Category Archives: Cranford NJ Events

Events taking place in and around the Cranford area of New Jersey.

Track Friday

Turn Black Friday 2017 into Track Friday: NJ and Beyond!

This Black Friday, November 24, is a day synonymous with waking up early to hit the stores for doorbuster deals. However, Eric Rubinson, a Cranford resident and avid marathon runner, is asking everyone to think about hitting the pavement in addition to the stores. He doesn’t care if you run, walk, or hop – just get outside that Friday morning and donate to whatever cause you feel is important! What Eric began in 2012 is a movement that is sweeping the nation…Track Friday!

Track Friday

Run or walk any distance, anywhere. Meet up with friends and family. Donate or raise money for any charity. Make a difference.

For Eric, the concept of Track Friday started after Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Originally from Middletown, NJ, Eric realized that his hometown needed help and he was unable to physically get to them. He did what only he knew best – run for help…literally! He vowed to donate $5000 to Middletown’s local food bank and encouraged other friends and family members to run/walk with him on Black Friday to support this cause. That year, they ended up having crowds at six different tracks and collected over $22,000 in three weeks!

So why Black Friday? It was the first holiday weekend after Hurricane Sandy and Eric knew that his supporters would be home to help him with this inaugural event. After so much devastation had occurred in New Jersey, he thought that Black Friday, a day when people head out for the sole purpose of spending money, needed to be the target. Why not change the focus of this date to a community day where helping people and getting healthy is the purpose!

The energy and momentum kept going throughout the year. By the next fall, a typhoon had devastated the Philippines and this was the concentration project for Track Friday 2013. Each year, Eric and his friends found more and more organizations and areas that needed help. In 2014, Track Friday was established as a non-profit organization and is now recognized at the national level! Last year, Track Friday raised over $50,000 in approximately seven states!

 

Eric’s goal is to make Track Friday a National Day and his 2017 intent is to have “one team in every state”. He currently has 25-30 individuals throughout the United States working toward this dream. Washington, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Virginia…let’s keep it going!

Do you know someone who would love to set up their own team? Have them contact Eric at [email protected]

 

So, what exactly is Track Friday and how can you get involved? The website for the organization, trackfriday.org, is extremely user-friendly! Everything you need to know for participating and donating is right there!

The idea of track Friday is very simple. You don’t have to be an athlete or even in good shape! You can pick anywhere you’d like to walk or run – your local track, trail, or school parking lot. The possibilities are endless! This is a non-competitive event – there are no clocks! You can commit to 5 minutes or 5 hours. A participant can be a baby in a stroller, a toddler, a dog, or even a great-grandma. The point is that you can be anyone! One of Eric’s favorite stories from this event is a friend who took her two nursing home patients to a local track for a “walker” race! (see the awesome picture)

 

Get Moving ( trackfriday.org/participate)

Find or start a local meetup – or participate virtually! Simply click “Get Moving” and search for a team in your area or far away! You can join anyone, anywhere – your local town, an organization, or somewhere you’d always like to visit!

 

Guidelines for Track Friday Meetups
Track Friday meetups should be free of pressure or expectations. To keep meetups fairly consistent and aligned with the goals of Track Friday, they request that all meetup coordinators follow a few simple guiding principles:

  • The meetup must be free and open to the public.
  • No registration fees; only suggested donations to charity may be requested.
  • Participants may support any charity they wish.
  • No distance or pace requirements; participants may run or walk any distance, at any pace.
  • Supporting 501(c)(3) charities is encouraged.  We do not endorse the use of our brand for political or unverified private causes.
  • The event must take place with permission from the venue. The local Meetup Coordinator should obtain permission from the venue to host a Track Friday event and must adhere to any and all requirements of the venue
  • The event must be Zero-Footprint – leave the venue as you found it, if not cleaner!

Donate (trackfriday.org/donate)

The reason this is a separate link is because donating is discretionary, non-obligatory, and completely your choice! Where you decide to “give your miles” and where you “give your dollars” is completely separate! For example, you may want to participate at a track in Cranford, but choose to donate to a cause/charity in a completely separate town. You can even register your own charity on the website! The possibilities are endless and completely unique for each registrant.

 

T-Shirt Fundraiser and Donating (fundraising/trackfriday)

It’s okay that you may not be around on Black Friday, November 24th…or that you really want to go shopping!! If you like the idea of Track Friday and want to support this organization, you can purchase a Sport-Tek Long Sleeve Logo Shirt or simply donate to the cause!

 

Spread the Word (trackfriday.org/connect)

This is now a national organization and the goal is “One in Every State” – so please help Eric and his team and share the news about Track Friday to everyone you know! They need your help to get the fire lit throughout all communities! Coaches, teams, charities, businesses – let’s help them “Turn Black Friday into Track Friday”!

