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Post 99 is 95!

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY -  Ninety-five years ago this week — Aug. 19, 1919 — 13 veterans of the Great War, as World War I was then known, gathered in the Kearny home of Fred E. Portz to organize a local chapter of the American Legion. […]

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Pressing for bridge funding

By Ron Leir  Observer Correspondent  LYNDHURST –  Lawmakers from all levels of government, led by State Sen. President Stephen Sweeney, assembled for a press conference on the banks of the Passaic River Aug. 12 to declare their support for a replacement for the 109-year-old DeJessa Memorial Bridge that links […]

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Facing a new gun charge

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY – A Kearny man, who two years ago accidentally shot himself in the jaw with a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver, was arrested last week in Newark on weapons charges. This time, authorities said, he was in possession of an AR-15 assault rifle. […]

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New spin on house party

By Karen Zautyk  Observer Correspondent  KEARNY– A house-party host got a bit more than he bargained for when he hired a disc jockey for the festivities and an “associate” robbed him at knifepoint, Kearny police reported. Thanks to some determined detective work, the alleged assailant was tracked (pun intended) down […]

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Cops nab suspects in stabbing, theft

LYNDHURST – The Lyndhurst Police Department last week announced the capture of suspects wanted in connection with a stabbing at a local entertainment spot and with a residential theft. On Monday, Aug. 11, at about 2 a.m., police were called to the Riva Blue night club, 525 Riverside Ave., […]

 
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Resident’s tip triggers burglary arrests

Dominique Morris

 

Alhafeez Williams

 

By Ron Leir

Police credited an alert resident’s call to 911 with leading them on the path to capturing two suspected burglars on Monday, Nov. 14.
Linked to at least two Nutley home burglaries on Hopper Ave. and Ackerman St. are Alhafeez Williams, 18, and Dominque Morris, 18, both of Newark.
Nutley Police Capt. Tom Strumolo and Det. Anthony Montanari gave this account of the incident:
Lt. Eric Anderson and Officer Gerard Tusa responded to a call from a Bloomfield Ave. resident reporting two men loitering around Bloomfield and Hopper Aves. shortly after 6:15 p.m.
The officers located two men – later identified as Williams and Morris – at the intersection of Taft Ave. and Spring St. and asked them what they were doing there. The pair gave inconsistent accounts about an alleged third man they say they were waiting for.
The officers found that Morris had a checkbook on his person that was issued to a Hopper Ave. resident.
Searching the area, the officers discovered a gold earring on the sidewalk, and, a bit further away, a cellular phone. In nearby bushes, they came across two suitcases which were filled with jewelry, cameras and video equipment.
The contents of the suitcases reportedly included items listed as taken earlier that day from one of the burglarized homes, and the pair had in their pockets what police described as “additional proceeds” from those home burglaries and potentially others in the area.
The Hopper Ave. property was accessed via a garage door and entry to the Ackerman St. house was gained through a window. A dog belonging to the owner was later discovered limping from an injured paw, police said.
During the same time period, someone tried to force open the door of another Hopper Ave. home but failed to gain entry.
Police later learned of another burglary at a Myrtle Ave. house where the intruders got in through a sliding glass panel door, ransacked the place, and removed a large TV. It’s unclear whether the two men were responsible for that incident, police said.
All of the burglaries happened within a three-hour period, police said. Total value of the proceeds is still being calculated, they added.
Williams and Morris were each charged with two counts of criminal mischief, burglary and theft and taken to the Essex County Jail where they’re each being held on $175,000 bail pending court action.
Police believe it’s unlikely that the pair can be tied to the Nov. 9 robbery of the Delta gas station at Bloomfield Ave. and DeVausney Place, near the Hopper Ave. homes.
Montanari commended the patrol officers’ investigatory procedures.
“They did an exemplary job,” he said.

