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Summer, For Free

Getting By


Going to the Tony Bennett show at the Flynn in July? Not unless you can cough up $55 for a ticket. Make that $110 for you and a date ... and that’s for the cheap seats. Tickets to see Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson at the Champlain Valley Expo — $40.25 each — almost seem reasonable by comparison.

If your entertainment budget isn’t what it used to be, don’t despair. There’s a lot of fun stuff to do this summer that’s absolutely free.

The old Vermont standbys — e.g., swimming at the Bolton Potholes, people-watching on Church Street, hiking Camel’s Hump — are obvious options. But not the only ones. Here’s a list of summer events and attractions you can afford whether you’re a laid-off AIG exec or a laid-off working stiff.


Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, June 5-14: You’ve gotta pay to see Branford Marsalis and Pink Martini, but Burlington’s 10-day jazz fest offers several free shows, too. On Friday, June 5, hang out on Church Street for “Long Trail Live on the Marketplace”; music on three stages gets going at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, June 6, check out Big Joe Burrell Day in City Hall Park, starting at noon. Alex Toth’s critically acclaimed Rubblebucket Orchestra plays Church Street on Friday, June 12, at 5 p.m., and the fest concludes with “Gospel on the Marketplace” on Sunday, June 14, at noon.

“Groovin’ on the Green” at Maple Tree Place, June 18 to August 20: Busted Brix, the Starline Rhythm Boys and Mansfield Project are among the acts playing from 6 to 8 p.m. every Thursday night on the green at Maple Tree Place in Williston.

Middlebury Festival on the Green, July 12-18: Middlebury hosts a full week of gratis concerts that Vermont Life magazine has dubbed “the best series of free performances in Vermont.” Catch the “Brown Bag Specials” from noon to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday; evening performances starting 7 p.m. (6 p.m. on Sunday); and the Saturday street dance. Woods Tea Company, Banjo Dan and the Mid-Nite Plowboys, Erin McDermott and the Dixie Red Delights all appear this year.

Battery Park Concert Series, July 2, 16, 23 & 30: Radio station 104.7 The Point hosts these popular Thursday night shows from 6 to 9 p.m. at Battery Park in Burlington. The Horse Flies and Lost Fingers are up first. The rest of the bands are TBA, but it’s a safe bet they’ll rock.

Colchester Summer Concert Series, July 16 to August 13: These Thursday night concerts in Lower Bayside Park begin at 7 p.m. The 2009 lineup includes Peter Miles, Bob Degree and the Bluegrass Storm, and Avi & Celia.

Burlington Concert Band, June 21 to August 16: Many Vermont towns still field municipal concert bands that give free shows in public parks. Burlington’s band is one of the largest, but, more importantly, it has the best venue — Battery Park, with a spectacular view of the sunset. The band plays free concerts from 7 to 9 p.m. most summer Sunday nights. Pack a picnic, bring the kids, spread a blanket on the grass and watch the sun disappear behind the Adirondacks.


International Film Festival, June 13 to August 8: The Language Schools at Middlebury College host these free screenings of foreign films, some of them recent releases such as Waltz With Bashir. The Saturday night shows start at 7 and 9:30 p.m. in Dana Auditorium. They’re subtitled, but if you go, keep the chatter to a minimum; Language School students have pledged to avoid English exposure all summer.

Bristol Movies in the Park, July 16 to August 20: Watch family-friendly “classic films” every Thursday night starting at dusk on the town green. And check the Seven Days Calendar of Events for free fresh-air film series happening in other towns.


Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, August 12-23: This summer retreat for would-be writers who want to workshop their words is selective and not cheap. But the daily readings by acclaimed faculty and students are free and open to the public. The 2009 schedule hasn’t been published yet, but click here for updates on the readings, typically scheduled in the late afternoon or evening.


Vermont State Park Days, June 13 & 14: Vermont’s state parks waive their admission fees this weekend. True, they’re always a good deal, but if there’s ever a weekend for a picnic at Mt. Philo or a paddle on Lake Carmi, this is it.

Public Parks: You won’t be charged for taking a stroll at many of the area’s well-kept public recreational spaces, such as Shelburne Bay Park, UVM’s Centennial Woods and Mills River Park in Jericho. You do have to pay to, er, park at many of Burlington’s parks, but you can get around the charge by finding a spot in a nearby lot or neighborhood. It’s not exactly a park, but Burlington’s Lakeview Cemetery is as peaceful — and picturesque — as the best of them.


Waterbury’s Fourth of July Parade, June 27: Green Mountain Coffee Roasters and Ben & Jerry’s are headquartered in Waterbury. Both have floats in this parade, and both tend to toss samples to the crowd.

Warren’s Fourth of July Parade: I asked Vermonters on Twitter to recommend an Independence Day celebration to our readers, and several respondents raved about Warren’s, which takes place on Saturday, July 4. Eva Sollberger filmed an episode of “Stuck in Vermont” there last year, and it looked like a blast.

Champlain 400 Parade, July 11: Celebrate the 400th anniversary of Samuel de Champlain’s exploratory lake voyage by turning out for this exhibition of “Legends of Our Past and Future.” It rolls down Main Street starting at 6 p.m.