WHEN HARRY SALLIES FORTH IN RED BANK

harry-connick-jr-new-appr_t588A renaissance guy in Red Bank: Harry Connick Jr. makes his first-ever two night stand at the Count Basie this week — and the man from NOLA might stand a bit of sightseeing while in town.

By TOM CHESEK

They walk among us, sometimes — shopping in the broad daylight of Broad Street, spelunking the nooks and crannies of the Antique Center, sampling the fare at everything from the most sophisticated sit-downs to way-cool WaWa.

We’re talking celebrities, baby — many of them in town for a whistle-stop tour gig at the Count Basie Theatre. While the pimped-out tour buses come and go outside the Monmouth Street landmark with regularity, however, every so often a headline act plants it here in the greater Red Bank Green for something more than a one night stand. So it is this Wednesday and Thursday, as the Count’s crib plays host to a still-young veteran who’s long worn the mantle of Renaissance Guy: Harry Connick Jr.

When the jazz pianist, pop stylist, songwriter, composer, Broadway leading man, screen actor and Krewe founder visits the Basie-birthing borough for a pair of concert events on April 20 and 21, he’ll be bringing along his big band (with perhaps a separate trailer just to tote that résumé) in a full-on recreation of his most recent studio set, the collection of jazz and pop interpretations known as Your Songs. Having ably prosecuted his long-playing career through a deft mix of fanbase-friendly favorites and a pretty delightful flair for the unexpected, we’re hoping that New Orleans-rooted Connick (who, we should point out, maintains a place in the city with his family) gets to feeling a little exploratory during his hours in Red Bank — and we’re here to toss out a few suggestions to play that stay to the fullest.
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WANTED: STREETLIFE PERFORMERS

img_6371721Buskers, like this unidentified trio from Streetlife 2009, are warming up their pipes for the 2011. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Dust off yer geetar, groom your rabbit and brush up on your Marcel Marecau gestures. Auditions for StreetLife are right around the corner.

And if you want to be on one of Red Bank’s corners performing this summer, this is your chance to showcase your talent.

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SAY CHEESE! LOMBARDI GRAVE A SUPER DRAW

lombardiFamed football coach Vince Lombardi’s headstone at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Middletown. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Step into the main office of Middletown’s Mount Olivet Cemetery wielding a camera, and it doesn’t take more than a ‘hello’ for secretary JoAnn Christopher to figure out why you’ve come.

“Here for Lombardi?” she asks.

With a Super Bowl matchup Sunday between the Pittsburgh Steelers and legendary coach Vince Lombardi‘s former team, the Green Bay Packers, Lombardi, who’s buried at Mount Olivet, is more of an attraction than usual.

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CBS DROPS IN ON THE OTHER SIDE OF JERSEY

roccaMo Rocca interviewed Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl back during shorts weather for an upcoming piece for CBS Sunday Morning. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

New Jersey, it seems, is always on the defensive. There’s the ‘Jersey stinks‘ stigma, and while we have the small luxuries of pork roll sandwiches and not having to pump our own gas, the Garden State can’t quite get past the perception that it’s a dump with mafia ties and is a breeding ground for ultra-tanned, fist-pumping troublemakers.

In reality, all one really has to do is stop looking at photo galleries glamorizing the bronzed figureheads and TV shows celebrating jaw-dropping indulgence and take a trip to a place without a boardwalk or parkway rest stop.

Like, say, Rumson.

CBS News did, and on an upcoming Sunday morning plans to air a piece showcasing all this affluent community has to offer: shoreline tranquility, a bustling business district, horse-and-carriage rides, speed-boating on the Navesink — you know, the typical wintertime stuff.

But the story is not that CBS made this discovery a half-year ago, nor was it interviewer Mo Rocca‘s yacht club-ish outfit, a pink Oxford and baby blue shorts.

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RED BANK’S A GHOST TOWN FRIDAY NIGHTS

billnormyleShroud of tourin’: Lantern and staff in hand, Red Bank Ghost Tours guide Bill Normyle leads his group through the streets of downtown.