Historic firehouse under restoration

Photos by Karen Zautyk

 

Top: One of the vintage photos that hang on the walls inside the old firehouse between 70 and 80 Halstead St. (bottom)

 

 

By Karen Zautyk

Members of the Kearny Fire Department, who are usually in the business of saving lives, have voluntarily taken on another responsibility — saving a small but precious piece of Kearny history.
For 15 years, on their own time and using their own money (plus gracious donations from individuals and businesses), they have been restoring the only building in Kearny declared an official historic site by the State of New Jersey.
And we’re willing to bet most of you aren’t even aware of it.
The structure is the oldest standing firehouse in town: a small two-story brick building on Halstead St., just west of Kearny Ave. It dates to 1895 and was originally the headquarters for Highland Hose Co. No. 4, back in the days when a clanging bell was the only way to alert firefighters to an emergency, and when rigs pulled by galloping horses raced through the streets to answer a call.
The building hasn’t been a working firehouse for decades, but it is still in regular use. Nicknamed the “Exempt House,” it is the monthly meeting place for members of Kearny Firemen’s Mutual Benevolent Associations 18 and 218.
These meetings are held on the beautifully restored second-floor of the building, which has been rehabbed floor-to-ceiling to pristine condition. Even the windows are new. They are exact replicas of the original ones and were installed following the specific criteria required when renovating a historic site.
We learned all of this from retired KFD Deputy Chief George Harris, who acted as our tour guide on a recent visit. The goal, Harris explained, is to eventually restore the entire structure and open it to the public as a Fire Department museum. But there is still a long way to go.

Retired Dep. Fire Chief George Harris leans on old communications switchboard.

 

An old fire bell.

 

In addition to the second-story rehab, completed work has included refurbishing the exterior brickwork: Bricks were removed, repaired, and put back, one by one. Those brand-new-looking ones that you see are actually all original to the 19th century building.
The rehab job has been tough going since the beginning. When the firefighters initially decided to launch the project more than a decade ago, they found that the structure was sinking. “We had to jack up the building,” Harris recalled.
Currently, the firefighters are busy repairing the staircase leading to the second floor. They have also discovered that the roof was sagging, so that is being replaced.
As we noted, the KFD members — active and retired — do all of this exhausting work themselves, with occasional donated labor, for which they are most grateful.
When it was a working firehouse, the living quarters were on the second floor and the ground floor housed the rigs and the horses. That is, after the department got its own horses. Prior to acquiring KFD equines, firefighters had to borrow the animals. When the alarm bell rang, “the milkman or the bread man would bring their horses to the firehouse,” Harris explained.
Speaking of bells: Among the artifacts in the building is the 1886 alarm bell, which had gone missing but has now returned home. “It was found in the basement of Schuyler School, but no one knows how it got there,” Harris noted.
Over the years, other treasures have also reappeared. including a collection of 19th century trophies which had been packed away and forgotten in boxes in the firehouse cellar.
“We also found a lot of stuff after a flood in the basement in 1962,” Harris said. “Things were thrown out, but Firefighter Billy McGeehan went to the dump and brought them back.” Kudos to McGeehan and his sense of history.
When the dream of a museum is realized, the public will be treated to an exceptional exhibit, portions of which we were privileged to see. This includes the old “dispatch center,” through which all town emergency calls were routed long before 911 and cell phones. (No, children, dinosaurs did not roam Kearny at the time!)
There is also the old “life net,” a massive circle of canvas that had once been the only escape route from a fire. The item, which now hangs on a wall and is covered with patches and badges from fire departments around the world, was still in use until the 1960’s. Even later, the KFD used it for training. “It took eight people to hold it,” Harris recalled. “We used to train by jumping into it from the second story.” That practice, he remembers, was stopped in 1970 by then-Chief John Phillips, who was modernizing the department.
A museum will also offer visitors the chance to pay silent tribute to the two members of the Kearny Fire Department who lost their lives in the line of duty, and who are honored by plaques on the wall: Capt. Robert Ball, Nov. 12, 1973, and Firefighter Manny Gennace, Dec. 24, 1977.
While we were visiting the historic firehouse, KFD members were busily engaged in one of their regular clean-out days and were readying the staircase for that upcoming project. Harris and Capt. Harry Fearon made it a point to thank the businesses that have generously donated to the restoration work: Allied Building Products of Carlstadt, which has provided roofing materials; Viola Brothers of Nutley, spackle and trim; Continental Hardware of Newark; K-Mart of Kearny, paint; Building Specialties of Kearny, sheet rock; and J&L Atwell of Kearny, which installed those very special second-floor windows.
(If we have left anyone out, blame this correspondent and her faulty notes, not the KFD.)
To learn more about the history of the department, visit kearnyfire.com.
To donate materials or money (both of which are welcome and much appreciated) to the restoration effort, contact the department at the non-emergency number: 201-991-1402.

