The “Battle of Ridge Road” in Piscataway Saturday will return one local football team home as state champions — and turn one group of mayors into Grinches.
The five mayors whose towns’ students attend Red Bank and Rumson-Fair Haven regional high schools made a friendly wager on the Saturday’s NJSIAA Central Group III championship game at Rutgers University’s High Point Solutions Stadium.
The band of losing mayors will dress up as The Grinch for an upcoming Holiday Express event. The will also make an undisclosed financial donation to the non-profit organization that delivers music, food, gifts, financial support and friendship those in need between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“I think its wonderful because it’s an opportunity to promote one of our finer local charities,” Fair Haven Mayor Ben Lucarelli, who could be joining Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl in costumes if Rumson-Fair Haven loses.
Their challengers: Little Silver Mayor Bob Neff, Red Bank Mayor Pasquale “Pat” Menna and Shrewsbury Mayor Don Burden, who are backing Red Bank Regional.
The schools, both of which are on Ridge Road in Rumson and Little Silver, used to play each other in football regularly before the schools ended up in different conferences, the mayors said.
So when they learned “The Battle of Ridge Road” would once again be happening, Neff said he immediately thought of making a bet akin to those governors make for Super Bowls.
But Neff said he wanted this bet to have more impact than the hometown foods often wagered for professional sports championships. So he reached out to Holiday Express founder Tim McLoone, who determined The Grinch costumes — the non-profit has two of them — would be the prize in this contest.
So why The Grinch? Because the losing mayors will be so upset about the outcome they’ll become as miserly as main character in Dr. Seuss’ Christmas classic?
“I thought making the loser dress as The Grinch would be hilarious,” McLoone said.
In fact, being The Grinch could be viewed almost as an honor. (The losers are actually winners, perhaps?)
The Grinch often brings the biggest reaction at Holiday Express events, “in some cases, even more so than Santa Claus,” he said.
But McLoone said the honor was his that the mayors first thought of Holiday Express as the beneficiary of the bet.
While Holiday Express is known for its Christmas concerts, it also provides meals and gift packages for those who attend. Holiday Express will put on 82 events this year, where the non-profit will hand out some 20,000 gift bags to those in need.
McLoone estimated the cost of a season of events at $1 million. While Holiday Express doesn’t actively seek contributions, exposure that comes from the mayors’ bet helps the effort.
“Any time we are in the public consciousness, we are happy about that. When it comes to people naturally, it’s just a compliment,” he said.