BY DANA PATTERSON — Summer Jam isn’t just a “big neighborhood party” planned by the city; it’s an event that serves as a testament to the city’s commitment to bring residents and local businesses together. In order to ensure the event goes off without a hitch, the city relies on groups of dedicated volunteers.
Summer Jam is a five-month series that has been a Friday night favorite for the past 15 years. Every summer on the third Friday of the month, the event is held from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. The free event happens rain or shine at the Municipal Building at 4310 Gallatin St. In the event of inclement weather, the event is moved into the building’s multipurpose room. According to Community Services Manager and Volunteer Coordinator Colleen Aistis, the annual event requires four months of planning and many hands makes the work easier.
“Summer Jam is such a large-scale event, students and community volunteers are a really big help,” said Aistis.
Usually about 200 adults attend each of the jam series, however, it can reach up to 300 guests based on good weather, Aistis said. Total participation is in the 300-400 range.
The first Summer Jam of the season on May 19 included food from the D.C. food truck “Feelin’ Crabby,” which is known for their specialty, the “Crabwich.” Other options for food choices were burgers, chicken, and hot dogs. Adults could enjoy the beer and wine garden, with beer from Calvert Brewing Company, including the rest of the city’s anniversary beer, “Honeyville.” The vendors change for each Summer Jam to offer a variety and are selected based on popular request. According to Aistis, this year’s request was seafood.
Mandy the Clown and her talented face painters were back. She has been a long-term performer for the Summer Jam series. “She is a very fun, approachable, interactive performer,” said Aistis.
As far as musical entertainment, there was a performance by Lenny Kurlou and the K.R.A band, a reggae band that covers almost all different styles of reggae known: old school, new school, roots, culture reggae, dancehall, lovers’ rock, covers and originals. The music genre also changes each Summer Jam. Recreation and Event Supervisor Cheri Everhart says the changes showcase local bands and food businesses.
“We [the Department of Community Services] want to give the events some variety and try to mix it up,” said Everhart.
The variation of the event makes it unique. “We try to be creative and different and it is a unique opportunity for folks to try new things,” Aistis said.
The variety will continue at the next Summer Jam on Friday, June 16.
“We’re trying out a Summer Jam at Magruder Park this summer, in response to multiple requests from our faithful resident jammers,” said Jake Rollow, community services director. “We’re hoping folks will enjoy the grassy setting and nearby playground, and that they bring picnic blankets and lawn chairs to get comfortable.”
The city will set out some chairs and tables, and Rollow says they will offer all the “great stuff” provided at the City Building — including barbecue, beer and wine, a food truck, a moonbounce, face-painting and balloons.
Volunteer opportunities are still available. Aistis said a conflict with school schedules prevented a large number of students from volunteering in the first Summer Jam on Friday, May 19; typically, students are the largest group of volunteers. More volunteers are welcomed. The ideal number, she says, is between 10-12 per event.
Tasks a volunteer might help with include managing event set up, serving food and beverages, monitoring and managing the moon bounce, as well as assisting with cleanup once the event ends. The process to become a volunteer is pretty simple: register with Aistis in advance; upon arrival at the event location, prospective volunteers are referred to the appropriate city staff member by Aistis. Set up for Summer Jam begins at 3:30 p.m. and clean up wraps up by 9 p.m. Volunteers wear a bright green apron with the city’s volunteer logo on the front. She explained that this differentiates non-paid volunteers from city staff. City staff who are working the event are identified with uniform shirts.
“The more hands, the less work,” she said. “Large groups are always welcomed.”
For more information, contact the Department of Community Services at 301.985.5021. If you’d like to volunteer at a Jam or for any other City event, contact Volunteer Coordinator Colleen Aistis by phone at 301.985.5057.
Dana Patterson is a summer intern with the Hyattsville Life & Times. She is a resident of Hyattsville and a rising junior at Penn State.