The Natty Bos.
Gary Rowan has presented his annual Uncle Gary’s Rock & Rib Fest (www.UncleGarysRockandRibFest.com) for a decade, and watched the event grow exponentially. Yet he wishes he never had to. The festival honors his only child, daughter Ashley, who succumbed to the rare childhood liver cancer hepatoblastoma in 2002 at age 3.
“This is truly a labor of love; my everything,” Rowan says, “because I’d committed to do something to honor Ashley the day she passed. I wasn’t sure what it would be, but the first was a barbecue at my house to have my family close by. There were 32 people there in 2005. The second year, that number doubled; the third, there were more than a hundred.”
Realizing the event was burgeoning into his lasting tribute to Ashley, Rowan enlisted his friend Rich Bingold to find the right foundation to benefit from its success.
“I asked him to find a local cancer organization that catered exclusively to children,” Rowan said. The Royal Palm Beach-based Kids Cancer Foundation (www.kidscancersf.org) has partnered with Rowan ever since.
The ascending benefit caused Rowan to move it from his home to sites like an area yacht club, the American German Club in Lantana, and John Prince Park in Lake Worth. This year, the choice is the Wellington Ampitheater. Admission is free, so proceeds depend on the $20 dinner plates of grilled fare and sides that Rowan and his team prepares. There will also be volunteers selling raffle tickets, vendors selling snacks, and of course, kids activities like face-painting and a balloon artist.
“This is for the kids,” Rowan says, “so I’ll also sell a smaller, discounted kids plate.”
Melinda Elena will perform at Uncle Gary’s Rock & Rob Fest on April 16.
A major music fan, Rowan is also serving up delectable sounds throughout the day. Pelvis is a Miami-based act specializing in cover tunes from the ’60s through ’90s, interspersed with Elvis Presley songs. The Natty Bos feature not only dynamic blues singer, harmonica player and former mascot “The Bird” for Major League Baseball’s Baltimore Orioles, Clay Goldstein, but also one of the best guitarists ever to emerge from South Florida in Mario Lacasse.
And Wellington-bred vocalist Melinda Elena’s self-titled band showcases the young singer’s ample range, from jazz and R&B to blues and rock.
“Melinda has played several of my events,” Rowan says. “She asked me to introduce her to the ladies from the Kids Cancer Foundation, and she’s since proven that was because she wanted to go visit those kids in hospitals. That’s the kind of person she is.”
See Pelvis from 2-3 p.m., the Natty Bos from 3:30-5:30 p.m., the Melinda Elena Band from 6-8 p.m., and Elena with Natty Bos front man Clay Goldstein from 8:30-10 p.m., all on April 16 at Uncle Gary’s Rock & Rib Fest at the Wellington Ampitheater, 12100 Forest Hill Blvd., Wellington (561-929-1523).