Movie fans are expected to return in droves for JAWSFEST

JAWSFEST attendees held up beach towel posters in 2005. More are on the way, according to organizers. — Photo courtesy of Universal Studios

More than 35 years ago, a great white shark named “Bruce” made a big splash on Martha’s Vineyard and, not long after, on movie screens around the world. The mechanical shark used in the making of the 1975 blockbuster summer movie “JAWS,” filmed in 1974 on the Island, returns in the film that is the centerpiece of JAWSFEST – The Tribute, a four-day, self-described “fan-centric event” that opens Thursday in Edgartown.

The big finale will be a screening of the new digitally re-mastered and fully restored Blu-ray version of “JAWS” with 7.1 surround sound, on Saturday, August 11, at 7:30 pm on a big screen in Ocean Park, Oak Bluffs. The screening will be preceded by a concert by the Island surf band “The Hammerheads” at 5 pm.

Producer Susan Sigel Goldsmith said the four-day event will explore the experiences and memories from the making of the movie. Most of the action will be in Edgartown, the site of the movies’ fictional town of Amity, although the festival will also host activities in Oak Bluffs, Vineyard Haven, and Menemsha.

There will be multiple autograph sessions and opportunities to meet and greet people, including some Islanders, who were involved with the movie. Presentations on the making of the film will include production techniques, special effects, the women of “JAWS,” and a session on “How ‘JAWS’ changed our lives.”

It all begins today, August 9, at 9 am with an opening ceremony at the old Whaling Church, and it runs through Sunday. Events that include “Meet the artists and authors,” “Living Jaws: Fish Stories,” “In the water with great whites,” several meet the VIPs and shark experts, “The Making of JAWS,” and Amity Island Tours.

Shark conservation and awareness is a featured topic in several presentations. These include the Friday morning opening of the “Sharks, Arts & Conservation” exhibit at 57 Circuit Ave., Oak Bluffs (the old Oyster Bar). The exhibit will be open through Sunday.

On Thursday, Chilmark documentary filmmaker Bob Nixon will premiere, “Great White Highway, where the white sharks go,” at a free screening in Owen Park in Vineyard Haven that begins at 9:45 pm. Fellow Chilmarker Ted Danson provided the narration for the film produced for the Discovery Channel.

There will also be an opportunity to meet with globally recognized shark experts on Friday, including Wendy Benchley, Greg Skomal, Rodney Fox, Brent Mills, and members of Discovery Channel Shark Week.

Experts from the Division of Marine Fisheries will share details from tracking expeditions in local waters and Shark Savers, a private conservation group, will share details on the latest conservation efforts.

There will be “family friendly events,” and a trivia hunt will begin Thursday morning. Event memorabilia will be for sale throughout the festival. The last of several “Amity Island JAWS Tours” during the festival will be Sunday morning.

Ms. Sigel Goldsmith, who also runs a Vineyard Haven-based promotions business and ticket agency, was co-director of the first JAWSFEST in 2005 with Gary Cogley, the former executive director of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce. She thinks attendance will exceed the more than 2,500 fans who attended the first festival seven years ago. “The early signs, the level of response, is terrific” she told the Times.

Ms. Sigel Goldsmith has lined up a number of sponsors who coughed up more than Bruce to be a part of the event. Sponsorships went from $750 to $30,000, according to the website. Major sponsors include the Vineyard Gazette, Menemsha Blues, Vineyard Square Hotel and Suites, Featherstone Center for the Arts, Waterside Market, Blue Canoe Grill, The Flatbread Company and the Discovery Channel.

There will be individual event tickets as well as multi-day event bracelets. There is a pay at the door option for some events and others are free. Children 13 and under are free for all events.

A movie and exhibit pass costs $20; general access three-day pass $35, four-day pass $55; and VIP all access bracelets will set you back $295.

Tickets and schedule details can be obtained at the Old Whaling Church in Edgartown or at 57 Circuit Avenue in Oak Bluffs or at