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News from Monmouth County, New Jersey

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    Shipt, a same-day delivery service from Target, will begin in New Jersey on Thursday, July 26. Watch video

    Starting Thursday, Target will roll out a same-day delivery service of more than 55,000 store products - including groceries - to New Jersey residents with its new online service "Shipt."

    Target customers from around the state can enroll in Shipt, which promises to give more than 2.6 million households across the state access to products delivered in one hour, the company said in a statement.

    Target said it's offering a special membership rate of $49, compared to the regular rate of $99. The Shipt customers who pay for the membership get free, unlimited delivery on all orders of more than $35. The service will rival Amazon Prime, which costs $119 per year.

    The service will operate much like ride-sharing apps Uber and Lyft, with Target hiring more than 400 shoppers across the state who will be paid to go to their local Target stores and deliver the items, the company said.

    The service will be available from stores in Atlantic City, East Brunswick, Mercer County, Monmouth County, Tom's River and Vineland, the company said.

    Hackettstown, Morristown, Edison, Jersey City and Newark Target stores will begin delivery on Aug. 2. The company has more than 40 stores in New Jersey.

    Shipt customers will also be able to order from Morton Williams Supermarket beginning on Aug. 9.

    "Both Morton Williams Supermarket and Target provide families with the essential products that power their lives, and Shipt is making those trips to the store easier than ever before as we continue to expand throughout the East Coast," said Bill Smith, founder and chief executive officer of Shipt.

    The company announced the service will be available in New York City on Aug. 9.

    "Through our app, our members have access to everything they need, when they need it, right at their fingertips," Smith said.

    Anthony G. Attrino may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TonyAttrino. Find on Facebook.


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    Monmouth County Freeholder John Curley, a rogue Republican on the GOP-dominated board, had sued the board charging they defamed him with a sexual misconduct probe

    In a split decision, a federal judge on Wednesday dismissed a lawsuit by rogue Republican Monmouth County Freeholder John Curley charging that his GOP colleagues tried to defame him with an investigation into allegations he made sexually explicit remarks to a female board member. 

    But, while Judge Brian Martinotti of U.S. District Court granted a motion by freeholders to dismiss the case based on Curley's "failure to state a claim" -- essentially to show what legal course of action he was seeking -- the judge did not rule on the merits of the suit's assertions, and he gave Curley until Aug. 24 to refile an amended complaint.

    Martinotti also granted a motion by Curley's lawyer, Angelo Genova, finding the freeholders in contempt of court, after the same judge had issued an order sealing a county report that contained the misconduct allegations, which were then referred to publicly in a freeholder resolution censuring Curley for his alleged behavior in December.

    "Curley's Motion to Hold Defendants in Contempt is granted," Martinotti wrote in his decision, which also ordered the freeholders to pay Curley's legal fees for the contempt motion.

    Referring to the freeholders, the judge added, "their Motion for Failure to State a Claim is granted."

    In addition to suing freeholders Serena DiMaso, Thomas Arnone, Gary Rich and Lillian Burry, Curley had also named County Counsel Michael Fitzgerald and County Administrator Terri O'Connor as defendants for their part in the investigation. In his order Wednesday, the judge granted a motion by Fitzgerald and O'Connor to dismiss Curley's suit against them.

    Both sides claimed victory following the order.

    "We are pleased that the court found that the county violated the court's order to keep under seal the county's investigative report," Curley's lawyer, Angelo Genova, said in a statement. "The fight to preserve his reputation is not over, and this is the first skirmish in what no doubt will be a long battle."

    Freeholder Tom Arnone issued a statement applauding the judge's order as "a repudiation of Curley's claims."

    "All 12 counts were dismissed," the statement read. "Suing the county is a tactic Curley turned to when trying to justify his offensive language and abusive behavior."

    Curley's alleged behavior was the basis for the freeholders' Dec. 8 censure after it was included in a report culling the findings of a county investigation stemming from remarks reportedly made by Curley during a parade in June 2017.

    "Look at her a--"; Curley is alleged to have remarked to a third party, referring to an unidentified woman. "Who would want to sleep with her?" he is alleged to have added, and then, "I wouldn't touch her with a 40-foot pole." 

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    Allegations against Curley, a diabetic, also include his threat to stab his then-freeholder colleague, DiMaso, with an insulin syringe. DiMaso later stepped down from the board to be sworn into the state Assembly in January.

