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What's a Rent Party?

Mysterious lawn signs explained.

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 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 have literally helped to feed thousands by providing goods to the food pantries at in South Orange and 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 concerts and .

"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 rentparty@comcast.net.

Here's the answer to a question so many people have asked me.
Chris Dickson November 10, 2011 at 07:29 PM
Hey, thanks so much for educating the people!! Since we started, we have raised more than $25,000, thanks in large part to the matching funds of the HK Community Fund, to support the OLS and St. Joe's food pantries ... We've also sponsored two community garden plots in each of the last two years. The food from these plots help feed the hungry ... We also launched our own "in-house" program called BackPack Pals, which provides weekend meals for "in need" children in the Maplewood/South Orange school district ... Quite honestly, this thing has grown beyond our wildest dreams ... And we ain't done! Month after month, we have the pleasure of bring some of the best bands (covers and originals) to our part of the world ... "Good music. Good cause". We couldn't have done any of this without the unwavering support of the South Orange Elks! There's a special group of guys down there, who want to make a difference in their community ... Thanks so much to all the folks who support us month after month ... Now that you've been educated, I have one more question for you ... How come you ain't been to a Rent Party yet?? We hope to see you Friday!!

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