By TOM CHESEK

The packed and popular public house on Monmouth Street hosts an apparently eternal tenant by the name of Mrs. Patterson. The dark waters of the Navesink have reportedly seen the nocturnal navigations of Captain Cooper and his spectral sloop. The business blocks of West Front Street are said to be home to pet-shop poltergeists, murderous maids and the occasional caught-on-camera “orb.” Even the local surf and skate emporium can boast its own free-spirit at unrest.

The way Tabitha Bradley tells it and sells it, the sidewalks, storefronts and second-story suites of Red Bank’s downtown represent a whole other city that never sleeps, nor rests in peace. From Lenape tribespeople to Revolution-era figures and Civil War infantrymen, the denizens of “Dead Bank” jostle for attention with the Friday night throngs of barhoppers, theatergoers, park-hanging teens, emergency vehicles and Escalades.

Every Friday from August through Halloweekend, Bradley’s team of experienced spirit guides from Jersey Shore Ghost Tours shines a LED lamplight on some largely forgotten fragments of local lore. With multiple tours departing from 8:30p in front of  The Dublin House (where an upstairs room is kept dark and quiet, as to Mrs. Patterson’s preference), the sepulchral safaris are a way to gain an altogether different perspective on some familiar scenery, an activity with which “you’ll have a good time and even learn something without realizing it,” she says.

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BIKERS’ BONANZA: A TRIO FOR TWO-WHEELERS

tourdefhRiders assemble for the start of last year’s Tour de Fair Haven.

The straightaways and sidestreets of the greater Green have been thinned — just barely — of peak-season traffic. The late summer sun starts inching for the door before the check arrives, just a little earlier each day.

For hundreds of year-round residents and frequent flyers, however, this little corner of eastern Monmouth County is just coming into its own in the weeks past Labor Day — and one guy’s “good sleeping weather” is another’s prime pedal time.

This Sunday brings the first in a trio of high profile fundraising events powered purely by gears and chains and the people who make them work. A sequel to 2009’s inaugural competition, the second annual Tour de Fair Haven Bicycle Racing Event traces a circuit through a “welcoming and cheering” crowd. Like the two local biking tours that follow on September 25 and 26, it’s a recently minted tradition that’s fast becoming a season-extending attraction — with each turn of the wheel bringing in bucks for worthy causes.

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WHILE INLAND WILTS, SEA BRIGHT SPARKLES

Remember the summer of 2009? When it rained the entire month of June?

Or how about the repeated snowstorms that got dumped on us this past winter?

Well, it may be hot now, but for beach lovers and boaters, the summer of 2010 is shaping up as a smactacular bonanza. That was in full evidence in the tiny burg of Sea Bright this weekend.

Photographer Peter Linder wandered the streets and strands of Sea Bright for redbankgreen on Saturday, and this is what he saw. And we get to enjoy it all over again!

To enlarge the photo display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key.

JAZZ & BLUES: WE DIDN’T ‘HIJACK’ FOOD FEST

sausageFood vendors at the 2009 edition of the Jazz & Blues Festival in Marine Park. (Click to enlarge)

Stung by the way it says it has been characterized recently, the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation has taken to the media to trumpet its virtues and push back against claims that it “hijacked” an event that began as a showcase for Red Bank restaurants.

In the wake of a decision last month by borough restaurateurs and local officials to revive Riverfest, the predecessor event to the former Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival, foundation officials say in a letter distributed to news outlets that they didn’t know they were in a conflict until they read claims that Riverfest proponents had “won” the battle between the two.

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GUINNESS TO SHUCK UP RED BANK

white-st-lotThe White Street municipal parking lot will be the site of Red Bank’s first Guinness oyster festival in September. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

It looks like downtown Red Bank will ring in the fall season by playing host to a daylong ragbag of an aphrodisiacal and Irish bent.