    The allegations against Curley and his lawsuit against the freeholders are set against a backdrop of repeated demonstrations by Curley of his willingness to distance himself from GOP colleagues at various levels of government. In one post-Hurricane Sandy clash with former Gov. Chris Christie, Curley referred to the Republican governor at the time as a "fat motherf----r" who Curley said was exploiting the storm's destruction for the sake of a photo op.

    Curley was first elected freeholder in November 2009 and is now in the final year of his third three-year term. He failed to win the endorsement the from Monmouth's Republican organization in this year's GOP primary, and he is running as an independent.

    Asked whether the freeholders would pay Curley's legal fees for the contempt motion, the freeholders' outside lawyer handling the Curley case, Jonathan Testa, issued a statement.

    "We have yet to see Curley''s legal bill," the statement read. "But we can't envision significant fees for such an insignificant portion of the case."

    Steve Strunsky may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @SteveStrunsky. Find on Facebook

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    So many things taste that much better with summer in front of them.


    A couple of years ago, I wrote in a caption to this photo that was a part of this gallery about how my friends and I would hold little naval battles in the stream behind the Dairy Queen in Vineland with the boat-shaped plastic dishes banana splits came in.

    Some people expressed a level of disbelief; you actually did that, Greg? Of course we did.

    MORE: Vintage photos around New Jersey

    Frozen custard on a hot summer evening; a boat-shaped container holding the tasty treat; a convenient stream a few feet away that boats would float in; and a trash can to put them all in after the 'battle' was over.

    If that doesn't define 'serendipitous,' nothing does.

    Here's a gallery of vintage photos of summer eats and treats from around New Jersey and links to other galleries you'll enjoy.

    Vintage photos of summer eats and treats in N.J.

    Vintage photos of ice cream and candy stores in N.J.

    Vintage photos of ice cream parlors in N.J.

    Greg Hatala may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @GregHatala. Find Greg Hatala on Facebook.

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    The smuggled electronic components were ultimately going to suppliers for the Russian defense ministry and FSB.

    A Russian father was indicted Wednesday on charges that he conspired to launder money and smuggle goods from an illegal import-export business.

    Alexander Brazhnikov Sr., 72, of Moscow, is charged with one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to smuggle goods from the U.S. and conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).

    U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced the indictment in a statement Wednesday.

    Brazhnikov Sr. was the owner, CEO and operator of ABN Universal, a microelectronics import-export company in Moscow. His son Alexander Brazhnikov Jr. 39, of Mountainside, ran four microelectronics export companies: in Carteret, Mountainside, Union and Manalapan.

    Their indictments detail a scheme to hide the value and true final recipients of the shipments of the electronic components. Investigators ultimately learned that the shipments were going to suppliers for the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the Federal Security Service (FSB) and other Russian companies which designed nuclear warheads and weapons.

    Investigators estimated the total amount of laundered money to be $65 million.

    "Each shipment from the United States was sent to one of 12 false addresses or shell locations in Moscow established at Brazhnikov Sr.'s direction, re-directed to a central warehouse he and others controlled, and ultimately shipped to the end-users in Russia, including the Russian defense contracting firms," Carpenito's statement said.

    The men are also accused of setting up shell companies in eight other countries to conceal payments from Russian buyers.

    Brazhnikov Jr. pleaded guilty to his involvement in the scheme and was sentenced to 70 months in prison on June 30, 2016.

    Brazhnikov Sr., though, is still at large. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine for money laundering conspiracy, as much as 20 years on conspiracy to violate IEEPA, and up to five years and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy to smuggle goods charge.

    Joe Brandt can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JBrandt_NJ. Find on Facebook.

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    Full review of Shipt's service in N.J., which gets you your groceries and other products fast

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    Kenilworth accepted the resignation of Thomas Tramaglini on Thursday, three months after he was accused of pooping daily near the Holmdel High School running track. Watch video

    The Kenilworth Board of Education accepted the resignation of Superintendent Thomas Tramaglini Thursday, nearly three months after he was accused of pooping daily near the Holmdel High School running track, according to a phone message and email sent to staff of the district.

    The email and voicemail was sent to staff shortly after 8:30 p.m.

    PooperSmall.jpgThomas Tramaglini

    "Based on events unrelated to his service for Kenilworth, it has become clear to both Dr. Tramaglini and the Kenilworth Board of Education that his continued service as Superintendent of Schools has become too much of a distraction to the main mission of the district," the email states.