 

Be sure to post all of your pictures strutting your stuff at the track and make sure you use hashtag #TrackFriday

 

Local Efforts:

In addition to Eric Rubinson – Arthur Hearns (Cranford Jaycees) and Patrick Giblin (Deputy Mayor of the Cranford Township Committee) have been huge motivators to push the Track Friday movement in the Cranford area. Here are just a few of the local organizations that are contributing to this national campaign…

 

Cranford Jaycees will head up two separate fundraisers for Track Friday 2017 – “Musical Instruments for Cranford Middle Schools” and “Hurricane Relief Fund” for all areas affected by recent hurricanes. Visit their homepage here CranfordJaycees2017 to donate or join their team!

 

The Newcomers Club of Cranford is running/walking for “Friends or Puerto Rico” – you can join their team or donate here Team Cranford Newcomers

 

Track 5 Coffee for Track Friday! Thanks to Kevin, the fabulous owner of Track 5 Coffee, for coming up with a signature “Track Friday” coffee blend for this event. During the month of November, you can purchase a bag of this unique coffee or order one freshly brewed at the store! Proceeds from the sales will go directly to Kevin’s favorite charity – New York City Relief and their Relief Bus!

 

As you can see – the purpose of Track Friday is very easy and super fun! Before you head out to the stores on November 24 – consider carving out a small portion of your day and doing something healthy and helpful. It’s so easy to walk around the track once and donate to your favorite cause. Do something to make you feel good about yourself AND burn off a little Thanksgiving calories!

 

Eric Rubinson continues to ask everyone in the communities to redirect their money and attention to the community base and national fund-raising efforts:

 

“I want to make a network of people to take this idea and run with it in every state. My philosophy is that there should be a thousand of these across the county! They are easy to do and cost literally nothing to start. If we can get 5 in New Jersey – think how many can get started in California! Get out and do something that day!”

 

Your heart and your body will thank you!

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Playa Bowls

GRAND OPENING!! Cranford is Crazy for Playa Bowls!!

 

Cranford is crazy for Playa Bowls and our newest Playa Bowl spot just opened at 102B North Union Avenue! The smell of the salty air, the waves crashing, the sound of seagulls, the wind in your hair…anyone who has been to this blissful place knows that you are immediately transported back to the shore! Not only is Playa Bowls known for their fabulous acai bowls and smoothies, but it’s how they have recreated the feel at the beach that keeps everyone coming back for more!

 

Playa Bowls was founded in 2014 after owners Robert Guiliani and Abby Taylor discovered that the people of the Jersey Shore had yet to savor the nutritious and delicious acai bowls like they had discovered on their many surf trips to the West Coast. They went to work to create their own version of a healthy acai bowl at small stand at the corner of 8th Ave and Ocean Ave in Belmar, New Jersey. Of course, they were an immediate sensation and soon after they opened their first store right behind the original stand!

 

Playa Bowls is now known throughout New Jersey and they have expanded into Rutgers Campus and up into North Jersey! Abby is so excited that they have been so welcomed throughout the state as more cities are going “bowls deep”! Abby described for me how much conscious selection goes into each and every ingredient in their bowls, smoothies, and other menu items. She said, “We have the best quality around – we don’t blend our acai with anything else to add sugar!” Abby also contributes the success to the “vibe” inside each and every Playa Bowls. She said that it’s truly a “culture” – people want to order and then actually hang out because of the “chill atmosphere”.

 

Playa Bowls is now a franchise and the Cranford restaurant is owned by Alan Valenti and nephew Stephen Valenti of Morristown’s Olive Lucy’s Kitchen Table. They are excited to bring Playa Bowls to Cranford! Alan initially fell in love with this acai shop as a customer. He wanted to pursue the franchise and his wife, Allison (originally from Cranford), drew him into this close-knit community. Alan and Stephen see Cranford as an “up and coming town” and love the momentum of the small businesses in downtown. (Hat tip to our fabulous Downtown Management Corp!!)  From families to young professionals – it’s truly the best town to introduce a hot new spot!

 

From our conversation, it was evident that Alan is excited about this venture. He mentioned that their acai bowls only have 10 grams of sugar and the highest quality of acai that no one else is providing. It’s such a thick acai bowl and “once you have your first bite you can taste the difference!” Playa Bowls appeals to those who are health conscious. You can add the best ingredients such as fruit, coconut, Nutella, pitaya, and chia! They will abe providing Fall Bowls all season long! Customers can add autumn flavors to their smoothies and bowls such as pumpkin granola, pumpkin butter, cinnamon, and caramel apple!

 

Alan feels that Playa Bowls is a big family and loves that Abby and Robert are 100% “hands on” with every store that they open. Abby does all the artwork for each and every Playa Bowls. Alan commented that her pieces are “beautiful and personalized for each store” – you will never see the same thing twice! Each creation of Abby’s is unique for a particular town and their energy! Even the flooring and lighting at the Cranford shop will be different and customized for Cranford!

 

Alan, Stephen, Rob, and Abby look forward to being a “part of the fabric of the community” of Cranford. I know that the area will be flocking to their gorgeous, beachy shop! Make sure you keep updated with their stunning Instagram feed and posts at playabowlscranford ! We are all ready to “go bowls deep”!

