By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(May 10, 2018) Ocean 98/Seacrets Irie Radio will host the first Reggae Playday in downtown Berlin Friday from 5-9 p.m.
The event is an evolution of May Day Playday, an annual outdoor music festival offering free, family-friendly entertainment.
Organizer Tom Sholtis, also known on air as Big Al Reno, said the change in branding grew from a brainstorming session at the radio station.
“I’m not sure exactly whose idea it was, but we thought it would be great to do something different,” he said. “This was our seventh or eighth year and we wanted to change it up.”
Sets by 9 Mile Roots and Zion Reggae Band are scheduled on an outdoor stage at the north end of Main Street, and Ocean 98 deejays Stevie Jay and Magellan plan to emcee and conduct bingo contests between sets.
“Some of the prizes are four passes to Shorebirds games in the first row behind home plate, we’ve got Jolly Roger passes, Splash Mountain passes, golf at Lighthouse Sound, Rum Pointe and Ocean City Golf, and we have a pair of four-day passes for Firefly – which are about $700,” Sholtis said.
He said longtime steel drum master Kevin Martin would also contribute to the entertainment lineup.
Martin, formerly of The Geckos, went to Trinidad about 20 years ago and learned how to build steel drums. Today, his Rockcreek Steel Drums company is one of the largest manufacturers of the instrument in the United States.
“He came back [from Trinidad] and he built me one,” Sholtis said. “I said, ‘I can’t take that. You need to sell these!’ He said, ‘no, I made it for you and it’s here when you’re ready for it,’” Sholtis said. “Twenty-some years later, I’m finally going to learn how to play my drums.”
Sholtis said Martin would bring between 30 and 50 drums and teach festivalgoers how to play.
“All the notes inside the pan are labeled, so you don’t have to be intimidated. If you can follow AA, B, D, C, A … you’re playing a song,” Sholtis said. “He’s going to teach people how to play and he’s going to do some demonstrations.
“I’m looking forward to finally getting my drum, and I’m going to learn with everybody else how to play an instrument – at 45 years old,” he added.
Big Oyster Brewery is the headline sponsor, and its locally brewed craft beer will feature at an outdoor beer tent as well as at Fins Ale House and Raw Bar on 119 North Main Street. Fins will also provide Jamaican-themed food.
“They stepped up to the plate, which is awesome,” Sholtis said. “It’s great to have people to support us, so we can do things like this. [9 Mile Roots] will be our biggest act yet that we’ve had, and I see them being the next SOJA.”
Because Reggae Playday coincides with the monthly 2nd Friday art stroll, Sholtis said artists and artisans would be set up outdoors on Jefferson and Commerce streets during the event.
Additionally, special event T-shirts will be sold and volunteers from the Berlin Chamber of Commerce will pour beer for sale. Sholtis said proceeds would help fund future town events.
Reggae Playday is expected to draw several thousand people.
Sholtis said the purpose of the event is to spread the “Irie” spirit, a Jamaican word that roughly translates to a feeling of peace and harmony.
“In this time right now, where we’re at, there’s a lot of ugly,” he said. “We want everybody to just come together and have a good time, spread the love, and find the healing in music.
“Music is a strong thing. It’s helped me through some times and hopefully this will open some people’s eyes and say, ‘Let’s put all this aside and get along’ – and hopefully keep getting along,” Sholtis continued. “Come and stay ‘Irie.’”
For more information, search “Ocean 98’s Reggae Playday” on Facebook.