Edison, Einstein, Springsteen & Sinatra - They all have one thing in common, they are all inductees of the New Jersey Hall of Fame. I stood on the very first steps of the Red Carpet at Convention Hall in Asbury Park to celebrate 'the Greats of the Garden State.'
"I'm excited to be inducted to a Hall of Fame here because I grew up in this state and when recognized by your people in the state and it's a great thrill!" exclaimed ESPN College Basketball Analyst, Dick Vitale.
"We're supporting our big brothers.. Our fathers, Kool & the Gang, so we are presenting the awards to them," said Vincent Brown of R&B Group, Naughty by Nature.
The New Jersey Hall of Fame selects potential nominees in five categories: General, Enterprise, Sports, Arts & Entertainment and Historical. With only rare exceptions, nominees must have resided in New Jersey for a period of at least five years.
US Women's Soccer Champion, Christie Rampone says, "It's been great because I've been lucky enough to play pro-soccer here in New Jersey, so I'm able to be home with the kids, and watch them grow and coach my daughter in basketball this season. It was a lot of fun, its great to be able to do both and enjoy a sport for what it is."
Montclair's Carla Harris, the Vice Chairman of Wealth Management and Managing Director at Morgan Stanley as well as an accomplished gospel singer and public speaker, was named the Hall of Fame's Unsung Hero. "I'm just looking forward to being a part of this great night, and I'll be performing... I'm the closing act!”
Other inductees included, former New York Yankee Derek Jeter, Comedian Jon Stewart, William Fox, founder of Fox Studios, legendary R&B band Kool & the Gang and 19th-century novelist, James Fenimore Cooper. They were honored during the ceremony, hosted by ‘Jersey Boy,’ Joe Piscopo. While some of these legends were able to make an appearance at the reception, others were remembered in memoriam, as they were celebrated on the stage.
I spoke with Senator Lautenberg's son and asked, "So how does it feel to be here tonight, on behalf of your father? It must be a huge accomplishment." He replied, "It is exciting, we unfortunately lost our father a couple of years ago, I know he would have loved to be here. Asbury Park is a place he loved so much."
Don Jay Smith, one of the founders of the New Jersey Hall of Fame says, "I met with the board probably nine years ago to see if I would be the 1st Executive Director and get the whole thing off the ground. Our first ballad was where we got Thomas Edison, he was the very first person we inducted. I was really honored to be part of the New Jersey Hall of Fame when it first started and get the whole thing created and ran five of these wonderful induction ceremonies."
The New Jersey Hall of Fame was created in 2005 to honor the state's most distinguished citizens, but also as a way of sending a message to children that they can and should strive for excellence in any endeavor they pursue. For more on this story or to see the video broadcast on 'Jersey Matters,' you can check out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0OvXEfp5ys
Video shot by Jermaine High & Photography by Richard Elliott Hoynes.