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Cranford’s Yale Terrace Brewery: 25 Years in the Making!

Yale Terrace BreweryCranford residents and all surrounding towns began rejoicing at the very mention of Yale Terrace Brewery coming to town. The opening of a craft brewery right in the heart of town is pure joy to all! Craft beer lovers – your prayers have been answered. Welcome Yale Terrace Brewery to 26 Eastman Street.

 The Yale Terrace Brewery website is packed full of information at ytbrewery.com but I needed to know the information that wasn’t posted on social media. I met with Vinny Savinelli – longtime Cranford resident and beloved owner of Vinny’s Pizza and Pasta to get the real scoop. As he told me the story of how the brewery was created, it was immediately evident that brewing with his best buddies has been a life-long passion.

 

Vinny related that it all started on Yale Terrace in West Orange with four friends: Pete Merrigan (the brewmeister who has the ingredients down to a science), Tom Brisco (the first mate), Rob Jones (official beer lover and taste-tester), and himself (the most business-minded of the crew). They grew up together as children and have been best friends since 1992. “I was there every day since junior high school!” commented Vinny.

 “We all get together and brew – we experiment with many different things – all different grains and grain quality from Europe, Canada, Oregon, Washington, and New York.” He mentioned that they are “always brewing, mastering, and experimenting with new concepts”.

 “We are even putting berries in our beer! We love our wine-infused IPA – it’s absolutely fantastic!” exclaimed Vinny.

Yale Terrace Brewery 

All of their beers are named only by a number. Each number represents a house number on a street of someone close to them. It could be a friend, relative, or someone they met during the journey of growing up together. The number could also refer to a memory or experience that they had at one of those locations! The owners joke that these beers will make for great conversations with customers – trying to guess what each one means! Here’s a freebie: # 19 Morse Street has a special Cranford connection to one of the owners!

 

The brewery will always have their 4 core beers (just like their friendship). They are #17 Yale Terrace: Cream Ale, #26 Yale: Oatmeal Stout, #34 Yale Terrace: Vienna Lager, and #161 Main Street: IPA. You can meet all of these beers at their home website. Throughout the year they will frequently rotate seasonal beers and special brews– for up to 8 beers on tap at a time. “We have 24 beers that we are all proud of – and will rotate weekly!” Vinny’s personal favorite? A Scottish IPA with five different hops imported from Scotland – the hop extract is placed in the whirlpool at the end and he claims that it’s phenomenal!

 

Why did they choose Cranford for their brewery location? Aside from the fact that Vinny’s pizza parlor is next door, he mentioned that “it’s all about the community – most breweries are on back roads or warehouses. This is in the center of town and next to a commuter train station – it’s the ideal location! The response from Cranford and the whole area has been tremendous! The support has been great – from the community and local businesses.”

 

The majority of the extensive licensing process is complete so it’s full steam ahead for getting the brewery to open as soon as possible (they are hoping mid-September). The owners want everyone to know that this is not just a place to sit and drink! The plan is to be open at least 6 days a week. Customers can expect to have live music, trivia night, and sports games on the flat screen TVs throughout the room. They want to have classes on brewing beer starting with the fermentation process on the premises. They want people to come in empty-handed and they will walk you through the process of brewing. At the end of the experience you have created your own beer in their brewery. The owners will also conduct tours of the brewing process and hope for customers to come in to drink pints and go home with growlers!

 

The grand opening is going to be “major” according to Vinny. Craft beer lovers should anticipate giveaways of YTB merchandise, live music, and incredible food from Vinny’s. The first day will be “open for everyone to come – expect mayhem and craziness!”

 

Yale Terrace BreweryWhat can YOU do before the doors open soon? Their YTB green shirts are everything! If you don’t own one get it NOW! Head here: YTB Store. That shirt is your ticket to the hottest event in town and the key to getting VIP information before anyone else! Owner Rob Jones also has a VIP Member fundraising campaign found here: YTB GoFundMe. For a limited time, you can gain VIP status and earn reward levels ranging from YTB accessories to a personalized brewing session with you and your friends!

 

Want the most current events and brewery info at the touch of a button? Join the mailing list at YTB Website and like them on Facebook at YTB Facebook

 

Yale Terrace BreweryAt the end of the interview I realized that I wasn’t just excited for a craft brewery to be opening in Cranford, I was happy for these four owners. Vinny commented that “it’s crazy that the four of us get along so well!” It isn’t often that friends get to work together and create something that they’ve been doing for 25 years! I’m rooting for this town and the lifelong friendship of these four men. I have no doubt that the surrounding towns will embrace the brewery and the owners as well. So, when you visit YTB in the near future – raise a pint to these guys who have been “creating unique quality beers…from grain to glass”!

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Cranford Porchfest

Cranford Porchfest 2017: Taking Porch Sitting to a Whole New Level!

Cranford Porchfest

I can’t think of a more perfect union: porches and music! Add our quaint town of Cranford into the mix and you’ve got the recipe for a perfect day! Here comes Porchfest 2017 to Cranford! Folks, get ready for October 21st from 2:00 pm until 5:00 pm!

