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Monday, September 1, 2014

A Labor Day reflection on friendship and loss

Jerrypalooza 2010
By Ted Slowik

This year's Labor Day holiday is a particularly sad and difficult one for many people I know. For the last few years a group of friends has gathered on a farm outside Yorkville over Labor Day for a weekend of music, food and fun known as Jerrypalooza.

The small, private festival took its name from its host, Jerry Reno, who resided in the old farmhouse. The property included several barns and outbuildings, and in one of these a band would set up and play. Jerry played drums. 

There would be a big bonfire and tent camping, followed by a big country breakfast in the farmhouse kitchen the next morning. Jerry’s girlfriend Toni would co-host the festivities. 

I got to know Jerry through good friends Dave and Cheryl, who is good friends with Toni. In addition to getting to know Jerry and Toni at various parties over the years, Toni, Cheryl, Jo and I went to see Mumford and Sons, Dawes and other bands together at the Gentlemen of the Road festival in Dixon, IL in 2013.

The music at Jerrypalooza was performed by a group of old friends. I felt like an outsider at first, not really part of this circle of musicians. But Jerry was the link. Jerry was so friendly and inviting, and when he told me to stick around and play I stuck around and played.

Sadly, there is no Jerrypalooza this year. Jerry took his own life this past February. This was within a day of my near-fatal heart attack, so I didn’t learn of Jerry’s passing right away and haven’t found the right opportunity to acknowledge it in the past six months.

I just want to say thanks, Jerry, for your friendship, and peace and love to Toni and all the many others touched by your spirit.