What does it mean to be a festival at 36?
It means a lot of creative energy, hard work, restless nights and thousands of volunteer hours have been invested in the festival’s success over the past 36 years.
It means committees researching musical acts for the twice-nightly performances, plus magicians and a whole other set of performers for the kid shows each noon. It means reaching out to them, getting rejections, negotiating prices, and finally booking the 17 acts each year.
It means that many phone calls were made, messages left and missed calls that had to be returned—again.
It means enticing an army of volunteers to hang tight, year after year, to put on the show they love, knowing that without them good things can fade and run their course.
It means recruiting new converts to be the soldiers of tomorrow, to reinvent and create anew. It’s the hard work of perpetuating cultural events that so enrich our lives.
It means coordinating with the town crews to set up the tent, assemble the 200 chairs, be sure the lawn is mowed and grounds prepared for the inevitable rain.
It means shifting locations, when need be to accommodate town development, and working hard to let everyone know that this year the event is actually OFF-the-Green at the town rec park near the Mary Hogan Elementary School.
It means marketing and branding, changing themes to keep it fresh and exciting while maintaining the value of tradition. It means working with partners and creating new friends along the way.
It means believing in the value of something so deeply that you make it part of your life.
Tip your hats, then, to all those volunteers—and to all those performers—who have contributed to the Festival on-the-Green’s success. The festival kicked off its 36th year on Sunday with Kat Wright & The Indomitable Soul Band, an eight-person band with a brassy horn section, playing Soul and Rhythm & Blues. Brown Bag specials start on Monday and go through the week with grand wonders magicians can conger and joy musicians of fun can make.
New Haven native Anaïs Mitchell takes over the stage on Tuesday night at 7 p.m., stringless marrionettes at the Brown Bag Lunch on Wednesday and entertaining music at each performance that will gladden the heart of all who take the time to enjoy. Josh Panda & The Hot Damned will rock the stage in the second performance starting at 8 p.m. on Friday night, and the Vermont Jazz Ensemble takes the stage on Saturday night, July 12, for its annual street dance—so bring your dancing shoes, or take off what you have and dance barefoot.
And here’s the kicker: Give back if you have fun.
Ask how you might be able to help at next year’s event. Join a committee. If that’s too ambitious, the daily shows are free, but donation buckets are passed around at each performance. Put in a $5 or $10, as you would if you were to go to a movie, or $20 for a family’s night out. Or become a sponsoring member if you believe the Festival adds to the enrichment of our community. It takes big money ($40,000 annually) to bring 17 performers to town for the enjoyment of us all. Support is needed to keep it vibrant and relevant. Information to join can be found at www.festivalonthegreen.org. Contributions of $100 or more can be one of the best ways to ensure the Festival reaches middle-age.
In the end, after all, being 36 also means being loved by others.
Angelo S. Lynn