Festivals ‘R’ Us

Due to a combination of COVID, scheduling conflicts and New Jersey weather, my hometown of Montclair, N.J., has been an almost continuous festival for the last month of so. Here’s a look at where I’ve been spending a good part of my time.

Montclair Jazz Festival

The Montclair Jazz Festival, produced by Jazz House Kids, is now in its 12th year. Pre-pandemic, the festival was a one day affair held in August at a town park. Last year it was cancelled.This year, some events were held at downtown locations through the summer with a grand finale late in September on the town’s main commercial street. Bloomfield Avenue was closed down, with music stages set up on both ends and a street fair in the middle. As usual, Brian McBride, artistic director, was the headliner Saturday night.

Alicia Olatuja
Of the performers which I watched, my favorite was Alicia Olatuja, shown above with her band.
Montclair Literary Festival

The Montclair Literary Festival is the newest of these community events, having been launched in 2017. Normally it is held in March and they plan to resume that schedule in 2022. It is organized by Succeed2gether, a non-profit that provides various educational services to children who need them. Last year the festival consisted of a number of virtual events. The 2021 festival included a full weekend of in person events in early October. Most were held in outdoor tents at the Montclair Public Library and the Congregational Church next door. There were a couple of events held virtually and one large event held inside the church.

Among the best known authors who participated in the festival were Joyce Carol Oates, Colm Toibin and Stevie Van Zandt, who has just written a memoir called “Unrequited Infatuations.”

Stevie Van Zandt
Up in the distance you can see Stevie Van Zandt on stage with his trademark headscarf. Van Zandt went from Little Stevie, Bruce Springstein’s right hand man, to Silvio Dante, Tony Soprano’s right hand man.
Montclair Literary Festival panel
This panel included three Asian-American authors who have written memoirs about growing up as immigrant children. From left: Quian Julie Wang, Anna Qu, Ly Tran, moderator Jiayang Fan.
Montclair Literary Festival
Montclair Film Festival

By Oct. 21, it was time for the tenth anniversary ten-day Montclair Film Festival at three venues around town. The film festival used to be held in May. It was postponed in 2020 until October when it consisted of mostly streamed screenings with a few movies shown at a makeshift drive-in in neighboring West Orange. This year they kept the October date but the films are all screened in theaters. Opening night featured The French Dispatch by Wes Anderson at the Wellmont Theater, an old theater that is primarily used now as a concert hall. I’ll have more on the MFF films in a later post.

Claridge Theater
During the pandemic Bow Tie Cinemas, the owners of Montclair’s art house theater, the Claridge, threw in the towel. Montclair Film, the parent company of the film festival, acquired and renovated it, reopening it in time for this years festival.
Montclair Film Festival
Opening night at the Wellmont
Montclair Film Festival

(I don’t want you to think we’re running a bunch of superspreader events here. All indoor events required proof of vaccination to be admitted and mask wearing at all times.)

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5 Responses to Festivals ‘R’ Us

  1. sportsdiva64 says:

    I knew you lived in Jersey, but I didn’t know what town. New Jersey seems to have more things, like concerts and stuff going on than New York City does. There always seems to be a concert or something going on at NJPAC in Newark, let alone all these fairs. It’s great to see.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to live in Montclair and I miss it!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Donna Janke says:

    How nice to see all these festivals back. What a jam-packed month!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Busy place! We are starting to open up for concerts and the like but of course with proof of vaccinations and masking indoors.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You live in a hip town! Christian McBride not only is in charge of the Montclair fest, he runs the Newport Jazz fest too. Plus he’s a busy musician. And he has a radio show or two. An amazing guy!

    Liked by 1 person

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