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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rb parking 121112Kiss the kiosks goodbye for the next two weeks:. Visitors to downtown Red Bank will get a pass on having to pay for parking starting Thursday and running through December 25. The annual moratorium applies to lot and curb spaces, according to Red Bank RiverCenter.

The downtown promotion agency will host an “open house” throughout the business district Thursday night, featuring store sales, refreshments, carolers, and the Barbizon Holiday Mannequins. New this year: strolling Santas, available to grace your selfies. (Photo by John T. Ward; click to enlarge)


120314 davis rhubarb cakeRhubarb coffee cake baked in the kitchen of Red Bank resident Sue Davis. (Photo by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


morsels mediumLike Tevye, in ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ PieHole has tradition on its mind this holiday season.

We’re calling on all home cooks and bakers to share with us the holiday food traditions that grace your table every year.

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120714 rumson xmas4Tim McLoone, flanked by Rudolph, Santa and Frosty, rocked the gazebo in Victory Park. Rudolph also made the rounds in the crowd, below.  (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


120714 rumson xmas11 Victory Park was awash in lights and music as Tim McLoone and the Shirleys headed up Rumson’s Christmas tree lighting Sunday night.

Mayor John Ekdahl nominated a second-grader from the Deane Porter School to perform the task of pushing the button to light the tree and the Tower singers from Rumson-Fair Haven High School offered a selection of holiday tunes while Linda Walton’s catering company helped the crowd ward off the night’s chill with hot chocolate and home baked cookies.

Were you among those singing-in the holiday season? Check below for more pictures.

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rb tree lighting 120614Santa Claus and friends attempted to find some shelter from the rain as Red Bankers gathered for the annual West Side Tree Lighting at the pocket park on Shrewsbury Avenue Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Ben Forest. Click to enlarge)


ls christmas 120714 1ls christmas 120714 3Students from the Markham Place and Point Road Schools in Little Silver caroled through six holiday songs – including “Little Drummer Boy,” “African Noel” and “The Spirit of Hanukah” – as the community gathered for the annual Christmas tree lighting at borough hall Sunday. A dog named Jameson was dressed for the chilly occasion, too. (Photos by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)

ls christmas 120714 2


120514 fhsanta13There was no shortage of pizza as kids awaited Santa, who arrived with an assist by the Fair Haven Volunteer Fire Department. (Photos by Susan Ericson. Click to enlarge)


120514 fhsanta12A drizzly night didn’t stop the hearty kids and adults of Fair Haven from coming out to greet Santa Claus Friday night.

Leaving his sleigh at the North Pole until Christmas Eve, jolly old St. Nick got a lift to the annual Christmas tree lighting from the Fair Haven Volunteer Fire Department.

More pictures await, just around the corner…

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MCC ChrisMillerAbove: Dr. Ryan Brandau leads the assembled voices of the Monmouth Civic Chorus in the annual Christmas program at the Count Basie Theatre…while the New Jersey Chamber Singers (right) visit Red Bank’s United Methodist Church in one of several choral concerts around the greater Green this weekend. (Top photo by Chris Miller)

NJCSIt’s been said that it just wouldn’t be the Yuletide season in Red Bank without the yearly performance of Handel’s Messiah by the assembled voices of The Monmouth Civic Chorus — and while true, it’s hardly the only occasion for Hallelujahs from fans of choral music this weekend. The fact is, Saturday and Sunday offer not one but four separate choir concerts in and around Red Bank, each a labor of love from the area’s most dedicated vocal artists.

It begins on Saturday evening, December 6, with the annual showcase of Holiday Favorites by Shrewsbury Chorale, in the beautiful setting of St. George’s by the River Episcopal Church (7 Lincoln Avenue in Rumson). It’s a selection of seasonal signatures from the venerable vocal organization, now in its 58th season and directed by Maestro Anthony La Gruth. Tickets, available at the door, are priced at $25 for adults; $20 for seniors and students; $10 for children under 12. For more information, or to reserve discounted advance tickets, call (732)513-8413 — and read on for more.

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Bazaar_basketsSilent auction gift baskets await inspection during the recent Holiday Bazaar at Christ Church in Shrewsbury. For those who missed it, there are many more craft shows, artisan fairs and gift boutiques going on around the greater Green this weekend.

There’s an open-house glimpse into the wondrous workshop of a leading Red Bank artist. Unique handcrafted gifts, unexpectedly encountered at a pair of county parks in Middletown. Floral arrangements in Shrewsbury; fine art pieces by the area’s best-known creatives in Little Silver. All around the villages and hamlets of the greater Red Bank Green, a dedicated core of neighbors seeks to combat the seasonal brainfreeze of “shopper’s block;” seeding inspiration for gift-givers who want to think outside the big-box store for the special ones on their list — and it’s all happening this Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Just weeks after hosting her annual Art Show and Sale at Mudslingers Pottery, master potter Lauren Bellero takes part in a special Holiday Open House event this Friday, December 5. Between the hours of 3 to 9 pm, shoppers on a quest for something truly unique can visit 12 Oak Street in Lincroft to select from a display of the artist’s award winning pit-fired decorative creations (candle holders, vases, bowls and more) and glazed cookware — or visit the Mudslingers website to make an appointment.