    Tramaglini, who was making $150,000, was charged in May with defecating in the area of the Holmdel High School track and football field on a daily basis.

    His attorney, Matthew Adams, has called the accusations against his client "falsehoods" and that his "client looks forward to his day in court."

    Tramaglini served as superintendent since February 2016 and his contract was not set to expire until July 1, 2020.

    However, Tramaglini tendered his resignation and the Kenilworth Board of Education accepted it effective Sept 30, 2018. He was originally placed on paid leave through June 30. 

    The email states the board accepted his resignation in "an effort to avoid legal fees and expensive litigation."

    "The parties have resolved any remaining issues regarding Dr. Tramaglini's employment contract, as provided by law," the email states.

    Adams issued a statement on behalf of his client late Thursday.

    "Dr. Tramaglini will continue to fight the allegations made against him in Holmdel, and will also hold those responsible for the malicious narrative that has been spread about him to account for their misconduct," the statement read. "No aspect of this difficult decision should be construed as an acknowledgement of guilt. Dr. Tramaglini is steadfast in his resolve, and looks forward to the day when his full story is told."

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    The statement also said Tramaglini "does not want present and future legal proceedings unrelated to his official duties to the district to present a distraction to the important job that the teachers and administrators in the district have educating children." 

    The board will begin a search for an interim superintendent, "with the hope and expectation that one will be ready before the office becomes vacant on Oct. 1, 2018."

    In a statement announcing Tramaglini's arrest, Holmdel police said they "monitored" the track and were able to identify the Aberdeen resident as the person responsible for the daily defecation.

    Adams told a municipal court judge at his client's first court appearance on June 12 that he had received only "snippets" of the surveillance video that allegedly captured him defecating on the field.

    Adams said Tramaglini's next court date is scheduled for Aug. 13.

    Chris Sheldon may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @chrisrsheldon Find on Facebook.


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    The 51st running of the Haskell Invitational will take place on Sunday, July 29, 2018 (7/29/18) at Monmouth Park and the thoroughbred race will feature Kentucky Derby entries Good Magic, Lone Sailor and Bravazo.

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    How N.J. spends the summer.

    It could have been one of the most perfect beach days this season: the sun shining, a light breeze in the air and the feel of warm, white sand between your toes.

    On a recent Friday afternoon, beachgoers in Cape May could be seen playing horseshoes, reading books and catching waves, as younger visitors built castles in the sand and tossed a football along the water's edge.

    While the city claims to be America's first seaside resort, Cape May has much more to offer than just beaches.

    With hundreds of Victorian-era buildings -- such as the Emlen Physick Estate, the Pink House, also known as the Eldridge Johnson House, and the Queen Victoria -- the entire city was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976. You can even take a historic tour of the city in a horse-drawn carriage.

    The Washington Street Mall, a pedestrian-only area, offers a multitude of shopping and dining options.

    Not far from the center of town, at Cape May Point, you can climb up 199 steps to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse, visit a World War II tower and check out a partially submerged concrete ship.

    The Cape May County Park and Zoo is less than a half-hour's drive away, and it's free to visit.

    If you're looking to try out some local wines, there are seven wineries in or near Cape May. If beer is more to your tasting, the Cape May Brewing Company is also nearby.

    A daily beach tag costs $6, a three-day badge is $12, weekly is $18, and seasonal is $28. Active military members and veterans are eligible for free beach tags.

    Lori M. Nichols may be reached at Follow her on Instagram @photog_lori and Twitter @photoglori. Find on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us.

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    Planet Fitness and surrounding businesses had to be evacuated

    A 19-year-old woman was arrested Thursday after allegedly making a bomb threat to the Planet Fitness gym on Route 35 in Middletown, authorities said. 

    Emily M. McCormick, of Keansburg was charged with causing a false public alarm, Middletown police said. 

    Planet Fitness and other businesses in the shopping center were evacuated after police learned of threat around 10 a.m. 

    A third party called police after learning of the threat, according to Lt. Paul Bailey, a police spokesman. Bailey declined to comment on the nature of the threat because the investigation is ongoing.

    Bomb sniffing dogs from the police department and the Monmouth County Sheriff's Office searched the building but found nothing suspicious. 

    Anyone with information is asked to call Middletown Det. William Strohkirch at 732-615-2120 or Det. Ryan Mahony of the prosecutor's office at 732-431-7160.

