Asbury Park NOW
Usually, I write stories about Asbury Park’s history and the people who played a role in its revival over the past several decades. But once in a while, I like to write about the Asbury Park now. Last month we were called the Coolest Small Town in America. Apparently, a lot of people agree. So what’s cool about Asbury Park?
For the past few years we’ve all been saying “this summer is going to be the breakout year for Asbury Park.”
Then we would say it again the following year, “2016 is going to be the year we really go big”. Then just when we think we have reached our plateau, we hit a new mark and get even bigger crowds than the year before. I was pretty amazed to see the number of people on the beach and boards over the July 4th weekend. It was reminiscent of when I would come here as a kid.
There are so many cool things happening in this town it’s hard to know where to begin. I’ll start on June 22nd, the beginning of summer. Once a month the Conover Agency does a company happy hour and for June we chose Anchor’s Bend.
Photos by Heather Jensen
Soul Project, another hot New Orleans group played on the boardwalk at APYC just prior to the 4th of July weekend and again on Saturday night at Langosta Lounge. You’ll find music in this town every night of the week, and a lot of it’s free. On Wednesdays every week from 7pm-10pm you can see young talent from the Lakehouse Music Academy called the “Lakehouse Pros” one of five groups of outstanding young musicians who perform in real-life. The Junior Pros performed last night on the lawn across from the Stone Pony and next to MOGO and Watermark, (some of their sponsors) at the #Asburyparklive summer concert series. I was captivated as I watched these kids playing drums, bass, guitars, and singing, belting out rock classics like Pat Benatar’s Heartbreaker. I have to say, they sounded pretty darn good!
Photo compliments of The Lakehouse Music Academy
“The Lakehouse Pros are five groups of outstanding young musicians from Lakehouse Music Academy who rehearse and prepare to perform real-life, relevant gigs in Asbury Park and beyond. Two groups range from 10-14 years old (“The Junior Pros” and “Fountain of Youth”) and three groups range from 14-18 years old (“Hand Drawn Owls,” “Chop Suhy,” and “Kevs Pros”). The Pros have played hundreds of gigs, including performances at The Prudential Center, The Stone Pony, The Strand Theater, The New Jersey Hall of Fame Red Carpet Ceremony, The Music Saved My Life Charity Softball Event, and have shared the stage with Bruce Springsteen, Max Weinberg, Jon Bon Jovi, Corey Glover, and more. These groups love playing music together, sound like bands well beyond their years, and are learning the ways of professional music at very young ages! Check them out this summer at a venue near you!:
If you walk a little further down the boardwalk, through the Casino building you’ll see a crowd making their own music, and others dancing, by the direction of the Asbury Park Drum Circle. You will find them in that same location, just to the left of the old power plant, every Wednesday from 6 – 9 pm. Anyone is welcome to join in, BYOD (Bring your own drum).
Photo by Joann Bamford
On Mondays the Asbury Park Music Foundation puts on free concerts at the Springwood Avenue Park starting at 6 pm. Just bring a lawn chair and your dancing shoes, because chances are you’re gonna want to get up and dance.
And in case you didn’t notice, (how could you not) there’s a huge crane at the site of the 1101 Ocean Ave renovation project towering over the iStar offices. My guess is it’s probably about 16 stories in height, which is just how tall the new building is going to be. There are big plans for Asbury Park and it’s exciting to watch. In a few years, we will be a world class city. We’re already on our way.
Back in April, at the Music and Film Festival, 400 Sony executives came to town and stayed at our two main hotels; half at The Asbury and the other half at The Berkeley Oceanfront. At the festival’s ‘unofficial’ closing party, where everyone gathered at the Wonder Bar, I met a man there who came all the way from Tulalip, Washington just for the festival. People from far away are paying attention to our little city by the sea.
What makes Asbury Park so unique is not just the historic architecture; it’s the culture, (art, music, literature) the people who share it and the history. We have a ton of history in this town and there’s a bit of grit in that history. Evidence of a city that was once in ruin and has risen up.
That’s what people love about Asbury. We’re not a shiny penny like other beach towns and cities. It’s that splash of grittiness that keeps us grounded and real, like the wooden walls art project on the boarded up Sunset Avenue Pavilion. The pavilion, as well as the casino and carousel buildings, are used as photographic backdrops by tourists and professional photographers on a daily basis all year long. I’m not suggesting that they not restore it…
Photos by Phyllis Maffucci
Wait, actually I think I am. It would be the perfect home for ‘Forth Union‘, the skaters’ group who presently resides and rides in the Carousel building. How cool would it be for Asbury Park to have a world class indoor-outdoor skate park?
Check out an article about skateparks here: Best Skateparks in the World
We have the ability to create an oceanfront skate park where people could come from all over the world for tournaments (in the off-season). I guess one can only dream…but it has to start with a dream. At the very least, let’s not forget about the past as we look toward the future. Let’s be mindful to not push out all the indigenous people as we’re making room for first class tourism. The music and restaurants are what draw people in, but it’s what they experience when they get here that keeps them coming back.
In our 1.4 square mile we have a host of artists, musicians, surfers, and skaters of all ages. Why not carve out a small slice of the city just for them, so they can continue to cultivate our uniqueness as we grow and expand? The truth is we must – because without them Asbury Park will just be another city with sand.
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