BELLEVILLE, NJ — Belleville residents braved the sizzling temperatures on Aug. 12 to attend an installment of the Belleville Summer Concert Series that brought a heat of its own. The Infernos delighted the large crowd, which also had the opportunity to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at the event, courtesy of the Essex County Mobile Health Clinic.
Mayor Michael Melham, clearly having a great time at the event, praised the nine-week summer concert series.
“It’s the first time in Belleville’s history that we’re having a summer concert series; it’s nine weeks long and we have top-notch entertainment here. Today we have the legendary Infernos,” Melham said Aug. 12 at the concert, explaining that the series began in July and was intended to run through August. Due to one rain cancellation, though, the series is actually extending into September, with a concert by Jersey Sounds on Thursday, Sept. 2, from 6:30 to 9 p.m. The series’ final concert in August was scheduled to feature fireworks.
“I think the weather cooling a bit after the storm we had at 5 p.m. brought out a few extra people,” Melham said, adding that he believes that day’s high temperature — about 100 degrees — kept some people away. Still, there were hundreds of people in attendance.
In celebration of Belleville’s diversity, Melham explained that the concert series strived to have as diverse a slate of musicians as possible, performing salsa, Motown, classic rock, pop, R&B, party music and more.
“The Infernos is one of the best bands around. They do the oldies, and it’s nice to get some of our seniors here and be able to get our residents that really enjoy this kind of music,” Melham said. “Throughout the nine weeks, we had about four or five oldies’ bands; two weeks ago, we had a Latin band that was salsa, where the township brought in professional dancers that danced, pulled people out and made them participate. We had a Motown tribute. Next week is a country band, and then we’re right back to the oldies. So, it’s a very diverse group, and we’ve touched every demographic that we wanted to touch.
“I think this is great. After a year and a half of COVID-19, people want to get outside,” he continued. “If we went inside, we probably wouldn’t have this crowd. People like the fact that they can come here, sit with their family, socially distance themselves if they’re comfortable doing so. I think it’s a great service and it’s a great thing we can give our residents.”
Essex County Mobile Health Clinic charge nurse Dawn Gibson and her team were also on hand to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to concertgoers who hadn’t yet been vaccinated but wanted to be. The mobile clinic also administered COVID testing, allowing participants to sign up online to receive their results, typically within 24 to 36 hours.
“Today, we’re coming out to the community to vaccinate the public,” Gibson said Aug. 12 at the event. “We’re trying to get as many people vaccinated as we can and deliver high-quality, evidence-based care to the patients in the community. So far, we’ve vaccinated about 20 to 25 people and we’re still counting. People are coming out and we’re excited about it. We want to get as many people vaccinated because this new delta variant and the lambda variant are out, and it’s so important to be vaccinated.”
“We’re also doing COVID testing,” she continued. “We are so excited about coming out and vaccinating people, getting the word out to the public, because, as you know, our (COVID case) numbers are climbing and it’s our job to try to get the numbers down, despite the negativity people are believing about the vaccine. It’s good to be able to spread some positive news.”
Essex County vaccinator Danielle Frazier, who vaccinated numerous residents at the mobile clinic, said this was her way of giving back to her community.
“It feels amazing to vaccinate residents,” Frazier said Aug. 12. “I’m giving back to my community by doing this, and I just want to vaccinate as many people as I can so we can get back to our normal lives.”
It didn’t hurt that, while providing a critical health service to Belleville residents, the clinic staff got to enjoy the sounds of the Infernos, alongside the other concert attendees.
Taking in the live performance, Belleville couple Grace and Jim Sibilia took advantage of planned days off from work to spend time together and enjoy the concert. Jim Sibilia told the Belleville Post he was having a great time, and his wife said she would be back again for the next show.
“Actually, this is our first day off together for the summer, and we planned it. We haven’t been to any of the concerts in Belleville. We moved here about three years ago, and we’re enjoying every second of it,” Grace Sibilia said between songs. “If I could come back and attend something like this again, I absolutely would. I love it. I wish we had been to all the other ones.”
Belleville resident Ellie Slomkowski managed to snag a seat in the front row. She was enjoying hearing the music and watching her fellow residents get up to dance.
“I love music. Unfortunately, my husband passed away about two years ago and that was our favorite thing we shared,” Slomkowski said at the concert. “So, coming here, I can keep the tradition of us loving music alive, so I’m enjoying this. I would absolutely come back again next year. I would come back tomorrow if this was here.”
Belleville resident Tamar Greene was there to support Infernos singer Ja-Tun Thomas, an old friend of his. Greene, who plays George Washington in “Hamilton” on Broadway, said he couldn’t have stayed away even if he tried because of his love for live music.
“I came because I love live music, I love singing, and I do have a friend in the band. I’m just having a great time out here in the park,” Greene told the Belleville Post. “I think this event is amazing. Just to see people out again, enjoying the good weather — this is what the people need, to get out for a little bit and enjoy some music. I think about 200 people are here right now. Next year, I’m definitely coming back, and it’s good to see that this is happening. It’s good to know that this will get the people outside.”
Belleville resident Marie Graziano, whose husband is Councilman Thomas Graziano, said her love of music and people is what brought her out to the concert.
“I just love music. I love people. I’m enjoying myself,” Marie Graziano said at the event. “If they had this event next year, I would absolutely be here again.”
Township manager Anthony Iacono was pleased to see so many people come out for the series’ fifth event, despite the heat.
“It was really hot earlier in the evening, but, in pure Belleville style, we always finish with a 10,” Iacono said. “The community is really coming out and enjoying this, because this is our first summer concert series, and clearly by the numbers and everything that has happened in the first five weeks, it’s been a total hit.
“We have already started planning some of the bands for next year,” he continued. “We try to touch a little bit of all cultures, and next week, we have a country music band and line dancing. Last week, we had salsa. And, tonight, we have the most famous New Jersey band, the Infernos.”
Photos by EmilyAnn Jackman