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 Tim Onasch, Publicity, PRJC

A few weeks after last year's annual picnic, word arrived that Blob's Park (which had been closed as of 12/31/2007) would re-open after some much-needed repairs and renovation. Sure enough! The legendary beer hall did re-open with a bang on New Year's Eve of 2008. We board members and, I'm sure, most of you were relieved to have our old annual picnic venue back in full swing. So earlier this year, we made sure that we reserved the second Saturday in September for this time-honored and highly-anticipated annual event.

   As you all know very well, 3 long-time PRJC bands, Buck Creek, the Federal Jazz Commission, and Last Chance, had all disbanded by the end of last year. So we had one heck of a dilemma confronting us: Who could we get to perform at such an important event like the annual picnic's return to Blob's Park? It would be hard to replace the "Big Three", but we came up with a 3-band lineup that would not disappoint most perennial picnic-goers. This year's 3 worthy entries were the Washington Conservatory Jazz Band (who've made quite a reputation for themselves at their monthly gig at Normandie Farm Restaurant), Ben Mauger's Vintage Jazz Band from the Harrisburg, PA area, and Hal's Bayou Jazz Band primarily from the Baltimore area (this band has been a real crowd-pleaser for a number of years now!). Each band was scheduled to play 2 sets consecutively, beginning at noon and ending at 6:30PM, with a 15-minute break between bands for each to set up.

   As not too many tickets for the picnic were sold in advance, we board members were hoping for a good turnout at the gate. Also, the weather wasn't forecast to be the most pleasant on the day of the picnic: cool and dreary, with a slight chance of rain. However, some 170 eager souls did show up and, except for a few sprinkles early in the day, the weather held up rather well. I think Someone Upstairs was looking out for us!

   Leading off the day's entertainment was the Washington Conservatory Jazz Band. I think that most of you readers are familiar with the band's members, especially if you've attended any of its monthly jam sessions at Normandie Farm. Its featured singer is none other than the fabulous Lena Seikaly who belted out a number of tunes during the band's 2 sets, including "Deed I Do" and "Wild Women Don't Have the Blues". She just keeps getting better and better! The band performed a number of trad favorites, such as "Panama" and "Weary Blues". If this first band was an indication of things to come, then we knew that we were in for an exceedingly fun afternoon!


   Batting second (yes, I'm a baseball fan; hence, the references to our National Pastime!) in the lineup was a band that most of us are not too familiar with: Ben Mauger's Vintage Jazz Band. The leader, Ben Mauger, plays the cornet and trumpet, as well as performs most of the vocals. On this day, the band also featured local DC area trombonist, Brian Priebe, whom many of us are well acquainted with. This Pennsylvania band plays music from the Jazz Age, Dixieland and a little New York-style trad jazz swing. This band lived up to the highest standards of earlier veteran bands who've played at the picnic in past years. It played such familiar tunes as "Just A Little While To Stay Here" (made popular to PRJC-ers by the Federal Jazz Commission), "Basin Street Blues" and "Beale Street Blues". The band's tight style and enthusiasm on stage was well-received by the audience who applauded heartily after each number that it played. Also, attesting to the approval the band received was the number of couples who got up and cut a rug (so to speak, as the floor inside Blob's pavilion is made of concrete!). I have a feeling that these Keystoners will be invited back to next year's picnic and possibly to one of the club's monthly specials in the coming year.

band   band

   Batting clean-up was the afore-mentioned crowd-pleaser from Charm City, Hal's Bayou Jazz Band. With Sig Seidenman leading this fine assembly of musicians, we attendees knew we were in for a real treat. The band plays with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm and Sig's humorous anecdotes have become legendary over the past several decades. The band played such old chestnuts as "Tishimingo Blues", "Fidgety Feet", "Tin Roof Blues" and "Wabash Blues". Again, numerous couples got up and danced to the melodious strains performed by the HBJB, attesting to its popularity.

   I looked at my watch just before the end of HBJB's last set and couldn't believe that it was nearly 6:30 and nearing the end of a splendid day of music at good ol' Blob's Park. Those 6 hours of music blew by like a freight train trying to make up for lost time! Others sitting near me also felt the same way. We couldn't believe that we had to gather ourselves up and leave the premises in such short time.

   Yes, I believe that all 170 in attendance went home with smiling faces and contented hearts. Hopefully, many of you reading this little article will plan on making it to next year's picnic - you won't regret it in the least!

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