Open for business at picturesque Poricy Park this weekend, the Nature Conservancy’s Holiday and Craft Shop offers up an array of locally sourced wood, pottery, crochet, fine art and home decor items, available for purchase between the hours of 11 am to 4 pm on December 5, 6 and 7. They’ll be doing it all again next weekend too, with shop hours on December 12, 13 and 14 — but there’s much more to see this weekend, with details around the bend.

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rb portapotty 120414A portapotty on Branch Avenue in Red Bank bedecked in the holiday spirit Thursday morning. Leave your best puns in the comments below. (Photo by Trish Russoniello. Click to enlarge)


TubaXmasAbove, Tuba Christmas toots exclusively at Middletown Arts Center on  the evening of December 7 — while below, Santa (seen in a past appearance at Red Bank’s West Side Tree Lighting ceremony) will be making the scene all over the Green in weeks to come.

Santa LindnerThe first official sightings are expected to start filtering in tonight, when the Santa Express rolls out of station stop Little Silver on its way to Red Bank — but even if you miss Santa and Mrs. Claus at the annual Holiday Express Concert and Town Lighting ceremony, there are numerous other opportunities for an audience with The Big Red One in and around the greater Green, beginning as early as Saturday afternoon, November 29.

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112414 tree2holiday tree 112314Donated by the Clay family of Holmdel, Red Bank’s 2014 Christmas tree arrived at Riverside Gardens Park overlooking the Navesink River on Sunday. Becker’s Tree Service and Powerhouse Signs did the installation. The lights and trimming will go on this week courtesy of Investors Savings. Red Bank RiverCenter, which organized the display, says the tree will be lit and decorated in time for the annual Holiday Express concert and townwide light-up Friday night.  (Photo above by Susan Ericson; right photo courtesy of Red Bank RiverCenter. Click to enlarge)


rb cohen lights 010714A dozen Red Bank kids led by children’s advocate David Prown chose the winners of this season’s festive lighting contest, sponsored by the borough Parks & Rec department and announced at Wednesday night’s council meeting. First prize went to the Cohen family of 32 South Street, above. Prizes included gift certificates to local stores and restaurants, including Prown’s Home Improvement, Boondocks Fishery, Teak and Foodtown. (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge)


rumson fire 122513 2A firefighter battling the blaze next to the chimney on Christmas Day. (Photos from Sea Bright Fire Rescue Facebook page. Click to enlarge)

Rumson fire 122513 1Fire damaged a Rumson home and sent two volunteer firefighters to the hospital Christmas Day.

Rumson fire Chief Jymm Fenn tells redbankgreen that the fire, at 7 Briarwood Drive, caused by faulty wiring, results in significant damage to the two-story structure.

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alexandani 2 122013alexandani 1 122013Alex and Ani, the Red Bank jewelry store with crystals embedded in its walls for positive spiritual energy, has been feeling the spirit of the season in recent days, with so many customers that it has to limit the number who can enter at any one time, said store employee John Pal, who was manning the door Friday afternoon. Amanda Warnock, right, was there for some more bracelets. (Click to enlarge)



gingerbreadhouselady 3Debbie Bagnell of Rumson, aka “The Gingerbread House Lady,” at her dining room table, where she’s building more than gingerbread houses. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)


gingerbreadhouselady 2Add up her past 30 or so Christmases, and Debbie Bagnell of Rumson has turned out between 1,500 and 2,000 gingerbread houses.

“I’m part elf,” says Bagnell. “I have a little notch in my ear. So, it’s magic – that’s how this all gets done,” she says, gesturing to a dining room table covered with a miniature Levittown of gingerbread houses.

PieHole spent a snowy morning at Bagnell’s holiday-decorated home getting the inside scoop on mass producing gingerbread houses.

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lennon 120513 4The 33rd anniversary of John Lennon’s death finds a traveling exhibit of the Beatle’s artwork camped out in Red Bank.

Friday, December 6:

RED BANK: In the midst of the holiday cheer, this weekend marks the 33rd anniversary of the murder of John Lennon — and it so happens that the traveling “pop-up gallery” exhibit titled “The Artwork of John Lennon” will be stationed in downtown Red Bank for the occasion. Featuring prints and some 100 pieces from the Lennon collection, the show parks it at 21 Broad Street (formerly Agostino Antiques) for three days beginning December 6. Take it here for a redbankgreen feature with complete schedule details and more.

SHREWSBURY: It’s a rare opportunity to get a close-up look at the buildings in the borough’s state and national designated “Four Corners” Historic District, as the Monmouth County Historical Association conducts Holiday Lantern Tours in the area of Broad Street and Sycamore Avenue. Tours commence at 6 pm and 8 pm, with reservations required ($15 adults; $8 ages 12 and under) available at (732) 742-1277. Christ Church will be serving up dinner (Moravian Chicken Pot Pie!) with seatings at 5 pm and 7 pm, for an additional $10.

