ARTIEPALOOZA ROCKS THE RIVER

Partygoers gathered on dozens of vessels to remember a friend at Saturday’s floating bash on the Navesink dubbed ‘Artiepalooza.’ (Photos by Peter Lindner. Click to enlarge)

By NICK MALFITANO

One could hear the unmistakable sound up and down the Navesink River Saturday afternoon; American rock n’ roll. Sun peeked through the clouds as dozens of partygoers gathered in Blossom Cove on the river’s Middletown side to enjoy food, drink and live music at a floating party.

It could only be Artiepalooza.

The boat bash served as both a fundraiser – for David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation, an organization that provides financial assistance to those affected by cancer – and a tribute to the memory of 51-year-old Arthur “Artie” Natsis of Middletown. The event, known as “Baaaquapalooza” during its first two incarnations last summer, was renamed in Natsis’ honor after he died from cancer in April.

“Everyone’s having a great time,” said Natsis’ widow, Feli Donato-Natsis, whose first name is pronounced ‘Filly.’ “I counted about 35 boats here. Some knew about the party, and others came from word of mouth. All our friends rented the only two pontoon boats in the area to be here.”

Those in floating attendance ran the gamut from river passerby to Artie’s family members, close friends and acquaintances. Through the use of modern technology, even those who couldn’t be present for the festivities enjoyed the scene.

“Steve [Warendorf, frontman of the Moroccan Sheepherders] set up a live stream of the party so people could watch online,” an exultant Donato-Natsis told redbankgreen. “I didn’t expect that.”

The Moroccan Sheepherders and Red Bank-based Woodfish set up on the fishing charter boat Big Kid in Sea Bright and played well into the afternoon.

While moving to the music, party guests wore commemorative “Artiepalooza” T-shirts and gave generously to the dinghy donation boats plying the river for David’s Dream.

Partygoers spoke warmly of Natsis.

“Artie Natsis was the kindest, gentlest, most beautiful man I’ve ever met,” said his former hairstylist, Sarah McGregor of Middletown. “He would help anyone whether he knew them or not.”

Friend Jason Olsen, a Michigan resident whose boat is tied on the same dock as Donato-Natsis’, contributed to the day by ferrying party guests across the river.

“Today, I’m the water taxi,” Olsen joked.

Olsen said he never met Natsis, but he and his family befriended Donato-Natsis and fellow event organizer Rich Muska from the boat Amy Lee earlier this summer.

“Everyone just became great friends. We’re here to help out Feli,” said Olsen.

Donato-Natsis said recently that she didn’t want the time Artie spent fighting cancer to be lost. Saturday’s event showed it was safe to say her mission was more than accomplished.

“This is much more than I ever expected,” Donato-Natsis reiterated, before extending a hug to a friend.