Double the fun : HarborFest, Summer Solstice Festival
On June 21, Oak Bluffs will be the site of a daylong celebration that begins with HarborFest on the waterfront and then moves in the early evening to Circuit Avenue to morph into the Summer Solstice Festival.
At 12 noon, when the 17th annual Oak Bluffs HarborFest begins, the harbor front will be packed with rows of booths filled with a broad range of handiwork, goods, crafts, apparel, and sundries from over 50 artisans and vendors.
According to HarborFest organizer Terry McCarthy, the event is something participants look forward to every year. "We get calls in January and February from excited vendors, artisans, activity coordinators, who want to participate," he says.
Those strolling past the displays will be treated to artwork by Island artists as well as artists from the Rhode Island School of Design, which is sending in work to be sold at the festival. Artisans will be selling everything from handmade jewelry to ceramics, from paintings to photographs.
The aroma of food prepared by chefs from all over the Island will fill the air - sausage and peppers, hot dogs, and other street-fair style offerings.
And when it comes to entertainment and family-style activities, nothing is being overlooked. A stage will be set up on the harbor for daylong musical performances. There will be pony rides, a petting zoo, and a rock-climbing wall. Mimes, jugglers, and clowns will entertain; Sidewalk Sam will be helping people create chalk art on the sidewalks.
Says Mr. McCarthy, "It should make for one terrific day." The HarborFest and the Summer Solstice on the same day, he notes, "is a great way to celebrate Oak Bluffs."
Mr. McCarthy says, "[The festival] is fun and funky - meant for people to really just enjoy themselves." What he likes best is that the festival is "not just parents shopping." In fact, his favorite activity to see is the chalk art. "We get people of all ages and talent levels and it just turns out great. It's incredible quality, legitimate graffiti." Then, he says, at the end of the day, "The HarborFest will just sort of morph into the Summer Solstice."
Photo by Ralph Stewart
At around 6 pm, the activity shifts into the Summer Solstice celebration along Circuit Avenue. The street will be closed off for the street festival that will continues into the night. Restaurants along the street will provide street-side tables for the evening. Summer Solstice organizer Ron DiOrio, who has been heading up the event throughout its three-year existence, explains, "There are going to be four bands on Circuit Avenue, playing as the sun goes down." Animated about the variety of the celebration, he continues, "They'll be playing everything from jazz on one end to bluegrass on the other."
And that is just the start. Artisans and vendors will stick around from the Harbor Fest to join the music and outdoor dining, adding to the street-festival atmosphere.
And after sunset, for the first time in its history, Summer Solstice will launch a grand fireworks display on the beach across the street from Ocean Park.
The merging of the two annual events was serendipitous. The HarborFest, scheduled earlier this year, was inadvertently scheduled on the date of the Summer Solstice celebration. But Mr. McCarthy and Mr. DiOrio agree that both events will be at their best because of the presence of the other. While both note that the events "get better every year," Mr. DiOrio says the amalgamation of the two will "hopefully attract more people than we've ever had. I think the whole day is an opportunity for Oak Bluffs to shine. It's a kick-off to summer."
Asked how he judges the success of the event, Mr. McCarthy replies, "On the faces of the people attending.
Long-time seasonal resident Peter Kirn attends Colby College.