08108 FALL 2019 ISSUE
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17th annual Collingswood Book Festival brings authors, poets, discussion, more to borough on Oct. 5
BY KRISTEN DOWD
ollingswood is a festival town. There is sustainability in the spring and an autumnal celebration in the fall. There are crafts in May, and more fine art in August. And in October, there are books. The 17th annual Collingswood Book Festival returns to the borough on Saturday, Oct. 5, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The festival can be found along Haddon Avenue between Collings and East Stiles avenues. Thanks to a dedicated contingent of volunteers, the event has grown in scope and scale since Jean Brennan launched the idea in 2003. There’s something for everyone, from the youngest Sandra Boynton fan to lovers of William Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter – and everyone in between. This year’s festival showcases thoughtprovoking panels, a robust poetry scene, activities for kids and teens, and more than 100 authors looking to engage with their readers. “Collingswood has a festival reputation, and people just love books,” festival chair Sharon Hackett said. “You can just get lost in someone else’s ideas, in someone else’s world. Reading is a great escape.” Hackett first became involved in the festival in 2008, and over the following decade contributed in a variety of PHOTO BY JAMIE GIAMBRONE
Poet Nancy Reddy, author Shauna L. Shames and Collingswood Book Festival chair Sharon Hackett are all smiles at the Collingswood Public Library, home base for the Oct. 5 festival. Collingswood residents Reddy and Shames are both taking part in this year’s event.
COLLINGSWOOD COLLINGSWOOD DENTIST DENTIST TREATS TREATS UNTREATABLE UNTREATABLE COLLINGSWOOD DENTAL PATIENTS PATIENTS DENTAL
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Call today to schedule a consultation appointment!
Call today to schedule a consultation appointment!
Call today schedule a consultation appointment! Thurm Dentalto Group | 925 Haddon Avenue | Collingswood, NJ 08108
856.553.8263 | ThurmDental.com
State of New Jersey General Anesthesia Permit #473. Specialist in Dental Anesthesiology, Fellow American Dental Society of Anesthesiology, Diplomate, National Dental Board of Anesthesiology.
Thurm Dental Group | 925 Haddon Avenue | Collingswood, NJ 08108
Thurm Group | 925 Avenue | Collingswood, NJDental 08108 State of NewDental Jersey General Anesthesia PermitHaddon #473. Specialist in Dental Anesthesiology, Fellow American Society of Anesthesiology, Diplomate, National Dental Board of Anesthesiology. State of New Jersey General Anesthesia Permit #473. Specialist in Dental Anesthesiology, Fellow American Dental Society of Anesthesiology, Diplomate, National Dental Board of Anesthesiology.
Letter from the
FALL 2019 ISSUE
ith its tapestry of rich crimson and brilliant gold, its need for cozy sweaters in the crisp air, and pumpkin spice flavored, well, pumpkin spice flavored everything, there’s just something special about fall.
you’re back in the classroom yourself with a history lesson about Collingswood’s famed Scottish Rite on page 18, and there’s even a chance to have a bit of a music lesson with our story highlighting local nonprofit Community Rocks! on page 14.
And fall in Collingswood? There’s something special about that, too.
Of course, a magazine exploring the best of the borough wouldn’t be complete without a taste of the foodie scene around town. Check out what local restaurants are serving up in our new Borough Bites feature (page 10), including a popular “secret” on the menu.
Take, for instance, our cover story on the Collingswood Book Festival (page 4). This borough tradition returns each autumn with acclaimed authors, accomplished poets and a robust slate of activities for all ages. During our cover shoot, we had the chance to get to know festival chair Sharon Hackett, author Shauna L. Shames and poet Nancy Reddy, and we’re excited to join them in their reading celebration on Oct. 5. We also took time to appreciate another time-honored fall tradition in this issue – the start of a new school year. We sat down with three of Collingswood Public Schools’ top teachers to learn what inspires them to always be their best (page 16). Pretend
We’re so excited to experience our first Collingswood fall, and we hope you enjoy our first autumnal issue of 08108. We’ll see you downtown – hopefully with a warm pumpkin spice latte in hand.
Kristen Dowd Editor
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IN THIS ISSUE: Borough Bites A Nonprofit that Rocks Teachers Making an Impact 08108 Contributors A Look at Local History Keeping Up with Collingswood Seen Around Town
10 14 16 17 18 20 22
Collingswood Book Festival chair Sharon Hackett, poet Nancy Reddy and author Shauna L. Shames smile among the stacks at the Collingswood Public Library. COVER PHOTO BY JAMIE GIAMBRONE
ways. This marks her first year as chair, which was not a hat she was seeking, but one she was happy to wear. When the festival committee was looking for a new leader after last year’s event, eyes turned toward Hackett. “It can’t not happen,” she said with a smile, “and someone had to step in.” The festival is a chance for authors and readers – as well as potential readers – to meet face-to-face. Most who take part are local, hailing from New Jersey and the greater Philadelphia region. Content runs the gamut, from children’s books to sci-fi, sports topics to even musings on the Jersey Devil. And many authors return year after year. Home base for the festival is the Collingswood Public Library, which is also a huge supporter of the event. “It’s a very strong symbiotic relationship,” Hackett said. “Everything’s there.”
