Sept. 30, 2003 – For 27 years folks have been getting together on a Sunday in October on St. Thomas to celebrate their love of live music and their appreciation of good company. It's been a movable feast, but one that's had a loyal following.
In 1977, it was just a group of talented friends getting together to sing and play. Then things got organized, and the event moved to the lot across from Sib's on the Mountain. In addition to the music and the fund-raising to benefit community causes of the committee's choosing, the October Sunday Festival soon offered a venue for other not-for-profit and educational groups to set up activity booths to solicit support for their own purposes.
When the space on the mountain got to be too small, everybody moved down to the Crown Bay landfill, and then to the Reichhold Center parking lot — except for that memorable day in Emancipation Garden little more than a month after Hurricane Marilyn blew through and right after the power came back in the park. And then came a stint at the Frenchtown ballpark.
But then, three years ago, the organizers decided it was time for "going back to our roots," as Polly Watts puts it. Watts and her husband, Fred, got the whole phenomenon going and have continued over the years as movers and shakers of October Sunday, along with Bill Grogan and Jimmy Loveland.
For 2001, she says, the decision was made to downsize, simplify and get back to basics — "a gathering of musicians and friends to share our common love of all kinds of music." They dropped the "festival" label, dubbed the gathering a "beach jam," rented a Magens Bay shed and put out the word.
Come Sunday, they'll be doing the same thing for the third successive year. The place is Shed No. 3. The time is 1 to 6 p.m. The event "is very low key" compared to the old days, Watts says. But even so, there'll be an abundance of the essential ingredient — live music leaning toward folk, blues, reggae, soft rock and world genres.
The groups on tap to perform include Harmony Dem, Groundsea and Family and Friends. "These have all been involved since the start," Watts notes, adding that Grogan and Loveland are expected to be there, too.
The lineup also includes Nicky Russell, Janet Reiter, Morgan Rael, Eddie Feldman, Carl and Wiesy Butler, RJ Nuisance, Simon and Phil Robinson. "We're hoping for some interesting jams with instruments ranging from steelpan to mandolin to drum sets, congas and bongos," Watts says.
The public is invited to join in, listen up and enjoy the limin' life at the 2003 October Sunday Beach Jam.
Now, as to food and drink: Things are different, here, too, from how they used to be in the festival heyday. The organizers will be providing, in addition to the free music, "lots of ice and paper products, which we hope to fill with the food and drink you bring to share."
No corporate sponsors, no ticket-sellers, no raffles, no commemorative T-shirts, no need to part with a penny, once you meet your obligations at the Magens Bay booth. Just an invitation to show up with something for others to partake of, as you do the same with what they've supplied, and sit back and enjoy the music.
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