‘Jetty Jam’ in limbo

Oak Bluffs select board punts on a decision, suggests organizers work with abutters to come up with a better plan.

A proposed Jetty Jam layout. Town leaders punted on a decision, leaving organizers a chance to rework a new plan.

The Oak Bluffs select board took no action on Jetty Jam, a planned live music series at the Island Queen loading zone this summer, sending the project back to the drawing board.

The idea for the event was presented to the board by organizers Kathleen Cowley, Sofie Green, and Henry Wallace at their meeting last week. While town leaders liked the idea in concept, they wanted to see a more comprehensive plan of the event among other things. 

The proposal was for Jetty Jam to feature live amplified music from 8 pm to 10 pm on Wednesday nights in a free event throughout the summer.

Board member and harbor advisory committee member Ryan Ruley said he presented the plan to the committee, which did not support the Jetty Jam as planned due to its close proximity to a residential neighborhood.

Organizers for the event said they had support from some neighbors in the area, but at Monday’s meeting, abutters and other Oak Bluffs residents showed up to oppose it.

Jason Lew, a member of the harbor advisory committee whose home sits closest to the event at the corner of Circuit Avenue Extension and Seaview Avenue, said that he supported an event for the community, but not at the proposed location.

“I think it’s a horrible idea — 8 pm to 10 pm at night to have amplified electronic music. It’s going to annoy the people on boats, the music goes straight across to the people on the other side of the harbor,” Lew said. “Put it somewhere else.”

Lew was joined by other residents in the area.

“It’s a crazy, bone-headed idea,” Belleruth Naparstek, a Saco Avenue resident, said. “We’re not going to want electronic music from 8 pm to 10 pm at night in our residential neighborhood where babies are sleeping and frail elderly live. People just don’t want to be disrupted in that way.”

She was also concerned about the event having underage drinking.

“Endangering themselves primarily or getting sick or, as one of my neighbors across the street said, expelling their bodily fluids in our yards,” she said.

Those opposed to the project suggested Healey Square would be a better location for the event and closer to businesses. Naparstek said the event took away from Circuit Avenue, which needed support after a rough pandemic year. 

Kathleen Cowley and Sofie Green, two of the organizers for the event, clarified that the event would not be making money and would be run by three staff members in addition to having a police presence.

“I don’t think that it should be, for two hours of the week, that it should be that much of a problem for a few neighbors to see people enjoying themselves in such a controlled area,” Cowley said. “It’s a nice thing for young people to attend and older people.”

Green took issue with some of the neighbors’ focus on underage drinking.

“I’m pretty sure whether we have that down at the bulkhead or not, they underage drink. In this town, around this town,” Green said. “I don’t know why that has got to be a projection onto this Jetty Jam as one overall hard line.”

She added that the Jetty Jam was for the benefit of the community and the Island musicians.

John Stanwood, a musician who plays at the Edgartown dock dance, said the dock dances in Edgartown are not happening this year due to structural issues with Memorial Wharf, which is set to be renovated. He supported the Jetty Jam and said it would actually help businesses in the town.

Board member Gail Barmakian said while she initially agreed with the plan in theory, she had changed her mind. 

“Some of these issues are just not surmountable. It might be appropriate to put it someplace else,” she said. “It’s like fitting a round peg in a square hole.”

Select board member Brian Packish suggested the organizers reach out to some of the abutters that had concerns, talk to the harbormaster, and establish a plan.

“I would encourage you to continue the conversation and feel free to reach out if there’s any way the board needs to be involved between now and anytime when a potential future ask is made,” he said.


  1. “Crazy, bone-headed idea” – nice to see the community being so supportive of a new idea. Let the kids have some fun, it’s one 2 hour block of time – pretty sure it’s not going to destroy a neighborhood.

  2. It is a wonderful idea. Perhaps some of the concerns would be calmed by the presence of a porta potty. I am sure that the organizers will have a clean up crew, and that the police presence will ensure that there is no inappropriate drinking.

  3. “Where frail elderly live”??? What an ageist assumption. Like our older citizens automatically are “frail”.
    We can’t have music frightening them, they might get up and dance.
    Let’s Jam on The Jetty!

  4. Interesting to reflect on the Oak Bluffs Streetscape Master Plan (2015) and see the vision for “North Bluff”, a “waterfront Park with flexible open space for a variety of activities and gatherings.” It’s a shame we can’t enjoy Jetty Jam this summer… note: page 18 and 19 encourages pilot programs and activations prior to the new development. https://www.mvcommission.org/sites/default/files/docs/OB%20Streetscape%20Master%20Plan%202015%20links.pdf

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