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red bank tree lighting
red bank tree lighting Santa Claus arrived by firetruck amid blaring horns and flashing lights at the annual Tree Lighting in Johnny Jazz Park in Red Bank Monday night.

The jolly one’s appearance capped an evening of music and amusements in the park, at the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard. Check out redbankgreen‘s photos from the event below. (Photos 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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Prince, from Dream Horse Carriage Rides, pulls a carriage through downtown Red Bank in 2014. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)


Mayor Pasquale Menna thinks having horses pull tourist carriages through downtown Red Bank during the Christmas holiday season is “inhumane.”

He said so at Wednesday night’s semimonthly council meeting, when he formally appointed an Animal Welfare Advisory Committee and asked that it look into ending the annual rides.

What does the owner of the horses think?

“Oh, not this idiocy again,” said Tania Lawson, owner of Dream Horse Carriage Rides in Jackson Township.

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Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from redbankgreen! (Photos by John T. Ward. GIF by Trish Russoniello.)


RBR students Stacy Osorio, on the phone above, making pre-Christmas calls with Stacey Tepoz from Santa’s workshop (borough hall) earlier this month. Below, Heather O’Donnell cracks up after calling a wrong number with Emily Maier. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)

Press release from Red Bank Regional High:

Little Silver:  A big part of the Christmas season for little girls and boys is visiting Santa Claus and reciting him their Christmas wish list.  That is not always possible for some boys and girls in the Red Bank community, especially those whose families do not own or drive cars and can’t take them to visit the local mall, where Santa usually sets up shop.  So nine years ago, community leader David Prown, assisted by his good friend Enrico Ciabattoni, facilitated a special communication with Santa Claus and those kids in Red Bank he might have missed.

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The first snowfall of the season added to the magical air of the Christmas tree lighting event at Ralph ‘Johnny Jazz’ Gatta Park in Red Bank Saturday.

The event, organized by the borough Parks & Rec department, featured a visit by Santa Claus, who arrived by fire truck. Were you there? Check out redbankgreen‘s photos from the event below. (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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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 santa 121415Santa Claus appeared to be saving his energy for later this month as an unidentified woman carried him in her arms on Rector Place in Red Bank Monday afternoon. (Photo by Trish Russoniello. Click to enlarge)




Nebraska XmasThe forecast calls for indoor snow, timely spirits and much music, as A CHRISTMAS CAROL heralds a week of holiday entertainments on the Count Basie stage.

frozen-sing-alongThe dizzyingly jam-packed days of December continue apace at the Count Basie Theatre, where the stage of the area’s most Christmassy performing arts center receives visitations by holiday-themed entertainments hailing from points near and far.

Here are three, one each for the next trio of nights.

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112715holidayexp44112715holidayexp47Thousands of revelers enjoyed the music, warm weather and fake snow as Holiday Express kicked off another holiday season at the Red Bank Town Lighting Friday night. redbankgreen was there as Santa and Mrs. Claus, Bobby Bandiera and Miss Teen New Jersey set the crowd dancing. Check out our photos by clicking “read more” below. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)
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rb christmas tree 112215rb tree 112315A crane lowered this year’s Red Bank Town Tree into place in Riverside Gardens Park Saturday, as seen in this reader photo taken from the Riverview Towers high-rise.

At right, trimming of the tree got underway Monday morning.

The 30-foot tree was donated by the D’Innocenzio family of Middletown, according to Red Bank RiverCenter, which arranged for the donation and installation.  (Photo at right by Trish Russoniello. Click to enlarge)


sbfd toys for tots 2015With an eye toward Christmas, volunteers in Sea Bright and Rumson are planning “toys for tots” drives in coming weeks.

Picking up an effort previously spearheaded by the borough police, the Sea Bright volunteer fire and first aid squads have scheduled a toy drive for Wednesday, December 2, Fire Chief Walter Olenhaus of Sea Bright Fire & Rescue tells redbankgreen.

