Thursday, December 27, 2018

Happy Holidays to All!

I want to wish everyone the best during this winter holiday season. I will be posting a "year end" essay over the weekend as we prepare to enter the new year.

Saturday, December 15, 2018

"Black Nativity" Perfomances Today and Tomorrow!

Black Nativity. Photo courtesy of M.PoWeR Arts.
Tonight, Union County theatergoers can join me to enjoy the holiday musical classic Black Nativity, at the Parish Hall Theater, located at the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, 724 Park Avenue in Plainfield. Performances continue today, Saturday, December 15, at 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm, with the final performance tomorrow, Sunday, December 16 at 6:00 pm. 

In addition, theatergoers will also be able to purchase items at the Black Nativity Holiday Bazaar, which will be open throughout the show's run. 

Brought to you by M.PoWeR Arts, with the producing and directing team of Onyx Keesha and Danielle Tucker, with Chevan Thomas as Music Director and Quincy Pronker as Choreographer, this production of Langston Hughes’s “Gospel Song-Play” is a must-see for the holiday season. Tickets are still available--call (908) 912-4396 to purchase tickets. See the poster with the performance times and ticket prices below! 

I hope to see you there! Support the arts in Plainfield!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Jennifer Popper, Outstanding Union County Community Volunteer

Jenn Popper with "Santa" Michael
This evening, the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders will present a resolution recognizing and commending Jennifer Popper, a Union County resident who made a nearly 900-mile walk to Maine in memory of her husband, Michael, who died in a tragic boating accident two years ago. Michael was an ardent outdoorsman, and he and Jennifer often hiked through the Watchung Reservation trails and enjoyed our other parks in the county. Michael was also an enthusiastic volunteer for Plainfield causes, serving as a holiday "Santa" each year, and participating in neighborhood cleanups and other worthy causes.

Jennifer pledged to raise $15,000.00 ($1,000.00 for each of the 15 years they were married) for two of their favorite charities: The East Coast Greenway ( and The Freewalkers ( 

Jennifer kicked off her trip this past June at Union County's Lenape Park, surrounded by family, friends, and well-wishers. Some readers may know Jenn from her journalistic work as the editor of Tap Into Plainfield, one of our major local news sources. She also recorded her journey in a blog. Click here: 

Amazingly, Jenn ended up raising $17,000.00 for the two organizations. Jenn also established The Michael Popper EMT Scholarship at the Plainfield Rescue Squad, to which Michael was devoted, and to which Jenn continues to volunteer and assist at events. 

I look forward to seeing Jenn tonight when she accepts the resolution, and I hope that you all will join me in congratulating this outstanding Union County resident.

All best,



Monday, November 12, 2018

Model Railroad Club Hosts Holiday Sound and Light Show!

Photo courtesy of The Model Railroad Club, Inc.
The 2018 Holiday Sound and Light Show, hosted by The Model Railroad Club, Inc., will kick off Friday, November 23 and will run through Sunday, December 9, 2018 at the A. Paul Mallery Center in Lenape Park in Union Township. On November 23, the shows will run from 12:00 noon - 8:00 pm, and will continue on consecutive Fridays from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm. 

The Saturday shows will run from 10:00 am - 8:00 pm, and the Sunday shows will run from 11:00 am - 6:00 pm. Tickets are available in person and online (online tickets are available at a discount through November 18). 

For online tickets, click here: Model Railroad Club: Advance Show Tickets

For more information about tickets, shows, and the club, read the press release below:

Press Release
For Immediate Release: October 31, 2018

Create New Holiday Memories with Sound, Light, Model Trains and Family Fun

Photo courtesy of The Model Railroad Club, Inc.
Union County, NJ – A favorite Union County tradition returns this year with the annual Holiday Sound and Light
Show hosted by The Model Railroad Club.
The centerpiece of this festive extravaganza is the club’s sprawling, meticulously detailed HO scale layout at the A. Paul Mallery Model Railroad Center, located in a mixed-use area of Union County’s Lenape Park off Route 22 East in Union Township.
“The Holiday Sound and Light Show is a wonderful opportunity for Union County residents and families to create holiday memories to enjoy, treasure, and pass along to the next generation,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “The Railroad Center is a unique community resource that testifies to the dedication, skill and creativity of model railroad fans, and they pull out all the stops for this annual event.”
This year, the Holiday Sound and Light show begins on Friday, November 23rd from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Shows will continue from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Fridays, from 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Sundays until December 9. The last show of each evening starts approximately 30 minutes before closing.
“The show is designed to capture the imagination with a ‘you are there’ feel, and the layout itself is a decades-long labor of love at the heart of our mission,” said Railroad Club President Tim McCollum.
Attendees can stay as long as they like to enjoy more than one show, view an elaborate N-scale layout and other displays at the Railroad Center, purchase refreshments at the snack bar, and stock up on train-themed holiday gifts at the gift shoppe.
For the convenience of attendees with babies and small children, a play and rest area is also located on the site.
The Model Railroad Club is dedicated to preserving and sharing the art of model railroads while providing the public with a fascinating window on the history of the New Jersey-Pennsylvania rail corridor.
The Railroad Center is open to the public every Saturday during the year. Each fall for the holiday shows, the layout is transformed into a living theatre complete with sound and lighting effects and professional narration.
Tickets are available both online and in person. Visit online to order advance tickets at the discounted rate of $9.00 for youths and adults age 12 to 59, $7.00 for seniors age 60 and up, and $4.00 for children age 3-11. Children under age 3 are free.
Online sales continue from now until the series ends on December 9, but the online discount rate is only available until November 18. After that, prices increase by $1.00 for each age group. 
Attendees can also purchase tickets in person, by visiting the ticket window at the Railroad Center. The Railroad Center ticket window is open during regular Saturday public hours between 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. on November 3, 10, and 17. It is also open during the scheduled hours of the Sound and Light Show beginning at 12:00 p.m. on Friday, November 23 and ending on December 9.
For tickets bought in person on the day of attendance, the regular rate applies. Tickets bought in person for a future date are offered at the discounted rate.
The Model Railroad Club, Inc. is a non-profit organization that built and runs the Railroad Center through an arrangement with the Union County Department of Parks and Recreation. Work on the HO display began 40 years ago with the construction of the Railroad Center in Lenape Park, and it has been enhanced and expanded since then. Work on a major expansion is under way, practically doubling the size of the original exhibit.
The Model Railroad Club has been a part of Union County since its founding in 1949 by Master Model Railroader Paul Mallery. Today, it is one of the largest model railroad clubs in the region.
New members are always welcome to join the Model Railroad Club. Current members are on site during visiting hours and are happy to provide information about Club activities. Prospective members can also request information on joining by email, at
All proceeds from the Holiday Sound and Light Show go towards funding the Railroad Club’s activities.
Directions: The A. Paul Mallery Center is conveniently situated in a mixed-use area of Union County’s Lenape Park, off Route 22 East in Union Township, behind the Home Depot at 930 South Springfield Road. Enter the Home Depot parking lot from Route 22 East or from South Springfield Road, and go to the far (west) end where the Home Depot garden center is located. Follow a small sign to find the service road behind the garden center. The Mallery Center is at the end of the road.

For all Union County programs and services visit, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email or use the online Contact Form.
Connect with Union County on social media.

Stage Production of "Black Nativity" by Langston Hughes in December!

In December, Union County theatergoers can enjoy the holiday musical classic Black Nativity, at the Parish Hall Theater, located at the First Unitarian Society of Plainfield, 724 Park Avenue in Plainfield. Performances begin on Friday, December 14, and continue through Sunday, December 16, 2018. 

Brought to you by M.PoWeR Arts, with the producing and directing team of Onyx Keesha and Danielle Tucker, with Chevan Thomas as Music Director, this production of Langston Hughes’s “Gospel Song-Play” is a must-see for the holiday season. 

Director Danielle Tucker and Producer Onyx Keesha most recently collaborated on the sold-out smash performances of George C. Wolfe's The Colored Museum earlier this fall, and on this past summer's Annie, Jr., The Vagina Monologues, and Fences. If you are up to a warm, uplifting, rousing production, don't miss Black Nativity. Because the shows have a tendency to sell out early, don't wait until the last minute!

The show times are as follows:

Fri, Dec. 14 at 8:00 pm  Sat, Dec. 15 at 2:00 pm & 8:00 pm  Sun, Dec. 16 at 6:00 pm

Tickets for the performance are only: 

$20.00 (General Admission) $12.00 (Children 12 & Under) $25.00 (At the Door)
To order, click on the link: Black Nativity - Tickets

Doors open one hour before show time. In addition, theatergoers will also be able to partake in the Black Nativity Holiday Bazaar, which will be open throughout the show's run. If you want to participate as a vendor, call (908) 912-4396. More information is contained on the flier at right.

"Great War" Veteran J. Clarence Irvine, November 12, 1899 (d. 1972)

Major J.C. Irvine
This repost honors my grandfather, who served in two wars & whose birthday is today.

