Jamming in the June rain

Jessica Rega, left, and Brittany Burris didn’t let the rain dampen their dancing during the 40th Anniversary of June Jam in Houston on Saturday. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

HOUSTON — When inclement weather hits the June Jam, they just rock in the rain.

Wendy Adams of Dover, wearing a bathing suit under her shirt and shorts, was undeterred.

“A little rain isn’t going to stop us from having a good time,” she said. “There’s dancing to be done.”

Ms. Adams was one of the approximately 1,500 concert goers to turn out for the event at G & R Recreation Campground in Houston, despite the weather. Often billed as “Delaware’s original music festival,” the charity concert celebrated its 40th anniversary on Saturday.

Vice president, Lynn Fowler, who’s been a staff member for more than 20 years said traditionally June Jam has been lucky when it comes to rain.

“In 40 years, there were maybe only a handful of June Jams that have gotten rain,” she said. “It was never bad enough to close down. We do have an inside building to move to if it gets too bad. We’ll make it. Besides, are we all so sweet that we’re going to melt in the rain? I doubt it.”

This year the event featured Kategory 5, Junior Jammers, Hyde Park, Shades of August, Triple Rail Turn (formerly Philbilly), Johnny Neel, lower case blues, Tommy Conwell, Furious George and Brickyard Road.

Excited by the lineup, Bob Hartley, June Jam’s longtime president and one of the original founders, said the musical selection was one of the best in years.

“Johnny Neel has been here for a number of years and he’s great — he played with The Allman Brothers Band,” said Mr. Hartley. “Another great act that’s played with us a number of times is Tommy Conwell. Hyde Park, which in my opinion is one of the best bands to ever come out of Kent County are having a reunion just to play here today, so that’s really exciting.”

Vocalist Brian Shouldis, right, and guitarist Joey Fulkerson with the band Hyde Park perform a reunion show on the main stage during the 40th Anniversary of June Jam in Houston on Saturday.

Over the years the event has played host to many other well known rock, blues and county music acts like Molly Hatchet, Cheap Trick, Dave Mason, The Outlaws and Kansas.

In addition to the many charitable vendors at the event, Mr. Hartley said all the proceeds above operating costs go to local charities. He says each June Jam is able to raise about $3,000 to $5,000 in ticket sales.

“We’ve already sent some of the cash to Toys for Tots, The ALS Association and Code Purple Kent County,” he said.

The June Jam organization is made up of more than 100 volunteers and 22 various committees that work throughout the year to put the festival together, noted Mr. Hartley.

While the organization’s primary event is the annual music festival, they raise funds year-round for local needy individuals and other charitable organizations throughout Delmarva.

Humble beginnings

According to Mr. Hartley, the June Jam itself was conceived as a fund raiser. Forty years ago, two men were severely injured (and one was killed) in an accidental electrocution during a “roofing job” in Magnolia. Mr. Hartley, several other founders and one of the injured men all belonged to Caesar Rodney High School’s class of 1973 — so they decided to strike up a fundraiser to help their injured classmate and the other man.

Band members from Kategory 5 perform on the main stage.

“We held it at the Camden Fire Hall,” said Mr. Hartley. “Probably about 160 people showed up and we were able to raise about $900. That actually wasn’t too bad back then and went a long way toward helping the two guys and their families.”

After the successful music festival, Mr. Hartley started getting requests.

“People were coming up to me and telling me how much fun they’d had and suggesting that we have one every month — I said: ‘do you realize how much work it was to just put that one together?’” said Mr. Hartley. “But, all the founders and I decided that we’d try to do one every year for charitable efforts, and the rest is history.”

Crowd sizes started to double every successive year, said Mr. Hartley. The music festival moved to a campground near McColleys Pond in Frederica where it stayed for 18 years. Then, it eventually expanded and moved to Houston — June Jam’s home for the past 20 years.

Mr. Hartley is hopeful the June Jam will continue its mission long after he retires, but he says he’d be a “happy camper” if he’s able to keep running it himself for another ten years.

“The journey of these past 40 years has sure been challenging, but I’ve enjoyed most of them,” he joked. “This thing does require a lot of work, and we’re lucky to have so many great people that give so much of their time to him. I’m hoping that they younger generation will step up and take over once we start stepping down.”

Fondly remembering the words of 38 Special frontman Donnie Van Zant, Mr. Hartley believes the June Jam has truly become a local treasure for residents.

“38 Special was one of my favorite bands to come through the June Jam,” he said. “Donnie Van Zant was talking to everyone and signing all the autographs that anyone wanted, and he told me afterward: ‘Folks might not realize it, but I think you have your own little slice of heaven back here.’”

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