Oak Bluffs hosts HarborFest and Summer Solstice party

HarborFest 2010 is this Saturday. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The heart of Oak Bluffs will yet again bloom with the annual summer solstice celebration and 19th annual Harbor Festival, dubbed HarborFest, offering shopping, outdoor dining, and a fun atmosphere up and down Circuit Avenue and the harbor, for both tourists and Islanders.

This year’s celebrations, sponsored and organized by the Oak Bluffs Association (OBA), begin at 12 noon at the harbor, on Saturday, June 19. Bustling crowds will line the harborside, shopping for goods among the more than 40 vendors, including local artists, craftsmen, and antique dealers, as well as nonprofit organizations offering an array of baked goods, raffles, and information on their causes. Starting at 5 pm is the fifth annual Summer Solstice celebration, featuring outdoor dining, shopping late into the night, and entertainment.

Last year, HarborFest drew a record of around 7,500 people. But what’s new this year?

At Sanctuary, owners Rita and Frank Imbimbo have plans of their own for this year’s Summer Solstice.

“Our goal is to create a unique theme for Summer Solstice, so that it’s not like other events where the street closes down,” said Mr. Imbimbo. “This year we will have a tarot reader, Karen Coffey, owner of Pyewackets, come and give tarot readings. We want to create something new: new ideas and a creative theme for people,” he said.

“This is an event to kick off the summer; it is a mystical and magical event. We want it to have that feel to it so we thought conducting readings would add to that theme,” said Ms. Imbimbo. “The event is growing every year, and since Circuit Avenue is closed off, we want to fill it and light up the street at night.”

Because of the street closing, Summer Solstice is one of two occasions (the other being Tivoli Day) that diners can enjoy outdoor seating. Participating restaurants are Deon’s, Seasons, and the Island House Bar and Grille.

“Summer Solstice is an event that usually brings more people in than usual,” said Bill Datta, owner of the Island House. “Of course it all depends on how many people attend, and the weather.” But the weather for this year’s festivities, as of Tuesday, calls for a satisfying, sunny afternoon.

As a result of budget cuts, the OBA had to get creative this year to promote the event. “Because of the new state budget cut, we launched a website and a map this year to fundraise,” said OBA director Rebecca Rogers. “We get most of our funds from members and their membership fees. But we were successful with both the website and the map.”

Just before 5 pm is the Antique Car Parade up Circuit Avenue, before the road is closed. During the day, enjoy live music on the deck at Nancy’s, featuring Chad Burtch and Friends, and Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish. The music continues into the night with Phil daRosa and Friends at Seasons. And an old-fashioned Block Dance Party will cap off the evening from 8 to 10 pm at the west end of Circuit Avenue, hosted by Bombshell Sound Agents, codirected by TaraRose Macuch and DJ Diana Reilly.

A rain date for both events is Sunday, June 20.