My maternal grandfather, John Clarence Irvine, whom I knew as "Granddaddy," volunteered for service in the Canadian Army during World War I. Granddaddy enlisted in March of 1917 at the age of 17, and was a part of the 73rd Battery (the Royal Highlanders) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (see his attestation papers below--click to enlarge). He served through the end of the war and, during World War II, he was a major in the reserves. He later worked for the Canadian National Railway, from which he retired. I have other material (photos, news articles, and other ephemera) about Granddaddy; most recently, I found out that he was listed on a 1926 registry of mink ranchers--interesting. I don't think that vocation lasted very long, because I have never heard about it in conversations with relatives. Granddaddy was a devoted outdoorsman and an expert rifleman--according to an article I found, he won the Lanark and Renfrew Scottish Regiment's "Best Shot Trophy" many times. 

Granddaddy with me, Richard, & Renita.
I have his hunting and fishing buttons and badges, and several of his pocket knives. I remember, as a small child, investigating his "shed," where he kept his hunting rifles, fishing poles, and dozens of souvenirs from World War I--including hand grenades, helmets, gas masks, and bullets. 

Granddaddy also served as Chairman of the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, Zone 4, as well as president of the local fish and game club in his hometown of Arnprior, Canada (outside of Ottawa). What was left to me, in addition to the items listed above, was his kilt from the Scottish Lanark and Renfrew Regiment and a wooden name plate, which reads "Major J.C. Irvine." 

Friday, November 9, 2018

Telling Untold Histories: Free Program at Trailside Nature Center!

Dr. Mary Rizzo of Rutgers-Newark. 
I wanted to extend a warm and hearty "thank you" to Union County constituents for your patience with me over the past month as I took a brief hiatus from blogging.* I am back now, though, and I am excited about the many wonderful events that Union County has in store for the upcoming holiday season.

At last night's Freeholder meeting, hosted by Westfield, I announced an upcoming event at Trailside Nature and Science Center, titled "Good Intentions Are Not Enough: Telling Untold Histories at Your Site." Dr. Mary Rizzo, Associate Director of Public and Digital Humanities Initiatives for the Program in American Studies at Rutgers-Newark, will host the talk, scheduled for Tuesday, November 13 at 7:00 PM. 

I have heard Dr. Rizzo lecture before, and she offers a wonderfully thoughtful and accessible approach to public history, emphasizing not only inclusiveness, but also regarding the moral and ethical concerns that are a part of telling accurate untold histories. 

The program is free and open to the public, but preregistration is required--to register on line, go to, call (908) 436-2912, or email

See the press release below for more details.

*As you know, I had been appointed to the unexpired freeholder seat (left by former Freeholder Linda Carter), and I had to run in the general election to fill the vacancy for the remainder of the term (December 2019). I am now a duly-elected freeholder, along with my running mates--Freeholder Al Mirabella, Freeholder-elect Kim Mouded, and Freeholder-elect Andrea Staten. I want to congratulate them on their respective victories, and I want to thank the residents of Union County for the support we received. 

Press Release
For Immediate Release: November 7, 2018

Union County, NJ — Union County residents and visitors are invited to explore the concept of untold histories and participate in a discussion hosted by Dr. Mary Rizzo of Rutgers University on Tuesday, November 13 at 7:00 p.m. at Union County’s Trailside Nature and Science Center, located at 452 New Providence Road in Mountainside.
Dr. Rizzo is the creator of the public humanities Master of Arts track in the Graduate Program in American Studies at the Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences. The program prepares students for leadership positions in public history and humanities organizations.
“Historical sites are enriched by a more inclusive and diversified accounting of the people, times, and events associated with them,” said Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados. “It is very exciting to have Dr. Mary Rizzo share her knowledge and insights on building trust with underrepresented communities and bringing their stories to the public.”
Good Intentions Are Not Enough: Telling Untold Histories at Your Site is open to all Union County residents and visitors. Students, educators, librarians and members of local historical societies are especially encouraged to attend.
Using real-world examples, Dr. Rizzo will show how historical and cultural organizations are helping to diversify the history presented to the public.
Dr. Rizzo will also draw on her academic research and her work as founder and chair of the Telling Untold Histories Conference, to address the challenges and ethical considerations involved in developing relationships with community members.
Attendance is free of charge but pre-registration is required. To pre-register online visit the Union County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs at
For more information about the event contact John Prescott at the Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs, 908-436-2912 or
This program is funded in part by the New Jersey Historical Commission, a division of the Department of State.
For all Union County programs and services visit, call the Public Info Line, 877-424-1234, email or use the online Contact Form.