Drunken motorist plows into Nutley home

Photo by Ron Leir/ Fabre’s Buick outside the home on High St. in Nutley.

 

By Ron Leir

Nutley -
The occupants of a High St., Nutley home had a rude awakening early Wednesday, Nov. 16, when an out-of-control car smashed through their living room wall.
Police said George Fabre, 21, of Clifton, was driving drunk when his Buick struck the house, coming to rest inside the living room. The collision caused heavy structural damage to the dwelling and destroyed a sofa.
Fabre suffered minor injuries while his 22-year-old passenger wasn’t hurt, according to police.
Municipal Police, Fire and Building Services Department personnel were sent to the scene where they escorted occupants from the home.
The house will remain off limits until local building code officials deem it a safe structure.
Police impounded the car and issued Fabre summonses for DWI, reckless driving and being an uninsured motorist. He was released to a responsible adult pending court action.
Police said they are investigating where Fabre had been drinking prior to the accident.

Residents speak up: Bond’s future now in jeopardy

 

Photo by Ron Leir/ Displaying anti-bond petitions, from l, are: Councilman-at-large Michael Nicosia, Jeanne Lombardi, 2nd Ward Councilman Steve Rovell and Peter Zingari Jr.

 

By Ron Leir

Belleville –
It now appears all but certain that the campaign to block a $3.45 million capital bond ordinance previously adopted by a majority vote of the Township Council is a success.
Even the mayor is ready to throw in the towel.
As of last week, documents on file at the Township Clerk’s Office show that petitioners had collected the signatures of 1,850 Belleville residents opposed to the bond – nearly twice the 991 required by law to place the issue before the voters.
“And we still have more (signatures) coming,” asserted Dep. Mayor/Second Ward Councilman Steve Rovell, the mastermind of the petition drive.
It’s up to the Township Clerk to determine if the signatures are valid and whether those that are deemed legitimate are enough to get the matter on the ballot at some point.
Ultimately, Rovell – like his council ally Michael Nicosia – are hoping that instead of going to the expense of a public referendum, that they can persuade their fellow council members to reconsider their original vote and put the bond behind them – at least for now.
“I plan to keep talking to the council, to remind them we’ve sent a very clear message to control our spending,” Rovell said.
Rovell – and, clearly, many others like him – felt that several of the big ticket items that the bond would have funded – such as the new Silver Lake firehouse and the new Friendly House recreation center – were either not needed now or ill-planned.
Among the advocates for quashing the bond is Peter Zangari, president of the Belleville Board of Education, who says he participated in the campaign “in the role of (First Ward) resident, as someone who votes on a large (school) budget in town.”
“For me to ignore residents’ cries of not being able to afford a tax increase would be arrogant,” Zangari said. “Those in elective office should be cognizant of the struggles that families here are facing. Senior citizens were saying to me that, after they pay their tax bills, they’re left with $300 a month to live on.”
The township had estimated that it would have cost the owner of a home with an average assessment of $249,400 an extra $46 a year in taxes to pay off the proposed bond but Rovell and Nicosia said that residents were facing additional taxes for other debt incurred by the township.
For Nicosia, the plan to replace the 8-decade-old Silver Lake firehouse with a new one on land that NJ Transit would lease to the township just doesn’t make sense.
“We can renovate the existing firehouse for one-quarter of the cost of a new one,” he said.
Moreover, Nicosia said, the proposed new firehouse would be located away from the main road (Franklin St.), in the rear of a self-storage building, and the township would have to build an access road to the facility.
Rovell and Nicosia felt that the proposed new recreation center would be too small to accommodate programs for young and old residents. People would be turned away, they said.
The bond would also fund the purchase of a building across from Township Hall to store municipal archives; installation of a turf soccer field on School 9 property; and upgrading of the municipal senior center; and repaving of Garden Ave.
But all of this planning may be for naught if the bond is overturned.
When asked about the situation, Mayor Ray Kimble said that if the petitions pass muster, “I’ll put a resolution on the table to rescind the bond issue because the people spoke. If there’s something in that bond issue they don’t want, then why should I go against the people?”
Putting the matter to a public vote isn’t practical, Kimble said. “There’s no sense having an election,” he said. “It would cost $60,000 to $70,000.”