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find on Facebook.


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    Hill will not perform at PNC Bank Arts Center on Aug. 8. All we can say is "phew!"

    When Lauryn Hill announced in April that she would embark on a summer tour surrounding the 20th anniversary of her masterpiece LP "The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill," the news came with immediate dread from any rational fan who's seen the New Jersey native perform in the past two decades. 

    For all her creative talents, Hill has become notorious for tardiness, abrupt cancellations and erratic performances; her set last summer with Nas in Camden was one of the most joyless and disappointing outings I've ever seen from a venerable artist. With that, I wholly expected this anniversary tour to all but ruin a list of classic hip-hop songs in front of Hill's home-state crowd. 

    But then, as seems par for her course, Live Nation announced Wednesday that Hill had canceled and postponed a handful of concerts on the tour due to "unforeseen production issues." Her scheduled Aug. 8 date at PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel was one of the cancellations. Despite her South Orange roots, Hill will not play a Garden State show on this tour, unless she extends the run into 2019. 

    And unfortunately, that's probably for the best. Now several thousand people need not pile into a Central Jersey amphitheater to hear manic, unrecognizable renditions of "Doo Wop (That Thing)" and "Lost Ones." Honestly, when I saw the news, I breathed a sigh of relief not so different from the reaction to friends canceling a dinner I didn't want to go to anyway. 

    I take nothing away from Hill's studio work; the five-time Grammy winner "Miseducation" is, in my opinion, the greatest New Jersey hip-hop album of all time. And her old band, the Fugees, put out the second-greatest Jersey rap record, with "The Score." 

    But she's a challenge to watch perform in 2018. I don't need to witness her berating the sound tech to constantly increase and decrease her monitor levels for 90 minutes as she plays the same songs she's played at every show for 20 years -- an anniversary concert sure loses some luster when the artist has released virtually no music since 1998 but has continued to tour.

    If you want to take in at least some of her songs, go see fellow Fugee Wyclef Jean, who puts on a dynamite concert and still plays "Ready Or Not" and "Fu-Gee-La." 

    Or grab your headphones and absorb "Miseducation" as it was meant to be heard -- and be thankful the music gods worked a bit of magic. 

    Bobby Olivier may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @BobbyOlivier and Facebook. Find on Facebook  

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    Season's greetings, Christmas in July revelers. Have you ever been to 'North Pole, NY,' the Christmas-centered theme park that is open in summer? Thanks to a new film, you can make the trip to Santa's Workshop in no time. Watch video

    You may have heard of Christmas in July. But at the North Pole, it's Christmas in August, September, October and November, too. 

    North Pole, New York, that is. 

    This is the name of a real place -- a hamlet in Wilmington, New York, which is located in the Adirondack Mountains. But it's also one of the first theme parks to open in the United States.

    'North Pole, NY'

    8:40 p.m. Friday, July 27

    Bow Tie Cinemas in Red Bank (36 White St.) as part of the Indie Street Film Festival, followed by a Christmas in July Party at the Red Bank Elks Lodge.

    Tickets $15;

    The Christmas-themed attraction, where the centerpiece is Santa's Workshop and Ol' St. Nick himself, debuted in 1949. Now, the park, with all its real reindeer and nearly 70 years of yuletide cheer, is the subject of a documentary from a director who spent her childhood Christmases in Morris County. 

    The film, titled "North Pole, NY," will have its New Jersey premiere on Friday night in Red Bank as part of the Indie Street Film Festival

    Director Ali Cotterill grew up in Madison, frequenting regional theme parks like the Land of Make Believe in Hope and Rye Playland in Westchester County, N.Y.

    Her original intent in filming a documentary had nothing to do with Christmas.

    "I wanted to make a movie about the history of theme parks in this area," says Cotterill, 38.

    She had never been to North Pole, N.Y. or the theme park, but she saw the attraction mentioned on the Roadside America website. So Cotterill went to the Adirondacks for a weekend visit. She left absolutely charmed by the place and decided to make her first feature-length film about the park, its vintage appeal and efforts that have been made to save it from the fate of other regional attractions.

    "To me, it's really important to keep the local local when you have these kind of quirky places or mom and pop diners," Cotterill says. 

    north-pole-ny.jpgThe 'gnomes' at Santa's Workshop at North Pole, New York. The theme park enjoyed its heyday in the 1950s, at one point drawing 14,000 people on a single day, but the upstate New York community still relies on the business it draws. (Courtesy Ali Cotterill)

    "The movie is about this one place, but it's about a bigger thing -- the importance of history," she says. "There aren't that many places that stay for generation after generation."

