From music to literature, Marblehead Music Festival revels in the arts

In 1962, a group of Marblehead residents, inspired by a failed attempt by the city of Boston to host an arts festival, decided to try it at home.

“Gee, why can’t we do something like this?” asked Pat Goddard, then secretary of the Marblehead Chamber of Commerce.

Well, they did.

Now celebrating its 58th anniversary, the Marblehead Festival of the Arts has grown from a humble gathering of friends into a major event. This multi-day art extravaganza will take place from July 3rd to 7th. The celebration of artistic expression draws thousands from across the region to the picturesque community of Marblehead, a historic coastal town with a proud maritime heritage. Whatever your passion – art, literature, music, local food and drink – you’re sure to find something to please here.

Festival board member and lifelong resident Chris Buchanan said that while the festival has evolved over the years, it remains a celebration of the spirit of Marblehead and “probably most people’s favorite weekend ever.” .

“For me and those who have young children, it’s really cool to see the second generation participating in the same things we did as kids. There’s a sense of camaraderie that comes from seeing neighbors take to the streets for special events.

Brian Wheeler began volunteering at the festival in 1975 and now serves as producer of Concerts@Crocker Park, which features a lineup of musicians overlooking Marblehead Harbor Put on a show. He said the festival’s popularity can be attributed to its simplicity: bringing people together to experience joy.

“No aisles, just smiles,” he said. “There are no divisions – just people coming together under the umbrella of music, art and entertainment. It makes you feel great to be a part of something so wonderful.

Brian Wheeler | Photography: Jared Charney

Buchanan said this year’s festival, which features sand sculptures, model boat making, painted sea life, a kite festival, road races and fireworks at Marblehead Harbor, drew 1,500 people a day last year despite gloomy weather.

As per tradition, the festival will kick off with a champagne reception on June 30, a ticketed event to raise funds for the arts in Marblehead. Concerts @ Crocker Park will take place July 3-6 and this year features 75 performers covering a variety of genres including jazz, salsa, Cajun/Zydeco, Reggae, folk, soul, R&B and “good old rock ‘n’ roll.”

“After an incredible 2023 concert series in Crocker Park and an outpouring of love from the community, we can’t wait to make new memories at Marblehead’s beautiful outdoor venue,” said Wheeler.

Children’s Day invites the youngest participants to the Jeremiah Lee House Gardens to create lanterns from recycled bottles for the Parade of Lights in Croke Park at sunset. Children will also have the opportunity to learn printmaking and make stylish sunglasses and crystal light traps. On July 4th, children were invited to build and paint wooden boats and sail them in a regatta later that day on Redd’s Pond.

The festival will host a series of speakers including renowned authors Hank Phillippi Ryan (A Wrong Word), Kristy Woodson Harvey (Blissful Life) ), Julia Glass (Three Junes) and Eric Jay Dolin (Stay Dead: Shipwrecks, Betrayals, and Survival on the Edge of the World) ), as well as workshops on writing, novel writing, and emerging trends in nonfiction writing.

Buchanan said there were some new additions, including picnic baskets purchased from local businesses that could be filled with local delicacies and taken to Croke Park, and an art vending machine that would sell handmade items on a token basis.

“We’re trying to think from all angles to keep growing,” Buchanan said. “It’s important for us to honor our founders and make sure we change and adapt and continue to innovate.”

In a video Wheeler produced to celebrate the festival’s 50th anniversary, founder Margaret “Peggy” Stone mused, “It seemed impossible that 10 little people could make something as successful as the festival.”

“The key to the whole thing is volunteers coming together under the umbrella of arts and entertainment to kind of bring a show to the town,” Wheeler said. “At its core, it’s very simple. In a small town like Marblehead, in our little world, it’s a big deal.

For a full schedule of music and events, visit

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