This Saturday, the 50th Chilmark Potluck Jam will brighten the windows at the Chilmark Community Center and spread its glow over a Martha’s Vineyard winter, as it has done for more than 10 years now.

Longtime Vineyard residents know the jam well, but newer year-round residents might not might be so familiar.

The jam was first organized by Willy Mason, Brad Tucker and Alex Karalekas, but it’s Alex who has shouldered it through most of our snowy evenings. It’s a family affair. Alex’s mom, Jenni Allen, dresses the place with flowers and tablecloths and his uncle John and dad Teddy usually show up with a bushel or two of cherrystones and oysters and spend the evening shucking. Many others help set up chairs, serve food and clean up. And everyone brings something to eat or drink.

When the performers take the stage, “You get the feeling that you’re watching a cousin or a nephew or a niece playing their music for their family,” said Dan Waters, a longtime jammer. He said it will “open doors and windows and blow the roof off your head . . . make you realize that there are ways of living on Martha’s Vineyard that may not exist anywhere else on the planet.”

“I don’t know anything like it,” said Isaac Taylor. “A teenaged singer playing guitar can belt it out while the next person might be Willy Mason or someone like that who is so well practiced.”

Jemima James echoed the thoughts. “The Island is bursting with talent and the jam gives everyone a shot to try out their music, share food and connect with neighbors,” she said.

As many as 30 artists may appear at the jam, each one usually performing two or three songs before the next steps in. Signed up at press time, among others, are Jemima James, Willy Mason, Erich Luening, David Saw, Ben Taylor, Jared Salvatore, Jodie Treloar, Rob Myers, Missis Biskis, Tristan Israel, Becky Williams, David Stanwood and Mark Alan Lovewell.

From Islanders as young at 10 to as old as the hills, from first time jammers to world-renowned professionals, “over a 10-year period, Alex has brought forth hundreds and hundreds or even thousands of hours of creative energy,” Isaac Taylor said.

It takes a lot of work to set up, adjust and tune the microphones for so many different voices and instruments and that’s been the job of Steve Mack for most of the last decade. “When I look out as a performer and I see Steve at the control board I feel safe and taken care of,” Dan Waters said. “In the best of all possible worlds you shouldn’t even be aware that you’re singing into a microphone, you should feel like you’re singing directly into people’s ears and Steve makes that happen. He’s a real pro.” 

Join this extended Vineyard family on Saturday to celebrate our Island community, its talent and the man who has made these 50 evenings of communal sharing possible. “Alex’s selflessness in bringing us together is the kind of example that I wish every community could witness,” Mr. Waters said, “because it inspires other people to do the same — to go out and start something and make it work and become a tradition and set an example of the way people can give and be generous with each other. That’s what Alex has done.”

The jamming begins at 6:30 p.m.

Oh — and don’t forget to bring a dish.

Sam Low lives in Oak Bluffs.