Oct. 6, 2005 In 1977 a group of musicians decided to host a jam session at the Sib's Restaurant parking lot one Sunday in October. Word of the event made its way around the island thanks to a few strategically placed signs. When that Sunday finally rolled around, there were 200 people in the parking lot ready to play or listen to some island jams.
Since that Sunday 29 years ago, the event has undergone many transformations. Under the care of the founders, the humble gathering at Sib's grew into the must-attend festival of St. Thomas. In its glory days, the musicians of October Sunday played to thousands of guests.
According to Polly Watts, one of the founders, the festival soon outgrew the parking lot, and the event spilled over into an open field across the street. October Sunday drew sponsors from beverage companies, the restaurant served all you can eat ribs for five dollars, non-profit groups set up booths with games, food, and raffles to raise money, and there were even festival T-shirts. After 10 years at Sib's, the numbers were reaching 10,000 people, and they started spilling out into the street. It was time for the October Sunday Festival to find a new home.
The party moved to Crown Bay for the next several years, then the lower parking lot at the Reichhold Center, and later the ballpark in Frenchtown.
Nothing would stop October Sunday Festivalnot even Hurricane Marilyn in 1995. Watts says even then a scaled down version of the festival played on in Emancipation Garden, raising nearly $4,000 for the American Red Cross.
October Sunday has had its home at Magens Bay for the past five years. Basically, the musicians are back to their rootsan informal jam session.
"A lot of people who come have been coming for 29 years. It's kind of like an extended musical family," said Watts. "Some play, others appreciate it. That's what we want."
This year the October Sunday Festival will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. Oct. 16 at Magens Bay. One difference is the fundraiser for the Family Resource Center.
"We decided that everyone would be in such a good mood it would be nice to do something for community," said Watts.
Look for new bands like the Pancakes, 10K, and of course, festival favorites, Harmony Dem.
"The history of October Sunday has been long and exciting," said Watts in a release. "For the musicians who began it, the organizations who have benefited from it, and the audience which has supported it, it's been a long, winding, and glorious road."
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