SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Flood’s Hill in South Orange’s Meadowland Park is the place to be Wednesday evenings this summer with the return of the popular South Orange Summer Nights.
SOSN consists of “Art in the Park” June series, “Taste the Music” concert series in late June through early August, and the “Moonlit Movies” screenings in August. The programs are jointly produced by the South Orange Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs and the South Orange Performing Arts Center. The rec department runs the “Art in the Park” and the first “Taste the Music” concert, while SOPAC organizes the rest of “Taste the Music” and the “Moonlit Movies” series.
“The idea is to have something fun and free to do every Wednesday evening during the summer, with a focus on the arts,” Sandy Martiny, director of cultural affairs for the rec department, told the News-Record. “The June ‘Art in the Park’ series highlights local talent like Denise Hayden from Funky Fun Art, and partners with cultural arts groups like the South Orange Public Library and Arts Unbound. This gives our program partners a chance to shine while giving residents an opportunity to enjoy our beautiful park in new ways.”
On June 1, Arts Unbound, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the artistic achievement of seniors and those living with disabilities, led an evening of life drawing. The crowd was treated to acrylic pour freestyle painting June 8, led by Funky Fun Art. On June 15, the SOPL sponsored an origami extravaganza and, on June 22, Funky Fun Art returned to lead a session of acrylic guided painting.
“Each event was very well attended and appreciated. I would call it a resounding success,” Martiny said.
The “Taste the Music” concert series began June 29, with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra playing selections from such popular movies as “Ghostbusters,” “Star Wars,” “The Godfather: Part III,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Moulin Rouge,” “Batman” and more. Hundreds of people and families attended the outdoor event on a beautiful evening.
“People have been enjoying these concerts for many years — it’s a tradition for families to bring their blankets and beach chairs,” Martiny said. “I love watching the kids run around on the hill early in the evening and then, as the music gets to them, they move closer to the stage and begin to dance.”
Indeed, those planning to attend “Taste the Music” should arrive early, in order to enjoy the activities taking place prior to each concert. “Kids’ Art in the Park” begins at 6 p.m. and is recommended for children ages 5 and older. Hayden will lead the children in making pinwheels, wooden maracas, slap bracelets, sunglasses and guitar-pick necklaces throughout July and on Aug. 3.
A variety of food trucks offering dinner and dessert fare will also be present, both before and during the concerts.
The music itself begins at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday evenings, and SOPAC Production Director Raf Ricci has booked a varied lineup. On July 6, Mark Murphy and Friends, a Dave Matthews Band/Fleetwood Mac tribute band, will take to the stage. Dr. K’s Motown Revue, which plays ’60s Motown covers, will follow July 13, and on July 20, concertgoers will hear ’90s cover music by Nine Deeez Nite. On July 27, Max Headroom entertains the crowd with classic ’80s music. Finally, on Aug. 3, local garage bands will be featured in a final evening of music known as “Rock the Hill,” an annual occurrence.
“People come to enjoy the music and just to enjoy something outdoors,” Dee Billia, director of external relations for SOPAC, told the News-Record. “People spend a whole lovely evening there. Kids play Frisbee and throw beach balls and everyone has a great time.”
Flood’s Hill events continue throughout the rest of August, with “Moonlit Movies” on Wednesdays at 7:45 p.m. To be screened are: “The Sandlot” rated PG, on Aug. 10; “The Peanuts Movie,” rated G, on Aug. 17; “Jurassic World,” rated PG-13, on Aug. 24; and “Cool Runnings,” rated PG, on Aug. 31. In case of inclement weather, “Taste the Music” and “Moonlit Movies” activities will be canceled.
There are a variety of contributors to thank for the array of artistic activities, musical groups and movies.
“The SOPAC staff are the kings of the concerts,” Martiny said. “Using their expertise, they hire the bands, work the board and basically run the concerts.”
But Martiny was also quick to thank his colleagues at the rec department at The Baird.
“The guys from The Baird do a lot of the heavy lifting, too, setting up and taking down whatever needs to be done, and doing it all with good humor throughout all three series,” Martiny said, adding, “We have some great sponsors, as well, and without their support, South Orange Summer Nights would look quite a bit different. Maplecrest Ford Lincoln has been a major sponsor for three years. And we are grateful for new sponsors JESPY House, TrailWorks and Zorel Design.”
Billia echoed Martiny’s sentiments, stating, “I would give props to the village of South Orange and to SOPAC, as well, both of whom are community-minded and want to provide South Orange with affordable arts experiences. Kids will really remember these fun family times in the summer.”
For more information on SOSN, visit www.sopacnow.org/community/summer-nights or www.southorange.org/520/South-Orange-Summer-Nights.
Photos Courtesy of Dee Billia and Sandy Martiny