With the first ever St. John Relay for Life fast approaching — it kicks off this Saturday, February 19, at the Winston Wells ball field — organizers have lined up an incredible amount of talent to keep walkers and supporters entertained for the entire 18-hour event.
The combination of a top New York City-based aerialist troupe and a famous native son will ensure everyone supporting the local chapter of the American Cancer Society is kept on their toes — when those toes aren’t tapping to the beat.
Phillip “Grasshopper” Pickering, lead vocalist of Love City’s peerless reggae band Inner Visions, has organized the musical portion of the night. From steel pan to funk, Pickering has left no genre out of the Relay for Life musical lineup.
“I was drafted for the job,” he said. “I told them I couldn’t do it, but they said they just needed my input. It’s a worthy cause and we have a long way to go toward dealing with this disease, so I signed on.”
With Pickering’s far-reaching musical connections, it’s no wonder St. John Relay for Life organizers tapped his considerable talent. While most of the bands have verbally committed, even confirmed acts are subject to change, Pickering added.
“We are not 100 percent totally confirmed, so this is subject to change,” he said.
Following an invocation and renditions of the V.I. March and Star Spangled Banner, the evening’s entertainment will kick off with Pan in Motion, from St. Thomas, who are sure to get teams pumped up and ready for an amazing night.
Visiting the island from Florida, Shane Meade and the Sounds, are set to rock the crowd after Pan in Motion packs up their sticks.
Pickering has planned to lighten the mood during the Survivor’s Dinner, scheduled for 6 p.m., when Chris Robert’s classical guitar is sure to set the mood for the gourmet meal.
A little after-dinner fun will be provided thanks to the Gifft Hill School dancers, who will segue into what is likely to be the more emotional portion of the evening.
Luminaria bags, each one representing a survivor, someone battling cancer or someone who has lost their fight with the disease, will be lit around the field in the bleachers. Survivors will take to the field alone to drumming provided by a variety of island musicians.
“It will be dark out and they’ll light the luminaria and we’ll have a nice, moving ceremony,” said Pickering.
Following the luminary ceremony, Cirque-tacular will wow the audience with amazing aerials, bull whip tricks and more. The Big Apple-based performance troupe have donated their time to join the festivities and are excited to amaze the Relay for Life participants.
“I am so excited to do this,” said MelissaMarie Wilhelm, a performer and the group’s director of marketing and special programs. “We’re basically going to bring all the skill and wow factor of Cirque du Soleil right to you in the middle of the field. We have an amazing portable rig that we’ll set up right in the field.”
“We’re going to be doing amazing aerials, we’ll be having audience participation, and bull whip dancing and tricks,” said Melissamarie.
Along with Tad Emptage, Wilhelm feels that giving back is a large part of what makes the world a special and kind place, she explained.
“For both Tad and me, in both of our upbringings it was made clear how blessed we both were and how much we can help other people out there,” said Wilhelm. “It’s really important for both of us to support organizations and events like Relay for Life. There is no better gig than to really have fun and wow people while raising awareness about cancer.”
After Cirque-tacular amazes the audience, The Ish Band are sure to keep spirits high with their funky beats. Other St. John musicians scheduled to perform include Kat, Wanda and T-Bird, Koko and the Sunshine Band, Cool Session Brass, Ah We Band, Slammin’, Michael Beason, Mark Wallace and In the Sand Band.
The mellow sounds of Lauren and Bo are set to wrap up the event at 10 a.m. on Sunday, February 20. And, of course, Inner Visions will be on hand to fill in when and where needed, Pickering added.
Relay for Life organizers are asking all bands and musicians to bring their own equipment. A public address system will be provided, but bands should have their own microphones, mic stands and anything else they need, Pickering added.
Any musicians who have not signed up to perform are urged to contact the event’s event chairperson Mary Bartolucci at email@example.com or 774-1484.