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‘Guitarbeque’ raises funds for Boonton church

 

Bill Nutt, Daily Record
September 11th, 2015

Article originally appeared here.

The idea started simply for Joni Forte-Lewin. In 1999, she held a barbecue in her backyard in Lyndhurst, and some friends brought guitars.

Forte-Lewin, a booking agent whose clients included Jose Feliciano, came up with the portmanteau word “Guitarbeque,” which she trademarked.

Five years later, Guitarbeque took place as a multiday music festival, with a cook-off competition for barbecue smokers, in Asbury Park as part of that shore city’s efforts at revival.

“It was terrific,” says Forte-Lewin, who repeated the event in 2005 and 2006. “We had a lot of great acts like Taj Mahal, Robben Ford, and Jorma Kaukonen. About 85 percent of the musicians were blues, with a little jazz and folk.”

The event was covered by the Food Network and received a grant from the state’s Office of Travel and Tourism.

After 2006, the Asbury Park organizers decided to go with different event. Forte-Lewin put the concept on hold but retained the trademark.

But this Saturday, Guitarbeque returns to New Jersey.

Forte-Lewin admits that the scale is smaller. Three blues-based artists will perform over the course of the afternoon. One barbecue restaurant will be represented in a non-competitive setting.

But to Forte-Lewin, the spirit that informed the original Guitarbeque will still be in evidence. “We have award-winning musicians,” she says. “We have a restaurant that won one of the cook-offs from Asbury Park. It’s going to be a great event.”

This Guitarbeque will be presented under the auspices of the Music Mission of the Boonton United Methodist Church. The musicians are being co-sponsored by ConnectOne Bank of Boonton.

The event will raise money for various causes that are supported by the church, including relief from superstorm Sandy, the nonprofit organization Imagine No Malaria, and local missions.

Forte-Lewin selected three acts that represent the scope of blues music. The Johnny Charles Band, winner of the prestigious Handy Award, represents blues-rock. Another ensemble, Michael Hill’s Blues Mob, shows another side of electric blues.

In contrast to those two groups will be Little Toby Walker, who will do an acoustic set. But Walker feels that his music will be no less exhilarating.

“I like to say I have a band in my hand,” Walker says. “It’s high-energy acoustic music. The blues is fun music. It’s not depressing, and I try to show that in my music.”

Walker, who also teaches blues guitar and brings his music into schools, says he is proud to be part of an event such as Guitarbeque that promotes worthy causes.

The barbecue aspect of Guitarbeque will be provided by Texas Smoke BBQ. Forte-Lewin notes that the restaurant was able to open an expanded restaurant in Jefferson with the prize money it received from one of the Asbury Park competitions.

Non-barbecue food items, including veggie burgers and ice cream, will be provided by other establishments. Crafters and other vendors will be selling their wares at the event.

Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets.

Forte-Lewin hopes that the turn-out for Guitarbeque will result in a repeat performance in 2016 and beyond. “I would love to see this become an annual event for Boonton,” she says.

GUITARBEQUE

WHAT: Three blues acts – Little Toby Walker, the Johnny Charles Band, and the Michael Hill’s Blues Mob – will perform to help raise funds for causes supported by the Boonton United Methodist Church. The event will also feature barbecue from Texas Smoke BBQ of Jefferson.

WHEN: Noon to 5 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Boonton United Methodist Church, 626 Lathrop Ave., Boonton

TICKETS: $15 in advance, $20 at door. Children 12 and under admitted free

INFO: 973-334-8654 or www.TheMusicMission.org