Project 52

Assignment 22 - Holiday Story

Due to the holidays, we were given a bit of a hiatus from the 52 week project, but were assigned a photo story to illustrate, with about a month to complete the assignment.  The premise was this: a magazine wants to run a short feature on the top 6 super-secret towns for the holidays. Your town is chosen, and you are the photographer/writer.  We were asked to write a few paragraphs and were given guidance on the types of shot to shoot.  

While December got a bit crazy - my husband was in the hospital, we hosted 25 people for Christmas, and my holiday spirit was a bit low because we didn't get very "Christmasy" weather, I tried to get motivated and schedule in some shoots.  I was pleasantly surprised by all I learned about Mahwah, because we never find ourselves downtown - we are more closely located to the downtown areas of 3 or 4 other towns. This isn't one of my strongest submissions of the project, but here is the story (written as if I was visiting Mahwah as a holiday destination) and the images I submitted:


As we stepped off the train at this year's holiday destination in Mahwah, New Jersey, the first thing we noticed was the old caboose in the lot adjacent to the station.  While waiting for the hotel shuttle, we walked over to check it out.  What we found at the exhibit, which is curated by the Mahwah Museum, is that it is a 1929 Erie cupola caboose on the site of the old Mahwah train station, established in 1871.  In addition to the caboose, there is a display which contains many interesting artifacts given to the museum by railroad collectors.  We headed back up the road to the main museum site on Franklin Avenue, which houses an impressive model train display.  There are approximately 200 model railroad cars and locomotives on the layout, which operates on 225 feet of track over four levels.  It is open to the public on weekends and selected weeknights during the holidays.  The model train display was made possible by the donation of the family of Donald Cooper, for whom the exhibit is named.  

Our shuttle arrived to take us to our hotel, so we loaded up our bags and off we went.  While there are many places to stay in Mahwah, the most impressive by far is the Sheraton Mahwah, located at the Crossroads Corporate Center.  The 22 story glass building has beautiful views of the Ramapo Mountains and is set off the nearby highways for a quiet experience.  After settling into the hotel, we opted to explore the local area for dinner.  The most popular dining places in Mahwah are taverns - Kinchley's and the Mason Jar, but we were looking for something a bit more upscale.  The hotel staff suggested the towns of Ramsey, Ridgewood and Allendale as having the largest concentration of restaurants in the area.  We headed off to the Allendale Steakhouse in nearby Allendale and had a terrific steak dinner served by a friendly staff.    

We got up bright and early the next morning, anxious to get some exercise to work off the extra large helpings of steak from the prior evening.  Located less than 30 miles from New York City, Mahwah is an outdoor lover’s paradise.  Two county parks, Ramapo Valley and Campgaw Mountain, occupy over 4.500 acres and contain over 30 combined miles of hiking trails.  In the winter, by far the most popular use of the parks are the downhill ski slopes at Campgaw, complete with chair lifts and snow making equipment.  We enjoyed a full day on the slopes and even took some time to check out the hiking trails, which are used for cross country skiing in the winter.

On our second full day in the area, we decided to do some Christmas shopping.  While a large scale shopping mall in is in the planning stages in Mahwah, the closest option was the town of Paramus, located 10 miles to the south.  Paramus is one of the largest shopping destinations in the country, generating more in annual retail sales than any other zip code in the US, so we headed down there to experience the pre-Christmas craziness.  It did not disappoint - it took us over 30 minutes to find a parking spot at the Garden State Plaza and we spent our fair share of time on line at every store.  

After an exhausting day of shopping, we decided we were looking for a hearty meal and a taste of New Jersey's "Diner Culture," since NJ boasts over 500 diners.  The State Line Diner in Mahwah has been family owned and operated since 1976, and from the line out the door, you can see why they've survived as long as they have.  The first thing we noticed was the large dessert case inside the front door.  The "all day breakfast" is a key feature of a diner, so we decided to have pancakes and waffles.  Despite not finishing our main course, we couldn't get the thought of the dessert case out of our minds, so we shared a slice of pumpkin and a slice of banana pie.  They were both generous portions and were excellent.

In the evenings, the Berrie Center for Performing and Visual Arts on the campus of Ramapo College holds concerts, plays, film festivals and other acts throughout the year.  On our final evening in town, we attended this year’s Christmas performance at the Berrie Center, which was a gospel collective called “One Desire.”  It left us in a great mood for the coming holidays and was a great way to end our trip to Mahwah!

Next week's assignment is to create an image to illustrate a New Year's forecast story entitled "2016: A Year of Change.”  I'm thinking of calling Donald Trump's campaign team to see if I can get a portrait!  [Just kidding...]