A great town begins with people who care and have an invested interest in the happiness of all who reside. Thank you Cranford Community Connection for finding this national phenomenon and realizing that Porchfest is exactly what our town needs! Founded by Lesley Green and Gretchen Hildreth in Ithaca, New York in 2007 – the concept of Porchfest has taken the country by storm. When so much negativity is surrounding us, the need to come together as a community through the power of music and neighborly love is overwhelming.

 

Porchfest is a FREE musical event and completely powered by the “do-it-yourself” concept. It is orchestrated by local volunteers, space provided by homeowners, entertainment performed by musicians donating their time, and a day enjoyed by the community!

 

The purpose of the Cranford Community Connection is to bring the neighborhoods of Cranford together to celebrate community and friendship. The masterminds behind Porchfest are all Cranford residents: Ashley Legg, Randy Geis, Jennifer Geis, Owen Dingelstedt, Chris Lenza, Jackie Carr, and Patricia MacLean. When the group was asked to brainstorm an event that would be perfect for the town, Jennifer immediately thought of Porchfest. The committee’s instant response was, “Wow, we gotta do this – we have to make it happen!” Within the first few minutes of Randy Geis’ Facebook post in December, the “Likes” started pouring in! Everyone wondered what this was all about and the anticipation kept growing!

 

I sat down with Randy Geis to get an idea of their vision for Cranford Porchfest in October and how you can submit your perfect porch or enter your band/music group for consideration! Randy indicated that they want to keep the first Porchfest very simple. “Every porch host, performer, and attendee is in effect a co-creator and real-time manager of the event.” It’s meant to be an afternoon of families walking around Cranford – “enjoying time together and the music we have put together.”

 

He said, “Our goal is to hit the four quadrants in town!” They ideally would like the participating porches to represent those areas with equidistant walking into town. There will be no streets closed, no outside food vendors brought in, and no souvenirs for sale. The committee encourages everyone to put a chair on their back, bring a stroller, ride a bike, or walk the town.

 

The event will take place from 2:00pm – 5:00pm with 8 porches participating in Cranford Porchfest. There will be 3 performances at each home and the set up and take down will all occur within the hour. At 5:30pm the “big act” will perform in the gazebo next to the Cranford Fire Department!

 

The call out is right now for musical acts and porches and all information can be found at their new website Cranford Porchfest

 

So you think you have the perfect porch for a musical act?

Deadline to submit is July 13!!

Pssst! You don’t even have to have a REAL porch! The committee will take into consideration stoops, yards, driveways – anything that allows a large crowd to gather and is street-facing. They ask that you are available the date of the event and are willing to work with the 3 musical groups that will be performing at your home. Also, they hope you don’t mind music goers enjoying your lawn! If you think that you have the hot spot for a band and the traffic on your street is minimal – hurry to submit your home with pictures and address to Cranford Porchest. They will be choosing 8 homes and hope to have porches that represent each section of town. Once selected, you will receive further information from the committee.

 

I have a great band or musical act and would like to be considered!

Cranford PorchfestSubmissions will run from July 1 – September 1

Randy said that the committee wants music from “across the board” – they want to consider everything! You’re in luck! If you or someone you know is in a jug band, church group, solo act, string quartet, kid band, rock band, or can play a mean harmonica – you may just have a chance! They encourage groups from all over New Jersey – not just Cranford. All genres are welcome as long as you love to perform! You must be available on October 21, be able to complete your performance within an hour, and are ready to celebrate music in Cranford! Start by submitting your musical act or band to Cranford Porchfest.

 

The fall will definitely be exciting with the appearance of a new town-wide event that is focused on family, neighbors, and celebrating music within the community. Cranford is host to so many beautiful homes and the fact that music goers can walk or bike the streets of town to congregate on lawns and listen to music is simply heavenly. Cranford residents are all in such anticipation for this October afternoon! Stay posted for a future blog from me highlighting the specifics on Cranford Porchfest 2017 and what porches you’ll be rockin’ on!

(p.s. Sneak peak! The homes posted in this blog are ACTUAL porches that have already been selected!)

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Santa Claus Is Coming to Town!! (Cranford and Westfield)

santa-kidsYou better watch out, you better not cry … oh who am I kidding, any sane child will cry in the face of a stranger dressed up as Santa Claus! But we love subjecting our children to it nonetheless! Here’s a list of places in the Cranford-Westfield Area where Jolly Old Saint Nick will make an appearance to delight (i.e., scare the bejeezus out of) your little ones. 

NOVEMBER 25, 6:00pm

Gazebo at corner of North Union and Springfield Ave, Cranford

Santa lights the tree; photos with Santa immediately after, $3 per child.

NOVEMBER 25-­27

Lord & Taylor, 609 North Ave. W., Westfield

Friday & Saturday 1-7pm, Sunday 1-4pm

Free 5″ x 7″ photo with donation of 2 cans of non­-perishable food for the Holy Trinity Westfield Food Pantry. Nominal shipping fee will apply. Additional photos can be purchased.