Mirroring the annual oyster festival across the pond, in Galway, Ireland, and other major cities, Red Bank is bringing in brewery giant Guinness to sponsor a spree of beer (ahem, ale), food and music dubbed the Only One Red Bank Guinness Oyster Festival on Sunday, September 26.

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KABOOM: AUTHORITIES REVIEW SECURITY

kaboom-njt3-070310Hundreds of visitors packed a waiting area at the Red Bank station for a northbound train after the fireworks, and transit personnel directed them into double-decker railcars, below. (Click to enlarge)

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Though numerous fights and other incidents broke out downtown, authorities assessing last Saturday’s KaBoomfest say things went particularly smoothly at the Red Bank train station, thanks to the addition of trains and security personnel.

That’s in contrast to a year ago, when the station was the site of a crowd surge, long waits and numerous arrests for disorderly behavior.

And considering the number of people in town, estimated at more than 120,000, the violence that broke out elsewhere was quelled rapidly without any injuries to bystanders or police, according to Red Bank Police Captain Darren McConnell.

“There were many incidents, but they were isolated, and they were put down pretty quickly” by cops or civilians, he said.

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KABOOM: BRILLIANCE BEFORE & AFTER DARK

It seems that KaBoomfest is becoming two events in one: a night of drunken rowdiness, largely among teenagers who hang out on Red Bank’s West Front and Broad streets during the fireworks, and the traditional night of family-oriented entertainment.

These photos capture the brighter side of the event, from the smiles of festivalgoers to the gunpowder wizardry of the folks at Garden State Fireworks, who paint the sky so brilliantly.

Thanks to Peter Lindner for the barge pix and shots of the Friday night concert in Marine Park.

To enlarge the photo display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key.

DAM SITE REPAIR OFFICIAL: ‘WE’LL MAKE IT’

nrr-062410David Yegelwel, in brown pants at center, watches preparations for the installation of storm drain Wednesday. (Click to enlarge)

The mishap-plagued replacement of an earthen dam on Navesink River Road in Middletown will be completed in time to provide traffic relief for the July 3 KaBoom Fireworks on the Navesink, a Monmouth County official tells redbankgreen.

That’s assuming, of course, that there are no more bursting water lines and other calamities of the kind that have beset the 12-week-old effort, says county bridge department supervisor David Yegelwel. His outlook also assumes no significant rain.

“We’ll make it,” Yegelwel said. “Our target is June 30.”

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MORE WOES IN ROAD FIX AS KABOOM LOOMS

A culvert collapse at Poricy Pond, marked by the blue bubble, has closed Navesink River Road between Hubbard Avenue and Poricy Lane for the past 12 weeks.

Monmouth County officials now say they are “hopeful” that a trouble-plagued repair of a collapsed portion of Navesink River Road in Middletown will be completed in time for the Independence Day weekend after a water line broke and flooded the worksite earlier this week.

And once again, they’re blaming New Jersey-American Water Co. for a mishap.

The latest delay threatens to add to traffic woes for Red Bank visitors traveling by car to and from the July 3 KaBoom Fireworks on the Navesink show. The event is estimated to attract some 150,000 spectators and customarily results in post-show traffic jams lasting 90 minutes or more.

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SUMMER ARRIVES ON A TIDE OF SMILES

To enlarge the photo display, start it, then click the embiggen symbol in the lower right corner. To get back to redbankgreen, hit your escape key.

Ahhh, hot and sparkling at the Jersey Shore: This is the payoff, isn’t it, for all those blasted snowstorms we endured over the winter?

For those who were otherwise engaged, the summer solstice occurred at 7:28a Monday, marking the start of a season that, for those of an outdoorsish bent, is as important to one’s mental health as it is to the regional economy.

To mark the day, redbankgreen‘s Dustin Racioppi and Trish Russoniello roamed the Green, cameras in hand, and captured some juicy slices of life, from people at play to a high school graduation to some of the many ways folks find to stay cool between Red Bank and Sea Bright.

