By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – A regional holiday tradition is continuing with Dave Rivers of Grafton and his fellow-musician friends working overtime as Santa’s helpers. The ninth annual Santapalooza: Concert for a Claus to benefit the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Foundation is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 9, beginning at 5 p.m. This year’s new location is Williker’s Tex-Mex & BBQ, 896 Hartford Turnpike in Shrewsbury.
Suggested admission is a new, unwrapped toy valued at about $10 or a $10 monetary donation for the cause. Rivers encourages music fans to share the holiday spirit with some of the region’s favorite performers while helping Toys for Tots.
“I love celebrating Christmas,” he declared. “I believe in what the holiday means: families and friends getting together, giving and receiving. It must be awful for some kids that write letters to Santa and can’t get what they ask for at Christmas. I wanted to do something for those kids.”
In its first six years, Santapalooza was held at the Lucky Dog Music Hall in Worcester. Its venue the past two years was JJ’s Sports Bar and Grill in Northborough. Rivers appreciates Williker’s welcoming this year’s Santapalooza.
“Williker’s has a 300-person capacity and plenty of parking,” he noted. “Every year this keeps getting bigger. It’s turned into a big, festive party that people look forward to every year.”
Typically, at least two Marines collect toys and monetary donations at the door. At the end of the night they deliver everything to the Toys for Tots drop-off center.
“Last year they sent four Marines, which was great because I needed the help,” Rivers said.
Helping to get raffle items for the second year is Joe Murphy. Kerrianne Foley will oversee the raffle table as she has done since the fundraiser began. Among the first donated raffle items is a Boston Red Sox baseball autographed by David Price.
New this year, the Santapalooza lineup will feature country-rock singer-guitarist Josh Briggs of Grafton. Another new act this year is Mick Lawless and The Reckless Hearts. Its frontman Lawless is a Southborough native now of Milford.
Returning acts are the Worcester-based blues band Big Eyed Rabbit, singer-guitarist Chad Clements of Grafton, singer-guitarist Paul Roukat of Dudley, and the Boston-based top-40 cover band Smash Adams including some Grafton natives.
Also new this year, singer-guitarist Rivers, bass player Tim Broadbent and drummer Andy Caplan will perform classic rock from the 1960s to ‘90s with Broad River Planet. Previously, they and Seth Magnant entertained at each Santapalooza with the rock band Six to Midnite.
Some concertgoers might also find themselves on the Santapalooza stage, Rivers noted.
“If enough people wear ugly sweaters then we’ll pick the worst three, call them up on stage and whoever gets the most applause will get a gift card,” he said. “Hopefully, this will be our biggest year, we’ll get tons of toys and money, and everybody will have a great time.”
For updates, find the Facebook event page “The 9th Annual Santapalooza: Concert for a Claus!”