2011-09-08 / Front Page

Revival of Jamestown Day continues Friday evening


The greased pole is a favorite pastime in Jamestown, and some islanders still recall it. Above, a youngster attempts to climb the pole at a Jamestown Family Day held at Fort Getty on Sept. 5, 1974. 
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JAMESTOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY The greased pole is a favorite pastime in Jamestown, and some islanders still recall it. Above, a youngster attempts to climb the pole at a Jamestown Family Day held at Fort Getty on Sept. 5, 1974. PHOTO COURTESY OF THE JAMESTOWN HISTORICAL SOCIETY The island’s annual end-of-summer bash is set for Friday, Sept. 9, at Fort Getty. This year’s installment of Jamestown Day starts at 5 p.m.

The organizers have arranged activities and entertainment for all ages, according to Debbie Tungett, teen coordinator for the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Two big teen draws – the bonfire and the rock wall – will be happening atop the hill where the old pavilion stood, she said. Go right for the bonfire and left for the rock wall, Tungett added. R.I. Rock Gym is trucking over a rock wall supported on a trailer.

“It’s tons of fun,” she said.

For the children, Jamestown Day will offer games and contests. The Jamestown Arts Center will also provide face painting. While the kids have plenty to choose from, according to Tungett, adults probably will gravitate towards the Jamestown Community Band, the Jamestown Community Theater and the Jamestown Community Chorus.

People can even bring their dogs, Tungett said, providing the pets are on a leash and the owners clean up after them.

“There are a lot of teens volunteering,” she said. “The senior center is helping with cakes.” And the popular groups, like the community band and the chorus, bring their big followings with them.

Price is $10 per car or $2 for individuals who walk. Admission covers activities like the rock wall and entertainment, but not food, Tungett said. People can buy snacks from Brick Oven Pizza, which will have a trailer that’s really an oven, she said.

This is the second year Friends of Jamestown Youth will stage the event.

Jamestown Day “used to be a regular thing,” she said, but then disappeared a few years ago. It returned last year as an end-of-summer celebration. It’s also an occasion to enlist parents and adults as new members of Friends of Jamestown Youth.

“We definitely need help,” Tungett said. “We’re really trying to get more people involved in the nonprofi t organization and being supportive of the teen center programs.”

Tungett said Friends of Jamestown Youth invited a lot of community organizations to help spread the word about the membership drive.

Friends of Jamestown Youth received official nonprofit 501 (c) (3) status in April 2010. Tungett created the organization so she could raise money for the Jamestown Teen Center and apply for grants supporting the teen center programs.

The nonprofit status means any contributions are tax-deductible, and that makes giving donations more attractive to corporations and private foundations, she said.

So far, Friends of Jamestown Youth raised money for several teen programs, including the Youth Litter and Conservation Team, which gives a dozen or so youngsters a summer job picking up debris around town and learning about conservation issues. The friends also helped the Prevention Coalition, which deals with drug, alcohol and violence issues. Another focus is the Student Assistance program at Lawn Avenue School.

According to Jill Goldstein, Jamestown Day is an alcohol-free and substance-free event. This year, she said, money from Jamestown Day will support old and new youth programs, specifically, a new speaker series to promote healthy lifestyle choices. Those new presentations and programs will appeal to both teenagers and preteens, she said.

Goldstein said she did not know who organized the earlier Jamestown Days. She had heard accounts “from back in the day,” she said, about Jamestown Day at Fort Getty.

Parks and Recreation Director Bill Piva has recollections of the former celebration. According to Piva, he said that Jamestown Day used to be held on Labor Day but the last one was in the 1970s. “They had things like greased poles that people would climb up to grab the $5 bill on top,” he said. “Firefighters played a tug-of-war game, and there were fireworks at the end.”

Fort Getty did host a Jamestown Family Day at Fort Getty beginning in 1968. In 1969, the event drew as many as 5,000 to the town park, but it unknown why the popular festival petered out.

Rosemary Enright of the Jamestown Historical Society could not say which organizations presented the earlier Jamestown Day at Fort Getty. She did mention that there was an even earlier Jamestown Day in the 1890s that happened downtown. That event featured a parade and fireworks, as well as games.

Goldstein was able to compile a list of the kinds of activities people at past Fort Getty Jamestown Days enjoyed. For example, she was told the bonfire was part of the old Jamestown Day, as well as the “something-for-everyone” program of activities.

“People really liked gathering together family and friends,” she said, and the event also showcases local talent, she added.

There was no organized push to bring it back, she said. But when Friends of Jamestown Youth was looking for a fundraising event, organizers decided to revive Jamestown Day.

Tungett said the plan calls for lighting the bonfire at dusk. The music will probably end around 9:30 p.m., she said.

Along with the community theatre, chorus and band, Black & White, a rhythm and blues band, will be among the performers. Black & White is popular among islanders, and has already performed twice in Jamestown this year: as part of the concert series in July, and at Narragansett Café last month.

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