Enjoy the pix, folks. And here’s to a terrific summer.

McKENNA RETURNS TO RIVERCENTER

ed-mckennaFormer Mayor Ed Mckenna at his Broad Street law office Wednesday. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Amid a tough times for retail and changes to how it does business, Red Bank RiverCenter has enlisted one of its founding fathers to help fulfill its mission.

Political magnate and former mayor Ed McKenna was named to the independent agency’s board earlier this month.

It was a sensible move, as the agency is focusing more heavily this year on attracting shoppers and businesses to move into town, all while trying to help established merchants succeed in this sludgy economy, said Nancy Adams, Rivercenter’s executive director.

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RIVERCENTER STEPS UP MARKETING

rivercenter-sign-051310The 2010 budget shows no increase, but reflects new economic priorities, says RiverCenter’s executive director.

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Financially, it’s status quo this year at Red Bank RiverCenter. The independent agency that promotes the downtown and West Side special improvement district is working with a zero-increase, $512,000 budget.

Where that money is going, though, is a little different from previous years.

After the borough council gave its approval for the center’s 2010 budget Monday night, redbankgreen caught up with RiverCenter Executive Director Nancy Adams to find out what’s changed in the year’s spending plan.

The folks at 20 Broad Street are stepping up their marketing and advertising of the borough, a move Adams said is much needed at a time when the small businesses are trying to get more traffic through their doors.

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KABOOMERS MULL TWO-DAY FEST

kaboom-riversideLive entertainment at Riverside Gardens and Marine parks is already a staple of the annual fireworks show. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The KaBoom brand may be expanding in Red Bank.

Although the move isn’t yet official, officials are slipping the name Kaboom! Fireworks on the Navesink under the umbrella of KaBoomfest! in order to fit in with a plan to make the show a two-day event this year.

KaBoom! committee member Charles Moran told redbankgreen Tuesday that the committee is seeking local approvals to add a day-long an evening concert and festival to the Independence Day weekend.

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INVASION OF THE BRIDES-TO-BE

wedding-walk

Discover NJ’s Frank Dicopoulos, left, interviews Margaret Mass and Kevin Barry for a video promoting this weekend’s Wedding Walk. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

For the soon-to-be-married guys looking to get familiar with Red Bank’s myriad watering holes, Saturday is your day.

That’s because the ladies will be preoccupied with more pressing things, like hitting dozens of downtown shops participating in the borough’s first Wedding Walk.

Red Bank RiverCenter executive director Nancy Adams says the Wedding Walk is landing in town because the oft-proclaimed Hip City doubles up well as a wedding planner’s paradise. Doubt it? Ask the Labettis, a Red Bank couple who put the borough to the test three years ago.

Adams, along with other local business owners and managers, figured now’s a good time to let the rest of the region know about it.

“Local retailers talked about Red Bank as an amazing wedding destination,” she said. “A to Z, you can plan a wedding here. You can even have it here.”

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RED BANK REACTS TO JAZZ & BLUES FEST NEWS

jb-mix-boardHas the sun set on the festival’s run at Marine Park? (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Following our report yesterday that the Red Bank Jazz & Blues Festival will decamp to to nearby Monmouth Park racetrack this June and may not return, redbankgreen hit the streets to take the pulse of the people, and asked one question:

What do you think about the festival leaving town for the racetrack this year?

Here’s what we heard:

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WEST SIDERS GETTING SOME OVERDUE TLC

danny-murphyDanny Murphy, outside his Bridge Avenue restaurant, is leading an effort to boost the Arts & Antiques District’s profile.

For years, a cluster of businesses west of Red Bank’s downtown has felt like a neglected stepchild.

That was supposed to change with the inclusion three years ago of a portion of the West Side in the special improvement district managed by Red Bank RiverCenter, the quasi-governmental entity that collects a tax on commercial properties and uses the money to spruce up and market the covered area.

The love has been slow to materialize, though. So business owners led by longtime restaurateur and nostalgia maven Danny Murphy have banded together to do the squeaky-wheel thing. And already, they’re starting to get some grease.

