IPSWICH — The Ipswich River will be glowing with the light of 15 floating bonfires Saturday night.
It’s all part of the annual Ipswich Illuminated festival, which brings the community together for an art show, live music and theater, and an illuminated trail along the river to stroll between events.
“The whole community gets into it so nicely,” said Barta Hathaway, chairwoman of the Ipswich Cultural Committee. “It’s a good family evening. ... There’s a real community feeling, stepping back to that old-fashioned, wholesome sense of community. I love that about the event.”
The Ipswich Cultural Council’s art show opens tomorrow night at Town Hall, 25 Green St. Ipswich Illuminated events run through Saturday afternoon and evening, and the weekend concludes with a brunch and afternoon poetry reading on Sunday.
All of the weekend events are free, and food will be available for purchase.
The festival blossomed out of the Ipswich Cultural Council’s fall art show, which has run for more than 25 years. The weekend comes together through a legion of volunteers, Hathaway said, including kayakers that build the river bonfires.
On Saturday night, folks can walk between the art show at Town Hall to the evening’s other events via an illuminated path along the river. The bonfires will be lit around 6 p.m., Hathaway said.
Food will be available at Ascension Memorial Church, 31 County St. As in past years, a group of illuminated bicycles (adults and children who have decorated their bikes with lights) will ride throughout downtown.
The living history play “Within These Walls” will be performed at 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. Saturday at 16 Elm St., behind the police station.
The play, written by J.T. Turner of Ipswich, tells the story of five of the families who lived at 16 Elm St. — from the Choate family who built the home in the 1760s to the Scott family who planted a victory garden in the yard during World War II.
“They exemplify how history is written in the ordinary kitchens and parlors,” said Kerri Bates, director of the town’s recreation department and visitor center on Route 1A.
The house that originally stood at 16 Elm St. was moved to the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C., and made into an exhibit. “Within These Walls” is performed in front of a replica of the house, made of painted canvas draped over a wood frame.
This is the third year the play has been performed as part of Ipswich Illuminated. This year, its cast of local actors has been invited to perform the play at the Smithsonian to mark the 50th anniversary of the house being moved to the museum. The play will be performed Aug. 2, 3 and 4 at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Bates said.
“It’s the largest single item on permanent display at the Smithsonian,” she said.