No. 60 kicks off the new year of Chilmark Potluck Jams


Folks have gathered at the Chilmark Community Center for years now in the off-season to enjoy a free night out listening to more than a dozen Island musicians. Each group or musician typically plays two or three songs, so we can get a good taste of their music.

Organizer and musician Alex Karalekas gets revved up every year around this time, in anticipation of bringing everybody together. He told us the first potluck jam was on Nov. 25, 2007, and he’s got a few memories from that time. The jams were packed from the beginning, Karalekas says. They quickly became a winter favorite, although “the peace concerts I tried to do up there in my early 20s, not so much,” he laughs.

He says he remembers clearly the time late musician and Island bluesman Maynard Silva played at the first potlucks. “I clearly recall him saying to a packed crowd before a song, ‘Pay close attention to what Alex is doing here,’’’ Karalekas remembers. The potlucks have become one of the best-loved traditions on the Island.

He promises this upcoming potluck at the community center Thanksgiving weekend, Saturday, Nov. 25, at around 6 pm, will be a great one. Musicians include Missis Biskus, Willy Mason, Adam Howell, Isaac Taylor, Lydia Fischer, and “at least 15 more!” Alex says.

The communal music fest typically happens three or four times in the off-season, and these days, each one fills the CCC. Those who come are welcome to bring a dish to pass, and they discourage use of any throwaway paper products or utensils. You’ll find everything from mac and cheese and gluten-free options to a pretty spectacular raw bar, with oysters and littlenecks for jam No. 60. The free raw bar, manned by Alex’s dad, Ted Karalekas, is always a highlight, especially for those who enjoy a good joke with their seafood.

With going on 60 of these good-vibe events under his belt, Karalekas says the reason he keeps on doing them is because of all the kids who come to sing on the stage, and the older folks who have continued to show up year after year. In other words, it’s the community that’s built at the jams that really makes it worthwhile.

He has plenty of help from Island photographers, videographers, sound folks, and those who help with setting up and cleaning up afterward. They make the whole thing come together pretty seamlessly, and the Island gets to reap the benefits.