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By Leah BouRamia
It’s a hot August Saturday night and folks are still dancing at the tail end of the First Annual Music Festival for Local Charities, hosted by the Smithfield Portuguese American Club. The Ellery Street Band blasts rock and roll from the bed of a 26 foot-long, 18- wheeler, donated by Chuck and Sons Towing.
Attendees are sipping beers, laughing, eating donated sausages and watermelon. In fact, the band also donated their time. Turns out Ed Erbe, one of the band members, is a cousin of Stevie Erbe, the organizer of the event. Stevie called in a favor, and the whole band flew up from Port St. Lucy, Fla. Prior to this set, Louie Likes it Hot and Rude Mude also heated up the joint with a mix of rock and roll and R&B.
While the event didn’t see quite the turnout they were hoping for, the 75-80 guests are having a blast, enjoying sausages, hot dogs, hamburgers and a full bar. Aside from the grill food, massive watermelons donated by Jaswell Farms are cut into fat ruby wedges, the perfect food for a hot summer night. It is precisely the kind of August night when you say, “Hey, man, can I get a slice of watermelon?”
The idea started in the bar (naturally), when PAC member, Jeff Huyler lamented the loss of the Portuguese American Feast, but wanted to find a way to raise money for local charities, to fund the pressing needs in the community. The music festival was his brainchild, and everyone was on board.
Volunteers poured out from the community organization, notably, Joe P.C., Ducky, Skip Owen, John Walsh and organizer Erbe. But there were many more folks and businesses that offered their time and goods to get the word out, such as Joe Pel Printing, who created the flyers. Holten Meats, Great Lakes Cheese and Old Neighborhood Foods donated the grill foods and accompaniments, and Rudy D’Agostino of The Music Factory made sure the music kept pumping through the donated sound system.
When I ask for details on exactly what charities the event supports, Erbe smiles and says, “…what people don’t realize is we have been here a long, long time; kind of in the background. We have supported the Special Olympics, and are the second longest-running supporter of the Girls’ Little League Team.” Right now, there are some strong goals to support college scholarships for students at Smithfield High School, and this event is one step on the way to realizing that outcome. For now, says Erbe, “It’s our first year. We are going to move forward and keep fundraising. It’s all about local charity, we take care of our town.”