West Windsor businesses and residents are coming together to host Martian Weekend+ next month in celebration of the 80th anniversary of the “War of the Words” radio broadcast.
On Oct. 30, 1938, Orson Welles’ radio dramatization of “War of the Worlds” changed broadcasting history. When people heard the dramatic reading of H.G. Well’s novel “War of the Worlds,” some listeners believed the work of fiction was a news account of aliens landing in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey — part of present day West Windsor.
People throughout the region panicked and hastily fled the area. In Grover’s Mill there were even reports of a resident shooting at the water tower, which resembled the description of the Martian space ships. The aftermath of the radio broadcast impacted future regulation by the FCC and federal, state and local emergency preparedness planning.
Today, West Windsor embraces this unique history and celebrates it as a moment of true belief of life from outer space and the power and influence of the arts.
To honor the 80th anniversary, Grover’s Mill Coffeehouse, the West Windsor Arts Council and West Windsor resident Kristin Epstein are hosting Martian Weekend+, five days of free activities.
Several events build up to the Martian Weekend+, including the Martian Costume Parade at the Sept. 24 Food Truck and Craft Beer festival at the Princeton Junction Train Station, Martian art projects at the Oct. 6 Autumn Arts Afternoon at Nassau Park Pavilion, and a debris clean-up and nature walk at Van Nest Park on Oct. 20.
The Martian Weekend+ event runs Friday, Oct. 26 to Tuesday, Oct. 30. The weekend activities are free and include art activities, parties, a lecture about Mars by a NASA expert, a Martian bike ride, an Orson Welles séance, a re-enactment of the radio broadcast, and more.
Grover’s Mill Coffee has been hosting the re-enactment of the broadcast every year since the 75th anniversary, and they are joined by visitors from all over the United States, including Ann Robinson who appeared in both the 1953 and 2005 movie portrayals.
Friends of West Windsor Senior Citizens, West Windsor Historical Society, West Windsor Bicycle-Pedestrian Alliance, Grover’s Mill Coffee and West Windsor Arts Center are all contributing to the Martian Weekend+ schedule.
In cooperation with the Martian Weekend+, Mickey DeFranco, owner of Grover’s Mill Coffee, is organizing a month-long West Windsor Small Business Scavenger Hunt. The free scavenger hunt will encourage people from around Central New Jersey to visit small businesses in West Windsor and win prizes.
The West Windsor Arts Council has announced plans for a public sculpture installation, collectively called The mARTian Project. The sculptures will be installed in various highly trafficked locations in West Windsor.
For more information on the Martian Weekend+, visit westwindsorarts.org.