Hundreds turn out for Arts Festival’s champagne reception at Fort Sewall

It’s a quintessential summer event in Marblehead — the Festival of Arts champagne reception at Fort Sewall, kicking off a celebration of art, live music, literature and community. More than 450 people came out Sunday evening. 

 More than 450 people came out for the Marblehead Festival of Arts champagne reception at Fort Sewall on Sunday evening.

“It represents the start of summer,” said Heather Henlotter of Marblehead, who was there with her family. She was sporting a large hat with large pink flowers, to compete in the event’s traditional hat contest.

“It’s so fun to run into people you know and sample food from the local restaurants,” she added.

 Heather Henlotter (center) and her family at the Festival of Arts champagne reception at Fort Sewall

Matt Arnold and Holly Cameron came decked out in their hats, too. Arnold was wearing a summer bowler from the 1920s and Cameron donned a matching red-white-and-blue hat with a small decorative lobster attached. The couple won the contest back in 2019.

 Holly Cameron and Matt Arnold sport festive hats at the Festival of Arts champagne reception on Sunday.

“The champagne reception is one of my favorite things about living in Marblehead,” Cameron said. The couple, who are professional singers, will be performing at a Crocker Park concert on July 3.

The winner of the hat contest was announced mid-way through the evening. Eleanor Fisher with the Marblehead Arts Association was sporting a red hat with ostrich feathers, a repurposed  Christmas flower decoration and a piece of a flag from her days as a Coast Guard auxiliary member.

Sunny skies emerged at Fort Sewall after a brief rain shower at the Festival of Arts champagne reception

“I’m always searching for beauty,” said Fisher, who is a former Mrs. Massachusetts.

Festival of Arts Executive Dir. Jodi-Tatiana Charles was thrilled with the evening. She had volunteered with the champagne reception for years before being tapped to run the entire Festival this year.

“I’m just beyond…” she said with a smile. “It’s so wonderful to see everyone reconnecting, drinking champagne. I love seeing the excitement.”

Festival line-up

The Festival of Arts runs July 1-4 and includes several new events this year, including a 5K run/walk on Saturday, July 1. The race starts at the post office on Smith Street at 8 a.m. More info at

Also new: “Chalk This Way,” with street chalk art along Atlantic Avenue and Pleasant and Washington Streets on July 1, 6 a.m.-9 a.m.

The Hidden Orbs event premiered this year, with artists hiding hand-painted ceramic orbs in Steer Swamp and along walking trails around Marblehead for residents to find and keep.

The Literary Festival, formerly called Writers World, is returning after a pandemic hiatus. More than 125 people submitted entries to the writing contest, which was open to all Massachusetts residents (adults and children) who write fiction, nonfiction and poetry.  Winners in each category will be announced June 30 and excerpts of their writing will be featured in the July 5 edition of the Current.

The Literary Festival, July 1-4, also features author talks, panels and workshops, all at the Unitarian Universalist Church at 28 Mugford St. Check out the full schedule at

Here’s a look at some the perennial festival favorites:

Art exhibits, July 1-4: Painting, printing, photography, mixed media, sculpture, digital art, crafts, drawings and senior art will be on display at locations around town, including Abbot Hall, Old Town House, St. Michael’s Church and more.

Crocker Park concerts, July 1-4, with day and evening performances. One highlight: Marblehead native Hayley Reardon will be singing on July 4, 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

Kite Festival and Sand Sculptures, Sunday, July 2: Bring the kids to Devereux Beach for these popular events at 11 a.m.-1 p.m. and 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. respectively.

The Artisan Marketplace, July 3-4, Abbot Hall: Come shop hand-made items including jewelry, furniture, paintings, photos and more, all created by local artisans. Monday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Tuesday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

The Children’s Festival, July 3, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Jeremiah Lee Mansion: Young kids will make playdough, decorative wands, musical instruments and Doodle Top drawings.

Model Boat Building on Tuesday, July 4, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., at the Jeremiah Lee Mansion.

Redd’s Pond Regatta on July 4, 3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. Sail your new model boats at Redd’s Pond.

Street Festival on July 4, 11 a.m.-3 p.m: At the intersection of Washington and Hooper Streets, stop and see Bonaparte the Magician, Big Nazo, the Merj band, Sir Mimealot and the Northshoremen Chorus. Also on tap: Ancient Fire Henna, stilt walking, balloon making and caricatures by Kaleidoscope.


The Festival is offering free trolley service from Marblehead High School to exhibit sites on July 1, 2 and 4, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Current is proud to be the Presenting Media Sponsor for the Festival of Arts. Learn more about the Festival at

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Editor Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter.

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