muriel j smith 120There are some mighty interesting (and fun!) things happening in Highlands these days, and it’s all thanks to cooperative efforts between volunteers who have a real vision for the borough and local businesses who are truly a vital part of the community. And they all seem to realize how important history is as far as appreciating and improving quality of life.

The latest is the second FilmNites planned and arranged by the Highlands Borough Arts Council.

FilmNite is an interactive experience where filmmakers and photographers present their work and then discuss it with audience participants in a cozy, casual screening room environment. One of its sponsors is Bahrs Restaurant which also provides the venue for this innovative project.

That should come as no surprise when it comes to thinking about ways to keep Highlands the terrific place it is and making it better all the time. The restaurant is one of the country's oldest family run restaurants in continuous operation, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.

Jay Cosgrove is the 4th generation, a great grandson of the original founders, grandson to Buddy Bahrs, a former councilman and Mayor of Highlands, and son of Ray who worked so closely with his father-in-law Buddy when the late Mayor and his wife Peg made everyone want to come to Bahrs because of their sheer personalities and love of Highlands (to say nothing of great food!).

The Arts Council is a lot newer than Bahrs Restaurant but just as devoted to Highlands. Springing from the disaster of Super storm Sandy, this little group of dedicated volunteers brought the Council from a FEMA idea through assistance with neighboring Atlantic Highlands Arts Council to now being a 501 3c nonprofit organization on its own! Pretty impressive accomplishments in only a few years! The Council’s mission is simple and easy: improving the quality of life in Highlands, by helping the arts to flourish.

So, on Friday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m., the second in the FilmNite series will take place at Bahrs Restaurant. It’s “The Battles of Midway,” and all about birds, biologists and battleships, a fascinating trio if ever there was one!

gooney birdsAt this gathering, Deputy Director Dave Grant from the Shark Research Institute will take everyone on a trip to the Northwest Pacific National Wildlife Refuge and the Battle of Midway Monument. You’ll be able to peek in on biologists restoring the island where the famous gooney birds live, and at the same time see how historians have preserved military and Hawaiian cultural artifacts. Of course, since Midway is considered the greatest naval victory in American history, there will also be honors shown to the heroes who made it all happen. For the naturalists and bird lovers out there, gooney birds are those huge albatross that make Midway their home, mate for life, and are beautifully graceful in the air, but terribly awkward on landing! It’s because of them that the wildlife refuge was established there.

Grant himself is quite a fascinating character in his own right. Writer, underwater naturalist, conservationist with  an EPA Environmental Quality Award to prove it, he has participated in numerous research cruises and activities with NOAA and NASA, as well as Teachers IN Space, colleges, universities, and all of this not only in the USA but in 18 or so other countries as well. He has studied everything from ice cores in the Arctic and Antarctica to marine life at Pitcairn Island and sharks at Galapagos as well as Midway.

The program and film at Bahrs for FilmNite is free and no reservations are necessary. Of course, anyone can come early and enjoy dinner first, but there will be drinks and snacks available downstairs in the viewing room at the event.

Check out the Art Council’s site at http://www.highlandsartscouncil.com. Note that In the Garden, Rick's Eco-Green & Clean, Gateway Press, and Lab Scientific are also co-sponsors of this great event. It’s worth it to set aside Feb.24 for an entertaining evening, a bit more pride in our American Navy,  and an appreciation of what this Arts Council is doing for the community.