By Don Manley
Merrill Allen’s friends are clearly demonstrating that they are “there” for the well-known Goodland singer-guitarist who sustained second-degree burns over 60 percent of his body in an explosion on his boat.
A benefit for Allen will be held October 11 at Goodland’s Little Bar Restaurant, where he has been performing regularly since 1993. It was Little Bar owner Niki Bauer who came up with the idea for the benefit.
“Merrill is part of our ‘Little Bar Family,’” said Bauer. “We all help each other when one of us is in need.”
Entitled “Merrill Fest,” the benefit will include live music by local musicians from 12 PM to 10 PM. The roster of performers includes Merrill Allen’s brother Jim, Ryan Darling, Konnie Raiford Starke, Billy J & The Big Easy and Taylor Freydberg, among others. There will also be a silent auction of donated items, along with 50-50 and pop-up raffles. Tickets are available at Stan’s Idle Hour restaurant, the Old Marco Lodge and Marker 8.5, all located in Goodland.
Allen has been treated at Tampa General Hospital Regional Burn Center since the October 7 explosion that occurred while he was cooking on his boat, which was docked at the Old Barge Marina in Goodland.
Bauer found out about the tragedy that evening when she received a text from a friend, while driving back from northern Florida. “I was devastated when I found out it was Merrill,” she said.
Goodland-based photographer Celeste Navara said she and Merrill Allen have become “great friends” over the 14 years they have known each other. She has been traveling to Tampa several times a week to be by his side as he recovers from his injuries.
“Merrill is improving each day,” said Navara. “He has a couple more weeks ahead of him at Tampa General Hospital Burn Unit, but he is strong-willed and determined to do whatever it takes to come home.”
Navara described Goodland residents as the type of people who come together to assist their neighbors, should there be a need.
“We have had the misfortune to hold two previous benefits this year,” she added. “Each has had an outpouring of volunteers, the total support of local businesses, citizens and have been a huge success. As for Merrill, I would say his goodwill, both as an entertainer, a friend and a neighbor is coming back to him tenfold.”
Merrill Allen’s colleagues from the local music scene were quick to praise him as a musician and as a man.
JRobert of Marco described him as being a “great balladeer” that “made every Sunday in Goodland an epic party.”
Vicky Richmond of The Richmonds, said Merrill Allen befriended her and her husband, Jes, shortly after they moved here and started getting involved in the local music scene.
“Coming from Indiana to a new musical community entails paying your dues, and Merrill was always kind in sharing venues and contact information to give us a leg up and a head start in getting gigs,” she said. “He is the epitome of an island musician. No selfish agenda, just laid back, honest, and kind and loving.”
Navara said Merrill Allen hopes his condition improves sufficiently to allow him to attend the benefit. “If I were to speak for Merrill, I would say he is honored and appreciative of all the love, support and healing wishes he has received,” she added.
Donations can also be sent to: Benefit for Merrill Allen, P.O. Box 653, Goodland, FL 34140.