Summer Jam returns to highlight new talent

By James Johnson

May 31, 2014

PEMBROKE — The school year is almost up, but before that final bell rings the town of Pembroke wants to invite Robeson County school children and their families to enjoy one last hurrah to celebrate the accomplishments of the previous year.

On Saturday, the Pembroke Recreation Complex, on N.C. 711, will be transformed into a free outdoor concert venue for the third annual School’s Out: Summer Jam, which will run from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m., and feature an assortment of diverse local talent.

“Whenever I ran for city council my main concern was family and I wanted to create events to get the community involved and working together,” said event founder Ryan Sampson, Pembroke council member. “This was something I kind of thought about. It would be good to get kids together with schools being out, for just something fun, something that could just be a free celebration just for them.”

In the first year the Summer Jam managed to attract around 400 attendees. Thanks to word of mouth, heavy promotion through social media and encouraging principals to get the word out to their students, last year’s Summer Jam pulled in more than 1,000 people. Sampson is hoping that this year’s lineup of local artists will attract an even larger crowd.

The event will kick off with a performance by the dance troupe, the Robeson Rockers, followed by performances from dancer 18-year-old Ronnie Revels, 17-year-old pianist Tyler Cummings and 15-year-old dance duo Taylor Locklear and Yasmon Carter, first, second and third place winners, respectively, of April’s Robeson’s Got Talent competition.

After a brief intermission, the show will conclude with performances by local group Shades of Gray, “X-Factor” contestant and local singer Tyler Cole, and southern rock outfit, the Henry Berry Band.

“The Henry Berry Band has been around since the 1970s and has taken their name from local legend Henry Berry Lowrie,” said Charly Lowry, who for the third year in a row has been tasked with organizing the event’s music. “They still have a strong following in the area and will probably be appreciated by a lot of the adults attending the event.”

Both Lowry and Sampson are hoping that this year’s concert will enjoy the kind of growth in popularity that was seen last year. Lowry believes that in the coming years the event will be able to bring bigger named artists, depending on whether or not the community will continue to support it.

“I would love to see Hootie and the Blowfish play,” Sampson said jokingly. “We have a few businesses involved, Horace Mann Insurance and the Chamber are sponsors, but we kind of have to do it that way to get artists. We have to get more sponsors because we don’t want to expense the town.”

Though Lowry says there are a number of wish-list artists they have in mind, she believes that the most important opinions are those of the children the annual event is for.

“We want to get the kids involved in helping us to choose future artists,” Lowry said. “We want their input so we can make this the best show possible for them.”

Though the event is free, this year organizers decided to use the concentration of people to raise some money for some important causes. Twenty-five percent of proceeds from all purchases from event food vendors will be going to cancer and leukemia research.

“It gets these kids out having fun while staying in town without going on the road,” Sampson said. “It gets the kids involved and it is nice showing them what they can do even in a small town like Pembroke.”

James Johnson may be reached at 910-272-6144 or on Twitter @JJohnsonRobeson.