Sunday, February 17th, 2019

The Chesapeake Jubilee Story


The perfect place for creating great memories

by Marianne Chalk

Chesapeake Jubilee Committee, left to right:<BR> Stephanie Welke, Blake Roberson, Chris Amerson, Mike Foley, Sharon Stovall, <BR>Jeremy Miller, Ashley Gibbs,  Ken Belkofer, Josh Fisher, Kelly Hanna, <BR>Greg Staylor, Tom Frantz, Chris Pascal, Sarah Spence, <BR>Norm Slagle, George Spence and Ricky Bowers

Chesapeake Jubilee Committee, left to right:
Stephanie Welke, Blake Roberson, Chris Amerson, Mike Foley, Sharon Stovall,
Jeremy Miller, Ashley Gibbs, Ken Belkofer, Josh Fisher, Kelly Hanna,
Greg Staylor, Tom Frantz, Chris Pascal, Sarah Spence,
Norm Slagle, George Spence and Ricky Bowers

Get ready, get set, go; it’s time for the Chesapeake Jubilee! Last minute preparation is abounding as the community eagerly awaits the 35th annual event. The senses are immediately stimulated by memories of the festival atmosphere: carnival rides and food vendors; upbeat music and marching band rhythm; brilliant fireworks and joyful laughter.

Steeped in history, the Jubilee was created 35 years ago by the Chesapeake Chamber of Commerce. Now the Jubilee is a separate nonprofit. Its original purpose was to celebrate the anniversary of the city. In its infancy, food trucks and rides crowded the parking lot of Greenbrier Mall. However, Buddy Bagley, one of the founding fathers of the Jubilee, had a bigger vision for the event. He saw the woodland that sat next to the old prison camp on Greenbrier Parkway as the perfect spot for expansion. True to his personality, with fierce determination, he arranged for the removal of a patch of trees. This opened the property for the Jubilee and the Chesapeake City Park, where the festivities remain today.

Buddy passed away earlier this year at the age of 89. His faithful service to the Jubilee will be celebrated as he is honored by the fireworks display. Buddy was the Chairman of the explosion of lights that brought verbal adulation from the crowd gathered on the park lawn. This year, he will be remembered as the Fireworks Chairman Emeritus. Buddy’s wife, Peggy, and daughter, Page, will be present for the memorial event which begins at 9 p.m. on Friday. The US Fleet Brass Band will prepare spectators for the magical moment of colorful artistry.

Stephanie Welke serves as Executive Director of the Jubilee for the second year. “My involvement began 10 years ago as a volunteer,” Stephanie reflects. “Working with volunteers is very enjoyable for me—a special part of this hometown festival.” Reminiscing about Jubilee attractions that she has particularly enjoyed over the years, she adds, “The rides were always my favorite part—especially the Crazy Mouse.”

Mike Foley, Chairman for a third year, also has fond memories. “I began parking cars for the Jubilee in 1985,” Mike notes. “I remember bringing my four children, who now attend with my grandchildren. We all loved the fireworks back then, and we still do.”

In addition to the director and chairman positions, it takes about 50 volunteers to prepare for the Jubilee and over 100 volunteers to manage every detail once it opens.

“Volunteers are critical to a successful weekend,” Stephanie insists. “Most individuals have been volunteering since 1983. The next generation has now joined them in bringing this event to life. For the process to be seamless, experienced volunteers are essential. On opening weekend, worker bees are buzzing everywhere, knowing exactly what to do and how to do it. It is actually a very exciting time,” she adds enthusiastically. The Chesapeake Police, Sheriff and Fire Departments, and EMS also play major roles in managing traffic and ensuring safety.

The Jubilee will open Thursday, May 17th with carnival attractions beginning  at 6 p.m. and the traditional Shrimp Feast—a signature event that supports the Kiwanis Club of Chesapeake.

“I remember bringing my four children,
who now attend with my grandchildren.
We all loved the fireworks back then,
 and we still do.”

—Mike Foley

“Kiwanis provides financial assistance to all children’s charities, mostly those local to Hampton Roads,” Stephanie points out. The Shrimp Feast, beginning at 4:30 p.m., offers a mouth-watering menu of steamed shrimp, pork barbecue, coleslaw, baked beans and hush puppies. Beverages include beer, wine and soda. The cost is a separate fee of $35 in advance or $45 at the door. The full array of Jubilee events and attractions begins on Friday, May 18th from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.. Admission is free on Friday for military, first responders and their families. The festivities continue on Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.. The Jubilee resumes at 12 noon on Sunday, and closes at 6 p.m.

New to the 2018 Jubilee will be a Car and Truck Show on Sunday, May 20th. All makes and models of vehicles will be on display. Returning food venders will offer delicious turkey legs, barbecue, burgers, hot dogs and sandwiches. Every sweet tooth will be satisfied with funnel cakes, ice cream, and kettle corn. Favorite rides will thrill festival goers. The Kidway will provide younger children with equally enjoyable ride experiences. In addition, the Kids Corner will invite more craft-minded young-at-heart to sand and spin art, and glitter tattoos.

The Jubilee continues to be host to the Kansas City Barbecue Society Cook Off. “This year a grant totaling $4,500 was provided by ‘Smokin With Smithfield’ bringing total prizes to $12,000,” Stephanie says. There are four categories in the event: chicken, ribs, pork and brisket. Each category will yield 10 places of winners. Prizes range from $50 to $600. Additionally, there are 10 over-all prize winners with the Grand Champion prize of $2,000 and reserve Champion $1,000.

A1A Jimmy Buffet Tribute Band from Atlanta, Georgia, will delight the audience with a tropical beat and laid back style. Music will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday night. There is no additional fee to attend the concert. Local bands playing throughout the weekend include Buckshot, Tailgate Down, Passin’ Tyme Band, and Boot Rooster. During the final hours of the Jubilee on Sunday, a Celebration of Faith and Unity will include performances by The Mount Choir and Revival Worship Movement. Spectators will be charmed with grace and talent from members of The Little Gym and Danz Star Group who will execute their skills.

The Chesapeake Jubilee—a Top Twenty Event in Southeast Tourism—is a festival for the entire family. Those attending will have their senses bathed in an atmosphere of fun, music, delicious aromas and tastes, and community. It is the perfect place for creating new memories, and that is, indeed, something to be jubilant about!

Chesapeake Jubilee