and provide further info at (732)530-7300.

The ooh-aah climax of the evening occurs when the switch is flipped on the borough’s detail-intensive display of lights throughout the downtown biz district, with the official downtown Christmas tree (located in the courtyard out in front of The Dublin House on Monmouth) simultaneously showing its true colors. Hailing from Colonial Nursery in Lincroft (and sponsored by our pals at the Asbury Park Press), the white spruce was installed this past weekend by a team of area tree services and sign professionals, working with the borough police and public works departments.

Holiday Express returns to Red Bank for two consecutive nights at the Count Basie Theatre on December 15 and 16. Reserve seats for the “Santa Basie” stand here and here.