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DAD VAIL DUMPS RUMSON; EKDAHL MIFFED

hot-topic rightBy DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Dad Vail Regatta won’t be coming to Rumson next year after all, officials announced Thursday, much to the shock and disappointment of Rumson leaders who were assured the popular intercollegiate race would be taking place on the Navesink River.

“That is unfortunately true,” Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl said, just a half-hour after he received the news via telephone from Dad Vail committee member Jim Hanna. “I’m not sure what happened.”

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RUMSON BEGINS READYING FOR ITS REGATTA

victorypark

A view of the Navesink River from Victory Park in Rumson, where many spectators will watch the 2010 Dad Vail Regatta. County officials have OK’d viewing from Oceanic Bridge. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Down in Philly, they’re crying a river and pointing fingers over the loss of the Dad Vail Regatta to sleepy little Rumson, New Jersey.

But in Rumson, which snagged the regatta last month from its Schuylkill River home of 56 years, officials are scrambling to organize a weekend-long sporting event that could bring 15,000 people to a town without a single hotel room and no structured seating along its riverfront.

They’re also taking steps to capture as much as possible of the of the millions of dollars in tourism-related spending the event throws off.

They can’t do it without outside help.

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IN oRBit: RESTLESS SPIRITS

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ghosttoursmall

Today’s edition of Red Bank oRBit keeps it in the borough’s business district, where Red Bank RiverCenter has a hand in a couple of events that just might have you seeing red — or ghosts, even.

The shades and phantoms come courtesy of Jersey Shore Ghost Tours, who inaugurate a brand new series of Red Bank Walking Lantern Ghost Tours this Friday night, a series that continues through Halloween with a rendezvous point at The Dublin House — home to the famous house haunter Mrs. Patterson (as well as some decidedly robust spirits).

We talk to Tabitha, the woman behind the ectoplasmic excursions, getting the details of how this whole thing came about — along with a preview of a local ghost story from a pretty surprising source.

It’s all there, along with the latest Orb sightings, in Red Bank oRBit!

FIREWORKS CROWD PROMPTS POLICE REVIEW

kaboom-711Friday night’s crowd overtook the parking lot of the 7-11 at Maple Avenue and West Front Street, among other viewing spots.

Red Bank police and other officials plan a debriefing this week to review the handling of Kaboom Fireworks on the Navesink security after large crowds put emergency personnel on their heels Friday night.

Of particular concern was a post-event crush of revelers at the train station, where many of the 20 arrests made that night occurred, said Capt. Steve McCarthy. Nearly all the arrests were for disorderly behavior.

Also on the table is what might be done about the throngs of visitors who annually crowd the West Front Street entrance to Riverside Gardens Park.

At this morning’s borough special events committee critique of the fireworks show, Capt. Darren McConnell said the KaBoom crowd was so thick opposite the park that an emergency might have resulted in injuries or even a fatality.

“It was to the point of being unsafe,” he said. “It was the worst I’ve seen in 20 years.”

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PROMO EFFORT TARGETS DAYTRIPPERS

River Park (2) Some say the root problem is parking, while others say it’s an imbalance in the store mix in favor of high-end goods and services.

But whatever they identify as the cause of Red Bank’s economic woes, downtown merchants agree that there’s simply not enough foot traffic, even in good economic times, to sustain them.

“Increasing foot traffic is one of the things we hear most about,” says Red Bank RiverCenter executive director Nancy Adams.

Hoping to address the shoeleather deficit, the 18-year-old business promotion organization is hitting the rails. RiverCenter this week unveiled an advertising campaign aimed at selling the town’s cultural variety to potential daytrippers and weekenders who ride New Jersey Transit.

Over monthlong runs in April and September, posters themed “Only One Red Bank” will appear on station platforms along several NJT lines, says Adams.

“Commuters are kind of the demographic we want to reach around the state,” she tells redbankgreen.

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