A WORD WITH THE PUBLISHER: Thanks for giving

publisher@theobserver.com

 

By Lisa Pezzolla

Thanksgiving Day in America is a time for friends and family gatherings.
As we sit to enjoy our holiday feast we reminisce about our past holidays. It is a time to offer thanks, a time for holiday parades and giant balloons to brighten a child’s day.
It is a time to tell stories and laugh about all the good times for which we have to be thankful.
And it is a time to remember all the great moments we had with our departed loved ones.
On Nov. 18, I had to make the decision to put my “Molly” to sleep. Those of you who visit The Observer, know that she was my little shadow. Thirteen years ago I had rescued her; she was badly abused – it took years of love and attention to build her trust. She was a tough little thing. She had a limp from a broken leg, but always managed to follow me everywhere. She brought such joy to my life and others.
This past Friday, her fighting days came to an end; the look in her eyes told me something was terribly wrong. I took her to Arlington Dog and Cat hospital in Kearny and Marguerite M. Hoey, DVM, took time and patience. Molly was suffering from kidney failure. I made the decision.
I want to thank Dr. Hoey for all her love and tender care she gave Molly and me – her compassion was above and beyond. Her kind words and tears show the love she genuinely has for animals. I am thankful for all the unconditional love that I received from Molly. Rest in peace, my little one.

Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!

Relax… It’s only Black Friday

As November comes to a close, everyone’s other favorite holiday is coming… Black Friday.
Sure, Thanksgiving is all well and good, but let’s face it, in this recession, people are more concerned about saving money on Christmas gifts than being thankful for the idea that they even have the money to buy those gifts.
As in years past, people will be out at all hours of the night, hoping to catch the best deal that they can. Doors to some businesses open at 4 a.m. to accommodate the presumed rush, but are there really any good deals to be had?  If you’re in the market for a big screen TV, I’d say yes, but if you’re going for small items or just doing general Christmas shopping, you’re better off waiting until later in the weekend instead of getting up before sunrise.
Will I be huddled with the bargain-chasing masses in front of Wal-Mart at 4 a.m.? There isn’t a shot. The way I see it, if you care about someone enough to buy him or her a gift in the first place, you probably don’t need to wake up at 4 a.m. to get it.
The real reason people should be happy about Black Friday is that it is the official start to the Christmas season. It’s a time when people begin to gather their Christmas decorations and spend more time with their families.
Personally, it means that I will use Noel Drive in North Arlington more frequently just to see what displays the residents put up this year.
Without a doubt, the Christmas season is upon us, but don’t get caught up in the stress of Christmas shopping. Enjoy what’s around you, even if you don’t decorate. The minute the stress catches up to us, it just won’t be Christmas anymore. Relax. It’s only Black Friday.

—Anthony J. Machcinski

WE’VE GOT MAIL

To the Publisher:
While President Obama is pardoning two turkeys for Thanksgiving, every one of us has that same presidential power by choosing a non-violent Thanksgiving observance that spares a turkey’s life.
And here are some good reasons:
•You are what you eat. Who wants to be a “butterball”?
• Your kids can tell their friends about their cool “Tofurky.”
•You won’t have to call Poultry Hotline to keep your family alive.
• Fruits and vegetables don’t have to carry government warning labels.
• Animal advocates, including some of your best friends, will cherish you.
• You won’t sweat the environment and food resources devastation guilt trip.
• You won’t spend a sleepless night wondering how the turkey lived and died.
• Your body will appreciate a holiday from saturated fat, cholesterol, and hormones.
Seriously, this Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks for our good fortune, health, and happiness with a life-affirming, cruelty-free feast of vegetables, fruits, and grains. Our own dinner will feature a “Tofurky,” lentil roast, mashed potatoes, corn stuffing, stuffed squash, candied yams, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.
An internet search on vegetarian Thanksgiving provides more recipes and other useful information than you can imagine!