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reindeerReindeer wrangler Mark Sopko brings his reindeer to a Christmas season kickoff at Sickles Market Friday evening. (Click to enlarge)

Sickles reindeerYou needn’t have lived here for long to deduce that the Greater Red Bank Green is the area’s uncontested, unofficial Capital of Yuletide/ year-end holiday hoopla. And you don’t have to be the poor soul whose job it is to stock the aisles at the chain pharmacy to know that the Season of Santa is here and now, and has been since long before the last unwanted bag of candy Halloween pumpkins hit the remainder rack.

This Friday evening, Santa’s helpers fire their first shot across the boughs of holly, with the opening of the Holiday Open House event at Sickles Market in Little Silver.

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112414 tree2Got a spare blue spruce in your yard? Yes, temperatures may still be pushing 80 degrees, but Red Bank RiverCenter has put out a call in the hope that, like the Clay family of Holmdel, who donated the 2014 Christmas tree above, someone will pony up one for the coming holiday season.

The ideal tree is an evergreen at least 25 feet tall and accessible for cutting—not too close to buildings or wires. The tree will be moved at no cost to the donor on or about November 22 for installation in Riverside Gardens Park, RiverCenter said in a news release. For more information, call Jim Scavone at 732-842-4244.  (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


church dinner Continuing a tradition of nearly 30 years, the First Baptist Church, above, offers a Christmas Day dinner. JR’s Burgers, below, will offer free meals on Christmas Eve. (Click to enlarge)

jrs burgersAt least two Red Bank operations will be feeding those in need of a hot meal for Christmas.

On Wednesday, Christmas Eve, from 6 to 8 p.m., JR’s Burgers on West Front Street will be giving out free burgers, sodas and fries.

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Dec_2009_031Press release from First Baptist Church Red Bank

Want to know where to find a genuinely Happy Meal this December 25? Each Christmas Day for nearly 30 years, the sounds of plates clanking and happy banter echo in the hallways of Red Bank’s First Baptist Church. Starting at noon, many of the First Baptist family gather together to serve, and enjoy a full Christmas Day Turkey dinner with all the fixings — and without charge.

Our church, neighbors, friends and just folks, who need a friend for the day or lifetime, join together for this special sit down experience. Of course, all of the planning and much of the cooking takes place much earlier. Many people in the community spend time preparing, and joining in this act of providing a lift of laughter and the gift of caring for all guests.

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ChristmasConcert-960x300Matthew Van Dyke directs the 50-voice Tower Hill Choir in a free, public-welcome performance of traditional Christmas choral music, Saturday evening at First Presbyterian Church. 

From the sacred to the secularly sophisticated, lovers of classical music — which is to say, music other than the classic rock sounds that permeate the Count Basie Theatre in the nights to come — can find comfort and joy in a pair of back-to-back events that are offered free of charge this Saturday, at two of Red Bank borough’s most musically minded institutions.

The music begins at 4 pm on the afternoon of December 20, at a venue that remains one of the community’s best kept secrets — the Monmouth Conservatory Of Music, host for the latest in an acclaimed series of public-welcome guest artist concerts. December’s spotlight falls on a special program of Baroque era chamber music, as composed by J. S. Bach, Diego Ortiz, Frescobaldi, Mayone, Scarlatti and Graupner — and performed by a pair of Russian-born specialists: violist Elena Kraineva, and pianist Raisa Isaacs. The international touring artists and educators perform in the casual and quite convenient setting of the MCM’s downtown White Street all-purpose room — just steps from the hustle/bustle of that last shopping-season Saturday in Red Bank, but a world and an ocean of time away from the Yule Log’s slow-burn, high-pressure smolder and spark. Best of all, admission’s by free-will donation exclusively, and the hour-long program leaves plenty of time to catch a bite, maybe do a bit of shop, and head up the hill to the next must-see event.

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Scrooge John WatersScrooge scowls again, as Nebraska Theater Caravan rolls into Red Bank for its annual staging of A CHRISTMAS CAROL — but not before filmmaker and Bad Tastemaker John Waters X-plains why he LOVES Christmas. (Waters photo by Greg Gorman)

Let’s make one thing perfectly clear here, to all who fear that the Count Basie Theatre has momentarily joined the perceived War on all that jingles and jollifies: John Waters absolutely LOVES Christmas — the “compulsive desire to give and receive perverted gifts;” his “religious fanaticism for Santa Claus, and an unhealthy love of true crime holiday horror stories.”

