Ground zero for the 1938 invasion is in full launch mode for its 80th anniversary — and beyond.
“It’s part of our country’s history and unique to this place,” says Aylin Green, executive director of the West Windsor Arts Council (WWAC). “We can look forward to celebrating the 90th anniversary and the 100th.”
The Martian Weekend+, coordinated by WWAC, runs from Friday, October 26, through the actual anniversary on Tuesday, October 30. Activities are free and spread throughout various township venues. They include art, parties, a Martian bike ride, an Orson Welles seance, a re-enactment of the radio broadcast, and more. For more information on the Martian Weekend+, visit www.westwindsornj.org/war-of-worlds-main.html.
The mARTian Project
In addition to the impressive monument erected in Van Nest Park for the 50th anniversary in 1988, the West Windsor Arts Council (WWAC) is emphasizing the “art” in “Martian” by establishing a township-wide collection of permanent outdoor sculptures, to be installed in the years ahead at well-trafficked locations. The first mARTian Project piece will be unveiled at WWAC on Saturday, October 27.
West Windsor Farmers Market, Lower Vaughn Parking Lot, near Princeton Junction train station, Saturday, October 27, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Create a “Gourd”-geous alien to decorate home for Hallowe’en or welcome trick-or-treaters. Free materials. Or take part in the “Out of this World” Sidewalk Chalk Contest, open to individuals and groups of all ages, and professional artists. Designs must be original, inspired by space exploration, extraterrestrial life, or “War of the Worlds.” More than $1,000 in gift cards and prizes, including a $300 Amazon gift card for professional winner. See categories and register at www.westwindsorarts.org.
West Windsor Arts Center, 952 Alexander Road. Saturday, October 27, 2 to 6 p.m.: This “Martian Weekend” event kicks off with the unveiling of the first mARTian sculpture by Eric Schultz. Related events include a lecture on Orson Wellses by Al Nigrin at 3 p.m., screening of “Spanish filmmaker Alvaro Congosto’s look at a couple hearing the radio broadcast, “The Suitor,” at 3:30 p.m., and a screening of the 1953 version of “The War of the Worlds,” 4:30 to 6 p.m. www.westwindsornj.org/war-of-worlds-main.html.
Java, Aliens and Local Fun
Grover’s Mill Coffee, 295 Princeton Hightstown Road, began hosting broadcast re-enactments and other celebrations starting with the 75th anniversary. Celebrities such as actress Ann Robinson (who appeared in both the 1953 and 2005 movie versions) have attended past events. It’s now a destination for “War of the Worlds” enthusiasts from across America.
Celebrations of the broadcast’s 80th anniversary will include the Martian Music Mash & Costume Contest, Friday, October 26, 7 to 9 p.m.; the Orson Welles Seance & Psychic Entertainment featuring mentalist Ted St. James, Saturday October 27, 7 p.m.; Live reenactment of the 1938 radio broadcast featuring radio professional and actor Michael Jarmus, Sunday, October 28, 7 p.m. 609-716-8771 or www.groversmillcoffee.com.
West Windsor Small Business Scavenger Hunt
Though Monday, October 29, West Windsor and the mARTian Project, in cooperation with Grover’s Mill Coffee, are holding the hunt. It starts with getting a game card and having it stamped at participating businesses (no purchases necessary). Drop the completed card off at Grover’s Mill Coffee for the prize drawing on Tuesday, October 30. www.groversmillcoffee.com/80th-invasion-events.html.
Princeton Public Library, Community Room, 65 Witherspoon Street. Learn about the revealing archive of “War of the World” related letters to Orson Welles when Philip Hallman and Vincent Longo from the University of Michigan Special Collections Research Center speak and share actual examples, on Tuesday, October 23, at 7 p.m.
The Einstein Alley Musician’s Collaborative will combine live music, spoken word, and sound and lighting effects in reimagining the “War of the Worlds” broadcast script. Genres for the soundscape will include jazz, bluegrass, classical, hip-hop, and electronica. Sunday, October 28, 3 p.m. 609-924-9529 or princetonlibrary.org/events.
Radio-Activity With Abbie From Mars, WPRB 101.3 FM, Tuesday, October 29, 2 to 5 p.m. Unlike her sinister fellow planetarians from 1938, this friendly and witty Martian attends Princeton University (disguised as a history major) and spins both alternative and timeless rock on her Tuesday afternoon radio show. 103.3 FM or online at wprb.com.
Five Boroughs Bicycle Club: A special “War of the Worlds” ride organized by “New York’s friendliest bicycle club” will start from at the Gateway/Old Bridge Shopping Center in South Amboy at 9:45 a.m. for a moderately paced, 50-mile ride through the West Windsor countryside including, of course, Grover’s Mill. Other events are planned for the day. Rain shortens or cancels the ride. Sunday, October 28. firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Mercury Theatre on the Air: The art and memory of this landmark drama program, which later took the name Campbell Playhouse after its soup-making sponsor, is kept alive by enthusiasts. On their website you can find its history, complete show lists with audio files, and further information. If you’ve heard and enjoyed “War of the Worlds,” check out the adaptations of “Dracula,” “Sherlock Holmes,” or “Mutiny on the Bounty.” www.mercurytheatre.info.