Kenneth Miller
Kearny

Happy ending to church’s dilemma

By Ron Leir

Kearny –
On the surface, the job seemed simple enough.
The City of Hope Church International, a non-denominational Christian house of worship that occupies the old Sacred Heart orphanage facility, wanted to convert its heating system from oil to gas so it needed a connection to a gas line.
Public Service Electric & Gas (PSE&G) was ready and willing to supply the connection by digging up a section of Wilson Ave. and installing the pipe.
But here’s where the complications entered.
The Town of Kearny, which has to issue a permit for a street excavation, has a law on the books which prohibits opening a street “into the driving lanes” for five years after it’s been paved over, unless there’s an emergency situation or unless it’s authorized by the mayor and Town Council.
And if there is a reopening permitted, either the utility or the customer must pay for a “curb-to-curb” repaving of the street.
The proposed street cut, to accommodate City of Hope Church, involves a section of Wilson Ave. that was last repaved two years ago, according to Town Administrator/Construction Code Official Michael J. Martello.
Given the restrictions of the town ordinance, it appeared that the church was stuck.
If the town governing body were to bend and allow the digging to go forward, PSE&G spokesman Deann Muzikar said that the utility, “provided an estimate to the customer for the gas service installation … (at) 22 Wilson Ave. … for open trench excavation, which is the guaranteed method for this type of project.”
However, Muzikar added, “The associated road restoration does not include milling and paving, which is preferred by Kearny.” And that method “could result in a potential cost to the customer …,” Muzikar said.
The utility would pay for labor, materials, traffic-control and road restoration,  Muzikar said. The church’s “non-fuel revenue credit” would cover those costs, Muzikar said.
City of Hope decided to go public at the last Kearny Town Council meeting with its hard luck story in hopes that municipal officials would come to its support since that expense would be something City of Hope would be “uncomfortable” with, said Marian D’Alessandro, a member of the church’s leadership group.
“As someone who’s lived here all my life, and as a property owner, I applaud the efforts of the town to keep our streets safe,” D’Alessandro said. “But we still need heat for our school and day care program which operate five days a week, as well as Sundays for worship services and Sunday School.”
D’Alessandro said the church has already invested $75,000 in the heating system changeover from oil to “a green and clean gas unit.” Now, all that’s needed to make it complete, she said, is the installation of a gas pipe from the street to the church property.
In the meantime, City of Hope has continued operating with the existing oil heating system.
As a conciliatory gesture to the church, Martello said the Town Council was conditioning approval of four road opening permits sought by PSE&G – for locations on Johnston Ave., Rutherford Pl. and Wilson Ave. (not the church site) to install gas service and on S. Hackensack Ave. to relocate a gas service – on the church “being appropriately serviced.”
The council did grant the utility permission to dig at Davis Ave. and Tappan St. to replace a 16-inch gas main to correct a leak there.
D’Alessandro said that the town’s action “has made the situation more palatable and we hope to get this resolved as soon as practically possible. … Between the church, the town and PSE&G, we hope to resolve this in a fair and just manner.”
And, in fact, that’s just what happened.
PSE&G and Kearny agreed on the use of a pneumatic piercing tool, “which requires only excavating one single hole in the roadway,” explained Muzikar. And, “the town is allowing PSE&G to restore the roadway using infrared paving technology, which keeps the cost … free of charge to the customer.”
The work was done this past weekend.
The Rev. David Manzo, the church’s senior pastor, thanked Martello and town officials for their cooperation.
Now grateful church workers are busying themselves with the preparation and distribution of more than 100 turkey baskets from their pantry to the needy for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Nutley high school girl dies suddenly