NOVEMBER 26, 12-4pm

Tiffany Pharmacy, 1115 South Ave W., Westfield

Visit with Santa, enjoy free hot chocolate and cookies, and receive 25% off gift department purchases while you’re there! Visiting with Santa is free, but you can purchase photo packages if you’d like. 

NOVEMBER 27, 3:30pm

Fire Me Up Studio, 117 N. Union Ave, Cranford

Make plates and decorate cookies with Santa! $45 per child (accompanying non-painting adult free). Purchase tickets at: https://placefull.com/santa-s-coming-to-fire-me-up–studio

NOVEMBER 27, 5:30pm

North Ave. W. Train Station, Westfield

Annual Tree Lighting with Santa & Mrs. Claus. Free.

NOVEMBER 29, 4:30pm

Fire Me Up Studio, 117 N. Union Ave, Cranford

This is the second event where kids will make plates and decorate cookies with Santa! $45 per child (accompanying non-painting adult free). Purchase tickets at: https://placefull.com/santa-s-coming-to-fire-me-up–studio

DECEMBER 3, 8:30am

Trinity Episcopal Church, 119 Forest Ave, Cranford

Pancakes, bagels, cereal, muffins, munchkins, juice, coffee & tea will be available. Jewelry, Christmas wreaths & grave covers, photo with Santa, fabulous raffle baskets 50/50 for sale. Breakfast tickets $6.00.

DECEMBER 8, 5:30pm

Giggles, 103 Miln Street, Cranford

$40 first child, $35 each sibling, includes indoor play. Email [email protected] for tickets.

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A Scarecrow With A Cause at The Scarecrow Stroll in Downtown Cranford!

Scarecrow

Cranford’s Hillside Avenue School is once again making a difference in the community, this time with an impressive food drive that coincides with the Scarecrow Stroll in Downtown Cranford!

Third grade teacher Lori Talbot informed us that the third grade students made a terrific scarecrow for the stroll, aptly named “Hangry.” Big-eyed Hangry is set up right in front of Augusta Mae Consignment Boutique on Alden Street, and the kids have left instructions and a collection box for nonperishable food donations, all of which which will go to the Community Food Bank. Among the items most needed at the Food Bank:

**Canned meat and fish

**Peanut butter

**Boxed meals

**Cannned/packed fruits and vegetables

**Shelf-stable milk

**Note: No glass, cellphone, baby food, soda, or water 

According to Lori: “The students are so excited! They’ve already collected 144 pounds of food! They will be collecting at Augusta Mae for the rest of the month, as well as collecting in school.”

Hillside Ave School is competing against other schools in the Students Change Hunger food drive that is taking place from now until December, so Hangry could help Hillside be the big winner! 

There are more than 90 adorable scarecrows set up throughout Downtown Cranford, so take a stroll to check them out, and bring a donation for Hangry while you’re at!

If you can’t donate food, here’s a link where you can donate money to the food bank in the name of Hillside Ave School, and every dollar counts as a pound of food!

http://support.cfbnj.org/goto/HAE

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The Cranford-Westfield Area Makes the Perfect Family Staycation!

 

If you didn’t get to travel anywhere for a vacation this summer, or if you already went somewhere but still have vacation days to take this month, why not enjoy a CHEAP and SUPER FUN STAYCATION before school starts up again? The Cranford-Westfield Area has so many great options for family fun (much of it FREE) … you truly don’t have to go far to have an amazing summer with your family!

Here is a list of just some of the fantastic outings you can take without even leaving Union County. If you know of other interesting places or events nearby, feel free to comment and share!

CARNIVALS & FESTIVALS

It ain’t summer without zeppoles, am I right?? Check out these festivals in our area.

Cranford Street Fair & Craft Show

August 21st, 11am – 5pm

Downtown Cranford

Over 200 food and craft vendors, plus kids’ attractions.

Kenilworth Fire Department Carnival 

August 15th-20th 

St. Theresa’s School

540 Washington Ave., Kenilworth

Hours: 

Old-fashioned fun including rides, food vendors, games, beer garden, money wheel, and pay-one-price wristband nights Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday!

https://m.facebook.com/KenilworthFireRescue/

St. Bartholomew Italian Festival 

2032 Westfield Ave., Scotch Plains

September 2nd-5th

Hours:

This beloved annual festival features exceptional live music nightly, games, Italian food, raffles, and more!

http://www.sbuitalianfestival.com/#2778

Cranford Canoe Club

 A Cranford family launches from the Cranford Canoe Club:


A Cranford family launches from the Cranford Canoe Club:CRANFORD CANOE CLUB

250 Springfield Ave., Cranford

Hours: 

Not just canoes but also kayaks are available for rent at the Canoe Club. Paddle your way through a scenic and very calm stretch of the Rahway River, and you’ll be reminded of why Cranford was once called “The Venice of New Jersey.” Life jackets are included with your rentals. The snack bar serves some seriously yummy ice cream and snacks as well. This should be on everyone’s summer bucket list!

http://www.cranfordcanoeclub.com/

 

A successful fishing day for these girls at Echo Lake Park:

A successful fishing day for these girls at Echo Lake Park:

ECHO LAKE PARK

Enter from Sprinfield Ave. in Westfield or Mountain Ave near Route 22 in Mountainside

You can spend a whole day at this gorgeous park by bringing fishing rods (the pond is well-stocked), renting paddle boats (only $10 for an hour!), visiting the shady playground, and enjoying a picnic (they have BBQ grills available, plus a full snack bar at the boathouse). And if you have a four-legged friend, bring Fido along to the great dog park at Echo Lake! 