PANELS A-PLENTY A large number of panels are planned throughout the day, some geared toward adults, others for children and teens. One panel that draws in a range of ages is the Town Book Presentation, set for 1 p.m. at Tent 1 at the library. Over the past few months, those with a keen eye may have observed a literary theme throughout the borough, with many around town reading the same book – “Anatomy of a Miracle” by Central Jersey author Jonathan Miles. This town-wide initiative has been woven into the book festival since it started in 2003, and, according to Hackett, was spearheaded by Collingswood High School’s AP English class. The presentation on the day of the festival follows the Town Book Discussion set for 7 p.m. at the library on Monday, Sept. 30. On festival day, preceding the Town Book Discussion, politics will take center stage when Shauna L. Shames, co-author of “Survive and Resist: The Definitive Guide to Dystopian Politics” with Amy L. Atchison, joins “Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win” author Jo Piazza for a panel at noon, also in Tent 1. “Politics on the Page” will be moderated by Will Bunch, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist and author of “Tear Down this Myth: How the Reagan Legacy Has Distorted Our Politics and Haunts Our Future.” This will be Shames’ first appearance at the festival, although it’s her second invitation. Planning to speak at the 2018 book festival, the Rutgers University-Camden professor had a student on stand-by to speak in her place at last year’s event, and it was a good thing – the Collingswood mom gave birth on the day of the festival. This year, though, she’s ready to go. “I’m hoping the panel will be a robust 08108
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discussion about what bad government looks like and how we avoid it,” Shames said. “We’re facing worrying trends in much of the industrialized world that undermine good government, so I think it’s important to know and talk about what good government looks like.” “Survive and Resist” is based on a class Shames teaches at Rutgers using dystopian fiction to understand good government, which was the political science department’s most popular class this past semester. “Students make sense of their world through art all the time,” Shames said. “They love art, especially music, but also movies and TV and books. They’re making sense of the world around them. The chance to do that in a venue that they wouldn’t think about, which is the political science classroom, I think is really exciting.” Shames describes her book as a “fun, whitty, jokey romp through the end of the world,” and while she admits it’s “a little weird” talking about the world falling apart in a humorous way, there is good news. “I see dystopian fiction to be optimistic, actually. It shows what is terrible. Don’t go down that road. It’s useful for us to know what bad government looks like,” Shames said. “It’s great to talk about it with the universal human question – what kind of government do we want?” At 3 p.m., another panel – “Writing about Hip-Hop: What Critics and Journalists Owe the Culture” – will feature duo Mickey Hess, author of “Guest in the House of Hip-Hop: How Rap Music Taught a Kid from Kentucky What a White Ally Should Be,” and journalist and hip-hop artist David Shanks, who performs as Traum Diggs. This is the first time Haddon Township resident Hess will take part in the festival. “Local book festivals are always a lot of fun. You get to see how many people right around you are involved – as readers, as writers – in whatever aspect,” Hess said. “I love to get up there and read from my work, talk about my work and see other writers do the same thing. It’s a good way to connect with readers and draw people in who may not be aware of your work or are interested.” “Guest in the House of Hip-Hop” is not Hess’ first foray into the genre – the Rider University professor has taught classes on hip-hop and written several other books on the subject. His new book touches on his childhood, when he first started listening to hip-hop at 8 or 9 years old and considered the issues the music raises – issues FALL 2019
“dismissed outright or even mocked” where Hess grew up in rural Kentucky. It examines America’s history of cultural appropriation, how white rappers should remember they are guests within a black-invented culture. “If you grow up a fan of something, you kind of think of it as yours,” Hess said. “As a white fan, with hip-hop, you have to really stop and consider this isn’t really mine at all and it’s not really meant for me.” Having seen panels on hiphop and race relations
filled with w h i t e people, Hess said he has been trying to urge panel organizers to understand this panel works best with different voices. He is looking forward to sharing the Collingswood stage with Shanks. “The focus should be race and hip-hop and someone who was really born into it, like Shanks,” Hess said. “It’s definitely got my perspective, but it brings a real balance to it.”
POETRY TENT Almost as old as the book festival itself is its acclaimed Poetry Tent, the brainchild of Collingswood resident Walt Howat and a couple of teenagers 15 years ago. “When the Poetry Tent started off, I realized it would have this whole day – six hours. What do you fill it with?” Howat said. “We decided, let’s make it unusual. Let’s do things that really fascinate people.” This year, the schedule will switch to something new about every 45 minutes. The winners of the 10th annual Youth Poetry Competition will kick off the day with live readings at 10 a.m. PHOTOS BY JAMIE GIAMBRONE
TOP: Collingswood resident Nancy Reddy will be reading her poetry at the Collingswood Book Festival on Oct. 5. Reddy will read from her book, ‘Acadiana,’ at 11:15 a.m. in the Poetry Tent. ABOVE: Sharon Hackett, a longtime book festival volunteer, took on the role of chair for the 2019 event.
For the full schedule of Collingswood Book Festival events, please visit www. collingswoodbookfestival.com.
There is extra book festival fun leading up to the day of the event.
Thursday, Sept. 19, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., Collingswood Library. In this generative poetry workshop led by Leah Falk of Rutgers Writers House and Stephanie Cawley of Murphy Writing/Stockton University, participants will read and write poems that explore the places we call home, whether past or present, permanent or temporary, personal or collective.
Town Book Discussion:
Monday, Sept. 30, 7 p.m., Collingswood Library. Participate in a discussion of “The Anatomy of a Miracle” by Jonathan Miles. This year’s selection is a profound novel about a paralyzed young man’s unexplainable recovery – a stunning exploration of faith, science, mystery and the meaning of life. Miles will speak at the Book Festival on Saturday, Oct. 5, at 1 p.m. in Tent 1.
Booze & Haiku at Another Damn Open Mic Night:
Monday, Sept. 30, 8 to 10 p.m., Keg & Kitchen, 90 Haddon Ave., Haddon Township. Have a brew and share haiku! It’s easy. Bring your thoughts, facilitators will help you haiku. Open Mic hosted by Dave Kelly and John Falco. Sponsored by Friends of the Collingswood Book Festival.
