, Salem, MA

May 13, 2013

Family Fest drops gala for speakeasy


---- — DANVERS — Organizers have decided to retire the Baron Mayer Award Champagne Reception in favor of a Roaring ’20s-themed event at the Danversport Yacht Club to kick off this year’s Danvers Family Festival.

“Swing Into Summer — A Speakeasy” will serve as the official start of the 34th Danvers Family Festival on Friday, June 21, at 7 p.m. Tickets went on sale earlier this month.

“It was one of those things we wanted to appeal to the new families in town,” event Chairwoman Kathy Ciman said.

Popular shows “Downton Abbey” and “Boardwalk Empire” are set in the 1920s, Ciman said. A Baz Luhrmann adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby,” starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire, which takes place in the 1920s, was just released, although Ciman said the speakeasy event was not timed with the movie’s release.

The 18-piece Beantown Swing Orchestra, featuring vocalists Laura Brunner and “American Idol” finalist John Stevens, will perform. Plans are to have the Arthur Murray Dance Studio give swing lessons during a break in the music at 9 p.m., Ciman said.

The Baron Mayer Award for volunteer community service was named for the longest-serving selectman in the town’s history. Mayer served from 1959 to 1983, and the award dates back to 1983. Mayer, who died in 2009, had moved from Danvers in 1987 so he and his wife could be closer to their children.

It had been many years since Mayer was able to attend the Champagne reception, and Ciman said many younger families may not know of him.

“All good things come and go, and hopefully, we can evolve with the times,” Ciman said.

The town does have other events that honor community service, including the Danvers Community Council’s annual volunteer service awards, so Ciman said it might be better for Family Festival to throw its support behind these events instead.

“I don’t want to say we are competing for recipient nominations,” Ciman said, “but we were not getting a lot of nominees.”

The reception at Glen Magna Farms was “a lovely event,” Ciman said, but the venue could only accommodate about 200 people.

The Danversport Yacht Club can hold up to 700 people.

Attendance at the Champagne reception had waned to about 150 people in recent years.

While Family Festival is all about families and kids, the speakeasy kickoff is meant to give adults and festival organizers a grown-up night out.

It’s the kind of event where people can meet other members of the Family Festival committee and perhaps get involved in planning for future festivals, Ciman said.

“I wanted to bring it alive and create an event and facilitate the board going forward,” Ciman said of the change.

The event will feature prizes for those who come dressed in their best flapper dresses and zoot suits, and Ciman said she hopes everyone will get all dolled up.

“It just makes for a more fun environment,” Ciman said.

Staff writer Ethan Forman can be reached at 978-338-2673, by email at or on Twitter at @DanverSalemNews.

If you go

What: “Swing Into Summer — A Speakeasy,” official kickoff event to Danvers Family Festival

When: June 21, 7 to 11:30 p.m.; open cocktail hour at 7 p.m.; dinner and dancing starts at 8 p.m.

Where: Danversport Yacht Club, 161 Elliott St.

Highlights: Beantown Swing Orchestra, complimentary cocktail hour starting at 7 p.m., dinner with carving stations, Champagne toast, silent movies, hourly giveaways, a photo booth, vintage costume prizes and dance lessons.

Tickets: $50 per person. Reserved tables for 10 available. To purchase tickets, go to (minimum service charge applies); call Jeanne Hennessey, 978-777-1027, or Mary DiGregorio, 508-494-6702; head to Sam and Joe’s Restaurant, 30 Water St., on Fridays from 7 to 9 p.m. or to North Shore Bank on Elm Street on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until noon; or mail a check by June 15, payable to “Danvers Family Festival,” to DFF Tickets, 50 Pine St., Danvers, MA 01923.