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

LIBERTY HALL MUSEUM

1003 Morris Ave., Union

Hours: Monday – Sunday 10am to 4pm; closed Sundays 

This is such a fantastic option for a rainy or too-hot day! Liberty Hall is very kid-friendly and always has exhibits that appeal to the younger set. Check out the TOYS THROUGH TIME exhibit, where kids can actually play with toys from decades past! Plus there are frequent family-friendly events going on at the museum grounds. Call the museum to reserve a tour. Admission is $12 per adult, $8 per child age 3-17, FREE for children under 3. Call 908-527-0400.

http://kean.edu/libertyhall

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

OUTDOOR MOVIES

There’s just something about watching a flick under the stars! Some of these movie showings will feature food trucks and even free popcorn!

FanwoodTuesday August 16th, 8:30pm at LaGrande Park, showing “The Good Dinosaur.”

Scotch Plains: Fridays August 19th (“Up”) and 26th (“Zootopia”) at dusk on the Village Green.

SummitMonday August 22nd at dusk, 356 Broad Street, showing “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”

OUTDOOR MUSIC

I’m continually blown away by the talent of local musicians. BYO lawn chairs and blankets and listen to great music!

Clark: Summer Arts Festival, featuring yoga and live bands at Oak Ridge Park, Wednesdays August 17th and 24th, 6:30 pm. Rain cancels.

Rahway: Summer Concert series, Thursdays August 18th and 25th, 7:30 pm in front of Union County Performing Arts Center. Beer garden on site! If raining, concert is moved inside to the main stage.

Westfield: Sweet Sounds Downtown Jazz Festival, Tuesday nights through August 30th, 7 pm. Rain cancels.

REEVES-REED ARBORETUM

165 Hobart Ave., Summit

Hours: open from dawn till dusk 7 days a week

Admission is free, but donations are encouraged.

This is a hidden gem of Union County–13+ acres of lush gardens and woods, perfect for leisurely hikes and bird-watching. Once inhabited by the Lenni Lenape Native Americans, the arboretum is now listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Join a FREE TOUR of the grounds on Saturdays at 10:30 am and 1:30 pm from now until October. Kids will enjoy the DISCOVERY SATURDAYS on August 20thand 27th in the Stackhouse Education Center: drop in anytime from 9 am to 1 pmfor stories, games, crafts, and a mini exploration! Discovery Saturday events are free for members, $5 per non member child; children must be accompanied by an adult. 

Here are THREE different spraygrounds to choose from in our area, and all of them are FREE to visit. Heck, you could probably visit all three in a day! Generally, the sprayers turn on when temps reach 82 degrees.

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Mesmerized by the placid Rahway River:

Ponderosa Park

Cooper Road, Scotch Plains

Huge spray area and sprawling playground structures for all ages, restrooms, shaded picnic benches, and bike path. The ice-cream truck visits almost daily. Note: there is no shade in the playground area so bring hats and ample sunscreen and beware of hot playground equipment! Water shoes might be a good idea for the kids.

Snyder Ave Park

240 Snyder Ave., Berkeley Heights

Adorable fenced-in spray area adjacent to a cute playground, plus restrooms. Note: there is zero shade!

Warinanco Park

Entrance at St. George’s Ave in Roselle

Such a great park featuring a large, newer sprayground, plus two playgrounds and a pond with paddleboats (which you can rent for $10 per hour). 

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

The impressive beech tree that rises up through Trailside Nature Center:

TRAILSIDE NATURE CENTER

452 New Providence Road, Mountainside

Hours: Open 12-5pm, 7 days a week

With over 4,000 square feet of nature, history, and animal exhibits, Trailside is a great place to spend a rainy day with the kiddos! And in nice weather you can make a day of it by visiting the ginormous Watchung loop playground or taking a hike into Watchung Reservation.

http://www.ucnj.org/trailside/

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Brian D’Apice, Founder of Bicycle Around America to Visit Cranford NJ 4/28/16

Bicycle Around AmericaKeep your eyes peeled and you might see a news truck or two in Cranford this Thursday. That’s because my friend Robert Schott will be hosting Brian D’Apice, the founder of BICYCLE AROUND AMERICA, who will have pedaled more than 11,000 MILES (!!!) around the perimeter of the United States before reaching Robert’s home in our little hamlet, his penultimate stop before completing his journey in New York City on Friday.