“So many of them start at 7 or 8 and just kind of blossom as they enter every year,” Howat said. “It’s exciting to see that happen.” Tammy Paolino, who helps run the Poetry Tent alongside Suzanne Gili Post and BJ Swartz, stressed a big part of the experience is having fun. “I think a lot of people who aren’t poets think it’s going to be stodgy or intellectual or they won’t understand it or it’s going to be sonnets,” Paolino said. “And nothing against sonnets, but we have tons of fun.” An interactive part of the Poetry Tent is its Wall of Haikus, where attendees can spontaneously write a haiku to be hung on the wall. Howat said they’re hoping the haikus will be written as American poet Walt Whitman would have written them – especially since this year’s tent will be celebrating the famed poet’s 200th birthday. “That’s a really big part of our day,” Paolino said. Well-known Camden poet Rocky Wilson will “channel the spirit of
Walt Whitman,” according to Poalino, from 12:45 to 1:15 p.m. Poets will also be performing live readings of their work throughout the day. One of those poets is Nancy Reddy. An assistant professor of writing and first year studies at Stockton University, the Collingswood resident will be reading from her book, “A c a d i a n a ,” which captures the time she spent living in New Orleans and the ways the environment can intersect with poetry. She feels the opportunity to hear a poet read and talk about their work is not only a unique experience, but beneficial to the audience. “Poetry is something that people are still doing. I think oftentimes people don’t know there are still real living poets until they have a chance to see one,” Reddy said. “It becomes much more engaging.” Having been writing poetry for as long as she can remember, Reddy reflected it is not just an artistic outlet, but a way to help her process. “It’s how I’ve thought through problems
and questions,” she said, “and how I figure out what’s happening in the world.” Reddy – also the author of “Double Jinx: poems” – is currently working with another poet on an anthology about motherhood, which weaves in the voices and experiences of a number of female poets. Reddy herself is a mother of two boys, ages 4 and 6, a force of inspiration in her work. “Beyond having kids, becoming a mother has really changed the way I see the world,” Reddy said of the influence of motherhood on her own poetry. “I feel like I rediscover a lot through their eyes – it’s rediscovering a lot of wonder.”
LEARN MORE The Collingswood Book Festival is chockfull of events for all ages, including an impressive schedule for the younger attendees. For more information, including a full schedule of events, please visit www.colling swoodbookfestival.com. The festival is rain or shine. In the event of rain, the festival will move indoors to Collingswood High School, 424 W. Collings Ave., Collingswood. ■ PHOTOS BY JAMIE GIAMBRONE
Shauna L. Shames will take the stage at the Collingswood Book festival during the panel ‘Politics on the Page.’ The Collingswood resident recently co-authored the book ‘Survive and Resist: The Definitive Guide to Dystopian Politics’ with Amy L. Atchison.
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From signature dishes to a Collingswood ‘secret,’ local restaurants serve up their best BY RYAN LAWRENCE
he people of 08108 — the borough of Collingswood, that is — generally fall into one of three categories: The locals. You’ve been here for the entirety of your life. You grew up here. All of your family is here in town. The transplants. You’re from Philly or another part of South Jersey but found yourself here because it felt like a perfect place to live. The visitors. You don’t live here, no, but you’re drawn to town for several reasons and make it a point to return more than a few times a year. And here’s one thing that the locals, transplants and visitors can all agree on: there isn’t a better spot in the local Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia (Camden, Gloucester or Burlington counties) for dining out. On the less than half mile-long stretch of Haddon Avenue, between Cuthbert Boulevard and Crescent Avenue, you can find more than a dozen delicious options, whether you’re in the mood for Thai (Circles) or Italian (Il Fiore, Sapori Trattoria Italiana and The Kitchen Consigliere, among many others), barbecue (Macona) or a burger and shake (The Pop Shop), there’s something for everyone, and everything for someone who likes variety. The Collingswood foodie scene is booming, so much so that it’s infiltrating into other areas throughout town: the popular Porch & Proper opened last summer on Collings Avenue right off the White Horse Pike. To better serve the 08108 community, the author of this story ventured out to sample a few of the town’s top dishes. Stay tuned, because he’ll also let you in on one of Collingswood’s best kept “secrets,” too.
LEADING OFF Long summer weekends can be both fun and taxing, sometimes depending on what time you decide to depart the shore and head home. If you have a flexible work schedule that allows you to ease into your work week, PHOTO BY JAMIE GIAMBRONE
Breakfast at Sabrina’s Cafe ranges from the sweet, including its signature Stuffed Challah French Toast, to the savory, such as these Huevos Rancheros, piled high with smoky chorizo, two eggs and a fried jalapeno. FALL 2019
you’re lucky you can avoid the traffic. If you’re experiencing a case of the Mondays, we recommend finding your way to the welcoming vibe inside the building that still has the “F.W. WOOLWORTH CO.” red-andgold signage on its facade along Haddon Avenue. Sabrina’s Cafe (714 Haddon Ave.) is a genuine treat. Named after the eldest daughter of Robert and Raquel DeAbreu, Sabrina’s is the perfect place to start your day, whether it’s a lazy M o n d a y, a pickm e - u p We d ne s d ay, or a weekend brunch. While you can also check out one of the restaurant's five locations through the Philly area for lunch or dinner, too, once you sample the breakfast, you’ll probably just end up ordering that regardless of the hour anyway. On a recent visit, I sat down with a guest and was immediately greeted with Spencer’s Hotcake Tower (named after Robert and Racquel’s son, naturally). “Tower” was a fitting word, as the pile of pancakes nearly made it difficult to see across the table. Despite the intimidating size and scale, the cakes were light and easy to devour. Decorated with fresh blueberries, fresh peach compote and topped with a cinnamon lemon blackberry sauce and Chantilly whipped cream, Spencer’s cakes were a worthy breakfast of champions. But this was only the start of the sweet tooth's morning fantasy. Next up was perhaps the most talked about item on the menu, the one nearly everyone is likely to recommend the minute you tell them you’re headed to Sabrina’s: the Stuffed Challah French Toast. The description on the menu is relatively simple: “Farmer's cream cheese topped with bananas and vanilla bean syrup.” The taste is anything but. “There’s bananas, there’s sugar, there’s cinnamon, there’s honey,” owner Robert DeAbreu said. “There’s Challah bread, and that’s soaked with eggs and heavy cream, vanilla, more sugar and cinnamon, nutmeg… it goes on and on and on.” It’s outrageous. Be ready with two forks — one for you and one for a friend. Because it’s a challenge to take it down alone and it’d be a crime not to share something so, so … “Epic,” your guest says from across the table. “Heavenly. Fun. Indulgent, but not sickeningly sweet.” Thankfully, by the time the third course, Huevos Rancheros, arrived, our 08108 photographer was ready to dig in and help our 08108
cause. The savory complements the sweet nicely, but we had to slow down for our own safety after the pancake tower and stuffed French toast party. DeAbreu, a native of Antigua who met his Cherry Hill-native wife while studying culinary arts at Johnson & Wales University, prides himself on making sure his customers have a positive experience, so much so that a placard on each table includes his mobile number f o r
people to text him directly with feedback. “Good or bad, I do my best to PHOTO BY JAMIE GIAMBRONE
Want in on a Collingswood secret? Ask for ‘The Secret’ as a sweet ending to dinner at Centanni Trattoria. The mysterious yet oh-so-delicious mousse-like dessert is not to be missed.
respond right away,” he said. “I take the most pride when I hear you have an incredible staff and your food is great. When they say that, we’re good.” Sabrina’s, which opened its Collingswood location four years ago, is continuing to grow, too: a new vegan menu is in the works for the fall.
