2010-08-19 / Front Page

Saturday night down on the farm

By Donna K. Drago

The Jamestown Chamber of Commerce will host their annual “Night at the . . .” event this Saturday night. It will be the ninth time the group has gotten together to create a party to celebrate summer in an island location while raising funds for a worthwhile charity.

Mike Swistak has been a volunteer coordinator for the event in all of its years of existence.

Swistak said that the event began in 2002 with the idea of hosting “a great summer party,” that would be affordable and appealing to the entire island. “We wanted to have some fun,” Swistak said about the initial motivation, and then the idea of finding a beneficiary for the proceeds came later.

It was determined that the event would be sponsored by the Chamber and the first group to receive funding stemming from the party was the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum Association, Swistak said. That party, which was held on the property immediately north of the lighthouse, turned out to be a rousing success, Swistak said, noting that some 250 folks turned out to eat good food and dance to live music under the watchful eye of the island’s magnificent beacon.

The event was not without some controversy, Swistak noted, and it was that although the Chamber sought all necessary permits from the town, police and fire departments, they forgot to tell the state’s Department of Environmental Management what they were up to. The DEM manages the state park.

“I learned about two months later,” Swistak said, that “we violated state laws.” “We weren’t allowed to transport or consume alcohol at the state park,” Swistak said. But believing that the town had control over the property adjacent to the lighthouse, no permissions were ever sought from the state. “But nothing happened,” Swistak said about any possible repercussions. When the Chamber wanted to host another event at Beavertail, the DEM promptly brushed them off saying that it would take an act by the state’s General Assembly to give permission for another party at the lighthouse.

Since that first event, the Chamber has had its annual par- ties in several stunning settings around the island.

Charlie Petit who has attended all eight previous parties, said it was the event at the lighthouse that inspired him to join the Chamber and become active on the board. Petit is still on the committee to organize the party and also served as President of the Chamber for a term.

Petit said that other successful events have been held at the Windmill, Fort Getty, Fox Hill Farm and Watson Farm.

Petit said that it was important to the Chamber to keep the ticket price affordable for people who want to attend the event. The ticket price of $65 “barely covers,” the event costs, Petit said, noting that it is corporate sponsorships, donations and purchases of auction and silent auction items that go toward the Chamber’s charity.

This year, the party will be at Watson Farm for the third time in the event’s history. The first two events were to help the island farms jointly purchase a commercial farming implement called a no-till seeder, which they share among them. This year, Swistak said, the proceeds will help Historic New England clear the brush along North Main Road in the area of Watson Farm so that the views across the farm will be opened up and can be appreciated when driving along the road.

Swistak said the party can accommodate up to 300 guests and he is hoping for another great turnout.

Tickets are still available at several island locations such as Baker’s Pharmacy, Conanicut Marine Ship’s Store, East Bay Bed and Breakfast, Grapes & Gourmet, The Purple Door, at Watson Farm, or by calling 423- 3650.

The party is from 6 to 11 p.m. and tickets include dinner, beer, wine and soft drinks as well as dancing to Cajun and Zydeco music provided by Slippery Sneakers.

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