A Festival with Island flavor
Music will be playing almost nonstop throughout the afternoon and evening in Oak Bluffs on Sunday, August 10. The annual Martha's Vineyard Festival will be in full force with all the makings of being the highlight of the Vineyard season - a lofty ambition considering the spectacular tradition of fairs, festivals, fireworks, fundraising events, and concerts that punctuate Island summers in grand fashion.
The Festival Network is producing a stellar blow-out at Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs, with the Grammy-winning Gladys Knight with Keith Lockhart and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, the Neville Brothers, Manami Morita, and Steel Pulse, along with the Vineyard's own Kate Taylor, Willy Mason, Entrain, Phil daRosa, and the Martha's Vineyard NAACP Gospel Choir.
And add one more very notable talent: Martha's Vineyard Regional High School sophomore Katie Ann Mayhew, who competed with over 200 candidates and won the spotlight at the Boston Pops July Fourth concert.
Several executives at Festival Network, a company that produces entertainment festivals around the globe, have special ties with the Vineyard. Its founder and co-chairman, Christopher Shields, studied at the Berklee College of Music, and has spent significant time on the Island. Festival Network's vice-president and senior producer L. Eric "Rick" White is a former seasonal resident of Oak Bluffs, who recalls attending prep school with one of the Island's favorite artists, Allen Whiting. Company contract manager Corey Parker Cabral was booking acts for Outerland when he was signed on, and Line Producer/Director Rob Scherer lives in Oak Bluffs.
Says Mr. White, "We're entrenched here. We have lines that reach into the local Island community." He adds, "When we have a festival we try to become a part of the community and create some kind of social and cultural benefit. The hallmark of our company is our longevity and the connections we have with our communities."
Photos courtesy of Martha's Vineyard Festival
He describes plans to add offerings from all the arts in coming years, explaining, "We're looking to this as a cultural festival, and therefore trying in a kind of micro-cosmic way, to reflect Martha's Vineyard as a whole."
Mr. Scherer credits Herb Putnam, the prominent Island businessman who died on March 9, with the inspiration for the event. "This Festival is a result of his vision," Mr. White says. "That's the real bottom line. There would not be a festival without him."
The Martha's Vineyard Festival has become a significant fundraiser for Island charities. This year's recipients are The Friends of Oak Bluffs, the YMCA, and Vineyard House, which provides safe living quarters for Island residents recovering from substance abuse. Those organizations are involved in the sale of premium seating, $350, the profits of which go to the charities. Premium seating includes hors d'oeuvres, drinks, and dessert, complimentary parking, a private entrance to Ocean Park, and private restrooms.
For the first time this year there will be local food vendors, wine and a beer garden. Also new is the benefit art show, "Tribal Art on the Vineyard," held this past weekend at Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs, and a film screening of "Zeb - Schooner Life," about the legendary Island sailing captain Zebulon Tilton, on giant screens in Ocean Park, this Saturday, August 9.
It is an elaborate event, and organizing it on the Vineyard is no simple matter. Mr. White smiles and says, "We literally had to beg for every room we could get," and notes the energies that were directed at getting the production equipment, sound, lights, generators, and tour busses booked on the ferry.
"But we're surrounded by a great crew," he quickly says, mentioning a list of people he wants to credit: Richard Combra, the Oak Bluffs selectmen, and Dennis DaRosa from businessman's association.
"Listen, there's nothing that is without its challenges or difficulties," Mr. White says. "I've worked all over the world and there are good days and bad days." He laughs and adds, "The fact that we're here means it's a great day. It means that things have all worked out. There are always areas where you are going to have to make compromises, but everyone rises to the occasion."
Mr. White smiles and says, "We're already starting to work on next year's festival."
The Festival site opens at 1:30 pm; performances begin at 3 pm. General Admission in advance: Adult - $75, Child (5 to 12 yrs) $20, Child (under 5 yrs) Free., General Admission on Day of Show: Adult -$85. (Low-back lawn chairs are acceptable.) Individual premium seats are $350, and include hors d'oeuvres, drinks, and dessert, complimentary parking, a private entrance to Ocean Park, and the use of private bathrooms. Parking is available in Waban Park. The cost of parking is $5, proceeds going to the Oak Bluffs Fireman's Civic Association.