Samjam returns with new format
By Tom Emery
After a one-year hiatus, a popular central Illinois music festival returns with a new format and many additional features.
SamJam’s End of Summer Bash is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 28 from noon until 11 p.m. at the Macoupin County Fairgrounds, just north of Carlinville. The event will feature five acclaimed tribute bands playing top hits from an array of genres.
“We wanted to try something different,” said Pete Oswald Sr., who has spearheaded the SamJam events. “We had always focused on progressive bluegrass, and that had always been popular with our crowds. But we thought that some new music would be a nice change for everyone as well.” Last year’s SamJam was cancelled due to the pandemic.
Created in 2014, the event honors Oswald’s son Sam, who has endured a host of treatments related to neurofibromatosis (NF) since the age of four. Now 36, Sam has battled spinal fusion, two brain tumors, shunt revisions, bone grafting on both legs, knee surgery, dermal tumor removal, and eye surgery.
More recently, Sam underwent surgery in July 2020 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.
“I’ve dealt with NF for most of my life, and it’s hasn’t always been easy,” said Sam Oswald. “But you just have to work through it. I’ve had a lot of great support from family and friends, and it’s helped me overcome everything that NF has thrown at me.”
Neurofibromatosis, which affects 1 in every 2,500 worldwide, is often diagnosed in childhood or early adulthood, and appears equally across sexes, races, and ethnic groups. Though less familiar to the general public, more patients suffer from NF than muscular dystrophy, Tay-Sachs disease, and Huntington’s disease combined.
Patients of NF routinely suffer from tumors on nerves across the body, and several separate, distinct versions of the disorder are currently classified.
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.
In its first six years, SamJam donated $67,000 to NF, with the funds going to NF Midwest, Inc., an organization that provides research grants and support services in Illinois and five surrounding states.
“Over the years, we have met many other families who are going through similar journeys with an NF diagnosis,” said Oswald Sr. “Now, with Sam’s help, we are trying to increase awareness of this devastating condition.”
SamJam is recognized for top-quality music. This year is no different with regional favorites like the Voodoo Players, a group organized by St. Louis musician Sean Canan, which features the music of Jimmy Buffet as well as the Rolling Stones. There’s also the Mark Lavengood Band, a Michigan-based group that plays the music of two-time Grammy winner John Prine, who died from COVID-19 at age 73 in April 2020. Prine’s self-titled debut album from 1971 was listed on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 greatest albums of all time. Also on the program are Shakey Deal of St. Louis, which highlights the long and wide-ranging career of Neil Young, and Sunshine Daydream, a Springfield band that plays the songs of the Grateful Dead.
SamJam will be held outside on the carnival midway of the fairgrounds, with a professional stage. Food trucks, a tub raffle, and an expanded beer and wine tent will be featured. Camping is also available on the fairgrounds.
Unlike previous SamJam events at the fairgrounds, which were held indoors, spectators are urged to bring lawn chairs, blankets, and umbrellas.
Tickets for SamJam are available online at www.samjam4nf.com. Ticket prices are $20 for adults and $10 for students, with free admission for 16 and under. For more information, visit the website or call 217-556-4917.
Sam Oswald, the man behind the event, is certainly looking forward to it. “I love the fact that we do this,” he said, smiling. “We raise money and awareness for NF, and that really helps a lot of people. I hope everyone will come out, and enjoy some great music for our cause.”