If you recognize the name Robert Scott, that’s because he’s something of a local celeb himself–he’s the snow sculptor whose incredible sculptures have turned the heads of thousands of passers-by on Springfield Ave in recent winters! Last year, Robert met Brian D’Apice at a company meeting in Texas, where Brian gave a motivational speech during a stop on his bicycle tour that struck a cord with Robert. 

According to Robert: “What struck me is that he was a regular guy from a suburban town with good opportunity to follow a ‘regular’ path, but after 9/11 he joined the Army, determined to protect what we have and hold so dearly in this country. He joined the 101st Airborne Division and did two tours in Iraq. He is also a 2011 graduate of York College in Pennsylvania! He’s just a remarkable person.” Right there on the spot, Robert offered Brian a place to stay, should he need it during his cross-country trek.

Bike Across AmericaBrian commenced his journey in Rockefeller Center last May, with the goal riding of around America to raise money for charities near and dear to him. Having lived and worked in Southeast Asia for 2 1/2 years (including as a teacher in Thailand), Brian saw firsthand the need for better schools in the impoverished areas. One of the charities he is fundraising for–Pencils of Promise–builds schools and trains teachers, and according to its website Pencils of Promise has built more than 300 schools so far.

map Bike Across AmericaYou can see in this map the circuitous path Brian took around the country. Along the way he stayed with friends and with welcoming strangers when he could, and camped out at other times. On Thursday Brian will be riding from Doylestown, Pennsylvania, to Cranford (a 63-mile trek, close to Brian’s average daily mileage on his trusty bike). Robert has planned a barbecue to welcome Brian, along with a cozy guest room that will provide some much-needed comfort and rest! Bright and early on Friday, Brian will head into the city to complete his 12-month journey. He’ll appear on several TV news shows, and hopefully word will spread out about his incredible accomplishment and his mission to help those less fortunate. 

I spoke with Brian about how it feels to be this close to the end of such an groundbreaking trip. He said: “Although I’ve enjoyed my time on the road, it feels great to be heading down the home stretch of this epic journey. This has been an extremely special year. I’ve met wonderful new friends and have had experiences that I’ll never forget. What impressed me the most is the heart of the American people. Just about everyone I encountered was eager to help. I have a new and promising faith in the people in this great country!”

It’s so heartwarming to know that Cranford’s own Robert Schott is among those kind people who offered Brian food, companionship, and a place to stay–it’s another reminder that there really are people everywhere looking out for one another. 

Brian went on to say: “The days after I arrive in New York City will not be much different than the days on the road. I have a tremendous amount of administrative work to complete before the project can be finalized. I also have plenty of ‘thank you’ letters to write to the hundreds of people who made this project a success. My bicycle may feel neglect in the coming days, but that’s only because she can’t hear all the stories I’m telling about her.” 

A hearty congratulations goes out to Brian! I hope he feels the warmth of this town when he visits on Thursday. 

For more information about Brian’s project and the charities he is raising money for, visit www.bicyclearoundamerica.com. You can purchase T-shirts featuring the Bicycle Around America logo at https://www.booster.com/bicyclearoundamerica2016?type=2&side=front

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We “Shared The Love” to Benefit CASA of Union County

CASA of Union County

Last October I blogged about a nonprofit organization called CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Union County. In researching that blog, I came to learn more about this incredible group of volunteers who advocate for the nearly 600 youths in foster care in our county. I was so inspired that I decided to host a fundraiser on Feb. 12th called SHARE THE LOVE, where we raised almost $3,000 to benefit CASA of Union County and the youths it serves!! As you can see from the photos, guests of the fundraiser enjoyed wine, cheese, sweets … and some attendees got extra lucky and left with fabulous prizes! 

 

 

“The evening couldn’t have been nicer or come at a more apropos time,” said Dominic Prophete, executive director of CASA of Union County. “Indeed, as Valentine’s Day neared, Sharon and her guests were shining examples of the simple yet huge impact to be made when good people share their heart to others. Sharon opened her home to a community she so clearly loves and champions, and became an advocate, a champion for CASA! Sharon’s guests bustled about, interested in being part of something greater than themselves and learning more about ways to help area youth in foster care: becoming a CASA advocate, joining its board of trustees, or donations that fund more advocate training, or offer the promise of prom, summer camp and even braces to foster children that wouldn’t otherwise have these ‘everyday’ childhood opportunities. From wines and scrumptious cheeses to creative raffle baskets from generous local businesses, Sharon’s party was a wonderful reminder of a community not only giving back, but realizing — and seemingly relishing — the immense power in that.”

“What an amazing night! CASA is near and dear to me,” said Gretchen Boger-O’Bryan, senior development and marketing coordinator at CASA. “I have been a volunteer advocate and supervised a team of advocates, and now I’m using those experiences with my journalism background to spread the depth and breadth of CASA’s work in the community. No matter which role any of us play here at CASA, when we walk through the door each morning we carry a huge responsibility, and it’s to the foster youth we advocate for. Children who’ve seen and experienced far greater trauma and loss than anyone ever should. The extraordinary work of dedicated volunteer advocates who juggle their own life responsibilities with their CASA work makes tangible differences in the lives of those who had no voice in being removed from home, in being abused, neglected or abandoned.”

