New Bedford Summerfest

It’s amazing how much travel compresses reality. A normal day for me is something like “Wake up, eat lunch, work, eat dinner, work, watch Seinfeld, sleep.” This routine is interspersed with Oliver wrangling and the odd meeting here and there.

Today I awoke in my bed in Charlottetown, and spent the afternoon on the New Bedford, Massachusetts waterfront. In between I flew from Charlottetown to Halifax to Boston, rented a car, and drove the hour south. Whew!

New Bedford Summerfest is what the various icky pretend festivals that Charlottetown holds every Canada Day and Labour Day weekend could be if there was less tourist pandering, more creativity and a larger spirit involved in their creation.

Every July the historical downtown of New Bedford is taken over by this three day festival of the arts. There are three main components: a huge collection of artisan booths strung along the closed streets north of the water, a collection of musical venues ranging from the small and intimate to the slightly larger music tent on the water, and a huge dining tent on the State Pier where fresh seafood (really fresh seafood) is served.

The music is folk roots celtic. It’s like Grassy Hill Radio, but live. This afternoon, for example, I went to a workshop in the small Customs House Tent featuring Garnet Rogers, David Jones, Ellis Paul and Scott Alarik. The theme of the workshop was “Left Her Heart & Lost My Own: how men sing about love.” This was followed by a workshop called “I Love the Ground Whereon He Goes: how women sing about love” that featured Lucy Kaplansky, Susan Werner, Sally Rogers and a weird Scottish duck full of energy named Ray Fisher. It was all wonderful music in a delightful setting.

Tomorrow I’m going to return for more of the same, finishing off with a concert by Livingston Taylor.

There are several great things about the way the Summerfest event is organized. Admission to the entire weekend is only $7, and you pay for this by simply buying a button when you arrive. There are no giant wooden fences around anything — it’s all done on the honour system. There’s no big huge concentration of people overwhelming one area of the downtown; the event is nicely distributed across a wide area, and the musical venues are all low-key and low-amp, so for the residents of the downtown it’s not like having The Who over for the weekend.

All in all a very pleasant if jam-packed day.


Lana's picture
Lana on July 14, 2002 - 03:27 Permalink

I would guess that the festival is not too crowded as the New England residents are now visiting PEI due to the excellent marketing campaign this spring.

The elder visitors are probably saying how much they enjoy centralized concerts instead of having to walk from venue to venue like they do at home.

The grass is always greener…

Angela the Magnificent's picture
Angela the Magn... on August 23, 2004 - 14:56 Permalink

Awesome. I love this festival, the energy is amazing and it’s just really friendly and comfortable. They raised the price this year, but they also rearranged everything, so you can totally catch all the music and vendors you want for free, (just can’t sit under the tent), or you can pay $14 for the weekend, and sit in the chairs under the tent If you go back in 2005, check out the toy vendor with all the kids hanging around juggling. (and buy some toys!!!)I’ll be the chick who’s good at the sticks : D