BREAKING IN Mark Smith wore a sheepish smile as he knocked his right hand on the wooden table toward the front of his restaurant. He’s made a career in the food industry and, by doing so, has forged enough relationships with fellow restaurateurs, chefs, business people and friends to make smart decisions. But as one of the older eating establishments on Haddon Avenue — only Villa Barone has maintained its space longer, according to Smith — The Tortilla Press (703 Haddon Ave.) is humble enough to tip its proverbial sombrero to some good fortune. Smith, a former executive chef at the Mt. Laurel Hilton and a former owner of a catering business, was looking to open up his own place two decades ago. He came thisclose to beginning his new venture in downtown Mt. Holly, even going as far as putting down a deposit and making an initial order after creating a menu. But a friend warned him that the location
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might not be ideal, since there wasn’t much foot traffic after 5 p.m. A former cook suggested Collingswood, but Smith wasn’t so sure back in 2001, when the town wasn’t exactly booming. After doing some research, however, he bet on Collingswood’s revival. He placed all of his chips to the center of the table by buying the corner property next door to the original space he agreed to buy, too. The culinary planets aligned to some degree, but sometimes you also make your own luck as a small business owner. “It’s really become a restaurant destination, Haddon Avenue, from Westmont all the way down,” said Smith, who opened the Tortilla Press in 2002. “(The restaurants here) might be maxed on seats right now at lunch, there’s just not enough bodies on the streets to support this many restaurants, but people do drive to Collingswood to have dinner. So it’s good stuff.” Smith’s creations are better than good. On a rainy afternoon, a writer and his trusty photographer found refuge at Tortilla Press, along with an endless bowl of fresh guacamole and chips. I can’t speak for the photographer, but the guac was among the best I’ve ever tasted, and this includes having the privilege of sampling some scrumptious dishes in Arizona during my travels. For the entree, Tortilla Press servers brought out a plate that was larger than my steering wheel. The “red and green” enchiladas, as Smith called them, offered a perfect blend of guajillo chile and spicy tomatillo sauces to satisfy the taste buds. Smith said he’s most proud of the family feel at his restaurant, but it’s difficult not to be enamored by the quality of the product, too, which features plenty of local fare. In August, Tortilla Press offered a special allJersey Peach menu, including an appetizer, entree, and dessert (or all three for the reasonable price of $25), and its usual variety of dishes include fresh vegetables from all around South Jersey, including Springdale Farms in Cherry Hill and Flaim Farms in Vineland. As for taking fresh products and turning them into exquisite cuisines, Smith credits
his career as a chef, his voracious cookbook reading, and his trips to Mexico to visit with former employees that moved back to their native land. “We basically cooked in their backyard for about seven days, just making things from barbacoa, where we dug the pit and slaughtered the goat, to making the mole (sauce), to making the tortillas,” he said of a trip to Puebla, Mexico two Septembers go. “It was really cool.”
SECRET IN THE CITY Perhaps the greatest culinary accomplishment in Collingswood is the places people have come to bring a variety of eateries into town. Even if there are more than a half dozen Italian restaurants in the borough, each is run by someone with a different background, with a unique spin to classic dishes or a signature entree unlike one you can get anywhere else. DeAbreu of Sabrina’s was born in Antigua and Smith of Tortilla Press is originally from Ohio. Arturo Chilelli and Giancarlo Presta, the owner and head chef, respectively, of Centanni Trattoria (563 Haddon Ave.) grew up together as friends in the town of Longobardi, in the province of Cosenza in Southern Italy. Chilelli and Presta have both been in the United States for nearly 40 years, but only worked under the same roof when they opened Centanni two years ago. Located on the corner of Haddon and Knight avenues, Centanni is housed in a beautiful two-story building with a wrap-around porch. The setting feels right, because once inside, you feel at home. And whatever you’re in the mood for, Chilelli and Presta are happy to serve you, be it pasta or a pizza, a sandwich or a grilled pork chop or veal saltimbocca, or something off the gluten-free menu. “We do homemade stuff, gnocchi, some pastas,” Presta said. “Today I’m making a homemade pasta, a spaghetti with butternut squash. And I’m serving with seafood, calamari, shrimp, some asparagus in there, a light cream sauce. And we do a lot of different kinds of gnocchi, even chocolate gnoc-
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chi, a lot of different things.” As with most Italian restaurants, a diner at Centanni is greeted with fresh bread upon sitting down for dinner. The only difference is Chilelli serves what he refers to as “Atlantic City bread,” which has a noticeable, fresh crispness to its bite. “The salt air makes the dough rise different,” explained Chilelli, who also runs a restaurant in Absecon. The bread was complemented by a delectable roasted red pepper soup, with burrata. The main course that followed was a tasty seafood risotto, a white wine and saffronbased sauce, made with herbs and extra virgin olive oil and without butter, and dressed with lobster, shrimp and calamari. So far, so good. Everything was fresh, rich, and flavorful. But be sure to leave room for dessert. “You name it,” Presta said, “I got it.” The trick at Centanni is you have to name it, specifically. The end-of-the-night treat that’s most recommended by diners is one you’d only know about through word-ofmouth. It’s not on the menu. Literally, it’s “the secret.” “Who told you,” Chilelli asked with a mischievous smile, “Jamie?” Yes, our photographer did her own successful reporting. But a few other people tipped us off, too. So what is the secret? Well that’s kind of the point — you’re not allowed to know. Think of a mousse, but with a silkier consistency, with a taste of something with hints of vanilla and fresh whipped cream and, perhaps, light notes of caramel. “I was supposed to make a mousse, like a Tiramisu, and I screwed up the ingredients because I ran out of something, but I was already more than halfway through,” Presta said of the genesis of The Secret. Like any hard-working, adventurous chef, Presta pressed on and ended up with something better than he could have imagined. While Presta remained mostly tight-lipped about what it actually was, we were able to confirm one ingredient: scattered around the dish, serving both as a stylish decor and extra dipping treat, are crumbs of groundedup, fresh, imported Italian cookies. The Secret, by the way, is also sometimes referred to as “The Surprise.” “They must like it,” Chilelli said of the special, mystery dessert, “ because they keep getting it.” The same could be said for the Collingswood restaurant scene at large. If you make it, and make it well, the people will come. ■
DINNER | CATERING
PHOTOS BY JAMIE GIAMBRONE
PHOTO 1: Tortilla Press server Nixaira Ramirez, of Collingswood, delivers dinner plates to customers. PHOTO 2: Fresh guacamole is a staple at the Tortilla Press. PHOTO 3: Samuele Bruno prepares focaccia at Centanni Trattoria. 13
