Firefly Gallery Celebrates Woodstock Legacy of Peace, Love and Music

By Monique M. Demopoulos | Aug 21, 2019
Photo by: Monique M. Demopoulos (From left) Christy Wilson, Jules and Ellie Wilson-Newbury, Faith Wight

Surf City — Rock ’n’ roll music lured curious beachgoers into the glimmering Firefly Gallery in Surf City on Saturday. Decked out in earth tones, beads and feathers, owner Joanne Dozor sported her very best Janis Joplin look as she welcomed guests for a free, full-day community celebration of the 50th anniversary of Woodstock Music Festival.

In the entryway stood a funky cardboard cutout of the iconic VW bus, a photo op for the little hippies. Just inside, Ingrid Rosenberg sat before a table of exotic beads, inviting guests to make their own “love bracelets.” Out back, visitors got their hands dirty, participating in the vibrant art of tie-dye, with the guidance of retired art teacher Faith Wight. Everyone who participated left with a self-made shirt.

According to Dozor, Wight “just came one day out of the blue, and I just love her!” Wight explained that she had just retired from teaching art in a public high school in Hamilton when she visited Firefly last year during a trip to Surf City with her sister. Dozor’s mosaic majesty adorned in all things eclectic inspired Wight, who decided to write Dozor over the winter about being a part of Firefly. Upon viewing her portfolio, Dozor embraced Wight immediately. Wight grinned, “In 1973, we rented a house in Surf City. This was my first beach place, and here I am again.”

Wight’s photography, collage art and silk scarves can all be found at Firefly Gallery. She also teaches tie dye every Tuesday morning. “I like to teach interesting things to kids,” Wight smiled. “As a teacher, it’s important to keep on top of learning new things.” Wight explained that while she is a baby boomer, her mother would not allow her to attend the original Woodstock Festival in 1969. She was glad to celebrate 50 years later with today’s youth, sharing her love for tie-dye and listening to some of her favorite artists such as The Who, Paul McCartney and Santana.

Danni Newbury and her wife, Christy Wilson, participated in Wight’s tie-dye class with their two young daughters, 6-year-old Ellie and 2-year-old Jules. Wilson has spent her summers in Surf City since the 1970s, and continues the tradition today with a family of her own. A celebration of peace and love was especially meaningful for the couple, being two proud mothers of their children. Back in Rahway, Newbury works for Union County as the coordinator of LGBTQ affairs. She explained that Union is the only county in New Jersey to have an office specifically for LGBTQ affairs, and she is pleased to be a part of the progressive movement.

When asked who their favorite music artist was, for Wilson it was “Led Zeppelin, without a question,” although her wife remembered a valid point: Led Zeppelin did not play Woodstock. Robert Plant was, however, scheduled to play this year’s Woodstock 50, before the entire enterprise dissolved due to a lengthy saga of legal complications. Of the artists who played in the original lineup, Newbury said her favorites are The Who, Janis Joplin and Arlo Guthrie.

Smiling behind the counter was Brielle Willoughby, who is entering her senior year at Southern Regional. An enthusiasm for art might run in her family, as Willoughby’s mother, Lisa Willoughby, is an expert kite performer. Lisa flew kites for world-renowned muppet master Jim Henson. Brielle explained that this event was her introduction to Woodstock. “I asked Joanne what Woodstock was, and she almost fainted. I thought she was going to kick me out of the store!”

Dozor, who graduated from college in 1964, recalled fond memories of traveling in her Volkswagen van and seeing influential acts like Led Zeppelin and the Grateful Dead in Haight-Ashbury during the peak of the 1960s counterculture scene. Dozor also saw Janis Joplin at Penn State in 1968. She expressed her love for Donovan and Joni Mitchell, and her favorites from the original Woodstock concert, the Incredible String Band and Richie Havens.

She described being in her van with her 6-month-old-son en route to Woodstock in 1969. “By the time we got to the town of Woodstock, they closed down the road. The only way to get there would have been to walk 6 miles, and I couldn’t do that with my son.”

Dozor lives a Woodstock lifestyle, and Firefly is a welcoming haven for the bohemian in everyone. Dozor teaches watercolor and mosaic. “My daughter, Emily, does all the watercolor sea creatures,” she smiled.

From late afternoon into the evening, Firefly sealed the experience, hosting local musicians Dan Brown, Sahara Moon and Greg Warren. After all, a Woodstock party would be nothing if not for live music performance. All three delivered groovy licks to the Saturday night crowd for an epic finish to a sunny day of nostalgia.

— Monique M. Demopoulos

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.