    Though none were dedicated to Christmas, similar theme parks in the Adirondacks had shuttered their doors long ago or had been acquired by larger companies. Somehow, the North Pole stayed alive.

    "They're like the unicorn that has survived," Cotterill says. 

    Nostalgia may have been enough to sustain such a film, but the director found something more. Namely, that the park sits at the very heart of Wilmington, both economically and in terms of local heritage. 

    Open 90 days a year -- including the summer, weekends in the fall and the whole run-up to Christmas -- North Pole, New York, situated on Whiteface Mountain about 25 minutes from Lake Placid, not only has Santa's Workshop, but also real reindeer (they roam the larger grounds semi-wild during the rest of the year). The park also features stage shows and Christmassy rides. A small children's roller coaster runs on sunny and snowy days. 

    Cotterill, who lives in Brooklyn and works as a film and video editor, filmed at the park for about 45 days over a three-year period, from 2012 to 2015. "North Pole, NY" premiered at the Independent Film Festival of Boston in May. Several people featured in the film will be at the Red Bank screening on Friday for a Q&A session. Afterward, Cotterill and the cast will head to a Christmas in July party at the Red Bank Elks Lodge (40 W. Front St).

    It's not that Cotterill had a special affinity for Christmas. Her wife, Christa Orth, who works for a fundraising and design firm, is both the film's producer and the one who gets jazzed about the holiday. (They financed the film with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.)

    Lake Placid businessman Julian Reiss first came up with the idea for North Pole, NY in 1945 when he was driving back to the Adirondacks from New York City. (He had tuberculosis at the time, and doctors told him he needed exposure to "fresh, pine-scented air.") His daughter wanted him to tell her a story. Reiss drew from the surrounding houses, which were decorated for Christmas, to come up with the tale of a baby bear lost in the woods who found Santa's summer home.

    Reiss hired artist Arto Monaco to create the designs for the park, from the intricacies of the reindeer faces to the tilted chimneys on the buildings. (In 1954, Monaco opened his own park, the Land of Makebelieve, not to be confused with the Land of Make Believe, which opened in Hope the same year.) 

    north-pole-ny-ali-cotterill-director.JPGAli Cotterill, director of 'North Pole, NY.' (Ali Cotterill)

    After regularly drawing hundreds of visitors, during Labor Day weekend in 1951, 14,000 customers showed up on a single day. North Pole's Santa Claus was even invited to the White House for a Christmas celebration. And Reiss started a program called Operation Toy Lift, which delivered presents to children at an orphanage. The first year, he dressed up as Santa and piloted a plane to deliver the presents. 

    In a time when a family trip on the open road was part and parcel of the American dream, the park became a leader in the region, bringing hotels and attractions to the area.

    Today, visitors frolic amongst elves, pet the park's reindeer and tell Santa what they want for Christmas, even in July. The "North Pole" is marked with a simple sign on a pole, surrounded by whimsical log cabins. 

    Julie "Jingles" Robards, a historian and performer, has the distinct honor of sorting Santa's mail from children across the globe.

    "There are some that ... I just have to write back," she says. 

    Cotterill says her aim was to approach the film from a children's point of view.

    Having grown up between the analog and digital ages, she wanted to preserve and celebrate the essence of the pre-internet age, back when children, consumed by boredom, would be forced to plumb the depths of their own imaginations.

    Staff like Everly Greensleeves, a dedicated elf, are interviewed in the film, but there's a reason the director never talks to the man behind Santa Claus -- she wanted to preserve a little of the park's sense of unspoiled fantasy.

    north-pole-new-york-santas-workshop-christmas-theme-park-adirondacks.jpgA vintage Santa Claus scene from North Pole, New York. (Courtesy Ali Cotterill)

    Children react with wonder to Tannenbaum The Talking Christmas Tree, which is not a looped audio recording, but staffed with an actual person. Cotterill doesn't go behind the scenes, instead focusing on the tree from the outside. 

    "Do you get cold??" one young girl asks the evergreen. 

    "There's just a little window of time when you believe and everything is magic and that's what Santa's Workshop is," Robards says. "... So its survival is very important." 

