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Bundled up against the cold, hundreds of stoked-for-the-season revelers cheered the return of Holiday Express to downtown Red Bank Friday night.

A partial stage-lighting outage was the only bit of rust as the Tim McLoone-led orchestra played its 28th annual show on Broad Street, after skipping 2020 for the pandemic.

As in the past, the concert and downtown light-up followed a dance performance at the borough train station and Santa parade to the concert stage. 

Check out redbankgreen‘s photos below to see if you recognize anyone. (Photos by Trish Russoniello and John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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red bank nj holiday express light-up concertAfter a pandemic year off, the high-energy Holiday Express concert and Town Light-Up is slated to return to downtown Red Bank Friday night. 

Attendees will want to bundle up for what looks to be a seasonally appropriate chilly and breezy event.

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red bank nj holiday express light-up concertred bank nj holiday express light-up concertThe Red Bank Holiday Express concert and Town Lighting is on for its 27th annual showing under what appear to be seasonally ideal conditions Friday night.

Details are below.

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112715holidayexp32Tim McLoone, at left above, and the Holiday Express band get some help kicking off another silver-bells season on the sidewalks of Red Bank at Friday night’s annual Town Lighting concert. Jackie Evancho (below) brings a program of holiday songs and hits to the Count Basie stage. (Photo above by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge) 

jackie_evanchoIf it’s accomplished nothing else during its quarter century of continuous service, Red Bank’s annual Town Lighting ceremony has successfully wrested the idea of “Black Friday” from visions of crushing chaos at the mall to one of sing-along harmony in a walkable-wonderland setting of merry commerce and activity.

When the lights are ceremoniously lit in downtown Red Bank for the 24th consecutive year this Friday evening, it will come not a moment too soon for an extended community that really does need a little Christmas, right this very minute. And summoned once more into service like a jinglebell-jukebox Justice League will be Holiday Express, the big traveling winter wall of sound whose founder and skipper Tim McLoone has helped sound the keynote and flip the switch on a generation’s worth of festive occasions in the heart of Red Bank’s downtown diorama.

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holiday express 121815 2It’s more than just music when Holiday Express pulls into Lunch Break, one of 81 stops the organization will make this holiday season. The Grinch, below, is always along for the ride. (Photos by Kate Beckett, above, and Susan Ericson, below. Click to enlarge)

tim-grinch-band-rblightingWith the Turning Point restaurant providing food for 400, volunteers from Holiday Express plan to make a special stop in Red Bank Saturday.

The non-profit purveyor of music, food, gifts, financial support, and human kindness during the holiday season has scheduled a full-band visit to Lunch Break from 10 a.m. to noon.

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tim-grinch-band-rblightingOnstage guest The Grinch makes like The Boss as Tim McLoone and Holiday Express perform at a recent Town Lighting ceremony in Red Bank. The all-volunteer musical force returns to Count Basie’s place on Thursday night for a sold-out annual Christmastime concert.

Ask Tim McLoone about the magnificent music machine that is Holiday Express, and he’ll tell you that the big-hearted big band is an attention getter merely because it “makes the most noise,” an engine that pulls — or is it propelled by? — an all-volunteer, non-sectarian force of goodwill that exists largely behind the scenes.

As the founder and highly visible frontman of the homegrown Express, however, the regionally legendary renaissance guy has a threefold task to fulfill in the role of conductor. Not just conductor of the orchestra, or conductor of the train, but a conductor of electricity — the man who (at least figuratively) flips the switch that illuminates a new season of holiday happenings.

When Mr. Mac and his musical force of nature and nurture return to the Count Basie Theatre for their 19th annual concert appearance on Thursday, they’ll bring 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”) — for one very public performance in the middle of a run that brings light to the darkest corners of our neighborhoods this time of year. To quote (ahem, cannibalize) a previous article on the subject:

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holiday-express-2010-2Scenes from the 2010 Holiday Express concert. (Click to enlarge)

holiday-express-2010-1The newborn 2011 holiday season moves outdoors with a bang of a snare drum and a blast of white light on Broad Street in Red Bank Friday night.