SAPORI TRATTORIA ITALIANA 601 HADDON AVE. COLLINGSWOOD, NJ 08108 856.858.2288
Just have Local musician Sara O’Brien’s Community Rocks! nonprofit has been delivering more than music for almost 15 years around South Jersey BY GRACE MAIORANO
ounds of the 1978 hit single “Surrender” reverberated off the barista equipment at The Treehouse Coffee Shop & Cafe in Audubon. The Cheap Trick vocals, however, were swapped with children’s singing, as a dozen or so youngsters jammed to the classic rock anthem. Leading the budding musicians was Haddon Township resident Sara O’Brien, founder of the South Jersey-based 501c3 nonprofit Community Rocks!, which has been providing kids access to arts and wellness around the region for more than a decade. For years, O’Brien, a native of Ohio, has sought community service using the arts – whether teaching instrumentals to children with behavioral difficulties in Camden or FALL 2019
using theater to teach a Cuban history lesson to middle schoolers in Cleveland. “I was driven to do work in social change and community arts, so I realized you can do both,” she said. After spending some time at Ohio State University, O’Brien, who had moved to Haddon Township as a child, put her education on hiatus to work with City Year, which is an Americorp education nonprofit that aims to support students and schools in high-need communities. When she wasn’t rocking out in her local band (“The Cranberries meets 10,000 Maniacs,” as she describes it), O’Brien served at struggling public schools in Cleveland through City Year when she was only 19 years old. Using theatrics as a history-teaching mechanism, O’Brien was thunderstruck by how well the students responded, recalling back to her own youth when she, too, found it difficult to concentrate in the classroom. “I had to figure out how to use exercise and the arts for an outlet,” she said. “And that’s what I want to provide kids now, because they need an outlet for their extra stuff. It’s very simple. You have extra stuff – you need a place to put it.” Eventually, she attended the University of Georgia where she studied cross-cultural education through the arts while also resuming to rock, serving as the lead singer of a folk-rock band. While down south, she also began further fostering her helping hand. In honor of her mother, who passed away from breast 14
cancer when O’Brien was a teenager, she and her sisters established the Tyanna Foundation, which has donated more than $1.5 million toward breast cancer research, according to its website. With her mother as her muse, O’Brien fused that love for ballads into the nonprofit, kicking off the first-ever BreastFest musical festival in 1999 in Athens, Ga. Held – over the course of two decades – in five states, the annual event, which features local talent, continues to benefit breast cancer, attracting more than 600 attendees each year just at the Georgia event alone, according to the Tyanna Foundation. O’Brien says the annual event raises more than $100,000 for patient care programs. “Starting BreastFest kicked it off – that you could have a life, a career, in this – in raising funds and bringing people together through the arts and through wellness,” O’Brien said. When O’Brien returned to Haddon Township in 2005, she used her experiences collected across the country to help cultivate Community Rocks! About 15 years ago, the organization sparked as Studio Luloo based in Oaklyn. The space, as O’Brien describes, was a cultural oasis for emerging and established artists of all ages around South Jersey, including several Collingswood musicians. Over the years, though, classes and performances spread beyond the walls of Luloo and into various community spaces, such as schools and coffee shops, gradually morphing into what’s known today as Community 08108
Rocks! In 2017, the studio, which moved locations a few times, eventually closed and while a homebase was lost, O’Brien says the re-imagined mobile organization more appropriately lent itself to the nonprofit’s mission – reaching children in all neighborhoods. “That’s essentially what Community Rocks! is about – access, access, access...the mission was always to give kids more access to the arts and to wellness,” O’Brien said. Collaborating with local businesses and organizations, C om mu n it y Rocks! provides year-round art and music classes, camps, workshops, service projects, school assemblies, and community events and performances. On the wellness side, the organization offers cardio, strength, stretching, core and yoga sessions. The work strives to especially reach families in low-income and underserved areas. O’Brien also stresses that no child will ever be turned away for their inability to pay for classes, as Community Rocks! also offers scholarships for small group lessons, the Kids Band class and private music lessons, which is in partnership with Collingswood Music. Aside from kids band classes with Collingswood Music and Toddlers Rock sessions at The Treehouse, O’Brien also has work focused in surrounding cities, including with Virtua’s Children Achieving Success through Therapeutic Life Experiences (CASTLE) Program in Camden. O’Brien’s work across South Jersey continues to cultivate the vision of using the arts to nourish children’s physical and emotional well being. “I want to provide that outlet for them, so that they can know when to be quiet and listen and learn, and then they can know when to just go and be themselves. And, to learn that listening is really important, because it helps you survive,” O’Brien said. “It’s like learning how to play the game of life...If you don’t feel good about yourself and know your mind and body, you can’t create and I don’t care what your outlet is.” While lessons vary at the different locations, O’Brien says her students are constantly creating, as music writing lies at the core of all Community Rocks! programming. She and her students have even released full-length albums, including “Let Yourself Shine,” a 10-track CD which dropped in 2017. “The music is all written and inspired by 08108
their life experiences. It’s a little bit mind blowing for kids to realize that they can write a song...Realizing a story or something they experience could be meaningful to somebody else,” O’Brien said. “So, as the kids get older, they
almost always respond better when you tell them they’re helping somebody.” Throughout the year, the various programming is weaved together with other charities, such as school supplies and backpack drives or Pennies for Purpose proceeds donated to different global initiatives. Whether through guitar strums or homeless care bags, O’Brien hopes the nonprofit will not only instill confidence but also compassion in children of all ages. And through that service, O’Brien believes children will find happiness, as she has unearthed her own contentment through giving back. “There’s a lot of things you can do to try to save the world,” O’Brien said. “But, I realize – what are we good at? We want to bring the joy. When people have joy, it’s crazy what they will do. Joy makes you work harder. Joy makes you wake in the morning and do better in school. Our channel is the arts and exercise, but through that, we want to provide spaces where people can just have joy.” ■
PHOTOS BY GRACE MAIORANO
On Tuesday morings, The Treehouse Coffee Shop & Cafe in Audubon hosts “Espresso Yourself” jams led by Haddon Township resident Sara O’Brien, founder of the South Jersey-based 501c3 nonprofit Community Rocks! The non-profit has been giving kids access to arts and wellness around the region for more than a decade.