By Ron Leir

The November 17th passing of a Nutley high-school girl, 17, is under investigation. The cause of death hasn’t been released and members of the Nutley Police Dept., Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, and North Jersey Regional Medical Examiner’s Office are reviewing the case.
Police said that officers and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) were called to the Oakridge Ave. home at 11:00 p.m., Nov. 16 to aid an “unresponsive female.” There they attempted to revive the victim, identified as Danielle Orna, 17, but were unsuccessful. The young woman was transported to Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville where she was pronounced dead on the following morning.
Thus far, police have declined to disclose the cause of death, or whether an autopsy has been conducted, despite repeated attempts by The Observer to gather such information. Nutley School Board president James Kuchta had no comment.
An official police statement said: “Police and High School administrators have been working together in an effort to console and counsel family and friends.
“Police Chief John Holland and Police Director Alphonse Petracco extend condolences to Danielle’s family and friends and offered any assistance that they may need in this time of sorrow.”
At press time, Nutley High School’s website still carried the original statement issued on Thursday, Nov. 17:  “Tragically, one of our Nutley High School students passed away unexpectedly earlier this morning. All of our thoughts and sympathies are with the family. Counselors have been made available throughout the day to assist students throughout the district. We are acting as one community, supporting everyone through this difficult time. “
The school district listed a number of outside resources where students and staff can locate grief-counseling services. Nutley Schools Supt. Russell Lazovick said he met with members of the Orna family last Thursday morning. He said Danielle was a “very strong student, on the honor roll,” whose death came very hard to the high school where she was well liked. “ Everyone’s in a state of shock.” Lazovick added that the district is working with the family to arrange a memorial observance in Danielle’s honor at some point.

North Jersey country to play Donegal Saloon

Photo courtesy of Mike Martello/ Members of Secret Country, from l., are: Joe Hart, Jason Monaco, Eric Mason, Tim Siegle, Yan Izquierdo, Matt Siegle

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

While Donegal Saloon in Kearny has featured several bands with musical influences tied to southern rock and country, not many of these country bands have hailed from North Jersey. On Nov. 23, Secret Country, featuring several Kearny residents, will play Donegal Saloon and bring a country twang from north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Started by vocalist/guitarists Eric Mason and Jay Monaco, Secret Country originally formed after Mason and Monaco’s reggae band had broken up.
“We would just have our acoustic guitars, showing how simple and catchy country songs could be,” said Mason. “We just started playing and it was a natural progression.”
As random as the band’s roots and transition may have been, their success surely hasn’t been as random. With two CD’s since their inception in 2008, as well as several successful shows, the band has started to gain popularity.
“Very favorably,” answered Mason after he was asked how the band has been received. “It’s something new for people around here. A North Jersey country band isn’t something that you see. We have a very entertaining live show and it gets a little rowdy.”
The rowdiness of the shows has been a constant since the band played its first gig at Donegal Saloon a few years ago.
“Our first show we had was at Donegal and it was about two weeks after the band was formed,” Monaco remembered. “We just all could remember everything. We were flying by the seat of our pants. People started dancing right away and we had that great response.”
While initial response to the band has been favorable, the members realize that attracting future fans might not always be as easy.
“At first, people are hesitant to be there listening to a country band but when they listen to it they love it,” explained Monaco. “We just got to think to ourselves that we have to be ourselves.”
If this band follows Monaco’s dictum and maintains their integrity, they can be a largely successful country band.
The band has an undeniable chemistry that shines through in their music. Country music is a simple yet complex art form. If even one member of the band is off slightly, the music will sound like a train wreck.
Secret Country is able to use their unique chemistry to perfect the timing it takes to be successful. This timing is exceedingly evident in the songs, “Temptations” and “Women and Whiskey and Nightlife.” These two songs, both with vastly different tempos, still sound great, despite all the synchronization needed to give their songs the proper melody.
Another song where the band shows off their talent is on their version of the Charlie Daniels’ song, “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” As in the original version, the mandolin is still the featured instrument. Staying in line with the original version, Secret Country mandolin player Yan Izquierdo never overshadows the band’s performance with his solos.
While it takes many years for most bands to find this rhythm and chemistry, Secret Country has done this in only two, which can be attributed to the bands varying musical interests and appreciations.
“We were all in different bands (before Secret Country),” explained Monaco, who pointed out that these included musical forms like reggae, punk, and progressive-rock. “Little by little we all just started bringing our influences into the band,” Monaco added.
With the show at Donegal just around the corner, Secret Country grows more and more excited at the prospect of playing in front of their hometown crowd.
“It’s great to be there for when people come home and to see the same people all the time who notice our progression,” explained Mason.
“This is like home base,” Monaco said. “We’re playing the show next week. We always have a great reception and everyone is home for the holidays. It’s great to play a show in Kearny!”

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