The Suburbanite
  • Massillon Museum of Art hosts annual Island Party for community

  • At the end of a rainy week, the sky cleared to blue leaving just enough humidity in the area to make one think they were on a tropical island for the 19th-annual Island Party hosted by the Massillon Museum.

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  • At the end of a rainy week, the sky cleared to blue leaving just enough humidity in the area to make one think they were on a tropical island for the 19th-annual Island Party hosted by the Massillon Museum.
    It was a well-suited weather backdrop for the event and party goers added to the ambiance with attire that included an abundance of floral shirts, brightly colored t-shirts, island-style sundresses and straw hats.
    The party lived up to its name from the outset as the Jackson High School Steel Drum Band filled the air at Duncan Plaza in downtown Massillon with the gentle sounds of Caribbean music. Kids were having fun doing sidewalk chalk drawings, blowing bubbles or trying on a hula hoop for fun as the music provided a soundtrack for their evening.
    For the adults in the crowd, there were island drinks to enjoy and there was also plenty of food for everyone. As the evening temperature started to cool down, the plaza filled up with dancers ranging in age from toddlers to retirees, all dancing to the roots reggae music of Carlos Jones and the P.L.U.S. (Peace, Love and Unity Syndicate) Band.
    Emily Vigil, events coordinator at the museum said the event, explained that the party is an annual thank you to the community for its support of the museum throughout the year. The event has grown steadily over the years and the crowd has become so large that the party has spilled from inside the museum to the outdoor area around the building as well.
    “We hold the Island Party as a way to show our appreciation to the community for supporting the museum,” Vigil said. “Last year we had 3,250 people attend and we expect more people this year. Our museum staff and over 130 volunteers have been working all day to roast a pig and prepare all the food including fruit skewers and pineapple salsa."
    This year's commemorative t-shirt for the party was bright green and had Harvey the Dog dancing, dressed in a grass skirt printed on the front. Harvey was a dog that accompanied soldiers from the Massillon area during the Civil War and while the Civil War may not seem like the most natural tie-in for a party with a tropical theme, the t-shirts fit the mood well. The shirt also fit with a display at the museum honoring Harvey's story.
    This year's version of the shirt was created by local artist Sandi Thouvenin.
    “We ask a different artist each year to design the t-shirt and this year Sandi Thouvenin from Massillon did the shirt. There is an exhibit in the lower level of the museum about Harvey,” Vigil said.
    Gloria Pope, vice chairman of the board of directors for the Massillon Museum, was selling island leis with her great nieces and nephew, Lucas and Ashawnti Tindell and Savannah Evans, and her husband Nate.
    Page 2 of 2 - “This is a great event and it's our way of saying thank you to the community for the support they give us every year,” Pope said.
    There were seasoned Island Party attendees there as well as a few newcomers who came to see an event they had been hearing about from friends, family and neighbors. Terri Pienoski of Sheffield Lake brought along her parents, Lela and Roger Hazen of Ashland, to the party for the first time.
    “My daughter is a history and museum studies student at Walsh University and she is interning with the Massillon Museum this year so we thought we'd come to the party and help her celebrate,” Pienoski said.
    Kim Sanders of Massillon was with Joe Agosta of Akron and both were attending the island party for the first time. Agosta said came for the BBQ, while Sanders came for the food and the fun after hearing positive reviews of the event for some time.
    “I've heard about the party for years but this is the first time I've attended it,” Sanders said.
    As people made their way through the food lines and munched on hot dogs, BBQ pork sandwiches, and other tasty island fare, the reggae band began to warm up. As Carlos Jones began to play, he welcomed everyone to get up and dance to the music.
    For one evening at least, Stark County felt, looked and sounded a lot like Jamaica.

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