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PlumFest Free Annual Music Festival on Plum Island

By Caitlin Dowling, Newburyport.com Correspondent
Caitlin is a freelance editor/writer and former news producer for CNN. As a local mom of three, her family can be found enjoying all Newburyport has to offer, from strolling downtown to biking the rail trail to swimming at the beach.
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PlumFest, Plum Island’s free annual music festival celebration was slated to return on Saturday, September 16th from 12 – 6 pm but unfortunately the event has been cancelled due to the timing of Hurricane Lee. Plum is a huge collaborative volunteer effort with 50 location host volunteers, 100 band volunteers and many additional volunteers who help with logistics. With the size of this volunteer effort, it is not possible to have a rain date. Transforming local porches on the island into stages for small concerts, PlumFest is a grassroots community operation completely run by volunteers, from hosts to musicians to organizers. 

An early participant in the “porch-fest” movement, PlumFest relies on local residents on the island to share their yards, porches, and parking lots with local musicians so they can perform for visitors. Growing in numbers each year, the music festival now features approximately 100 performers at 50 locations, including residential homes and local island businesses such as: The Plum Island Beachcoma, Mad Martha’s, The Cottage, and The Plum Island Grille.

So what’s the best way to experience this popular music festival? Organizers urge attendees to skip cars and to walk, ride bikes, and bringPlumFest, Plum Island, MA Unnamed Colors strollers. Non-island residents, are encouraged to park at the the Plum Island Airport and to carpool as much as possible. PlumFest will have FREE shuttles that you can hop on and off of all day to visit different venues and to get to and from your car. The shuttle will run from 11 am – 7 pm giving folks plenty of time to check out their favorite bands and make it back to their cars before the shuttle stops. 

With so many amazing bands, how can you find your favorites and discover new ones too? Visit the PlumFest website to view the interactive map or check out the PlumFest Schedule for the list of bands, times and locations. This schedule is final but it is subject to unanticipated last-minute changes. If you prefer not to be tied to a schedule just ride the shuttle and hop off when you hear something you like!

Expect a huge range in music, from full bands to acoustic performances, from bluegrass to classic rock and rap. Performances are scattered all over the island with hot spots like Northern Boulevard, Southern Boulevard on the South End, and Old Point Road. Check out the amazing 2023 lineup

While there will be a few food trucks out and about, organizers hope that visitors will give backPlumFest, Plum Island MA Dune Dogs Band to the community by popping into local establishments to grab some food or a drink. And if you love a band, purchase a t-shirt or book them for your next event!

Each year PlumFest picks a cause to raise money for. While the festival is entirely free, red buckets are set up at the performers’ locations to collect donations. This year, funds will go to the Boys and Girls Club of Lower Merrimack Valley and club members will be volunteering during the event by staffing the welcome table and supervising the airport parking lot. Donations will enable the expansion of the music curriculum by adding instruction in recording technology, studio engineering and sound management. Over the past four years, PlumFest has donated $25,000 to various causes.

For more fun happenings in Newburyport, be sure to check out our full Events Calendar! The first band picture featured in the article is Unnamed Colors and the second is the Dune Dogs Band playing at the Plum Island Grille.

PlumFest 2022: RevelUp

PlumFest 2022: Lynne Taylor Music at The Plum Island Beachcoma

PlumFest 2022: Peter Lavenson & Brother Gary Shane & Slivertones & Friends at the Plum Island Grille