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SamJam keeps going for a great cause

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Popular Music Festival Will Feature Array of Musical Genres

Positively 4th Street is one of the performers at this year’s SamJam Music & Brewfest, scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 24 at the Macoupin County Fairgrounds in Carlinville. Considered one of the top music festivals in the area, SamJam was created to raise money and awareness of neurofibromatosis (NF), a debilitating disease that affects 1 in every 2,500 worldwide.

CARLINVILLE – One of the larger music festivals in small-town Illinois music festival returns this year with an array of musical genres.

The 2022 SamJam Music and Brewfest will be held on Saturday, Sept. 24 from noon until 10 p.m. at the Macoupin County Fairgrounds, just north of Carlinville. The event will feature everything from R&B to country and rock and roll, jazz, and American folk.

“We’ve become known for top-quality music,” said Sam’s father, Peter Oswald, who has spearheaded the SamJam events.  “Every year, our fans tell us how good our music is, and how much they enjoy listening to it.

“Creating that type of fan experience is really important to us, and every year new people come and join us,” continued Oswald. “Even the vendors tell us they want to come back. We take a lot of pride in how people view the SamJam experience.”

SamJam was created in 2014 to honor Sam, who has endured years of struggle with neurofibromatosis (NF), which affects 1 in every 2,500 worldwide. NF is most often noticed in childhood or early adulthood, and appears equally across sexes, races, and ethnic groups. 

Since he was diagnosed with NF at age four, Sam, now 37, has battled spinal fusion, two brain tumors, shunt revisions, bone grafting on both legs, knee surgery, dermal tumor removal, and eye surgery.

In July 2020, Sam underwent major surgery to remove a tumor in his chest, near his esophagus. That was followed by another operation in March 2021 to remove a tumor from his thigh, which was a reoccurrence with a bout of cancer from eight years ago.

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Among the many, wide-ranging effects of NF are scoliosis, which was an early problem in Sam’s case, as well as seizures, motor delays, vision or hearing loss, disfigurement, bone deformities, speech impediments, loss of balance, and lifelong physical pain.

Though less familiar to the general public, more patients suffer from NF than muscular dystrophy, Tay-Sachs disease, and Huntington’s disease combined.

“NF is never easy. It’s something I have to deal with almost every day, and it can be really hard,” said Sam Oswald. “Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of great support from family and friends, which has really helped.”

Thanks to his determination and the support of loved ones, Sam lives on his own in Carlinville, and is able to get around with the help of a special three-wheeled bicycle. “It can be a struggle, and often is,” Sam said. “But I’m really grateful for what I’m able to do.”

In its first seven editions, SamJam has raised $71,000, with the funds going to NF Midwest, Inc., an organization that provides research grants and support services in Illinois and five surrounding states.

This year’s version of SamJam features five bands of distinct musical talents and will open with Positively 4th Street of Springfield, which plays everything from ‘30s-style blues to rock, country, originals, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and others.

Positively 4th Street, which was organized in 2017, plays 15-20 gigs per year. Bandleader Tom Beverly says the group loves playing festivals such as SamJam.

“We’re super excited to be at SamJam,” said Beverly. “Festivals are our favorite places to play, and we’re really honored to be a part of something like SamJam, for a good cause.

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The annual SamJam Music and Brewfest was created to honor Sam Oswald, who has struggled with neurofibromatosis (NF) since the age of four. Now 37, Sam , has battled spinal fusion, two brain tumors, chest and leg tumors, shunt revisions, bone grafting on both legs, knee surgery, dermal tumor removal, and eye surgery.

“The crowd can expect great energy and nice vibes when we play,” remarked Beverly. “When our group gets together, we really gel, and it’s great to be a part of.”

Other performers at SamJam include Isaiah Christian and the Rebel Saints, an up-and-coming country singer from Winchester, Ill., and Pete Jive, a Naperville performer that presents a mix of American folk, rock, and roots reggae.

There’s also One Way Traffic, a St. Louis-based progressive bluegrass group, and Al Holliday and The East Side Rhythm Band, which is based in Metro East St. Louis and known for a mix of old-school blues, soul, funk, jazz, and R&B.

Peter Oswald notes the strides that have been made in the fight against NF, but adds “there’s so much more to be done, and there’s still a lot of research that is needed.

“Greater public awareness and more funding for research will help find a cure,” he said. “We also need to help patients and their families live with this devastating condition.”

Like last year, SamJam will be held outside on the carnival midway of the fairgrounds, with two pole tents and a professional stage. Food trucks, a tub raffle, and a wide selection of beer will also be offered. Camping is also available on the fairgrounds.

Tickets for SamJam are only available at the gate and are $20 for adults and $10 for students, with free admission for 16 and under. Spectators are urged to bring lawn chairs, blankets, and umbrellas. For more information, or to make donations, visit www.SamJam4NF.com or call 217-556-4917.

