YARMOUTH — What began as an intimate thank-you party for friends and family has grown into an all-day event for hundreds of people to celebrate summer, good music, local food and of course, friends and family.
The initial Henry Fest was held in 2004 and was created to thank the friends and neighbors of Holly and John Williams for their support during their son Ian’s five-year battle with cancer. After Ian William’s death in 2003, John said their backyard party at the family farm was a way to celebrate community in a time of great loss and sadness.
Since the first Henry Fest, named after the family dog, the event has grown and is now connected with the 317 Main Street Community Music Center. This year, the they hope to draw the biggest crowd to date to listen to music, play music and enjoy a Saturday afternoon together.
“This is a chance to bring together friends, music, community and food,” Williams said. “Community is what this is all about.”
Williams, who is now the chairman of the board of directors at 317 Main Street, said after his son’s death, music became his meditation.
“In turn,” he said, “I hope to share that joy with others.”
Williams said any money generated by the fifth annual Henry Fest will go toward a scholarship fund at 317 Main Street.
“I want to get enough participation this year to make music a reality for anyone who wants to learn or play,” he said.
Annie Coleman, event and financial coordinator at 317 Main Street, said the goal of 317 is to bring the community together through music.
She said this year’s theme is “Rooted in Community” and all the proceeds will help those who are struggling financially to have an opportunity to share the power of music.
“Our goal is to combine and mix groups so people of all ages can learn regardless of their financial situation,” she said. “So often we see children teaching adults a chord, or adults playing music with beginning musicians. We like to integrate the community regardless of their age or ability.”
Henry Fest will start at noon at Skyline Farm in North Yarmouth, and according to Coleman, “will last until very late.”
Food will be provided by Cookin’ Carol, an organic farmer and caterer, and Williams said this year’s festival will include an educational element geared around farming.
Justin Deri, a local farmer who leases the property and has 85 members in his community supported agriculture program, will give tours of his garden space and talk to people about the benefits of local farming.
Coleman said local businesses have been very supportive, too.
“We have been blessed with fantastic sponsors who are helping to make this a great event,” she said. “With their help, we could double our attendance to 600 or 700 people this year.”
Some of the sponsors include Portland-based solar company Revision Energy, WMPG, Norway Savings Bank, OOBA organic beverage company and Foundations Real Estate. In addition, Coleman said Williams will make an appearance with his band on the local television show 207, Thursday, Aug 27 at 7 p.m.
“Henry Fest is a truly magical experience,” Coleman said. “It is a really warm, friendly festival. It is powerful, and a great way to spend an afternoon.”
Williams said the event is a way to remind people of what community feels like by sharing music and laughter and good food with friends and family.
“I sometimes think people have gotten away from the whole idea of community and shared systems,” Williams said. “It is my personal goal, and the goal of 317 Main Street, to create a fun community environment through music and expression. This is about celebrating what we are grateful for on a daily basis.”
Tickets for Henry Fest are $40 for a family, $20 for individuals and $10 for students. Tickets are available at 317 Main Street, by calling 846-9559, or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or email@example.com.