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First annual Quahoggers Jamboree this Thursday
(Submitted photo)
THE ARISTOCATS: Lloyd Kaplan, at left, stands with band-mate Bob Petteruti. Seated at the drums is Joseph Holtzman. In the foreground is Mat Piccirilli, who rounds out the quartet that is The Aristocats.

The Warwick Public Library will host the first ever Quahoggers Jamboree this Thursday beginning at 6 p.m.

The outdoor concert (to be held inside in the event of rain) will feature a meet-and-greet with local quahoggers, children’s arts and crafts, an outdoor concert and a refreshments tent by Poppy’s Gourmet.

Wil Gregersen, a librarian at the Warwick Public Library, helped to organize the event, which is based around the library garden’s focal point: a statue and fountain depicting a quahogger and his dog. The statue was a gift to the library from Governor Lincoln Chafee, who was then the mayor, in 1998.

“It’s a lovely asset for our community,” he said.

Gregersen wanted to bring more attention to the statue and to the library, and thought an outdoor concert in the garden would be the perfect way to do so.

“Our garden is planted in such a beautiful way,” he said. “It’s a gorgeous setting.”

The Friends of the Warwick Public Library will sponsor the event, which is free to the public.

Starting at 6 p.m., lemonade, kettle corn and other concessions will be sold in a tent by Poppy’s Gourmet. Children can also partake in arts and crafts and make quahogs out of paper plates.

Those who arrive before 7 p.m. will have the chance to meet and speak with local quahoggers like Dave Ghigliotty and Jody King, two local shellfishers who will be at Thursday’s event.

Both men plan on bringing tools of the trade, like bull rakes, to the event. King plans to bring his boat.

“They’ve set me up with a few parking spaces,” said King. “It’s 25 feet, so you won’t miss it.”

King’s boat is appropriately named Black Gold.

“I dig up pieces of black quahog and turn them into pieces of gold,” he said.

Both men grew up in Warwick and spent a lot of time on the water.

“Once it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood,” said Ghigliotty, who began dabbling in shellfishing at the age of 15.

Now the men say they can’t think of anything else they’d rather do.

Both rise before the sun to hit the water, ensuring they get the best catch possible. Sometimes their yield depends on Mother Nature, though both agree this year has been good for shellfish.

Catching shellfish is hard work, and requires strength and technique to drag the rakes, sometimes with 50 feet of pole attached to them, along the bottom of the bay.

“You have to visualize what you’re doing at the bottom,” said Ghigliotty.

Despite it’s challenges, and the inconsistency of the catch, Ghigliotty and King agree it’s a great career.

“It’s the best job in the world,” said Ghigliotty.

“What people may not know is that we love our jobs,” said King. “I have two degrees, so I don’t have to do this. It chose me. I wake up every morning and can’t wait to get out on my boat.”

Joining Ghigliotty and King at Thursday’s event will be The Aristocats, a swing jazz band who will take the stage in the garden at 7 p.m. Those who attend the concert are encouraged to bring blankets or beach chairs.

Lloyd Kaplan is a member of The Aristocats, and said people can expect to hear swing jazz from the great American songbook. The Aristocats will be playing music by legends like George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and Fats Waller.

“If people wish to dance, we’ll accommodate it,” said Kaplan, a 78-year-old clarinet and saxophone player.

An upright bassist, a drummer and a 92-year-old guitar and banjo player will join Kaplan.

“We’re all old,” laughed Kaplan. “We’ve been together 17 or 18 years, so we’re getting used to each other.”

Kaplan said The Aristocats transport listeners back to the swing era of music.

“A lot of people love the older music and are not too fond of the newer music,” he said. “They can relive that nostalgia. There aren’t many that play the kind of music we play.”

A 15-minute performance by the Generations Barbershop Quartet at 8 p.m. will close out the evening.

The night will also include appearances by Mayor Scott Avedisian and Rhode Island’s First Lady, Stephanie Chafee.

Gregersen hopes the event will be a success, and that it will become an annual tradition.

The Quahoggers Jamboree will be held rain or shine at the Warwick Public Library. Register at the Welcome Desk.


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