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annual 9/11 project Rodgers started 14 years ago. Kids spread out throughout Collingswood to wash fire trucks and police cars, and distribute more than 3,000 flags – each bearing the name of a 9/11 victim. “You’ll see people driving down the street who will stop to read the names on the flags that they see,” Rodgers said. “The students are doing something that makes people feel good while learning something about that day. “Everybody gets something a little different out of that,” she added. “My mantra is to become a part of something bigger than yourself. In the middle school they are very self-centered in terms of where they are developmentally, so it’s good to get them involved in something bigger than themselves.” Rodgers considers herself fortunate to “work with so many professionals who are so passionate about what they do.” A onetime graphic-arts professional, Neil King now runs the arts curriculum at Collingswood High. The superintendent dubs King – who oversees the yearbook program and helps publish a student newspaper three times a year – a “positive force and influence” in the 750-student high school. Indeed, there are few activities that escape his expertise and the budding talents of his student charges. “I make sure my kids design all of the posters for the school plays and like to be involved in things like printing tickets and what have you,” said King, who segued into teaching at age 28 and is now in his 27th year in the district. His academic philosophy stipulates that it’s not necessary – or productive – to focus only on fine arts or practical arts in school curriculum. He embraces both, which he sees as interrelated. “So we teach cartooning, web graphics, arts and crafts and photography,” said King, who also teaches a course in art history. “The percentage of people who want to become artists is really low, but I believe that the things that students learn are (practical),” he said. “A former student who now is an attorney told me, ‘I’m a lawyer now but I still use my Photoshop skills.’ That was pretty great.” King considers himself lucky to be teaching in Collingswood. “I quote the mayor (Jim Maley), who likes to say, ‘It’s a town of mansions and rowhouses,’” he said. “We have kids who have never been out of New Jersey sitting next to a kid who just got back from a trip to Germany. There’s a true diversity, and that’s what’s great about Collingswood. It’s a utopian school district.” ■
classroom in – and outside – the
Collingswood teachers cherish community involvement BY CARL DIORIO
sk a Collingswood public school teacher what they like best about the school district, and they’re likely to talk about its ties to the community. “I’m the kind of person that loves to go to a school baseball game after school and make a dinner out of what they have at the concession stand,” Jennifer Floyd, a second-grade teacher at Tatem Elementary, confided with a laugh. “Collingswood is a close-knit community where that’s just the kind of thing you do. And you know all of the kids will be talking about the game!” Collingswood has five elementary schools situated throughout the borough, while its middle school also serves students from Oaklyn. The high school has students from Collingswood, Oaklyn and Woodlynne. Floyd, marking her ninth year of teaching in the district, helps mentor new hires in a year-long program for elementary school educators. A Cherry Hill native, Floyd says she fell in love with the much smaller district as a student teacher. Her extra-curriculars include five years leading a creative-writing club affiliated with the National Novel Writing Month program. “I’m a bit of a writer at heart,” she said. Floyd also helped launch Feel Good Friday at Tatem last year, encouraging students and FALL 2019
staff to wear school colors and generally get into a positive vibe. Not that her students need a special event to party hearty. “I feel like any child that comes into my classroom knows that second grade is a party,” she enthused. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and once I had the ability to have my own classroom, I wanted to help the kids get a sense that it can be fun to learn.” Floyd is pursuing a master’s in school administration at Rowan University. “In the future, I’d like to touch not just the students in my classroom but also help people throughout a school,” she explained. “I live and breathe teaching. My husband is a teacher, too, and we have a lot of friends who are teachers. It’s kind of like a lifestyle. I really love going to work every day and enjoy every minute of it.” Beth Ann Rodgers, a social-studies teacher, is involved in “just about everything student-centered” at Collingswood Middle School, district superintendent Scott Oswald said. “Social studies lends itself to being involved in service activities,” said Rodgers, now in her 20th year of teaching locally. She also is co-adviser to the school’s National Junior Honor Society program and participates in many other activities throughout each school year. But perhaps her most acclaimed endeavor has been the 16
Fall 2019 Issue
CONTRIBUTERS: Scott Anderson
Scott has been a photojournalist for more than 30 years. During his career, he has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, NHL Stanley Cup finals and the NBA. His work, which has received numerous national and local awards, has appeared in a number of prestigious publications. Scott lives in Merchantville with his wife, Patti, and daughters, Cassidy and Lindsay.
Jamie loves to dance. She loves coffee, hiking and being a soccer mom. The connection she has to her community has inspired her to take a closer look at her surroundings and dive into the stories around her. This is what drives her photography – stories and unveiling them. See more of Jamie’s work at www. jamiegiambrone.com.
Kevin, a published author of three novels, is in his 36th year writing sports, travel and outdoor stories, focusing in and around South Jersey and Philadelphia. After 33 years writing for the Courier Post, the 58-year-old embarked on a freelance writing career with the release of his trilogy – The Black Rose, The Fish Finder and The Chess Game in 2017.