That’s right, it’s time for the 18th annual Holiday Express concert, complete with a bustling Santa parade, a sudden toss of sparkle into the roadside trees and familiar, feel-good seasonal tunes by Tim McLoone and his stage-sprawling band of musicmakers.

And it all kicks off a season of Gingerbread Walks, Horse & Carriage Rides, Holiday Harmonies on the streets and more, including a new, movable feast sponsored by the town’s restaurants called Holiday Flavour.

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townlightingThe Holiday Express band performs at one of its annual Town Lighting public concerts in downtown Red Bank.The humanitarian organization behind the big traveling band is putting out the call for volunteer “warehouse elves” at their Tinton Falls facility.

Every year for the past several decades, Holiday Express founder and co-frontman Tim McLoone leads his big traveling band in a special keynote to the most festive of seasons, as the assembled musicians and singers preside over Red Bank’s annual Town Lighting ceremony with a free open-air, public-welcome concert.

The “Black Friday” tradition is merely one of the more visible manifestations of the musical humanitarian organization that performs dozens of concerts at places that exist well below most people’s radar — the nursing homes, rehab centers, homeless shelters, psychiatric facilities and other locales whose audiences are made up of what McLoone calls the “adult orphans” among us.

While the veteran musician, businessman and entrepreneur observes that the Holiday Express orchestra is the aspect of the organization that “makes the most noise,” he’s quick to point out that the energizing engine is backed up by a formidable freight-train of volunteer support personnel, drivers, techies, and donation/gift processing workers at the nonprofit’s Tinton Falls warehouse facility (938 Shrewsbury Avenue in Tinton Falls). And, effective immediately, the Express is putting out a call for just such a crew of “warehouse elves” — a call that includes, for the first time, an online sign-up.

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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.

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red bank nj holiday express light-up concertThe 30th edition of a dazzling Red Bank event, and the first of one helping local businesses compete, kick off the Christmas season Friday and Saturday.

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red bank holiday express town lighting 2019red bank holiday express town lighting 2019Crisp weather provided an ideal setting for the unofficial start of the Christmas season in downtown Red Bank Friday night.

With Tim McLoone-led Holiday Express working its musical magic for the 27th time, several thousand kids and kids-at-heart crowded a stretch of Broad Street, singing along and counting down to the light-up of downtown trees. 

Check out redbankgreen‘s photos below to see if you recognize any smiling faces underneath all those fun hats. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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red bank nj holiday express light-up concertred bank nj holiday express light-up concertBrisk weather in Red Bank once again made for an ideal Holiday Express start to the Christmas season Friday night.

With the Tim McLoone-led band working its musical magic for the 26th time, several thousand kids and kids-at-heart crowded a stretch of Broad Street, singing along and counting down to the light-up of downtown trees. 

Check out redbankgreen‘s photos below to see if you recognize any smiling faces underneath all those fun hats. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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Santa Claus, the Grinch and Holiday Express worked their magic for the 25th time, ushering in the Christmas-and-other-holidays season with music, laughs and a touch of flurries on Broad Street in Red Bank Friday night.

Check out redbankgreen‘s photos below to see if you recognize any smiling faces. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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cba-holiday-expressTim McLoone leads the Holiday Express musicians in a December 15 appearance at Christian Brothers Academy, where the big band entertained a group of special needs young people.

Press release from Christian Brothers Academy 

On Thursday, December 15, the McKay Gym at Christian Brothers Academy was once again transformed into a rocking holiday event hall, as part of Tim McLoone’s Holiday Express Christmas Party.

“This is the best day of the year,” said Tim Sewnig, Director of CBA’s Campus Ministry, of the event held each year to help young adults with special needs get in the Christmas spirit. The Academy hosts several holiday season fundraisers each year — a winter coat drive, collection for children with pediatric cancer, and Thanksgiving food drive to name a few — but this event has a special place amongst them.

