There was Yodeling and Basket-Weaving, among others…
Chuck Schefreen moved to Marblehead in 1968. He began working at Me and Thee Café making coffee and booking musicians. For the first few years, Chuck went to the Festival and loved it, but he had no plans to get involved.
To his surprise, in 1972, Board member Gail Turner called him, asking him to participate as a committee member, specifically as the Performing Arts coordinator. Chuck was thrilled.
The Festival is almost entirely free, and Chuck emphasizes this point because in booking musical acts, he needed to rely on big-name musicians’ pure desire to play without much pay. When asked why they usually agree to do it, Chuck says, “Why? They want to. A free concert is an absolute treat for any band. There’s no pressure, because everyone is absolutely magnificent.”
Later, Chuck got involved with Adult Workshops, but says that they “petered out” and he would like to have them again. “There was Yodeling and Basket-Weaving, among others, but there wasn’t enough energy to keep them going.” In recent years, Adult Workshops are making a comeback.
Chuck was on the Board in 1978 when the great blizzard left many people stranded. “At that time I had owned a Natural foods store for 10 years. Since cars were banned, and there were people walking down the street, I had the idea to put on a Street Festival,” says Chuck. The Street Festival continues to this day. Chuck says that it wasn’t so easy to assemble at first. He says, “Without the help of Stephen Baird, ‘Mr. Boston folk guy,’ I wouldn’t have been able to get the musical acts that I did. My budget was too small, but his savvy saved me.” Stephen Baird is well connected to folk musicians in the area and is a regular performer at each year’s Street Festival at the Marblehead Festival of Arts.
Chuck would like his legacy of the Festival to be the Street Festival and the Writers’ World Café. “My wife also did Writers’ World with me. I’d say we accomplished our goal, which was to turn the Cafe into a comfortable setting where people could really read,” Chuck says. “Before, Writers’ World was set up like an art exhibit. There were no places to sit. We got rid of the flat boards holding up the writing and put works in spiral-bound notebooks, brought in a coffee table, a couch and some chairs. In the next 10 years Writers’ World grew considerably in popularity.”
The major allure of the Marblehead Festival of Arts is that it is the largest free arts festival in New England—possibly in the nation. “The Festival runs on private contributions. It has no one big sugar daddy.” Chuck says, “During my last few years on the Board, I acted as the Festival’s conscience. When people said they wanted to charge money for certain things I said, ‘No.’
In 2012, Chuck Schefreen stepped back from his committee roles, but he stays involved with the Festival. The Logo Exhibit event, among many other events Chuck has integrated into the Festival traditions, still houses his extensive t-shirt collection. Chuck has every Festival Logo since the inception of the Festival on a t-shirt and fashions them each year to a high beam above the current Logo Contest finalists. With a hint of relief and unquestionable affection, Chuck says, “This is it, I’m done. I’ve worked hard, I’m exhausted, but I have the t-shirt beam to keep my finger in the Festival.”