, Gloucester, MA

September 20, 2013

Saturday Block Party is season's finale

By Joann Mackenzie
Staff Writer

---- — They say you can’t fight city hall, and to hear Valerie Marcley tell it, you don’t have to. At least not here in Gloucester.

Marcley — who, with Saturday night’s 6 p.m. block party kick-off will wrap her third successful season as organizer of the hugely popular downtown family events — has “nothing but praise for the folks at city hall.”

“Really,” she says, “I can’t exaggerate their support. The block parties wouldn’t be the block parties without their encouragement.”

Recruited by Gloucester restaurateur and block party founder Mark McDonough back in 2011, Marcley has herself been the subject of “nothing but praise” for what she’s brought to the parties.

First launched six years ago, the block parties were instant blockbusters, transforming downtown Main Street with alfresco dining, late-night shopping, an entire kids town of activities, and a variety of street entertainment, including music — all of which will once again be alive and well this Saturday night.

What Marcley, a seasoned veteran of the music industry, brought to the parties was —among other things— even more music. With a constellation of five outdoor sound stages showcasing stellar lineups of local bands, vocalists and emerging talents, it shot the energy to new levels, partiers said.

“It’s a lot of work, but a lot of fun,” says Marcley, and this year, with Will Hunt managing the sound stages and talent, she can, she says, actually relax a little and get in some quality dog walking time.

The parties, says Marcley, are an ever-changing work in progress. This Saturday night, the line-up is star-packed as usual, but, she says, there’ll be a “galaxy of gals.”

That galaxy includes one long-established supernova, who some might say was the original Glosta Girl: the feisty, feminist Judith Sargent-Murray, whose wise and witty words, written over 200 years ago, will reign on the lawn of her circa 1782 Main Street home, better known today as the Sargent House Museum.

At 6 p.m. local actors in period costume under the direction of Henry Allen’s North Shore Folk Lore Theatre Company will reprise two acts from Sargent’s ‘The Medium’ — originally performed in 1795 at Boston’s Federal Street Theatre, and considered the first play by an American author to be produced on a stage.

Judith Sargent-Murray was a woman who believed that women could do anything, which is just what her fellow female talents are talented at doing.

Saturday’s summer season closer will shine with the music of rising young stars like Rockport’s Marina Evans and Gloucester’s Alexandra Valenti, joining Karen Ristubin, Deb Hardy, Kerry Mullin, Bonnie Barrish, Toni Ann Enes, and more on the stages.

Meanwhile, down at the Dog Bar, the boys will hold fort with Mo Bounce kicking up the Funk & R&B at 7:30 p.m., while, over at Giuseppe’s, Joe Thomas leads outdoor sing-alongs.

And then there’s that other big hit: Ryan & Wood’s creative cocktail contest. This Saturday, warm, woodsy, mellow rye will rise to the occasion, and all nine participating restaurants will be participating. If you’re 21 or older, says Marcley, you’re free to sample the free samples. You be the judge: if you’ve got to toast goodbye to another summer, it’s not a bad way to do it.

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