Here at Patch, we've been promoting the monthly Rent Parties at the South Orange Elks Lodge for so long, we forget that not everyone in town knows or understands what they are.
"What do those lawn signs that say 'Rent Party This Friday!' mean?" we've been asked more than once lately. (Guess it's hard to read the www.RentPartyLive.com address as your drive past.)
Maplewood Patch's first local editor Adam Bulger explained the concept of the rent party way back in 2009 when the local version debuted. He wrote, "In Harlem in the '20s, cash-strapped tenants turned their apartments into makeshift night clubs and charged friends, neighbors and all other interested parties for admission (if you have 10 minutes or so to set aside for history, click here for background)."
But in 2009, local musicians — starting with Rent Party organizer Chris Dickson — adapted the concept to aid area food pantries. Launched on Oct. 7, 2009, the monthly Rent Party concerts at the South Orange Elks Lodge have literally helped to feed thousands by providing goods to the food pantries at Our Lady of Sorrows in South Orange and St. Joseph's Church in Maplewood.
"There's clearly an ongoing need to support these two food pantries," Dickson said back in 2009. "Whatever we raise at these things will be a drop in the bucket for these folks. The OLS Food Pantry is handing out more than 100 bags of groceries a week and St. Joes is doing about the same."
Dickson said that the idea of the local rent party started when Bob Fanneron of the Elks approached Dickson about organizing something to assist the two food pantries. Dickson, a Maplewood resident, has a wealth of experience with local charitable concerts after putting on the Battle of the Basement Bands concerts and the food drive at Maplewoodstock.
"There are so many bands looking for a place to play and the Elks has a great space, so it seemed like a natural [fit]," Dickson said. "It's going to be fun."
And, boy, has it ever been fun.
The Rent Party gets into its third year of good times and good works this Friday night, 11/11/11, with a concert by Laurence Hart, Joe Wilson and Shark Hat. The concert starts at 8 p.m. and goes to midnight. Minimum donation at the door is $5. Cash bar.
And now that you know what those Rent Party signs are all about, you can get your own by emailing email@example.com.