September 27th, 2021

Long Branch Festival 2.0: Better Than the First?


The second ‘annual’ Long Branch festival held from Sept. 10 through Sept. 12, was, by popular acclaim, as successful as the one held in September 2019. If not, indeed, more so. The intensity of feeling – the smiles, the frequent exclamations of ‘thank you for doing this!’ – spoke to the sheer joy of gathering with one’s Long Branch neighbors and just having fun after so long a pause.

“Everything went perfectly! Todo salio a perfection,” exclaimed Ada Villatoro after the festival closed.

It was widely acknowledged that the second festival was, to be sure, shorter than the first: only three days in 2021 compared with eight days in 2019. But this year’s festival was, if anything, even more varied in styles than the first.

Friday opened with a leisurely session of Loteria (Latino-style Bingo) led by Carlos Perozo, who shared his prompts in both English and Spanish (“‘la arpa,’ the harp! ‘la sirena,’ the mermaid!”). Children’s performances varied from the dynamic Eric Energy to the relaxing, lyrical songs of Mr. Gabe.

Music quality was uniformly high, and, again, characterized by variety — from folksy blue grass (“Off the Rails”) to the ultra-sophisticated world funk sound of BFOM. Two additional musical high points were the Grammy-nominated West African music of Cheick Hamala Diabate and the concluding performance on Saturday night, the ever-popular La Colombo Percutiva.

The festival was made possible by a collaboration between MHP, the County Parks Department, and the Long Branch Business League. MHP’s Amee Bearne and Catherine Rytkonen did a great deal of the heavy lifting, as far as planning and logistics were concerned. Prior to the festival, the Parks Department made large investments into park improvements and beautification at Flower Avenue Urban Park. Thanks to those investments, which were permanent, holding outdoor festivals will now be much easier. The organizers hope that the ‘gods’ (the ones who control such things as the weather and funding streams) will be kind to Long Branch and allow for more frequent use of this terrific community space.

A final, special shout out to El Golfo Restaurant for financing the stage! All we need now is a permanent stage (hint).

[Click here to view pictures of the festival!]