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sb-train-4-120512Tree lightings, such as the annual ceremony in Sea Bright, bring light therapy to the Green this weekend. Below, an archived favorite shot from the 2008 Westside tree lighting in Red Bank.

westside-tree-2008Tree lightings! We’ve got ’em, and in such quantities this weekend that you’d think they grew on trees.

Fair Haven kicks things off Friday evening with something old-school traditional — the 5:30 pm arrival of Santa Claus by firetruck, at Memorial Park (across River Road from Borough Hall), followed at 6 pm by the turn-on of the official tree, accompanied by live music from The Band of the Two Rivers. There’s also something new — a Holiday Stroll promotion in which “stores and businesses will be offering shopping, free food and beverages, attractions, and fun for kids throughout the River Road East business district” between the hours of 5 pm and 7:30.

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Lone Kofod of the Danish Cafe pronounces “Julefrokost” so you can go to Denmark and crash a corporate holiday party or two. Or just go to the one in Red Bank. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click here to play movie if the above doesn’t work.)


danish cafeWhen Piehole first heard that the Danish Café in Red Bank was hosting a ‘Julefrokost‘ event, we spent about a minute guessing at the meaning and pronunciation before turning to Google to learn that it’s a Danish word for a holiday food marathon of sorts celebrated around the holidays.

We’re not much for running marathons, but food marathons are right up our alley. So we quickly headed to the Galleria Red Bank to check in with Lone Kofod, who owns the café with her husband, Claudi, to get the details on the event.

“It’s a typical holiday thing in Denmark,” says Kofod. “A lot of business have Julefrokost for a Christmas dinner for their employees. They have that during the holidays as a company Christmas party. During the Christmas days, Danish families will also have Julefrokost meal.”

The Danish Cafe will be holding at least two Julefrokost meals at its comfortable Galleria space this season, on Saturday, November 30 and Friday, December 6.  “If we fill up those two dates, which we almost have, we will do a third event,” says Kofod.

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farmersmarket7Laura Dardi and Lisa Bagwell explain how to store winter squashes and other vegetables. (Photo by Jim Willis. Click to enlarge)


With the Red Bank Farmer’s Market 2013 season heading into the home stretch, the last of the year’s opportunities to shop for fresh produce at the Galleria are now on the early-dimming horizon.

Piehole checked in with Lisa Bagwell and Laura Dardi from E.R. And Sons Farm, an organic farm out of Monroe, to get the lowdown on what we can buy now and how best to store it so we can enjoy local produce through the winter.

“Right now we’ve got all types of winter squash: butternut, acorn, spaghetti and pumpkins,” said Bagwell. “Also the potatoes, sweet potatoes, cabbages, beets, leeks and apples — these can all be put away.”

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Heartwarming update on Sea Bright’s effort to recover from Hurricane Sandy. The video is  by Montclair State student Noah Smith, who also produced one last month on the challenges faced by business owners in town. (Thanks to Debbie Galant of the New Jersey News Commons for passing this along.) (Click to enlarge)


Celestine and Wallace Woods in their alter-egos as Santa and Mrs. Claus, above, and former pro footballer Jarvis Green, below. (Photos by Dan Natale. Click to enlarge)


Former pro defensive end Jarvis Green has been on a rampage of goodwill lately, and on Thursday sacked another location with Christmas cheer: Red Bank.

Jarvis, who put in eight seasons with the New England Patriots, is affiliated with a New Orleans-based shrimp consortium that this week joined with the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties to help feed the hungry and spread joy.

On Thursday evening, following a visit to help feed victims of Hurricane Sandy in Ocean County, he stopped in at the Boys and Girls Club of Monmouth County and Lunch Break, just a couple of doors apart on Doctors James Parker Boulevard, with 100 pounds of shrimp.

“That’s a lot of shrimp,” said Green.

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Michael Davidman, who’s now all of 15 years old, comes to the Monmouth Conservatory of Music on Saturday.

With Christmas little more than a week away, there’s a full weekend of holiday events all around the Green…

Friday, December 14

FAIR HAVEN: The First Floors House Tour, put on by the PTA, is both a fundraiser for the Fair Haven School District, as well as a collection for Hurricane Sandy donations by Sandy Family Match. Eight Haven homes will be open to tours between 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and will each feature cuisine samplings from local eateries. Tickets ($50) will be available for purchase at 248 Kemp Avenue and 85 Grange Avenue. No children allowed.

RED BANK: Free yoga session at the Red Bank Public Library at 1 p.m. by Amy Richardson. No registration required, bring your own mat. 84 West Front Street.

RED BANK: Two River Theater hosts a preview performance of “A Wind in the Willows Christmas” at 7 p.m. and features Grammy-winning Nashville songsmith (and ex-NFL player) Mike Reid in this new take on the adventures of Mr. Toad, Badger, Mole and company. Adult tickets $50-55, 18 and under $25. Repeat performances Saturday at 12 and 7, Sunday at 12. 21 Bridge Avenue.

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