‘Christmas in July’ Food Drive Showcases Good Will and Local Talent Ted Hammock

Aug 01, 2018
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Last Wednesday night, hordes of red-and-white-clad Santa Claus impersonators braved a July drizzle en route to Terrace Tavern in Beach Haven Terrace for the 15th annual “Christmas in July” food drive. Gleaming along the Boulevard, the bar stood out like a crimson lantern in the night as folks poured through the entrance. With each opening and closing of the door, a jolly amalgam of noises and warmth seemed to trickle out into the street like some nostalgic ode to a certain Dickens novel. Despite 80-degree temperatures and inclement weather conditions, Christmas came early this year.

Inside, metallic garland and string lights looped the perimeter. Bar goers wore ugly sweaters, with multi-colored Christmas lights strung about their necks and across their shoulders. In cheery irony, the television above the heaping pile of raffle prizes displayed a crackling fireplace, popping embers on screen while the AC blasted from vents above. Eggnog and Jell-O shots were served, and the musical man of the hour, Ted Hammock, stood between two speakers, guitar in hand, sporting his own glittering holiday getup.

Proudly decked in a beaded reindeer vest, the acoustic performer kicked off his set with “Jingle Bells,” but not before mentioning how strange it felt to be singing the festive anthem at the peak of summer. This, however, wasn’t Hammock’s first rodeo. The Manahawkin resident is a frequently featured talent at Terrace Tavern, and has even played the restaurant’s Christmas in July food drive in previous years.

“It’s such a fun night. Everyone is in a great mood, and it’s just a great reason to get together and celebrate. You sort of feel like you’re somewhere else for a night, like maybe what Christmas would feel like in Hawaii,” said Hammock.

At the age of just 17, Hammock, originally from West Chester, Pa., kicked off what would become a full-time stage career, ranging from Philadelphia to the Jersey Shore to Colorado. “I wasn’t sure I wanted to do it full time; it kind of found me. As more time went by I got more gigs, until the point where I didn’t need to hold another job.”

In the 12 years he’s been performing in the area, Hammock has released a full length album, Making My Way, and an EP, In Between.

“My original music is basically introspective stuff and life challenges, or songs I can put myself into someone else’s shoes and write from their perspective as well. Most of it is just a maturation process of wherever I was at that exact time and place,” said Hammock. 

He cites Dispatch, Tom Petty and Sublime amongst his top musical inspirations. “I consider my tastes pretty eclectic. I can listen to classical or jazz or blues if the mood strikes me right. I’ve got an open musical mind, so there’s always room for new stuff and maybe stuff I haven’t given a chance in the past.”

Between songs, patrons presented Hammock with drinks and requests. Old acquaintances greeted him with hugs, kisses and kind words. One man even went so far as to lift him into the air, nearly knocking his guitar into a whirring ceiling fan. The contagion of Hammock’s energy was spread not only from his spirit, but also from his performance. The smooth, beachy lilt of his voice melded with his buoyant guitar riffs. The diversity of his covers demonstrated his skills and carefree, can-do attitude. It’s hard not to watch and listen to Hammock without letting a silly, delighted smile spread across your face.

This kind of joy-inducing show is exactly what Hammock hopes to achieve every time he takes the mic. “Music brings cheer. If you can make someone’s day a little better, or get them tapping along, that’s a success to me. It’s the little things. I don’t need glamour and adoration. If you go out and you have the desire to enjoy music, then hopefully in some small way I give that to you.”

The Manahawkin-based musician is a self-managed performer, which entails booking his own gigs, a difficult undertaking when he was new to the scene. “In the beginning it’s harder because you don’t have the connections. It’s easier to have an agent or agency book you for bars, but as time moves on, you build your own relationships with restaurants, bar owners and managers, and you deal with them on a personal level, so I enjoy it.”

Judging by his performance and the crowd’s reception of him, Hammock has built quite a sturdy fan base for himself. Toby Sweeney, an owner of Terrace Tavern, counts herself among these fans.“Ted first started playing at the Terrace when I was general manager, and he has been a huge part of seasons since. It made perfect sense to have him be the entertainment. He has such a loyal following.”

Sweeney and her husband, Michael Sweeney, bought Terrace Tavern from her father just last year, and decided to continue the tradition of the mid-summer Christmas in July party. “It was very important to me as a new owner to align ourselves with several nonprofit partners,” said Sweeney.

For the event last Wednesday, the Sweeneys partnered with Fulfill, the food bank of Monmouth and Ocean counties. “It made complete sense that Fulfill be our partner for the event. Children are the most food-insecure in Ocean and Monmouth County in the summer months, as schools are closed and lots of free and reduced lunch recipients lose that benefit,” she said.

Just last year, the Christmas in July food drive gathered enough donations for Fulfill to serve over 380 meals, “This year we packed the house and packed the donations.”

The proceeds from the day’s drink specials would make up the majority of a hefty cash donation. Terrace Tavern also offered incentives for patrons to bring canned goods. For each non-perishable item, customers were given a raffle ticket that could win them a prize or two later in the evening.

In the end, though, it wasn’t about the stack of shiny door prizes in the corner. It was about celebrating music, community, charity and, though prematurely, Christmas. It was about belting out “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” in the middle of a crowded bar on a drizzly July evening.

For more information about the event, visit facebook.com/terracetavern/. To read more about Hammock, visit tedhammock.com/home.

— Sarah Hodgson

Set List Snippet:

“Take Me Home, Country Roads,” John Denver

“American Girl,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

“Folsom Prison Blues,” Johnny Cash

“You Make My Dreams,” Hall and Oates

“Faith,” George Michael

“Down Under,” Men at Work

“Africa,” Toto

“Plush,” Stone Temple Pilots

“Three Little Birds,” Bob Marley

“Boyz ’n Da Hood,” N.W.A.

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