Ryan is a veteran journalist of 20 years. He’s worked at the Courier-Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Delaware County Daily Times, primarily as a sportswriter, and is currently a sports editor at Newspaper Media Group and an adjunct journalism instructor at Rowan University.
Carl is a freelance writer based in South Jersey. He has worked for The Hollywood Reporter and Variety, weekly business journals in three states, and The Associated Press. Oh, and he strums the ukulele with a group in Haddonfield.
Grace is a general assignment Philadelphiabased journalist and editor. The Temple University graduate has accumulated bylines in outlets across the region. Over the past few years, she has covered just about everything from fashion shows in South Jersey to severance tax plans by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf.
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A Look at
Local History Scottish Rite a borough landmark marking time BY KEVIN CALLAHAN The Scottish Rite rises above the White Horse Pike in Collingswood, towering like an ancient temple built for a king or an emperor. The yellow-brick building with higharched windows is not only a landmark, but marks time. Dr. William Albert Davis, a 32 Degree Mason, once owned the iconic structure that was voted one of the “150 Best Buildings and Places” by the American Institute of Architects in the 2011 AIA New Jersey Guidebook. Al Harris, the President for the last 15 years of the Collingswood Old Grads group that began in 1939, called the building the “Masonic Hall” back when he attended Collingswood High School more than five decades ago. “That is where we had our graduation commencement, there in the Masonic Hall,” recalled Harris. “It is really a great theater in there. It sits about 1,000 and everything is a good seat because of the way it is pitched.” The Scottish Rite also has been known as the Samuel French House, the White Manson, the Dungarven and Hurley Mansion. Today, history is still being made as the historic facility is a magnet for entertainers and events. Last year, Tracey Trotto, the Community Development Manager for the American FALL 2019
Cancer Society in Camden County, attended an event at the Scottish Rite and was highly impressed with the facilities and the property, which is comprised of two separate buildings. “It was a political event and I liked the setup and so I remembered it when we were looking for a venue for our breakfast that we do every year,” said Trotto, who oversees the Making Strides event as well as the Relay for Life, about the Collingswood Grand Ballroom, which is on the lower floor and is the larger building of the five-story structure. “I pitched this to upper management and they liked the idea about making the change.” The location is as brilliant as the building – just a five- to 10-minute drive from both the Walt Whitman and Ben Franklin bridges. “We cover Philadelphia and the eastern side of Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey, so this is a general location that is easy to get to for everybody coming from Pennsylvania and New Jersey,” Trotto said about the 250 people who attended the event. Situated on eight acres of land, a large finger-sign points to the box office of the 1,050 seat-auditorium on the upper level. The Scottish Rite Auditorium, which pres18
ents more than 20 concerts per year, has hosted many legendary musicians and bands, including America, Gordon Lightfoot and Roseanne Cash. David Crosby once said, “This
is the coolest place I ever played.” The spacious auditorium is also home to the Collingswood Community Theatre, which produces a half dozen shows each year. The players span ages 8 to 80 and the productions range from large musicals to small comedies and dramas. Inside the Collingswood Grand Ballroom, which was voted the “Best Place to Have a Wedding” by SJ Magazine, is a magnificent grand staircase, which looks like Jay Gatsby could be making a toast on the landing hovering over the spacious dance floor. “It is a great venue for weddings and everything (else). You can walk around upstairs, too, with the stairway – it is pretty cool,” Harris added. “I know many people who have gone to weddings and concerts here,” Trotto said. The history of the building and its early inhabitants would’ve run in the same privileged circles as the fictional Gatsby. Samuel French of Smith Kline and French Company and Edward Collings Knight, Sr., who invented the Pullman sleeping car for railroads and was a descendant of the Collings family, which the borough and Knight Park is named, lived in the mansion. In the early 1900s, businessman William Hurley purchased the estate and named it Dungarven, in honor of his birthplace in County Waterford, Ireland. The property was purchased by the Excelsior Scottish Rite in 1930 for $125,000 from the estate of
Hurley, who owned eight furniture stores. And there was Dr. Davis, the Mason, who operated a maternity hospital there. In 2003, the Borough of Collingswood signed a 50-year lease with the owners, the Scottish Rite Freemasons. Currently, both the ballroom and the auditorium are managed by the nonprofit Collingswood Foundation for the Arts. More than a million guests have visited the Scottish Rite during the past 12 years. “It is such a big building and has a lot of parking that it is amazing,” Harris said. “They refurbished it to 99.9 percent and it is good for any social event. I did three or four concerts there and every seat is a good seat.” And the Scottish Rite is dripping with history. ■ PHOTOS BY SCOTT ANDERSON
MAIN: From the front stage, one can take in the 1,050 seats of the Scottish Rite Auditorium. PHOTO 1: The Scottish Rite is a borough landmark filled with history. PHOTO 2: Light filters through colorful stained glass windows in the Scottish Rite. PHOTO 3: The Scottish Rite Auditorium has played host to a number of famous musicians. David Crosby once said, ‘This is the coolest place I ever played.’
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Keeping up with
Collingswood Collingswood Farmers’ Market
From Jersey Fresh produce to locally roasted coffee, fine crafted cheeses to artisan breads, this market seems to offer a little bit of everything. Located on a stretch of pavement between Haddon Avenue and the PATCO Speedline in Collingswood’s downtown district, the market is open every Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon through Thanksgiving. Rain or shine. Learn more at www.collingswoodmarket.com.
November Saturdays before Thanksgiving
Handmade Holidays at the Farmers’ Market: Fill your basket with more than produce when the Collingswood Farmers’ Market brings back its seasonal gift bazaar. Approximately 30 artisans will showcase their wares, from unique home decor to one-of-a-kind necklaces to handmade toys
for the little ones – and more! Learn more, including how to register as a seller, at www.collingswoodmarket.com.
Live music and art descend on Collingswood the second Saturday of every month (Sept. 14, Oct. 12, Nov. 9 and Dec. 14). Visitors can take in the unique arts, music, shopping and dining in the borough. Learn more at www.collingswood.com.
