What if you could take a local trip in the middle of winter to enjoy the light of day – both day and night – for a week straight? Making it even more special: besides enjoying tremendous musical talent at a variety of venues, you’d be lending support to a worthy cause. If you’re looking for somewhere to go on a winter’s day that will warm your heart while keeping the rest of you warm, too, here’s your chance. In January, music fans and charity supporters alike will be flocking to Asbury Park for the 20th annual Light of Day Winterfest.
The Light of Day Foundation harnesses the power of music, at events held all around the world, to raise money and awareness for the battle against Parkinson’s disease and its related illnesses, ALS and PSP, providing treatment and support for patients, families and caregivers. Over the course of two decades, Light of Day has raised more than $5.5 million and is targeting $6 million with this year’s events, with a goal of curing the progressive neurological disorder that affects nearly 1 million people in the U.S. and more than 10 million worldwide.
The concerts and the foundation grew from a simple gesture. In November 1998, friends gathered at the Downtown Café in Red Bank to celebrate the 40th birthday of veteran music manager Bob Benjamin, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The guest of honor asked that, in lieu of gifts, donations be made to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. They raised more than $2,000 that night, and inspired by the generous support, Benjamin reached out to friends in the music industry and beyond to help him form the Light of Day nonprofit organization, named for a Bruce Springsteen song. While still personally fighting Parkinson’s, Benjamin continues to steer the foundation and its activities, providing assistance to numerous projects and programs throughout the area.
The first official Light of Day concert was held at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park in November 2000, primarily featuring local performers and headlined by Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, with a surprise appearance by Springsteen, who has gone on to appear at the show 11 more times. Fast forward 20 years, and what was once just a one-day event has morphed into a worldwide movement, with 70 shows in 13 countries throughout North America, Europe and Australia. Proceeds are donated to local Parkinson’s organizations.
From Friday, Jan. 10 through Monday, Jan. 20, the Light of Day celebrations culminate with Winterfest, a series of 50 events by 150 musical acts in five cities that kick off in New York, northern New Jersey and Philadelphia before taking over Asbury Park for a seemingly nonstop combustion of musical talent.
Through the years, there has been a litany of renowned participants, including Michael J. Fox, Darlene Love, Suzanne Vega, Max Weinberg, Jake Clemons, David Bryan, The Smithereens, Gary U.S. Bonds, Southside Johnny and countless others. The first wave of this year’s lineup includes Willie Nile, Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, James Maddock, Jesse Malin, Guy Davis, Anthony Krizan of the Spin Doctors, Remember Jones presenting The Who’s “Tommy,” The Chapin Family, The Weeklings, Joe D’Urso and Stone Caravan, Williams Honor, Best of the Eagles, Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway, Billy Hector Band, Billy Walton Band (former Asbury Jukes guitarist), Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member Vini “Mad Dog” Lopez (former E Street Band), Jeffrey Gaines, Ben Arnold, and Emily Grove. There are sure to be many more to come as the dates approach and so far, just a sampling of the magical, musical agenda includes:
Sunday, Jan. 12 at 1 pm – Cover Me at The Stone Pony
Thursday, Jan. 16 at 7 pm – Wonder Jam at the Wonder Bar
Friday, Jan. 17 6:30 pm – Remember Jones performing The Who’s “Tommy” at Paramount Theatre
Friday, Jan. 17 at 7 pm – Asbury Angels at The Stone Pony, memorializing members of the Asbury Park musical community and featuring an album release show hosted by The Weeklings
Saturday, Jan. 18 at noon – Full Tilt Boogie & Blues at the Wonder Bar
Saturday, Jan. 18 at 6 pm – 20th Anniversary Bob’s Birthday Bash at Paramount Theatre (main event)
Saturday, Jan. 18 at 7 pm – Full Tilt Boogie & Blue at the Wonder Bar
Sunday, Jan. 19 at noon – Remembering Harry Chapin with The Chapin Family at Paramount Theatre
Sunday, Jan. 19 at noon – Kids Rock at The Stone Pony
Tickets for most Light of Day Winterfest 2020: The 20th Anniversary events, to be held at Paramount Theater, The Stone Pony, The Saint and the Wonder Bar, are on sale through Ticketmaster. Tickets for House of Independents and The Saint are sold through TicketWeb and the venues’ websites, and tickets for McLoone’s Supper Club are available on that venue’s website. Also check with the Asbury Hotel for tickets to events planned there. A wide variety of combination ticket packages, as well as single tickets to each show, are available and, as in past years, many are sure to sell out quickly. Tickets for Bob’s Birthday Bash range from $39 to $399, and tickets for other shows range from free to $30. Combo ticket packages, starting at $159, offer admission to all Asbury Park events, including Bob’s Birthday Bash, plus other special amenities and seating locations, depending on the price point.
Want to stay in Asbury to attend multiple shows and make more than just a day of it? The Berkeley Oceanfront Hotel is offering a special rate to festivalgoers, too, so check with the hotel for details.