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tim-mcloone-112516-1Tim McLoone (seen presiding over the annual Town Lighting concert in downtown Red Bank) conducts the Holiday Express band back into station stop Basie for a pair of public-welcome shows on December 19 and 20 — with an all-aboard for volunteer “warehouse elves” at the nonprofit’s Tinton Falls facility.

VIP-level attendees at many Count Basie Theatre events have never been averse to paying as much as several hundred dollars over base ticket price, to enjoy such perks as premium seating, autographed tour souvenirs, and personal meet-and-greet opportunities with the featured attractions. But as far as Tim McLoone and Holiday Express are concerned, there are some ultra-exclusive events that remain off limits at any price.

It isn’t because you’re not cool enough, connected enough, or cash-money enough to score tickets. It’s just that admission to those performances is available to you only if you’re one of the more than 15,000 residents of regional homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals, developmental centers, children’s wards and other places that form the heart of the Holiday Express itinerary — places whose residents are often without any family or friends, and whose sole ray of light is that annual visit by the big jinglebell juggernaut of a band.

Fortunately for the rest of us, the Express regularly detours from its tight timetable at this time each year, to play a double-header of fundraiser shows at station stop Basie; a tradition that continues this coming Monday and Tuesday, December 19 and 20.

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darlene-loveRock and Roll Hall of Famer Darlene Love, above, and not-so-secret Santa Brian Kirk, below, return to the Count Basie stage for their respective holiday shows this Friday and Saturday.

brian-kirkA holiday tradition bit the fake-snow dust in 2014, when a retiring David Letterman hosted musical guest Darlene Love in her umpteenth and final annual performance of the soaring “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).”

But Red Bank audiences can vouch that Ms. Love and her Christmas-pop signature are alive and well. And when the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer returns to the Count Basie Theatre stage this Friday,  she’ll bring along some special friends with a Jersey Shore connection — while kicking off a weekend that boasts another special sleighride from a locally homegrown Santa: Brian Kirk.

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rb-town-lighting-112516-4rb-town-lighting-112516-7For the 24th straight year, the feel-jolly sounds of Holiday Express served as the soundtrack to a Town Lighting ceremony that drew thousands of visitors to downtown Red Bank Friday night. Were you among those who braved the drizzle for the dazzle? Check out our photos to see who you might recognize. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

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wizardsThe Wizards of Winter keep the Yuletide vibe going after dusk with a Saturday night set at the Count Basie Theatre. (Click to enlarge)

It wasn’t all that long ago that the shopping-mall sound systems and merciless muzak machines of the holiday season received a heavy dose of prog-rock bombast that shook the snow from the shingles when an organization that called itself the Trans-Siberian Orchestra released its first Christmas-themed rock opera.

When four touring crewmembers of TSO (including vocalists Guy LeMonnier and Joe Cerisano) opted to pursue their own career track in the early years of this decade, they did so under the acronym of WOW, or Wizards of Winter.

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tim mcloone holidayIn what has become an annual tradition at Christian Brothers Academy, over 40 students from CBA and Trinity Hall helped spread some holiday cheer on Thursday, December 17 during the annual Holiday Express Christmas Party. Students and faculty joined Tim McLoone (at keyboard) and the bandmembers and support team of Holiday Express for a day of Christmas fun and dancing, all to help adults with special needs and disabilities enjoy this special time of year. (More photos after the story break)

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holiday-express-2010-2Tim McLoone (below) and Holiday Express sound the keynote for another silver-bells season on the sidewalks of Red Bank with a free concert and Town Lighting ceremony Friday night. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge) 

timmclooneHe’s the leader of the band and founder of the winter-wonderland wall of sound known as Holiday Express. As such, Tim McLoone is also the conductor of a festive freight-train that each year carries its message of community and caring to the places that almost no one wants to think about — not even during the holidays.

And every Black Friday evening, McLoone is a conductor of electricity — when he and the big band sound the keynote and flip the switch on a season of sights and Santa-fied activities that make Red Bank the area’s undisputed Capital of Christmastime.