Gretchen continued, “CASAs give their child back a voice, and work toward a future that is safe and a home that is permanent. As we all know, from a loving and safe home, life thrives. It’s no irony Sharon makes her living helping people fulfill the dreams of home; by  selflessly opening her own home to us she essentially did so to the 600 children in foster care from Union County. Spending those festive hours surrounded by Sharon’s caring and generous guests showed me Sharon understands that with the good fortune of being part of a comfortable community comes an obligation to pay it forward. It’s then that lives are impacted in big ways. The reality is that when you give back, you get more. I’ve always said that: you get back more of what really matters. I am so grateful Sharon and her assistant Angela, who worked tirelessly to make this night a huge success, totally get that.”

 

I’d personally like to thank the following local businesses for donating generous gift cards and merchandise to the fundraiser: Just 4 Pooches; Cougar Headquarters; Artist Framer; Atlantic Beach Soap Co.; Periwinkle’s; Cranford Hotel; Kilkenny’s; ATH/100 Steps; Ambeli Greek Taverna; Augusta Mae Boutique; Alfonso’s; Pastosa; Emma’s Brick Oven; Fire Me Up; Perotti’s; Pairings Palate + Plate; Dreyer Farms; Lemondrop Designs; Julie Castillo Small Pieces of Art; Artemisia; Simply Art & Framing; and OXO. Your contributions were such a hit at the event! Thanks also to GiGi’s Cupcakes for the lip-smackingly yummy desserts that were enjoyed by all!

A little background on CASA of Union County: Since 2005, the organization has been recruiting, supervising, and supporting community volunteers to advocate for abused, neglected and abandoned children in foster care. CASA of Union County currently serves just one quarter of the children in foster care; it is CASA’s goal to provide an advocate for EVERY foster child. 

What does a CASA do, exactly? CASAs provide consistency during tumult, compassion during confusion. They ensure a youth’s best interests are prioritized in court and the community, and that time spent in foster care is as short — and peaceful — as possible. Every child deserves a safe and permanent home, and CASAs work tirelessly toward that end. 

To become a CASA, each volunteer must undergo extensive training and then be sworn in by a judge, who issues a court order allowing the CASA to access on the parties in the youth’s life to ensure their needs are being met. Gretchen says: “We are, in a sense, a second set of eyes and ears for the judge.”

It is by no means an easy job to serve as a CASA. But the positive impact made by a CASA can change the course of a child’s life for the better, and according to many volunteers, that’s what makes the hard work worthwhile. Jona Cannon, an advocate since 2009, says: “Being a CASA is the most powerfully real thing I’ve done outside the realm of motherhood. I learned to keep the child at the focal point, tap into the guidance of my supervisor and trust my intuition. I came to realize that a CASA’s work does make a difference and that giving voice to those who have none is truly bigger than oneself.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how to become a CASA, below is a list of upcoming informational sessions and their locations/times. You can also find more information about CASA on their website: www.casaofunionounty.org

CASA INFORMATIONAL SESSIONS

Union County Clerk’s Office

300 North Ave East

Westfield, NJ 07090

6pm – 7pm

Monday, February 22nd

Albender Building

1143-1145 East Jersey Street

Elizabeth, NJ 07201

10am-11 am

Friday, February 26th

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3rd Annual Comedy Night at Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in Cranford

Who doesn’t love a good LAUGH? You can be assured belly laughs and a whole lot more at the 3rd Annual Comedy Night at Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim in Cranford, which will take place Saturday, November 21, at 8 pm in the temple.

comedy night flyer

Mark Kaplan and Leslie Kleiger have organized an outstanding lineup featuring the following comedians: Joe DeVito (a semi-finalist on Last Comic Standing!); Linda Belt (a stay-at-home mom turned hilarious full-time comic); and Jerry Shack (a staple at NYC’s venerable Broadway Comedy Club), and Jerry is also the emcee for the fun-filled evening.

This event is open to the general public, and advance tickets will be on sale until November 13 for just $36 per person. After that, tickets can be purchased at the door if the event is not sold out. Included in the ticket price is yummy finger food, wine, beer, and soda. Good luck finding a deal like that in Manhattan! Visit this website for ticket information: http://tbemc.org/comedynight2015/. All proceeds will benefit the temple.

Rabbi Ben Goldstein has been serving Temple Beth-El since 2010. Of the upcoming comedy night, he says: “I’m very excited for the opportunity to come together and have some fun. There is so much going on in the world and so many things that stress us out, sometimes it’s really nice to just be able to sit back and laugh together.”

Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim is located at 338 Walnut Ave. in Cranford, where it has been providing for the needs of the Jewish Community since 1917. For more information on the congregation, visit http://tbemc.org.

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