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Arts and Entertainment

Toms River sets the pace for the steady stream of visitors who travel to the Jersey Shore to find a vibrant and rich arts and entertainment scene. Looking for great art, music, street festivals and museums? This area, located an hour and a half south of New York City and an hour east of Philadelphia, is loaded with them.

Toms River is home to the ever-growing Chili and Salsa Cook-off in May, which is also when the Downtown Farmers Market sprouts up. Come summer, guests enjoy the vintage car showcase known as Cruisin’ Downtown in beautiful downtown Toms River. The annual Summer in the Streets festival paints the town with a splash of excitement. By fall, the Harvest Arts Festival is ripe with creativity, and the area’s Halloween Parade is a howling success.

But one of the biggest draws is the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts, located on the campus of Ocean County College (OCC). This posh, 460-seat facility in Toms River received a major facelift in 2014 following a $5.7 million endowment, and it has since welcomed an impressive, star-studded roster of guests. The theater hosts dinner shows, meet-and-greet receptions, master classes for OCC students and welcomes top-notch performances for the entire community to enjoy.

“We try to find folks who elevate Ocean County, world class artists to show that Toms River is a hub for arts and culture,” said Mark Wilson, the Grunin Center’s director of cultural affairs.

Headliners at the Grunin Center have included Peter Yarrow of the singing trio Peter Paul & Mary; folksy crooner Aaron Neville; Broadway actor Adam Pascal; the Vienna Boys’ Choir; legendary singer Art Garfunkel; instrumentalists Canadian Brass and the acapella singing group, Home Free, just to name a few.

“One of the goals of the Grunin Center was to bring in artists, keep prices reasonable, and when we bring them in to see if they would do workshops and lectures, and share their craft,” Wilson said.

A good example of these goals came into play when former New York Yankees player and guitarist Bernie Williams visited. Not only did he and his band provide an outstanding performance, but he also led a master class for students, as others have too.

The result? “Our students love it,” Wilson noted.

This October, the Grunin Center will explore the education of girls around the world. The goal of the six-week project is to engage OCC students and residents in a dialogue about the cultural values that affect girls’ access to primary and secondary education. During that time, participants can attend workshops, meet distinguished guests, view relevant art and films and hear music that all touch on the theme of “A Historical and Contemporary Perspective: Education for Girls around the World./p>

“Being that we are on a college campus, a part of our mission is to help educate students and the community,” Wilson said.

And by all accounts, the Grunin Center is doing just that. For tickets information, call the Grunin Center Box Office at (732) 255-0500 or visit www.grunincenter.org.

Another gem among gems is the Robert J. Novins Planetarium, which is also housed at Ocean County College. A virtual 3D video space, this state-of-the-art planetarium is the only in the state with an optomechanical star projector for crisp, realistic star fields. Come visit regularly for scheduled programming, star watches and telescope workshops sure to leave the young and the young-at-heart in awe. For recorded show information, call (732) 255-0342 or for a show schedule and latest on planetarium events, visit www.ocean.edu.

What’s more, Toms River boasts two movie cinemas, AMC Loews Seacourt 10 and Marquee Cinemas Orchard 10, and several area museums, a few highlighted below:

Insectropolis: The Bugseum of New Jersey. Learn more about the creepy critters that live around you at this interactive bug museum that’s crawling with thousands of bugs from all over the world. Insectropolis. 1761 U.S. 9, Toms River, NJ 08755. (732) 349-7090.

Ocean County Historical Society. See historic exhibitions, take in reenactments and listen to educational presentations. Here, you can also visit the Richard L. Strickler Research Center, and view artifacts indigenous to the area. Ocean County Historical Society. 26 Hadley Ave., Toms River, NJ 08753. (732) 341-1880.

Toms River Seaport Society and Maritime Museum. Learn about the rich maritime heritage of the Barnegat Bay in New Jersey. See schooners, catboats and other small craft that have sailed in New Jersey waters. Toms River Seaport

Society and Maritime Museum.
11 Hooper Ave., Toms River, NJ. (732) 349-9209.
Let it suffice to say that no matter your penchant for fun, festivals or fine arts, there’s more to enjoy in Toms River.

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