• Joseph F. Berenato

The times, they are a-changing—or are they?


Musician Jason Mento. (Courtesy Photo)

When The Hammonton Gazette debuted on July 2, 1997, the lead entertainment story highlighted local guitarist Jason Mento, who was set to play at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia on July 4. Twenty-five years later, Mento—now a resident of Sicklerville—is still playing, enjoying gigs in and around the area.


That first edition also featured a review of a local restaurant which, though that particular establishment is no longer in operation, has been the home of Marquez Mexican Grill since October of 2020.


In July of 1997, when the internet was still in its infancy, two websites vied for the attention of Hammonton’s netizens. Now, Hammontonians have a bevy of choices of where to go online to receive news and updates about their hometown.


Quite a bit has changed in the 25 years since The Hammonton Gazette’s premiere. If that much has happened locally, what else has changed nationally—or globally—and what hasn’t?


In 1997, LeAnn Rimes became the youngest person ever—at 14 years old—to win a Grammy. Now 39, Rimes recently announced the forthcoming release of a new album, as well as a return to the concert stage this September.


The band Aqua released their one-hit earworm “Barbie Girl” in 1997. In 2022, filming began on Barbie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken—though there are no plans to use the song in the movie.


The Backstreet Boys are on tour. (Courtesy Photo)

The Backstreet Boys released their self-titled debut album in the United States in 1997 and continued a meteoric rise to global superstardom. They are currently in the midst of a worldwide tour to promote their 10th studio album, DNA.


Hanson was one of the most popular acts in the world thanks to the 1997 release of their single, “MMMBop.” Today, they are not, though they, too, are currently on tour.


Ewan McGregor in “Obi-Wan Kenobi.” (Courtesy Photo)

The original Star Wars trilogy saw its remastered theatrical release in the early months of 1997, and filming began for The Phantom Menace on June 26 of that year. Twenty-five years later, the franchise is at the top of its game, most notably with the recent addition of “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” which saw Ewan McGregor return to the title role for the first time in 17 years.


Batman and Robin, starring George Clooney as the Dark Knight, was released on June 20, 1997. It was critically panned and signaled the end of the Tim Burton-era films. On March 4 of this year, The Batman—starring Robert Pattinson as the ninth live actor to portray the titular hero on the silver screen—was released in theaters to critical acclaim, bringing the Caped Crusader back to his detective roots. A sequel is currently in development.


Q and Picard in the second season of “Star Trek: Picard.” (Courtesy Photo)

Star Trek saturated the airwaves in 1997, with both Deep Space Nine and Voyager vying for the attention of Trekkies everywhere. Improbably, the 56-year-old franchise now has even more small-screen exposure than ever before; this year saw the debut of “Star Trek: Strange New Worlds,” as well as the fourth season of “Star Trek: Discovery,” the second season of “Star Trek: Picard,” the second-half of the premiere season of “Star Trek: Prodigy;” the third season of “Star Trek: Lower Decks” is scheduled to air later in 2022.


Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone was first published in Great Britain in 1997, and, almost overnight, turned into a literary sensation. Today, the brand is worth more than $25 billion, and an 11th movie set in the wizarding world—Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore—opened in theaters on April 15.


“South Park” premiered in 1997, and was—for its time—the most controversial cartoon ever produced. It’s still on the air today, though changing sensibilities have softened its bite a bit.


The Lost World: Jurassic Park hit theaters on May 19, 1997, ultimately taking in $618.6 million. Conversely, Jurassic World: Dominion opened on the big screen on June 10 of this year, and is not being as well received.


In 1997, cell phones were a luxury of the well-to-do, and everyone needed a camera to take pictures, a telephone to make calls, a pager to receive rudimentary text messages, a radio/cassette/cd player to listen to music, a television to watch broadcast programs, a VHS and/or DVD player to watch pre-recorded movies and a computer to access the internet. Today, all of these things can be done from one cell phone, and those without cell phones are looked at as if they too, come from the Jurassic Age.


They say everything old becomes new again, which makes one wonder what the next 25 years may hold. Hopefully not more Hanson.