Sure, we all love great neighbors. But sometimes we luck out with that rare neighbor who turns out to be astonishingly creative, engaging, entertaining and always, always interesting. And that’s better than great. That’s flat-out fun.
“The Great Gatsby” comes to mind. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s lush story of Jazz Age decadence is about an average guy who happens to rent next door to the Long Island mansion of mysterious mega-millionaire Jay Gatsby, notorious for throwing extravagant parties which attract the highest of New York’s high society. Our hero gets invited to a few of Gatsby’s glamorous gigs and, naturally, life starts to get a lot more interesting.
Our Moravian Village community is blessed with a lot of great neighbors. On any given day, we are mere minutes from a multitude of Pennsylvania’s finest offerings in culture, cuisine, crafts and colonial history. But when it comes to the title of “most interesting neighbor”, that crown belongs to the undisputed Great Gatsby of historic Bethlehem: Musikfest.
For the uninitiated, Musikfest is a marathon of music, arts, foods and refreshments which in a shade over three decades has grown from a regional event into the largest free music festival in the United States. Spanning 11 days every August, Musikfest transforms our quaint colonial walkways and green spaces into an endlessly interesting wonderland for the human senses with its own harmonic medley of summertime sights, sounds, textures and tastes unlike anywhere else in the nation.
Last summer, Musikfest set a new attendance record of 1,240,000, more than 16 times the City of Bethlehem’s population of 76,000. More than 4,500 dedicated volunteers are on-site daily to keep this volume of fest-goers flowing freely and manage an endless punch list of logistics and maintenance responsibilities.
As with any gathering of Gatsbyesque proportions, music sets the beat for the bash and Musikfest history is rich with hall-of-fame performances from R&B icon Ray Charles to many of the biggest chart toppers in musical history, including Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Blondie, the B-52s, the Beach Boys, Patti Labelle, Chris Isaak, Buddy Guy, the Goo Goo Dolls, Steely Dan, Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Moody Blues, Steve Winwood, Joe Walsh, Jethro Tull, Hall and Oates, Deep Purple, Foreigner, Styx, Three Dog Night, Crosby, Stills & Nash and more.
Music choices roll way beyond rock and R & B, too. Diversity has always been a mainstay of the Musikfest menu and on any given day the 16 free stages will feature top performers in almost every genre imaginable: hip hop, big band, polka, punk, a capella, folk, bluegrass, jazz, orchestral, and of course, a heapin’ helpin’ of country & western music. Speaking of which, here’s some trivia for you. Which female country music star and Musikfest headliner has won 27 Grammy awards–the fourth most in Grammy history? (The answer is at the end of this blog post.)
Historic Bethlehem’s most interesting neighbor rolls back into town for Musikfest’s 34th appearance from August 3 to 13, 2023. And you can bet your Duesenberg all of us here at Moravian Village will be at our ‘Fest best in welcoming our own Great Gatsby back for yet another unforgettable run of fun and friendship. After all, that’s what neighbors are for.
Musikfest trivia answer: The country artist who has won an astounding 27 Grammy awards is Alison Krauss. She performed at Musikfest in 2011.