SamJam has benefitted from many loyal sponsors since its inception, and Peter Oswald expresses his gratitude. “We’ve had a lot of loyal sponsors and donors every year,” he said, “This event wouldn’t be possible without them. The Macoupin County Fair Board has also been super in working with us to use the fairgrounds.”

Sam Oswald, the man behind the event, is certainly looking forward to it. “I just like that people always want to come to SamJam, and help a good cause,” he said, smiling. “That’s the best part of all.”

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School board deals with personnel issues during special meeting

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Stephanie Bray

Meeting in special session Monday night, members of the Community Unit School District 7 Board of Education accepted “with regrets” the resignation for purposes of retirement of Stephanie Bray, one of the district’s three technology integration specialists, effective June 4.

The board called a special session to deal with the apparently unexpected resignation before the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting later this month. However, board members tabled action on approving a revised job description for the Student Information System/Data Integration Specialist position, pending further discussion.

The board also tabled action on posting the newly created vacancy and tabled posting a district-level secretary’s position.

In February of 2022, the board accepted “with regrets” Bray’s announcement of her retirement “no later than the end of the 2025-26 school year.” There was no indication of why Bray moved her retirement date up by two years.

On a motion by Weye Schmidt, seconded by Amanda Ross, the board voted unanimously to accept Bray’s resignation. The action followed a 50-minute executive session to discuss personnel issues behind closed doors. The public portion of the meeting lasted less than 10 minutes.

In other action, the board voted to renew the district’s One Room contract to offer a remotely taught Spanish class to fulfill the district’s foreign language requirement for the 2024-25 school year. This will be the second year an off-site teacher will teach foreign language at GHS, using remote communication technology. Supt. Shane Owsley said the district had no applications for the vacant teaching position last year. This year, an applicant from Brazil explored the possibility of teaching in Gillespie but ultimately accepted a tutoring position at Greenville University. Owsley said hiring the applicant could have become cumbersome because she was not yet certificated to teach high school Spanish. He said he recently changed the job description from Spanish to foreign language to expand the pool of potential applicants.

In other personnel action, the board approved the maternity leave request of Amber Allan, BenGil Elementary physical education teacher, effective Aug. 28 through Jan. 20.

In separate actions, the board accepted Nathan Henrichs resignation as Gillespie High School freshman football coach, posted the position as vacant, and appointed Henrichs as a varsity assistant football coach. The board also voted unanimously to appoint Alex Jasper as an assistant freshman football coach. The board unanimously accepted Wayne Ireland’s resignation as a volunteer assistant football coach, and voted unanimously to appoint Jarrod Herron and hire Trenton Cleveland as volunteer assistant football coaches.

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The board voted unanimously to hire Michael Rodriguez as a high school volunteer assistant women’s basketball coach.

On a motion by Schmidt, seconded by Kelli Vesper, the board hired Alexis Ollis as a head cook and kitchen staff member, pending documentation of certification and a background check. The board also Brittany Hughes as a district kitchen staff worker, pending documentation of certification and background check.

On a motion by Vesper, the board voted unanimously to post a vacancy for a one-on-one paraprofessional aide.

Board members voted unanimously to accept the resignation of Jessica Kelly as a middle school assistant track and field coach and voted unanimously to hire Jay Weber as the high school head track and field coach.

The regular monthly meeting of the board is set for 6 p.m., Monday, June 24, at the district’s administrative office.

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Americana festival set for July 4 at Benld Park

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Jess Barker, The Lodge Brothers, and The New Prairie Drifters are set to take the stage at Benld City Park on Thursday, July 4 as part of the Americana Festival.

The music festival intends to celebrate the birthday and spirit of America with thriving local culture of music, food, and art. It is scheduled to begin at 12 noon and end at 6 pm.

Food will be available for purchase from The Barracks American Table, a new Gillespie restaurant, and skincare products will be available from Nature’s Bliss, a Benld gift shop.

The park is located at 305 North Main Street in Benld. Admission is free.

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Macoupin County Fair underway until Sunday

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Rides, tents, food trucks, music, animals, and plenty of other offerings fill the grounds at the Macoupin County Fair for the 172nd year. The fair is held June 4 through June 9 at the Macoupin County Fairground north of Carlinville.

The oldest county fair in Illinois, the Macoupin County Fair welcomes thousands of guests to the area and unites agriculture, family, and community. The fair continues through Sunday with highlights every evening.

The fair also meets the needs of families on a budget, for just $10 per person you get parking and all-access to the carnival rides. The cost-friendly fun draws in visitors and locals who get to embrace the county’s namesakes.

Tracy Lawrence and Walker Montgomery are set to take the stage Thursday evening, June 6, at 7:30pm. Friday evening features the tractor and truck pull, and Saturday evening is the crowd-favorite demolition derby.

The fair opens every morning at 8am and closes at 12 midnight. For a full list of schedule of events or to pre-pay for entry, visit the fair’s website here.

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