The boardwalk

The boardwalk at wilderness on Wheels

(Courtesy Photo)

Once again this summer, musicians from around the country unite at Wilderness on Wheels amphitheater to celebrate music, life, nature, and the power of friendship to enrich us all. The Family Music Festival, a benefit for the Wilderness on Wheels Foundation, hosts four bands Saturday, Aug. 3, from 11 a.m. till 5 p.m. The grassy hill above the stage has periodically hosted musicians for the past 40 years.

Often called “The West Jam,” this mountain party tradition began in the late seventies when land owner Roger West invited friends over each summer to play music in his beautiful mountain meadow. Loosely affiliated musicians formed jam bands, became fast friends, and returned year after year to share their passion for song.

While Roger had originally envisioned an artists’ colony on his property at the base of Kenosha Pass, in the eighties he began a different project inspired by his father’s disability: building wheelchair-accessible boardwalks up his mountain. “Leave no one out,” was Roger’s mantra, and his goal was to bring the great outdoors directly to those who had little access to hiking and mountain vistas. Wilderness on Wheels was founded in 1986, and over time a host of volunteers have completed boardwalks up and across the hillside and over to the mountain meadow where music has been played for years.

The West Jams were infrequent during the ensuing years, but in 2015 one of the primary musicians and Roger’s dear friend, Jeff Marcec, died unexpectedly. In response, many of the original musicians who jammed and performed with Jeff returned from around the country on Aug. 29 that year to celebrate Jeff’s life, renew friendships, and play more music. The sound stage was greatly upgraded and dedicated that weekend as the Jeff Marcec Memorial Amphitheatre. The Jeff Jam was a huge success, with support from the managers of Wilderness on Wheels and the current owner of the music meadow, Jonathan Wilson.

And the tradition continues, with a West Jam last summer in celebration of the life and passing of W.O.W. founder Roger West, and again this summer with a Family Music Festival Benefit for Wilderness on Wheels.

Share the music, bring blankets or chairs, plan to dance and dance and dance. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated. Pig roast and trimmings, burgers and dogs, and beverages are available for purchase.

And the music plays on:

Noon to 12:45: Kicked to the Curb

1 to 1:45: The McPherson Project

2 to 2:45: The 285 Catz Band Redux

3 to 3:45: The West Jam Band

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