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Sunday, October 2, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesOctober Sunday Moves to November and Fills Magens Bay with Music

October Sunday Moves to November and Fills Magens Bay with Music

From left, Don Edwards, Carl Butler and 'Quizz' relax at October Sunday.Three fellows sat comfortably under a small tent at Magens Beach Sunday, tuning their instruments to play later with "Family and Friends," but mostly just enjoying each other and their stories.

The stories go back 35 years, to the very first October Sunday festival. Don Edwards, guitar, Carl Butler, guitar and "just Quizz," bass, played at the first October Sunday, which has become a beloved island tradition.

Autoharps, dulcimers, guitars, saxophones, tambourines, violins, lots of violins, and just about any other musical instrument you can think of rang out of shed four at Magens Sunday.

The Virgin Islands Montessori School and International Academy, under the direction of Sherry Davis, brought youngsters from tots to teens to serenade a delighted audience. They were backed by two Montessori "old pros" of a young age – Alana Davis, 14, and Isis Collier, 15 – island favorites who as "Sweet Strings" have been playing together since they were toddlers.

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Sunday’s celebration was all about family. It was small, intimate, and special because of that.

The three musicians sitting under the tent kind of set the tone for the day. It was a day for reminiscing with old pals.

Violinists Isis Collier, left, Julie Biesling and Alana Davis play at Magens Bay."I remember the very first one at Sibs," said psychologist Ann Barnard. "We had just come from a 5K run up to North Star Village, I think, hadn’t we?" she asked her husband, retired Magistrate Judge Geoffrey Barnard.

"Yes, and it was really muddy," he replied. His wife agreed, "Muddy and fun."

There were more than a handful of the 1977 veterans on hand Sunday, happy to recall past celebrations. Cathy O’Gara and her husband, Ed Sternberg, remember almost every one.

"We had it at Sibs for years," O’Gara said, "until the cops suggested to Jimmy Loveland, who owned Sibs, that it would be a good idea never to do that again at that location. So Fred and Polly and Nicky Russell and Chicky Morciglio from Water Island, and Bill and Judy Grogan, who owned Barnacle Bill’s, and Ed and I got together and moved it to Crown Bay."

Troupers to the last, O’Gara spoke Sunday, while awaiting Sternberg, who was just finishing cleaning up after a long day flipping burgers. The event closed at 6 p.m. to a tired and happy crowd.

Carolyn Bushfield simply relaxed Sunday.

"I’ve been to every one since Sibs days," Bushfield said, "and volunteered for years. Now," she said with a happy look, "I’m just enjoying it."

Nothing has stopped the festival – not even Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. That year they held a scaled-down version of music fest in Emancipation Garden, raising nearly $4,000 for the American Red Cross and offering a lift to the spirits of the community, many of whom were living under the blue FEMA tarps.

This year’s October Sunday, in fact, was set for Oct. 14, but became November Sunday, compliments of a storm system which hung around the territory as a general annoyance for several days, later developing into Tropical Storm Rafael.

In 2000, founders Fred and Polly Watts decided to scale down the festival, which since the first, small celebration of local music had grown to attract thousands crowding venues from Crown Bay to Joseph Aubain Ballpark in Frenchtown

After 2000, they moved the event to Magens Bay, where it became the October Sunday Beach Jam, a smaller, though no less fun affair. For the last six years, the Friends of October Sunday have partnered with the Family Resource Center. All the proceeds from Sunday’s event go to support FRC, to continue its much needed outreach, counseling and sheltering services for victims of domestic violence on St. Thomas.

One highlight of the beach jam is the "Women of Note," led by Polly Watts. It’s a group of eight or so women who like to sing a cappella together. Watts said it’s not all that serious.

"We meet once a month,"she said, "and we drink wine. We call it a sing and sip." Watts invited any woman with a yen to sing to contact her. "We would love to have more."

Music ranged from the youthful violins to "Family and Friends," made up of the three gentlemen, Polly and Fred Watts and one or two others, with Fred on the autoharp and an unidentified friend on the washboard.

Janet Reiter, who abounds in spirit and energy, was everywhere Sunday, introducing the musicians and occasionally picking up the guitar – being a noted island musician, herself.

While the music went on, Douglas Lewis and Jane Higgins manned the beach branch of Cece’s Closet, the small FRC boutique on Bunker Hill. Lewis donated loads of CD’s and DVR’s, Higgins donated clothes.

The sun was kind Sunday, the folks were relaxed, the youngsters swam, played instruments, and had a general good time, and, the music was simply grand.

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