    Since it's open much of the year, the park is also open on Christmas, right? No. But there's a good reason for that. The very first year, in 1949, Santa's Workshop did not close for Christmas Day. Park staff ended up completely overwhelmed, however, when children tried to return their toys to Santa. Now, the park is only open through Christmas Eve. 

    It's amusing to see children interviewed about what they asked Santa Claus for -- some seem to think that making the trip to deliver their wish lists months ahead of time will make them a priority. But the issues facing the larger community in Wilmington form another important focus of the film.

    It's easy to just put on rose-colored classes and run a montage of old footage, Cotterill says. 

    "That's why we zoomed out to the town," she says.

    A local market owner likens Wilmington to Mayberry, a place where people can leave their doors open. (North Pole has its own zip code and post office -- something about all those letters.)

    "I found it really inspiring in a lot of ways," Cotterill says. "People are really there for each other." (It was also a change of pace to film in a town where she couldn't get cell phone reception and had to actually rely on people showing up at a given time, sans texts and calls ... imagine that.)

    The community lobbies to open a new gas station after its only one was bought and abandoned by a convenience chain. When the station opens, there's an actual ribbon cutting. But it's the possible closure of the park that looms over the otherwise cheery film. 

    By 1998, Santa's Workshop at North Pole, NY and the Magic Forest were the only parks left in the area, with some having been bought up by larger companies, as with Six Flags' purchase of Great Escape in Lake George. 

    In 1999, Bob Reiss, the founder's son, put the park up for sale. A businessman named Greg Cunningham bought the park, but according to a local reporter interviewed for the film, just wanted to drain money from the park. For the first time, the park's demise seemed imminent.

    One local compared the scenario to the Grinch stealing Christmas. Cunningham, who was arrested for another scam, ultimately went to prison and the park was restored with the help of a new investor in 2002. 

    According to Cotterill, today, only six percent of mom-and-pop roadside attractions are still open." The thing that really appealed to me is the sort of 'then' and 'now,'" shel says.

    Bobby Getchell Jr., who lives in Hawthorne and plays Paul Stanley in the KISS tribute band Dressed to Kill, speaks fondly of the park in the documentary. For generations, his family would make the trip there. Now, he takes his kids every year, and tries to recreate old photos from decades ago.

    "You just look around and it's like you're stuck in the middle of a whole Christmas card," he says. 

    Amy Kuperinsky may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @AmyKup or on Facebook.


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    Former Kenilworth superintendent Thomas Tramaglini said Holmdel should not have taken his mug shot for the low-level municipal offenses he faces

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    The new area code, 640, will overlay the current 609 code territory but the change affects people calling from outside.

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    Experience the Jersey Shore as it was forty years ago.

    The summer of 1978 got off to a dreary start.

    Jersey Shore beachgoers faced "constant fog and drizzle" over the chilly Memorial Day weekend, according to Star-Ledger clips at the time.

    But warmer temperatures soon prevailed, and with them, plenty of opportunities to frolic in the surf at Asbury Park, check out latest swimwear styles in Oceanport, or zip down the brand new water slide in Long Branch, across from the amusement pier that would be destroyed in a fire nine years later.

    See the fashions and what people did during summer of 1978 in these vintage photos from The Star-Ledger archives.

    Vinessa Erminio may be reached at Follow her on Twitter @VinessaNJ. Find on Facebook.

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    The hip-hop and pop star duo brought their own oddball brand of thunder and lightning to PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel Friday night

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    Find out which schools have the highest average SAT score in your area.

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    A mother derives strength from the last message she received from her son, who died last year

    Amidst the electric buzz of tattoo machines that filled the air and 250 artists creating extravagant dragons, demons and landscapes on canvases of skin at the Asbury Park Convention Center Saturday, an artist inked two simple words into Autumn Aponte's forearm:

    "I am"

    They were the last words her 15-year-old son, Drew Aponte, ever texted her. Drew was riding his bicycle in Brick 11 months ago when he was killed in a collision with a vehicle

    Autumn Aponte had texted her youngest son, telling him to come home. It was getting late and approaching his 10 p.m. curfew. "I am," he responded.

    Time passed, but not enough to worry. Drew Aponte sometimes missed curfew by a few minutes, but his mom would let her curly-haired, broad shouldered, always-caring son slide. It was summer after all, and he was growing up and preparing to be a sophomore at Brick Memorial High School. Autumn Aponte's husband returned, mentioning there was a crash on the corner down the road. Ten minutes later, police appeared at her door. It was every mother's nightmare.

