May 25, 2022

It’s Almost Time for Old Lyme’s Midsummer Festival

The free concert behind the Florence Griswold Museum always draws a large crowd

This highly anticipated summer event is a town-wide celebration of the arts and takes place this year on Friday and Saturday, July 30 and 31.  The two-day community event, a quintessential New England celebration for all ages, is held in the heart of Old Lyme’s historic district.

Since the early 20th century Old Lyme has been known to artists and artlovers alike as a haven for the arts.  For more than 20 years, the town has showcased its artistic heritage with a Midsummer Festival.  This two-day community event, a quintessential New England celebration for all ages, takes place in the heart of Old Lyme’s historic district. The activities span two locations along Lyme Street, the Florence Griswold Museum and the Lyme Art Association.

On Friday, July 30, the evening begins with a reception from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Lyme Art Association.  Enjoy music, refreshments and two great exhibitions, Marine Art and Anything Goes Art Sale.
At the Florence Griswold Museum, visitors enjoy free admission to the special exhibition Connecticut Treasures: Works from Private Collections from 5 to 7 p.m.
The annual free concert is always a favorite. This year, Ed Fast and Conga-Bop, known for their Caribbean heart and hard-bop soul, bring island sounds to the banks of the Lieutenant River.

Concert-goers are encouraged to bring a picnic dinner or let Dinners at the Farm do the work, see photo below.  A delicious, all-local meal served from a vintage “chuckwagon.”  Dinners are $25 and kids eat free with an adult meal.  Reservations can be made at  Ice cream is also available from the Old Lyme Ice Cream Shoppe.  It is the perfect summer evening.

On Saturday, the festival continues at 9 a.m. with activities and events at the Florence Griswold Museum.  Festival-goers may park at the Florence Griswold Museum, the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts, Lyme-Old Lyme Middle and High School, and the Old Lyme Marketplace.  From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. a shuttle bus will travel from the Old Lyme Marketplace and schools to the Florence Griswold Museum.

One of the highlights of the day is Market En Plein Air.  This outdoor market features Connecticut-grown flowers, fruits, vegetables, breads, fine cheeses, herbs and specialty foods in a setting modeled after outdoor markets in French villages.  Crafted-by-Hand: An Artisan Fair features noted jewelry designers Billie Beads, Kristen Brown, Jennifer Johnson, and Michaelle Pearson, potter Pat Rist and fabric artist Christelle Lachapelle.  These events close at 3 p.m.

Next door to the Museum, at the Lyme Art Association, activities begin at 9 a.m. with art exhibitions and sales. Nationally recognized Marine artists are featured alongside LAA members and offer affordable paintings, drawings, and sculpture.

Also at the Lyme Art Association is the Paperback Book Sale: Cheaper by the Dozen, organized by the Friends of the Phoebe Griffin Noyes Library.  All books are 50¢ each or 12 for $5. 

The firemen at the Old Lyme Volunteer Fire Department will be on hand selling their award-winning chili and hot dogs for their annual fundraiser.  These events close at 3p.m.

Once again this year, the Lyme Art Association hosts a festival favorite, Artists and Animals, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Using farm animals as models, professional artists work on the lawn to capture their funny farm friends on paper.  Bring your drawings supplies and join the fun.

At 10 a.m., more events begin at the Museum, including the Hands-On, Minds-On area, where local cultural organizations provide creative projects for all ages.  Included are activities by the Old Lyme PGN Library, and Lymes’ Youth Service Bureau, and High Hopes Therapeutic Riding.  These events close at 3 p.m.

Even four-legged family members can have fun (and win prizes)!  Vista Vittles, the 100% natural treats for dogs made by Vista Vocational and Life Skills Center students and members in Westbrook, presents The Parading Paws Dog Contest and Show.  Does your dog have the best smile?  Longest tail?  Biggest paws?  Register between 10 and 10:30 a.m.  Judging begins at 11 a.m.  All dogs must be on leashes.  The final parade is immediately following the show.  Special categories include Best Trick and Best Costume.

From 10 a.m. to noon,  award-winning New York Times food writer Kim Severson signs her latest book Spoon Fed: How Eight Cooks Saved My Life.  From 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., Wholesome Wave founder, sustainable food pioneer and James Beard Award-winning chef and author Michel Nischan signs his latest book Sustainably Delicious: Making the World a Better Place, One Recipe at a Time.

From 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Lymes Youth Services Bureau presents the Treehouse Players.  The audience becomes part of the plays.  From mixed up fairy tales to Dr. Seuss and Free to be You and Me, it’s a guaranteed fun-filled creative experience that will delight the whole family.  Drop in at 10 a.m. for storytelling, 11a.m. for theater adventures, and noon for more storytelling.

Visitors enjoy reduced admission ($5) to the Museum all day (10 a.m. to 5 p.m.), including the historic Florence Griswold House and the special exhibition Connecticut Treasures: Works from Private Collections.

At 7 p.m. the Bee and Thistle Inn and Spa hosts A Midsummer Dinner: Feast, Fairies and Fun, where you can enjoy a scrumptious feast under the light of the moon, complete with strolling minstrels and fairies.  Shakespearean dress optional.  $75 per person (part of the proceeds benefit the Lyme Art Association).  For reservations and information call the Inn at 860-434-1667.

Alternatively round off the evening with a free concert by the Old Lyme Town Band beginning at 7:30 p.m. behind Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School.  Bring a picnic, a blanket or chair and your friends.  Enjoy the music and then after a short break watch the town-funded fireworks display, which  begins at dusk (around 9:15 p.m.)