A guitarist, dressed modestly in a t-shirt and dungarees, stands in front of A Novel Idea, a book retailer in the Village of Fenwick shopping center, as he starts strumming familiar tunes. Shoppers and business owners quickly converge on the smooth sounds, idling with their backs against storefronts or their backsides on chairs and benches. The audience resembles a renewable energy source — new onlookers shuffle in as others return to browsing.
A family of 10, seated by the Hair Daze Salon, participates in the sing-along-friendly recital, letting the “Take A Load Off Fannie,” filter through its vocal chords. The children, meanwhile, gobble up Gummi creatures and peer into newly acquired aquariums.
“We shop here every year. We won’t ever come to Fenwick Island without shopping here,” says Pam West, who has been visiting Fenwick Village from Latrobe, Penn., with her husband, Jim, for 12 years and, more recently, bringing their four children — Josh, Jaime, Jake and Julie. “[The music] is cool. It adds to the atmosphere.”
Another member of the party, Dave White, visiting from Mars, Penn., with his wife, Stephanie, and daughters, Brianna and Sophia, showers applause and praise on the performer.
“Do you have a tip jar?” he asks the guitarist.
“No, but I have a hand,” the musician replies, extending an upturned palm.
The sun creeps closer to the bay, and the humidity begins, oh so subtly, to subside. As an evening breeze begins to blow coolly over the brick patio, tranquility pervades the scene — one would never imagine the concerts had been the cause of such heated discussions less than 48 hours earlier.
From rift to riffs, Damian Magareli, on the acoustic guitar, and his sister Linda, lending vocal accompaniment, wafted melodic jazz notes through the courtyard of the Village of Fenwick Thursday, Aug. 4, a day after their proposed presence ripped a fissure in the town’s council.
“We’re thrilled about it. The town did approve and we’re glad about that,” said Jill Arends, proprietress of To Life!, a café in the Village of Fenwick. “I think the town of Fenwick Island is quieter than maybe it should be for the heat of summer. I think this will raise awareness for all of the shops in Fenwick, not just in this center.”
The concert was the first in a biweekly series of eight — Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 9 p.m. throughout August.
“We just did it because we wanted to bring something nice to the community — free of charge to the public, of course. Everybody is pleased and looking forward to a good reception from our patrons,” said Shelly Roberts, owner of the shopping center. “We hope it will draw new customers to the village, but the motive was to make it nicer for the people that were already here.”
The wrangling originated at the July 24 town council meeting, where Council Member Chris Clark, the commercial liaison, introduced a proposal to grant the village an eight-fold exemption from the town’s noise ordinance. Fenwick Island law prohibits outdoor concerts, but permits the council to make dispensations for “recreational sports and musical activities.” Pointing to this proviso, Clark presented the request on Roberts’ behalf and the legislators approved it by a 5-2 vote, pending a “non-objection” from Town attorney Tempe Steen.
Steen, however, declined to sign off on the resolution, postponing the first evening of jazz that had been tentatively scheduled for Aug. 2. Clark had failed to give the public proper notice, the lawyer said, since he did not submit the resolution six hours prior to the council meeting.
Clark filed to reconvene the council for a special meeting on Aug. 3, where the controversy carried over. The dissenters, led by Council President Peter Frederick and Vice President Harry Haon, argued a waiver from town code would set an uncontrollable precedent and leave the council vulnerable to charges of favoritism.
The assenters, led by Clark and Council Members Vicki Carmean and Audrey Serio, insisted the noise ordinance could be rewritten — and loopholes could be tightened — after the meeting. Two hours of semantic sparring later, those in favor got their way. The assembly approved the concerts by an identical 5-2 margin.
“I think the controversy was good,” Roberts said. “It’s good for the town to look at any new venture from all angles, and then come to an intelligent decision.”