    "I brought his ashes home with me, and I didn't bury them," she said. "And I keep them by the door and see him every day, see him in my dreams."

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    Drew's absence took a toll on his family, pushing his father "to his knees and past them," and her 18-year-old brother into depression as he fought to graduate high school, according to his mother. Autumn Aponte channeled her grief into starting her own pole dancing and aerial fitness business, naming it Lovely Lion after Drew Aponte's Zodiac sign: "He was my lion, he was my bravery, he was a strong, brave kid," Aponte said.

    She got three tattoos before this one, but they were adolescent whims, according to her. She took a year to decide on this one; she could have chosen Drew's name or a lion but the spiritual woman kept coming back to his last words, later discovering their biblical significance.

    "I dream about him all the time, and I just want to be reminded when I have those moments of doubt or have those depression moments when I can't get out of bed," she said. "For some strange reason he typed those words to me, and I need to remember that he is with me, that he didn't go anywhere. That just because I can't see him, that doesn't mean I can't feel him."

    From a screenshot of the text message, Kirsten Bonafide, of the Rabbits Den Tattoo Shop, created a carbon-based stencil, applied the purple stencil to Autumn Aponte's skin and meticulously traced the font with black ink. It was a simple lettering project, she said, but a weighty one nonetheless. In her 10 years of being a tattoo artist, Bonafide has seen an increase of clients seeking a permeant reminder of a personal achievement, an important mantra, or a life lost.

    Bonafide said this personal take is a welcomed evolution from the 1990's when she got her first dragon tattoo and customers essentially chose from flash, or pre-selected, options. Now, with tattoos functioning as wearable memorials customers often come to seek a tangible form of solace.

    "A lot of times it does help with healing whether you know, it's emotional trauma or coming to terms with certain things in your life," she said.
    "It gives you a sense of control."

    After the procedure, the grieving mother hugged Bonafide and walked out of the convention center with a bandage on her arm -- a sign of healing, permanently marking a life cut short.

    Cassidy Grom may be reached at Follow her at @cassidygrom. Find on Facebook.

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    Former Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos and Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez were two of the grand marshals.

    It was a star-studded evening along the bayside of Ocean City Saturday. 

    Television characters from "M*A*S*H," "Saturday Night Live," "Batman," "SpongeBob SquarePants," and several more shows came alive during the 64th annual Night in Venice boat parade

    Many of this year's participants decided to follow along with the parade's optional theme of "TV's Greatest Hits." Two boats honored this year's Super Bowl LII champions: the Philadelphia Eagles.

    Former Eagles long snapper Jon Dorenbos, who also performed his magic skills on "America's Got Talent," was one of four grand marshals. Laurie Hernandez, an Olympic gymnast from Old Bridge and the winner of "Dancing with the Stars" season 23, Maks Chmerkovskiy, a professional dancer on "Dancing with the Stars (and brother of Hernandez's dancing partner Val Chmerkovskiy), and Jackie Evancho, a singer who also performed on "America's Got Talent," were the other grand marshals.

    Spectators lined docks and grandstands along the bayfront to watch approximately 40 boats sail from the Ocean City-Longport toll bridge south to Tennessee Avenue. People also lined the south side of the Ninth Street Bridge to watch as the boats paraded under the bridge.

    As the boat with Dorenbos aboard sailed south, Eagles fans broke out into cheers of "E-A-G-L-E-S, EAGLES!" The cheers resumed as the two Eagles-themed boats went by, with an extra laugh at Tom Brady's expense as a cardboard cutout of him covered in fake "underdog" poop was towed behind one of the boats.

    Other popularly decorated boats included the S.S. Minnow of "Gilligan's Island" fame, a "COPS" themed boat complete with those aboard armed with water guns, and Captain Noah driving his "Magical Ark." Game show enthusiasts enjoyed "The Price is Right" and "Jeopardy" themed boats.

    While Dorenbos, Hernandez and Chmerkovskiy made other appearances in the city earlier this weekend, Evancho will be singing with the Ocean City Pops orchestra in a sold-out performance tonight at the Ocean City Music Pier. 

    Lori M. Nichols may be reached at Follow her on Instagram @photog_lori and Twitter @photoglori. Find on Facebook. Have a tip? Tell us.

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    This is the fifth and final trip report in our search for N.J.'s best hot dog joint.

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    Going to the beach? So are they, so be on the lookout.

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