SouthNEXT Festival Returns to South Orange October 6-8 Third Annual Collision of Arts, Ideas and Music is “Under the Big Top” in 2017

SouthNEXT, New Jersey’s fast-growing festival that explores our similarities by celebrating our differences returns to South Orange Village Center this October with another spectacular lineup of talent and an exciting new outdoor venue concept. 

The festival begins Friday evening October 6 with KICKoff, the annual three-floor cocktail party and creative extravaganza that fills the iconic South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) inside and out. 

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Over the weekend, SouthNEXT expands to include a new outdoor venue in the heart of the Village Center, where tented pavilions will flank a center midway and beer garden, giving attendees unique and easy access to a specially curated program of music, art and ideas offering dynamic and interesting perspectives.

Festival founder and South Orange Village Trustee Stephen Schnall is excited about the 2017 SouthNEXT theme of Under the Big Top. “This year’s SouthNEXT enters a magical realm where we celebrate the fact that even though Ringling Bros. has staged its final performance, the circus lives on inside all of us,” says Schnall.  Once the circus was a place we went to see THEM: the freaks, the magicians, the clowns and daredevils. But over time, we realized and embraced the fact that THEM were really Us. And that’s what our incredible weekend will bring to life.”

A major new feature of SouthNEXT will be the construction and metamorphosis of a Community Sculpture, starting on Friday night with guests assembling the first pieces at KICKoff.  Keeping with the theme of Under the Big Top, this year’s collaborative effort will be Jumbo the Elephant. Jumbo will be created over the course of the weekend and be revealed to the crowd in its finished form on Sunday and conclude with an exciting transformation.

“The elephant was an icon of the circus, but it symbolizes so much more in many cultures; so SouthNEXT will celebrate this majestic beast all weekend long,” says Danni Michaeli, a member of the festival’s board who proposed the concept.  “From sessions dedicated to the Hindu deity Ganesha to a reading and celebration of the iconic picture book which tells the story of how PT Barnum used elephants to prove the safety of the new Brooklyn Bridge, we’ll look at the mighty elephant from all angles.”

Featured sessions at this year’s SouthNEXT include:

  • Social activist and recent gubernatorial primary runner-up Jim Johnson’s “Think Global, ART Local”
  • The Jazz House Kids
  • “The New American Landscape” featuring discussion by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial and led by Harvard professor Khalil Muhammad
  • Intergenerational Jeopardy!
  • “The Dark Path to Enlightenment”  for local artists
  • SouthNEXT’s take on an Escape Room
  • Family-fun interactive performances and ongoing circus-themed activities

Musical sets from Tomas Doncker, Marry the Sea, Stuff Bros, Sputnik 5, and Ricky Persaud, Jr. serve as Friday’s festival welcome, followed by more Saturday music and Sunday’s feature of the philharmonic for a new age, LUX.

Find the full weekend line-up of music, arts and ideas at

Your ticket to over a dozen musical performances and more than 20 engaging panels and discussions is the SouthNext all-access wristband.  Wristbands are available at an early bird discount $20 for the full three day festival until October 1st at Special discount wristbands for senior citizens and those under 21 years of age are $15 for the weekend. Same day passes during the Festival will also be available for $15 per day. 

RWJ/Saint Barnabas Medical Center is proud to return as the Lead Sponsor supporting SouthNEXT and is joined by Premier Sponsor Seton Hall University, and Local Sponsors South Orange Country Day School, Stop&Shop, Investors Bank, Sam Joseph Luxury Home Specialist, Mark Slade and Benjamin Garrison.  Community Partners include 4Elbows, SOPAC, PWI Media, Eventage, South Orange Village Center Alliance and LiFT Health Sciences Insights.