Subscribe Now

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

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

Well, they did.

And now, celebrating its 58th year, the Marblehead Festival of the Arts has grown from a humble gathering of friends to a premier event. This multi-day arts extravaganza runs from July 3–7. The celebration of artistic expression draws thousands from around the region to the picturesque community of Marblehead, an historic coastal town with a proud maritime heritage. No matter your passion—fine arts, literature, music, local food and drink—you are bound to find something delightful here.

Festival board member Chris Buchanan, a lifelong resident, says even though the festival has grown over the years, it is still a celebration of the spirit of Marblehead, and is “probably the favorite weekend for most people.”

“For me, and for those with young children, it is really cool to see a second generation taking part in the things we were doing when we were kids. There’s a camaraderie in seeing your neighbors out on the streets for a special event.”

Brian Wheeler, who started volunteering with the festival in 1975, now produces the Concerts@Crocker Park, a lineup of musicians who perform overlooking Marblehead Harbor. He says the popularity of the festival can be attributed to its simplicity: bringing people together to experience joy.

“There’s no aisles, just smiles,” he said. “There are no divisions—just people being together under the umbrella of music, arts, and entertainment. It makes you feel great to be a part of something so wonderful.”

Brian Wheeler | Photograph by Jared Charney

With sand sculpting, model boat crafting, painted sea creatures, a kite festival, a road race, and a fireworks display over Marblehead Harbor, this year’s festival builds on last year’s, which drew 1,500 people per day, despite gloomy weather, Buchanan said.

As is tradition, the festival kicks off June 30 with a champagne reception, a ticketed event that raises funds for the arts in Marblehead. Things really get going with the Concerts @ Crocker Park, which runs from July 3 through 6, and this year features 75 performers in a wide variety of genres, including jazz, salsa, Cajun/zydeco, reggae, folk, soul, R&B, and “good old rock ’n’ roll.”

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

The Children’s Festival invites the youngest attendees to the Jeremiah Lee Mansion Gardens to create lanterns from upcycled bottles for a Parade of Lights at Crocker Park at sundown. Children will also have the opportunity to learn printmaking and make funky sunglasses and crystal suncatchers. On July 4, children are invited to construct and paint wooden boats to be sailed in a regatta at Redd’s Pond later in the day.

The Literary Festival is hosting a full slate of talks featuring popular authors Hank Phillippi Ryan (“One Wrong Word”), Kristy Woodson Harvey (“A Happier Life”), Julia Glass (“Three Junes”), and Eric Jay Dolin (“Left for Dead: Shipwreck, Treachery and Survival at the Edge of the World”), as well as workshops on the business of writing, beginning a novel, and new trends in nonfiction writing, among others.

There are a couple of new things, Buchanan said—including picnic baskets for purchase from local businesses that can be filled with local treats and brought to Crocker Park, and an art vending machine that dispenses handcrafted items for nominal cost.

“We’re trying to think of all sorts of angles to keep growing,” Buchanan said. “It is important for us to pay homage to the founders and to make sure we change and adapt, to keep innovating.”

In a video made by Wheeler to celebrate the festival’s 50th anniversary, founder Margaret “Peggy” Stone muses, “It doesn’t seem possible that 10 little people could do something that is so successful as the Festival of Arts has become.”

“The crux of the whole thing is the volunteers coming together under the umbrella of the arts and entertainment, almost like bringing a show to the town,” Wheeler says. “In its essence, it is extremely 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