By GWEN OREL
“You don’t even know,” said Luke Parker Bowles, about the enthusiasm and success with which Montclair poured itself into Red Nose activation day last Wednesday, May 9. “I saw kids getting on the bus with red noses on. It was beyond incredible.”
The town activation day, involving all of the schools, the fire department, the police department and several local businesses, was a preparation for actual Red Nose Day, on Thursday, May 24.
At Watchung School, kids could buy a piece of red tape for a dollar, and tape the principal to the wall. “He was there for four hours,” said Parker Bowles, a senior ambassador for Red Nose Day, as well as a board member for Montclair Film and chairman of BAFTA NewYork. “The kids were having the best time.”
The new superintendant of Montclair Public Schools, Kendra Johnson, agrees.
“I’ve done a lot of fundraisers in my life, but never have I seen so many people work so hard and have so much fun raising money for such a great cause!” Johnson said in an email.
At Buzz Aldrin Middle School, students threw pies at teachers.
Eleven-year-old Aurora Auld, a a fifth-grader at Watchung school, gave her entire $30 birthday present to Red Nose Day. “Some kids don’t have birthday money, or money at all, and I realize they need it more than I do,” Auld said.
Red Nose Day is a subset of Comic Relief, and is an organization that raises money for children around the world. Comic Relief was founded in 1986 by comic scriptwriter Richard Curtis (who was a special guest honoree at MFF in 2016) and comedian Lenny Henry, in response to famine in Ethiopia.
The U.K. team brought Red Nose Day to America in 2015.
Montclair Mayor Robert Jackson issued a proclamation at a Township Council meeting on Tuesday, April 17 declaring May 24 Montclair’s Red Nose Day.
Beth Breslauer, director of residency in schools for Red Nose Day, described the town-wide activities as a case study for what is possible in towns.
Jennifer Snyder of Little Daisy Bake Shop organized Upper Montclair, he said. Among the businesses that got involved: Cornerstone/Sunshine Sam had an Atomic Ball eating contest. The Little Daisy Bake Shop offered Red Nose sugar cookies and cupcakes.
“There were I think 300 red balloons lining the streets,” Parker Bowles said. “Egan’s created their own Red Nose Day margarita.”
The businesses’ campaign is still ongoing. “My wife and I spotted seven people with red noses last weekend,” Parker Bowles said, “and we barely left the house. My daughter is being treated like a drug dealer, with her friends asking her for more red noses.”
Red noses are for sale in many businesses, he said.
Television crews from the organization filmed some of what was going on, he said, and Montclairities can expect to see themselves on TV (NBC affiliates) and social media.
Parker Bowles, whose son Oliver goes to Nishuane School, and whose daughter Lily attends Hillside, said he went whizzing around all of the schools, beginning at 8 a.m. at Edgemont School and ending at 9 p.m. at Egan’s and Sons. “It was truly one of the most exciting days of my life,” he said.
Whether it a long line of children waiting to pay a dollar to throw a pie, or sculptural red nose balloons outside of Hillside School, nobody phoned it in, he said.
“And their understanding of the fact that it was more than just putting on the red nose, that it was really helping other children, was staggering,” he said.
On May 24 itself, Parker Bowles and Montclair Film’s Executive Director Tom Hall are raising money through a 24-hour movie marathon.
People sign up to sponsor Team Luke or Team Tom, as they would sponsor people cycling for money. The campaign has already raised $10,000, Parker Bowles said.
The theme of this year’s challenge is music performance films, and for every film watched, Hall is assigning Parker Bowles a challenge based on a song or theme from the film. Those challenges will all be captured on Facebook.
So for example during “Stop Making Sense,” a 1984 documentary about the Talking Heads, Parker Bowles will be on Facebook Live having his chest waxed, and people can donate money.
“I have to take the pain this year, and he gets to sit back and watch the movie,” he said.
For details on TeamLuke and the movie marathon for Red Nose Day, visit bit.ly/SupportTeamLuke. For more on Red Nose Day, visit rednoseday.org/impact.