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Bringing The Community Together In A Magical Way: Lake Morey Resort’s Free Summer Concert Series

Jun 08, 2024 10:06AM ● By Wren Wahrenberger Photography By Lars Blackmore
Siblings Jen and Mark Avery, who are third-generation owners and managers of Lake Morey Resort in Fairlee, Vermont, along with their brother Jeffrey, share equally sober expressions as they recall the effects of the COVID pandemic on their family’s business in the year 2020. “This place was a shell of its former self,” says Mark. “It was just so quiet. I quickly realized that what makes the walls talk around here is the people; they provide the energy to the building, and we were sorely missing it.”

When the pandemic restrictions eased up, the Averys wanted to do something to show how much they appreciated the community’s ongoing support of the property over the decades. In the summer of 2021, the Summer Concert Series was born. “The arts bring people together, and we wanted to bring the community back together because they were isolated from themselves as well,” adds Mark.

An Exciting Lineup

“Our father (Allen Avery) used to bring in large bands here back in the late ’70s, and I always remembered that, so I had an idea to do a bunch of concerts. I didn’t want just any bands, I wanted national bands, and I wanted it to be free for the community. I really wanted to bring a ‘wow’ factor into it with the talent.”

This year, the lineup of bands definitely brings the “wow” factor with such famous acts as Better than Ezra and recent Grammy winners Larkin Poe. Two other popular bands that have returned every year are the Adam Ezra Group (no relation to Better than Ezra) and Uprooted.

When Adam Ezra first performed at the resort in 2021,  he was looking for a way to bring some of his extensive online fan base together (he has nearly nine million subscribers on YouTube), and he thought Lake Morey would be the perfect place to do that. He came up with the idea to do a three-day winter weekend concert at the resort.

Adam has friends in the band Enter the Haggis, and after he did his winter weekend, they decided they wanted to do one as well. Enter the Haggis, a well-known Canadian Celtic-themed band, is also performing at the Summer Series this year.

When the Summer Series first started, the concerts were smaller, with about 150 attendees. The resort hosted them on the lawn bordering the lake, where the water’s edge shimmered only a few feet away, framed by the rolling hills of Vermont in the distance. Soon the concerts became so popular that they needed to be moved to the front lawn, and then to the first and tenth fairways of the golf course. “Suddenly we had 600 people, then 900, and oh, wait, it’s 1,000,” says Resort Experience Manager Paige Radney. “The crowd has grown considerably each year.” Mark adds, “We had to quickly adapt our food and beverage, our parking, our staff, and all of our services. This year we project about 2,000 for each performance.”

“We have a lot of other different things happening here—weddings and conferences,” says Paige, “but the concerts are quickly becoming a large part of our identity.”

Mark learned early on that agents are selective about where they will let their talent perform, and he needed to do a lot of calling around to book decent acts. However, now that the Summer Series has built up a reputation, agents are emailing him. The larger the bands, the larger their equipment needs, and the resort is grateful to be partnered with Catamount Arts, a nonprofit in St. Johnsbury. Catamount Arts produces the shows and provides the equipment, including a tractor trailer truck that opens and becomes a stage. Paige says that the help from Catamount Arts has allowed the Summer Series to grow.

“They have enthusiastically supported this series by not only producing it each week, but also have never charged for their services, which is extensive given the magnitude of the artists,” says Mark. “They recognize the power of the arts to bring communities together and have been an enormous supporter of our idea. We are truly thankful for their support and cherish our partnership.”

Making the Summer Memorable

Jen feels that the Summer Series has overall enlivened the resort. “It helps us bring attention to other resort events, and everybody on the staff is just more engaged. I feel like it has also reinvigorated our relationship with the community. People feel like they can come here, and there are things happening, and they are welcome.”

The gates for the Summer Series concerts open at 6pm for preconcert dining. Copious dining and beverage options include a wood-fired pizza oven, the golf course Clubhouse menu, Lake Front dining (reservations required), the Steamboat lounge off the lobby, and even a tiki bar at the lake front. Vegetarian and gluten-free items are available.

Due to growing interest, the resort is adding more food and drink trucks, including a local beer sponsor. The street will be closed between the golf course and the hotel, and concertgoers can enjoy face painting, lawn games, and a fire pit. “We really want to make it a fun summer evening for all,” says Mark. “You know our summers don’t last very long, so we just want to make it memorable.”

Mark remembers one of the best concerts so far to be the last one of the 2023 season. Big Head Todd was playing, and the weather forecast was iffy. “Suddenly people were coming from all directions on the golf course. A misty kind of rain was falling, and people were dancing, and the rain seemed to make the evening even more magical.”

The concerts, with a few notable exceptions, are on Thursdays, starting at 8pm, with the events closer to Labor Day starting an hour earlier at 7pm. (Check the Lake Morey Resort website for updates.)

Mark speaks briefly to the audience before every concert to let people know why they are hosting this free concert. “The mission is always going to be the same,” Mark says. “It’s always free for the community as a thank you, and it’s a chance for the community to get together and celebrate the Upper Valley.

“It’s fun for us,” continues Mark. “It’s not too often nowadays where you can see 2,000 people get together, and we don’t have one problem. Music brings people together; they may have differences, but they come here, and it’s just positive. It’s gratifying to see.”

Mark suggests that attendees carpool, as the free parking in the field at the east corner of Clubhouse Road and Lake Morey Road can fill up fast. Bathrooms are available in the hotel lobby and the Clubhouse. Unfortunately, the resort is not able to allow outside coolers, outside alcohol, or dogs.

Get the Full Experience

One option to guarantee a parking spot for a concert is to stay at the resort hotel or rent a private lakeside cabin. Jen says they have set aside a block of their 130 rooms for concertgoers this year. The Lake Morey Resort has extensive amenities for guests, including the 18-hole golf course. Yearly golf memberships, according to ninth-grade golfer Sumner Finley, are the most affordable local option for the quality of the course.

The resort also offers overnight guests (and day-pass users) lake beach access, hiking trails, racket sports, billiards, table tennis, a card room, a nightly movie theater, and a health club and workout facility with a sauna. Kids can swim in the heated indoor pool or play lawn games, volleyball, basketball, or on the swing set. The resort has bikes, helmets, canoes, paddleboards, kayaks, and even ice skates and snowshoes available in the wintertime. Special events are planned each year for holidays such as New Year’s Eve, Easter, and Mother’s Day.

The original hotel was built in 1905 by George Kendall on the shores of the pristine lake named after inventor Samuel Morey, who launched his retrofitted steam-driven boat in 1792 on
the lake. The building has been renovated and added on to
extensively over the years.

Mark, Jen, and their brother Jeff took over operating Lake Morey Resort in 2008 when their father passed away. Their grandparents, Borden and Louise Avery, had purchased the resort in 1972, and the siblings grew up at Lake Morey. “It’s a pretty magical place,” says Jen. 

Lake Morey Resort

82 Clubhouse Road

Fairlee, VT

(800) 423-1211

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