July 31, 2017

Plum Island has attracted artsy crowds for decades; poets, musicians, painters and writers, all looking to be inspired by the island’s beauty and tranquility. So, when two musically motivated residents were looking to bring a sense of unity and fellowship to this Merrimack Valley coastal community, a porch-style music festival seemed like the perfect venue.

Cynthia Keefe and Kevin Kelly rallied the community for the first PlumFest. Now in its 3rd year, PlumFest has not only added performers, it added a new member to the planning team – Chaz Rudich-Stolar, who has been with PlumFest since the start. Chaz is now the Co-Organizer, Volunteer Coordinator and fundraiser for this annual music festival. And, he also happens to be the Director of the Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at Elder Services. Rudich states “I had been on the Island for three years and was really missing that sense of community I had back home in Pittsburgh. When I heard about the idea of PlumFest, I knew this was going to be good! It was a way to get island folks to participate in the community and to get out and have fun.”

Chaz explains the concept came from the ‘porch-fest’ concert style. “Homeowners volunteer their front porch as a stage for local musicians and agree to let them use electricity for their instruments and maybe provide some shade.” To make it easy for the crowds to see multiple performers cars are parked at the Newburyport Airport with travel provided by a complementary shuttle to different porch “stages” across the island. The 70+ local volunteer performers, range from high school garage bands to up-and-coming artists like jazz-pop Israeli singer, Florie, who is based in Boston. Parking and admission is free. However, donations are accepted in many jars placed at music sites throughout the festival.

While creating a deeper sense of community through music, PlumFest also chooses a different beneficiary each year and donates every dollar raised. This year, PlumFest supported two great organizations and split the $7,000 revenues between The Boys and Girls Club of the Lower Merrimack Valley and the Music & Memory Program at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley.

Chaz felt a strong connection to the Music & Memory Program because its original focus was on engaging individuals in a long-term care setting. This internationally recognized program uses iPods and personalized playlists to promote active engagement and quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s or related dementia. He states “The program has expanded and is now available to elders who are still able to live at home.” Chaz also noted that the Music & Memory Program’s extension to include community-based elders was an added bonus when choosing a beneficiary.

For more information on future plans for PlumFest, visit Read more about the Music and Memory Program at Elder Services in a past blog post found here. For information on caregiving resources, please call The Family Caregiver Support Program at Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley at 800-892-0890.

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