CRANFORD, NJ – The spacious front lawn of 247 Walnut Avenue begs for entertainment, music and fun – at least for homeowners Wanda and Michael Turini.
Despite both living in Cranford for years, the Turini’s met each other on Match.com, when they found out they lived three blocks apart. After marrying and purchasing their new home together, Wanda was inspired to spread joy though their community.
“I knew Michael was the one was because he had always supported my crazy ideas,” Turini said. “So I shared my vision. Wouldn't it be amazing if we invited the town to enjoy a Christmas concert, right on our front lawn? I painted the picture of smiling faces bundled up in blankets, drinking hot cocoa, enjoying some crazy people rocking out on our lawn. He was sold.”
That year, the inaugural “Turini Christmas Concert” was launched. The performers included the Turini’s, their friends and Wanda’s fellow musicians.
“I asked them to think of this concert as more than just singing outdoors, a way to sit in gratitude for the day and package that wonderful feeling into their voices and gift it to others,” Turini said. “That's when it became more than giving the gift of music. It was sharing the light of gratitude.”
Six years later, neighbors, friends and strangers flock to the “Turini Christmas Concert” every December, where they camp out on lawn chairs and blankets to enjoy the company, atmosphere and music.
“More years than not, we had so many reasons to not do the show,” Turini said. “Just skip it because of illnesses, deaths and other tragedies. But we returned to the purpose: remembering what we are grateful for even when it seems impossible to feel good. That is the gift we give to others and ourselves every year.”
Over the years, the concerts have evolved to include local performers, custom music and a front porch to use as a stage.
Performing this year, along with the Turini’s, are Cranford resident Sarah Dunlap, Kimberly Apadula from Wall’s Christmas Light Show, musical theater actor Eric Harper, electric guitarist Ken Silverman and Cranford resident Ed Helmstetter, guitarist for Brother John Brown.
“All of the people that perform have some kind of relationship with us, which is important,” Turini said. “We see our rehearsals as mini Christmas parties during the week.”
Cranford residents are invited to the outdoor concert on Saturday, Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Hot cocoa and apple cider will be provided. There is no fee and donations will not be accepted.
“We decided that asking for donations takes away from the feeling of this truly being a no-strings-attached gift,” Turini said. “I want people to feel so thankful for receiving this attached gift that they are just bursting to pass it on and give to someone else. And, hopefully, they will.”
For more information, text MERRY to 411321 to receive a digital flyer, lyrics the day of the event, live stream info and any weather-related updates.