Maplewoodstock: From Humble Roots to Two-Day Extravaganza

The festival has become a fixture in Essex County, annually featuring local and national musical acts, 75+ arts and food vendors, and thousands of attendees.

Friends of the Brothers
Friends of Brothers are heading to Maplewoodstock this summer. Photo courtesy of Jay Blakesberg

In 2004, a group of bands from the Maplewood/South Orange area were looking for somewhere to play. Inspired by 1969’s famed Woodstock, they decided to put on their own all-day concert in Maplewood’s Memorial Park and dubbed it Maplewoodstock.

“It started with a chance to have a gig and entertain some people,” says drummer Gary Shippy, one of the original organizers. The first year, attendance was no more than 100 people, “and half of them played in the bands,” Shippy says.

Little did the founding members realize they were launching an event that would become a fixture in the Essex County town of Maplewood, annually featuring local and national musical acts, as many as 60 arts-and-crafts vendors, 20-odd food vendors and thousands of attendees. Maplewoodstock is free and open to the public. “It’s just a great, big neighborhood party,” says Shippy.

After two years off due to Covid-19, Maplewoodstock returns July 9–10. The music starts at noon with a curated and eclectic lineup of bands. You’re liable to hear anything from rock to pop to blues to R&B to hip-hop, Zydeco and more. In the evening, the headliners take the stage.

On Saturday night, the top-billed act is Funk Yeah, a band of alumni from groups Tower of Power, Blood Sweat and Tears, Toto, Aaron Neville, and more. Sunday night offers two featured bands. First up, at 5:55 pm, is Friends of the Brothers, who celebrate the music of the Allman Brothers Band. Many of the members have a connection to the original ABB. For example, guitarist Andy Aledort played for 12 years with Dickey Betts, and vocalist Lamar Williams Jr. is the son of the former Allman Brothers bass player Lamar Williams. The New Orleans-based instrumental ensemble Galactic headlines Sunday at 7:40 pm.

Many of the attendees at Maplewoodstock watch the music from a hill overlooking the stage, allowing good sightlines for all. Others like to stand down in front to check out the bands up close or to dance.

If you walk to the top of the hill, you can peruse the art vendors, who sell everything from paintings to collectibles. Children are welcome at Maplewoodstock, which also offers the Kid Zone, an area to the side of the stage featuring bouncy rides, face painting, ice cream and more.

Choose from one of the many food vendors at the festival, who sell everything from burgers and hot dogs to falafel, jerk chicken and vegan meatballs. Or bring a picnic. Lovers of lagers, IPAs and ales can sip a cold brew in the beer garden, a longtime fixture at the event.

If you’re looking for a fun weekend of music, art, good food and a relaxed, ’60s-like vibe, bring a blanket or a lawn chair and enjoy Maplewoodstock 2022.

Want a comprehensive guide to the best festivals happening statewide all summer? Click here.

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