Terrace Tavern’s ‘Christmas in July’ Fundraiser Fulfill-ed Its Purpose

By SANDRA WEYANT | Aug 02, 2017
Photo by: Jack Reynolds

Holiday cheer filled the Terrace Tavern in Beach Haven Terrace during the Christmas in July fundraising event last Tuesday. Restaurant owners Toby and Michael Sweeney partnered with nonprofit organization Fulfill of Monmouth and Ocean County to collect cans of food to help fight hunger in New Jersey communities. Summertime is a period of extreme struggle for most food banks to have enough resources, and the Sweeneys were grateful they were able to make a difference.

The event began at noon and lasted until closing time, and according to Toby Sweeney, the turnout was incredible. “People dropped off canned goods all day, more than we expected. Many people didn’t even know about the gift raffle we were doing; they just wanted to donate,” Sweeney said. “We did a promotion several days before the event, and our bartenders gave out fake dollar bills, but customers could only use it on ‘Christmas,’ because we really wanted to pack it in. We really wanted to just make an impact for Fulfill.” Staff members also encouraged guests to go to the nearby Wawa to pick up a few cans to contribute.

Passersby were curious about the Christmas décor and music emanating from the restaurant, and some people even came back to make a donation. The Terrace Tavern had Christmas lights inside and outside, and even mounted blow-up decorations on the roof. Aside from the fundraising aspect, Sweeney said her favorite part of the occasion was the staff’s involvement. “One of our bartenders showed up dressed like an elf from head to toe. Everyone was so excited to be together. Every one of our staff members was there, whether they were working or not. It really felt like we were doing something great for everyone, and all guests could put their stressors aside and just enjoy it. Events like this one are critical for camaraderie,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney described the evening as the Christmas party she never gets to have with her favorite people during the actual holiday season. “A lot of our employees go back to college, or they’re working or living in north Jersey, and because we are a seasonal business, we don’t get that fun holiday party to be together,” she said.

Even though the Christmas in July party may be over, The Terrace Tavern is still accepting non-perishable donations for Fulfill until Aug. 4. “I would love for Fulfill to be our ongoing partners every year, so we will stick to the same protocol, and it will be common knowledge. People will get it and be like ‘Oh yeah, Terrace Tavern is having its Christmas in July event again.’”

To learn more about Fulfill’s mission or becoming a volunteer, visit fulfillnj.org.

Along with cool raffle prizes, attendees were also able to enjoy the gift of music from local singer-songwriter Ted Hammock, who performed a mélange of Christmas tunes, originals and top hits. Hammock was dressed in shorts and flip-flops, but made sure to sport a Santa hat on his head and Christmas lights around his neck while he played.

After graduating from college with degrees in both geography and film criticism, Hammock began playing gigs during his summertime stay on Long Beach Island. He worked as a restaurant server and performed part-time, but more so as a hobby, not a career. Once he started playing more gigs at different venues, even more places were interested in booking him for entertainment. “It was a snowball effect. It started with one or two places, then two or three, and so on and so forth. Then I couldn’t even work at the restaurant anymore,” he said. “It wasn’t my dream from a young age, but it was from age 18 and on. I didn’t think it would ever be possible for me to do this for a living, but then it happened.”

Hammock performs as a solo artist, as a duo with guitarist Matt Fisher or good friend Jason Booth, or as a trio called the Pickles, a group he plays with every Monday night at The Old Causeway. “I love the freedom and flexibility that all of this offers me,” Hammock said. Hammock and the Pickles, comprised of three acoustic guitar players, are strong on three-part harmony songs, such as “Hotel California.” “It’s basically like Crosby, Stills and Nash. I’ve never done anything like that and I haven’t seen it done around here, so that makes it special,” he said. Dispatch has been the biggest influence for Hammock, even though it is not “wildly popular or famous.” “It’s just three guys and their three-part harmonies are amazing, which is probably why I love playing with the Pickles.

“By myself, I do sing-alongs or toasts to get the crowd into it. I just feel lucky that I get to do all of these things and play with such amazing musicians, eat every piece of the pie, so to speak.” Hammock is strictly an acoustic guitar player, and his original music takes inspiration from Jack Johnson, who is well known for his laid-back beach style and vibe. “I will never forget hearing that for the first time. It really struck a chord with me,” he said. Creating original tracks is an emotional experience for Hammock, and his lyrics are often based on life experiences, but not necessarily ones he has lived.

“I’ll have an idea in my head, and then I’ll think of chords that fit that idea and emotion, and decide if I want it to be fast or slow. It’s an emotional game, so that is what it is all about. I want to keep it true to how I’m feeling,” he said. “If I’m feeling introspective, I might make it more folky or if I’m feeling upbeat, I might do a little more reggae. I have so many emotions and I never want to limit myself to one.” Hammock released a full-length album in 2007 titled “Making My Way” and an EP “In Between” in 2010, both of which are available to preview and purchase on iTunes.

Hammock considers himself to be a “chameleon of the trade,” being able to mix it up and perform songs of every genre. He “almost never” has a set list and, instead, reads the crowd to decide what to play. Hammock takes the age group of the crowd into consideration, along with how everyone “appears emotionally.”

“If it is an older crowd, I stick to the ’60s music, The Beatles and Rolling Stones, and if it’s younger people, I do Justin Bieber songs or The Lumineers, and whatever else is playing on the radio. In general, I read the people and do what is best for each crowd, and I am always accepting song requests.”

To chase his dream, Hammock has made a living by following tourism and has traveled all over the country to share his passion for music. Hammock feels fulfilled with how his music career developed throughout the years, and is now hoping to focus more on his personal life and goals. “I’m looking forward to marriage and having a family, and seeing where that next step takes me, and playing music along the way. I will never stop performing. Music has been very good to me,” he said.

Visit tedhammock.com to preview his music and view an upcoming list of shows. Hammock’s next performance will be at The Plantation in Harvey Cedars on Aug. 3.

Set List Snippet:

“Chicken Fried,” Zac Brown Band

“Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,” Bob Marley

“Jingle Bells”

“Ho Hey,” The Lumineers

“Folsom Prison Blues,” Johnny Cash

 

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