Baaaquapalooza returns to the Navesink River this weekend, tinged with sadness over the death of co-founder Artie Natsis. (Photo by Stacie Fanelli. Click to enlarge)


On two occasions last summer, Baaaquapalooza was the hottest ticket on the Navesink River.

A floating, fun-loving rock ‘n roll extravaganza that drew dozen of boats, the third incarnation was set to continue the bobbing bash in style on August 10. But that was prior to the April passing of 51-year-old Baaaquapalooza co-founder and Middletown resident Arthur Natsis after a seven-year fight against cancer.

Now, the rollicking river bash has a new, added meaning: a tribute to Natsis’s memory.

His wife, Feli Donato-Natsis, is keeping the tradition alive this Saturday at Blossom Cove, on the Middletown side of the river, opposite Riverview Medical Center, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Moroccan Sheepherders, Red Bank’s own Woodfish and other special guests are scheduled to perform on the fishing charter boat Big Kid, alongside Natsis’ vessel, the Chill Pill.

Commemorative T-shirts have been created for the event, which has been renamed “Artiepalooza,” and all donations will benefit David’s Dream & Believe Cancer Foundation, an organization that provides financial assistance to those affected by a cancer diagnosis.

“It’s grown bigger than I ever expected,” a delighted Donato-Natsis tells redbankgreen.

Artie Natsis and Steve Warendorf, lead guitarist of the Moroccan Sheepherders, first came up with the river party concept in the summer of 2012, when the Sheepherders were fired by the Dockside in Sea Bright for drawing too large a crowd.

“On a whim, they said why don’t we have a party on a boat?” Donato-Natsis recalled. “My husband and Steve started talking about the logistics of everything, and that was it.”

Two successful Baaquapaloozas followed.

After Natsis died, Warendorf suggested renaming the event in his memory, booking more musical talent and having T-shirts created for sale. They can be ordered at the event website.

Donato-Natsis said close friend Rich Muska, from the vessel Amy Lee, will be keeping the event safe from a nautical perspective.

“It’s a big responsibility out on the water, and on top of coordinating bands, shirts and dinghy pickups, we are 100 percent compliant with Coast Guard regulations,” Donato-Natsis said.

With all proceeds being donated, other local families locked in the battle against cancer will also benefit from Artiepalooza, which Donato-Natsis said is a fitting tribute to the fight Artie endured.

“I didn’t want the time he fought to be lost,” said Donato-Natsis.

Donato-Natsis stated she was looking forward to the celebration this Saturday.

“My husband always said he wanted people to be happy and move on,” said Donato-Natsis. “I know he’d be happy with this. It’s going to be a great day.”