ASBURY PARK, NJ -- Besides sand, surf and Springsteen, Asbury Park has been known in recent years as a hub for the New Jersey LGBTQ community. HomeGrown Host Stephanie Willoughby spoke with Comedian & Activist Jess Alaimo about the LGBTQ-friendly atmosphere of Asbury Park. Alaimo grew up in Asbury Park, where she still lives, and has family roots here. She founded the Asbury Park Young Democrats and the Asbury Park Women’s Convention.
“Probably the most amazing thing about Asbury Park,” Alaimo said, “is that you come to Asbury and you’re welcome. It’s so inclusive and it’s a beautiful place for that.”
“The LGBTQ community really lent its hand to reviving Asbury Park,” Alaimo said. In the 1990s, the town was largely depressed until members of the LGBTQ community began moving in, renovating homes and reopening shuttered storefronts. Today, Garden State Equality, New Jersey’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization, is headquartered here, the town boasts many LGBTQ-owned businesses, and the city is thriving.
Though involved in politics from a young age, Alaimo really got started with activism when she organized the “Stand United Against Hate” rally in Asbury Park in 2017 in the wake of Charlottesville. “I created a Facebook event to have a peaceful rally in town,” Alaimo said. “I had no idea what I was doing,” she confessed. “Organizations in town and different politicians in town were reaching out to me,” she said. “One thing lead to another and we had thousands of people show up.”
Alaimo also shared her experience witnessing the revitalization of Asbury Park. “Even when Asbury was not a tourist destination, it always had this art and music community that never went away,” she continued. “That’s what’s different about Asbury, and that’s the reason why it keeps coming back.”
“I guess I’m biased, but I think this is the best city in the world,” said Alaimo. “You have the city vibe, you have the downtown area, you have the arts, and you also have the ocean. What more could you want?”
Alaimo can be found hosting the comedy open mic night every Tuesday at The Anchor’s Bend, located inside Convention Hall, on the Asbury Park boardwalk, and you can also follow her on Facebook at @JessAlaimoComedy.