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Lorrie_Head_shot_DFS-217[3]Press release from Holiday Express

Since 1993, Holiday Express has relied on more than 1,500 volunteers and only four full-time paid employees to deliver music, food, gifts, and financial support to those with the greatest need for the gift of human kindness during the Holiday season and throughout the year. To help make it all possible, the non-profit organization has announced the hiring of Lorrie Klaric as the new Executive Director.

Klaric, who starts immediately, will be replacing Donald Pignataro who announced his retirement in the fall and has served successfully as the organization’s Executive Director since 2006.  Pignataro will remain as the Executive Director until the end of the year to allow for a smooth transition of leadership.

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112814 santa6Santa and Mrs. Claus arrived at the Red Bank train station from Little Silver to a crowd of excited children and adults. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


112814 santaMore than 100 children and adults waited for Santa and Mrs. Claus to make their way to the Red Bank train station from Little Silver Friday night.

Dozens more disembarked from the annual Santa Express, sponsored by the Galleria of Red Bank, to entertainment by the Kathryn Barnett School of Dance and the Pipes and Drums of the Atlantic Watch. Many then made their way east along Monmouth Street in a parade to the Holiday Express Concert and town light-up.

Were you among them? Look below to see if you made this years photo album. And if you missed Santa, click here for more opportunities to see Jolly Old St. Nick.

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reindeerReal live reindeer are present and accounted for, as Sickles Market inaugurates the season with a Holiday Open House event on Friday, November 14.

Ask anyone whose job it is to stock the shelves of the Seasonal aisle at the chain pharmacy — or who’s been forced to listen to the piped-in music at the chain pharmacy. The holidays are here and NOW, and no amount of patient, tasteful restraint or social-media finger-wagging is going to stop this train.

Which brings us to this Friday, November 14, and the Monmouth Museum, where the main gallery hosts a reception for All Aboard! Railroads & The Historic Landscapes They Travel, a group show guest-curated by lensman Michael Froio, and spotlighting the work of eight photographers who collectively celebrate the transformative role of the railroad in the American landscape over the past 150 years. Vintage travel and advertising posters (on loan from the Private Collection of Bennett Levin) are also on display, with the reception running between 3 and 5 pm, and the exhibit continuing during regular museum hours through January 4, 2015.

Also on view will be a returning holiday-season favorite — the Monmouth Museum Model Train Display, a long-running feature that “will make its comeback with new, improved trains and updated network of track.” And if that doesn’t sound the whistle on the express to the season of lights, the Friends of Monmouth Museum will be unveiling their annual Holiday Tree, decorated for 2014 with train and railroad-related memorabilia. Check the Museum website as well for info on the annual Holiday Gift Gallery, set to commence on November 21.

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crowd 112709The Christmas-capital crossroads of Broad and Canal streets is the place to be on Friday night, when Holiday Express presides over the annual concert and town lighting ceremony. (File photos. Click to enlarge)


stage 2 112709As Tim McLoone tells it, he’s “just the keyboard player” in Holiday Express, the winter-wonderland Wall of Sound and Brilliant Light that he founded and has fronted since 1993. But if the big band is merely the part of the all-volunteer humanitarian train that “makes the most noise,” then there’s more to the Express seasonal journey than meets the eye or ear.

The 21st season of performances by Holiday Express — a schedule that takes two regional touring and support units to 60-plus stops in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania — actually got underway more than two weeks ago. By December 24, the Express team will have logged some 10,000 miles visiting, playing for and distributing gifts to more than 15,000 people in area homeless shelters, psychiatric hospitals, developmental centers, children’s wards and other places well off the beaten path — places whose residents are often without any family or friends.

For most of us, however, the keynote to the holiday season on the greater Red Bank Green happens on the evening of Black Friday, when the Express makes a rare public-invited pitstop to the downtown nexus of Broad and Canal streets. It’s there, on November 29, that McLoone and company will be flipping the switch on a wintry interlude of special activities and events in the borough — a Town Lighting made all the more special, with the welcome return of some much-missed local traditions.

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