On the third Thursday of the month, April through October, the region’s top classic cars and motorcycles will line up along Haddon Avenue for a free event featuring live music, food and fun. Registration is $5 per vehicle the evening of the vent from 4:45 to 6:30 p.m. Awards are presented at the end of the evening. Concerts are canceled in the event of inclement weather. Visit www.collingswood.com for updates.
Saturday, Sept. 21
Connect through the arts at this grassroots community music and arts festival. From 1 to 7 p.m., artists, artisans and musicians will showcase their talents on front porches throughout the borough. Attendees are encouraged to take in the entertainment by foot, bike or public transit. Streets will be open. Rain or shine. Learn more by searching “Collingswood Porchfest” at www. facebook.com.
Tuesday, Sept. 24
A Radical Act of Community Storytelling: Adults are welcome to speak their minds at this transformative, uncensored storytelling concert. This free event is held the fourth Tuesday of every month from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Perkins Center for the Arts, 30 Irvin Ave. The theme for Sept. 24 is “Scars,” and on Oct. 22 it is “Mountains and Valleys.” Register to share your story and learn more at www. perkinsarts.org.
Wednesday, Sept. 25
$25 on the 25th:
Townwide Shopping Event: Celebrate Collingswood merchants from 4 to 8 p.m. at this special cash mob event. The premise? Spend at least $25 at Collingswood merchants, all while taking advantage of downtown discounts and giveaways. The fun ends at Devil’s Creek Brewery, 1 Powell Lane, with refreshments, door prizes, Collingswood Cash giveaways and more. Just don’t forget your receipts – you’ll need to show borough purchases totaling $25 or more for admission. Learn more about this event, which is part of the “Shop Camden County” campaign, at www.collingswood.com and www. shopcamdencounty.com.
Monday, Sept. 30
Town Book Discussion:
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Over the past few months, those in the know have been reading “The Anatomy of a Miracle” – this year’s Town Book in Collingswood. The community will come together to discuss the Jonathan Miles novel at 7 p.m. at the Collingswood Library. All are welcome!
Booze & Haiku at Another Damn Open Mic Night:
Attendees bring their thoughts. Organizers help them haiku. Enjoy a brew while creating poems from 8 to 10 p.m. at Keg & Kitchen, 90 Haddon Ave., Haddon Township. Open Mic is hosted by Dave Kelly and John Falco. 08108
around the border. This event is sponsored by the Friends of the Collingswood Book Festival, and crafted haikus may be a part of the festival’s Poetry Tent on Oct. 5.
Friday, Oct. 4
Collingswood Gatsby Gala 2019:
Travel back to the Roaring Twenties at this Collingswood Foundation for the Arts fundraiser, which will aid in renovations and improvements to the historic Scottish Rite mansion and theater. The borough will host this 21-and-over affair inside and on the front lawn and patio of the Scottish Rite, 315 White Horse Pike, from 7 to 11 p.m. Tickets are $50 and are available at popupgala.ticketleap.com. RSVP on Facebook by searching “Collingswood Gatsby Gala 2019.”
Saturday, Oct. 5
17th annual Collingswood Book Festival:
Celebrate reading from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. along Haddon Avenue between Collings and East Stiles avenues. The day’s activities will include author panels, a poetry tent, children’s activities, teen and tween events and more. Meet more than 100 authors. Learn more at www.collingswoodbookfestival.com.
Sunday, Oct. 6
From antiques and collectibles to vintage jewelry and architectural salvage, this seasonal open-air market features a rotating lineup of more than 100 vendors. Gourmet food trucks, live music, free kid crafts and a showcase of local nonprofit groups round out the offerings. For food, vendor and music lineups, visit www.theclovermarket. com.
Saturday, Oct. 12
Farmers’ Market Apple Pie Contest:
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SATURDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2019 10 AM to 4 PM | ALL EVENTS ARE FREE DOWNTOWN COLLINGSWOOD, NJ | RAIN OR SHINE In case of rain, the Festival will be held in Collingswood High School on Collings Avenue
MEET THESE AUTHORS AND MANY MORE!
AUTHORS • BOOK SIGNINGS APPRAISALS • NEW & USED BOOKS
Do you make the best apple pie? Prove it to the judges! Participants can craft a “Classic Apple” pie with only apples, or go a little crazy with an “Anything Goes Apple” creation, pairing apples with other fresh fruits, dried fruits, nuts – you name it! Register at www.collingswoodmarket.com.
STORYTELLING • EXHIBITORS LOOMPALAND CHILDREN'S AREA ENTERTAINMENT FOR BOOK LOVERS OF ALL AGES
Send us your calendar listings!
Events must be free or with proceeds benefiting a charity or nonprofit. Please include all critical information: Who, what, where, when, and how to register or get tickets (if applicable), as well as a few lines of description. Email your listings to firstname.lastname@example.org. 08108
Brought to you by Collingswood Book Festival, Inc.
This issue’s cover story on the Collingswood Book Festival highlights just one of a bevy of festivals the borough hosts throughout the year. On this page, take in photos from the annual Craft and Fine Arts Festival, which took over the downtown in August, and the weekly Collingswood Farmers’ Market, which coincides with a number of the festivals since it takes up residence every Saturday from May to Thanksgiving along a stretch of pavement between Haddon Avenue and the PATCO Speedline.
4 ALL PHOTOS BY SCOTT ANDERSON
PHOTO 1: New Brunswick-based Eclectic’s highly decorated mannequin drew attention at the festival. PHOTO 2: Beverly Campanella of Flaim Farms smiles at the Collingswood Farmers’ Market. PHOTO 3: Peaches from Schober Orchards were in high demand at the market in August. PHOTO 4: Carol Taggart of Cape May sells her hand-painted gourd bird houses at the art festival. PHOTO 5: The Collingswood Farmers’ Market showcases live musicians, such as Kevin Monko and Bill Fergusson, performing in August. PHOTO 6: Charlie and Kitty Mills of Haddonfield pick out tomatoes at the farmers’ market. PHOTO 7: Heather Lynn Gibson was one of the painters showcasing her work at the festival.
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