With a track record of forty-plus years as an author, lecturer, sometime actor, Bad Tastemaker authority and director of game-changing underground/ indie films (from Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble to the happy crossover of the original Hairspray) — and fresh off a modern-day odyssey that spawned the book Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America — the man in the pencil mustache makes his Basie debut on the night of Tuesday, December 16.

Succinctly entitled A John Waters Christmas, the 8 pm show finds the Baltimore-born raconteur riding into Red Bank “on his sleigh full of smut” with a one-man show that “puts the X in Xmas” — and for which tickets ($29 – $129) can be reserved right here. It so happens that Waters’ Bad-Santa sleigh will be sliding in fast on the ice-tracks of Junie B in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells — a playfully titled but family-friendly touring stage show (adapted by Allison Gregory from the children’s book series by Barbara Park) in which “sassy first-grader Junie B. Jones and her classmates embark on a hilarious adventure that packs a message about the joy of giving.” Take it here for tickets ($20 – $25) to that 4 pm performance — and around the corner for more holiday humbug.

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Vienna Boys CODAThe touring company of the venerable Vienna Boys Choir takes the Count Basie stage on Monday, December 15 — following a weekend of NUTCRACKER performances presented by Company of Dance Arts, and choreographed by Peter Anastos. 

The notion of Red Bank as the area’s unofficial Capital of Christmas Entertainment — and the landmark Count Basie Theatre as a veritable Santa’s Workshop of seasonal diversions that range from the sacred to the silly (and, in one upcoming instance, even the playfully profane) — is reinforced big-time over the course of the next week-and-change. Keep it tuned to redbankgreen for the details as they unfold — and keep it glued to the Basie seats for a ten-day sleighride that begins this very afternoon, December 13.

Like the Monmouth Civic Chorus presentation of Handel’s Messiah that preceded it on the Basie boards, the annual staging of the Tchaikovsky ballet The Nutcracker by the borough-based Company of Dance Arts is one of those hometown traditions without which it simply “wouldn’t be Chrismas” —  a staple signifier of the holiday season in Red Bank for 29 years and counting, and an institution that’s employed the talents of generations of performers (in addition to drawing multi-generational audiences to its performances). Choreographed by the nationally renowned Peter Anastos — and mixing guest soloists from New York dance companies with local professionals and the young students of the CoDA company — the colorfully costumed production inaugurated its 2014 schedule with a special Friday morning school show on December 12, and returns for four public performances (1 pm and 5pm on both Saturday and Sunday). Despite ever-changing casts — and the often significant ways in which both the Count Basie Theatre and Red Bank have changed over the past 30 years — the ballet remains a direct link to a simpler “small town” era of community life, and a great generator of memories, regardless of whether you’re seeing it for the first time or the 29th.

Tickets to any of the four performances of The Nutcracker ($20 – $40) can be reserved here.

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UUCMC Amahl and the Night VisitorsIt starts with the appearance of an unusually large star in the desert night sky — and for a young boy named Amahl, it heralds the appearance of three kings at his family’s humble home, seeking shelter for the night as they make their way to a place called Bethlehem.

First performed as a live TV special in 1951, Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors quickly took its rightful place among the Yuletide season’s best-loved musical masterworks — and continuing a local tradition, the contemporary opera will be staged at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Monmouth County Meeting House on West Front Street this Saturday and Sunday, December 13 and 14.

Presented at 7 pm on Saturday, and encoring at 6 pm Sunday, the family-friendly favorite is the second in a four-part Performing Arts Series at UUCMC; directed by Elaine Held (with co-musical direction by Louise Chernosky), and starring not one but two young local actresses as Amahl: Tara Lieneck of Middletown (at right in photo) featured on December 13, and Clara Randel of Aberdeen (left) taking over the role on December 14.

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