City Celebrates Summerfest 15th Year July 2-4

Summerfest Isn’t Getting Older, It’s Getting ‘A Whole Different Focus’
By Anika Clark

If Greater New Bedford Summerfest were a teenage girl, this year might mark its quinceanera. But organizers are still planning to give the 15-year-old folk music festival a proper birthday bash. This year’s Friday opening concert is “very different from the others that we’ve done,” said Westport resident Alan Korolenko, Summerfest’s artistic director with his wife, Helene. “It’s a 15-anniversary celebration.” That means a bigger concert with more acts and “a whole different focus,” Korolenko said.
The latter might be said for the event itself, a street music and arts festival tailored this year to move the hungry public off the sidewalks and into area restaurants. “We’re really focusing on driving people to the local restaurants because we have so many now,” said Pat Daughton, Summerfest’s overall manager and the creative economy development officer for the New Bedford Economic Development Council. The council is managing the festival for the first time and is one of several sponsors, including the city of New Bedford, SouthCoast Media Group, Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts and the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park, according to NBEDC Executive Director Matthew Morrissey. Vendors will still sell seafood and a limited amount of streetside refreshments, Daughton said.
But organizers are trying to strike a balance between offering enough quick eats and driving as many tourists into downtown businesses as possible, according to Morrissey. Also, with the Fairfield Inn & Suites New Bedford — a sponsor that is housing most of the musicians — slated to open in June, Daughton said planners hope to encourage the public to make the event a “weekend-plus” experience. After the evening concert on July 2, Summerfest will extend through July 3 and 4 and conclude with a Celtic Extravaganza that Sunday night. Strummers and crooners who are slated to hit the seven stages include regulars, such as local musician Art Tebbetts, The Kennedys and Benoit Bourque.
The lineup also features Summerfest first-timers, such as contemporary bluegrass band NewFound Road and Eric Robertson & The Boston Boys. “They’re great, great fun,” Korolenko said of the second band, whose members all studied at the Berklee College of Music. Actor Ronny Cox of “RoboCop” and “Total Recall” is also scheduled to perform, as is Caroline Doctorow, whose father, E.L. Doctorow, penned the famous novel “Ragtime.” As in years past, those attending Summerfest 2010 can stroll by artisan booths on downtown New Bedford’s cobblestone streets, and can listen to solo musical performances along with collaborative workshops. “I always say there’s some magic that takes place,” Korolenko said of the workshops. “It’s hard to describe unless you’ve seen it and heard it.” Per usual, festival venues will range in size, from the intimate National Park Visitor Center Theater to the 1,200-seat Custom House Stage. Still, there will be some changes in this year’s program.
Among them is the addition of a stage on Centre Street to replace the one on Acushnet Avenue, according to Daughton. Admission prices have been scaled up to reflect rising festival costs, although at $16 to $20 for the weekend (online and at the gate) — and free for children under 12 on Saturday and Sunday — tickets are still “incredibly cheap,” she said. Organizers are making the festival “greener” by promoting recycling and selling eco-friendly T-shirts. Daughton said the guitar design that emblazons this year’s shirts — which she predicted are “going to go like hotcakes” — is edgier and more reflective of the performers’ talent. Nevertheless, some aspects of the event remain constant. “It provides the city with an opportunity to showcase itself,” said Morrissey, who described this as important in getting people to invest in New Bedford. At the same time, for people who live here year round, Summerfest “creates pride, and it’s part of the advantages of living in an urban area,” Korolenko said. “Everyone benefits.” Tickets are available at
May 15, 2010 12:00 AM
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