The need for a trip through history at Boston Harborfest

A man cooking a Caribbean delicacy.

Leila Smith wrote this article discussing the biggest Fourth of July celebration in the country, the Boston Harborfest.

The occasion honors the history and traditions of Boston’s colonial, Revolutionary War, and maritime heritage. The event involves fireworks over Boston’s inner Harbor, different types of entertainers, historical re-enactment, freedom trail site tours, the annual USS constitution turn-around cruise in Boston Harbor, an art market event, and a classical car show. Some of the events are free such as the music and live entertainment and the appearance of the historical re-enactors. Other events such as the freedom trail sites and fireworks cruises are fee-based. This year, after a hiatus because of the pandemic, Harbofest makes its grand return.

Notably, these events began in 1981. This year’s events began on July 1, ran through July 4, and primarily took place in Boston’s Historic Downtown District and Downtown Crossing. Due to a huge number of visitors during the festival and the high demand for accommodation, it was recommended by the event organizers to check hotel rates and book rooms well in advance. Among the activities stated earlier, the event also included the Boston JerkFest and the Boston Hot Sauce Fest. Below is a detailed analysis of the event. Read on!

July 1: Boston Harborfest. The 40th annual Boston Harborfest returned for a weekend of patriotic activities celebrating Boston’s maritime and revolutionary history. A summertime tradition, the Harborfest kicked off on July 1 with an opening ceremony that featured public officials, historical re-enactors, and a performance by the 215th Army Band. On Saturday, July 2, the classical car shows commenced. There was also live entertainment by local performers and an arts and craft event in Downtown Crossing through Saturday night. The festivities continued into Monday, July 4, with Boston’s Independence Day celebrations which included a morning parade that began from the City Hall Plaza, a wreath-laying ceremony on the graves of the patriots at the Granary Burying ground, and lastly, the reading of the declaration of independence from the old state house balcony.

Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum. The Boston Tea party Ship & Museum is education, entertainment, and enlightenment adventure that one can’t just miss while in Boston. This event was held on July 1. It takes visitors on a journey in time to the famous Boston Tea party, an incident that had a significant impact on American history. It is more than just a stroll through historic artifacts.

Voted as one of the best Patriotic attractions by most visitors, through a holistic experience that included performers, interactive exhibits, and a full-scale model of the 18th-century sailing ships, the Boston Tea Party Ship & Museum brought the past events to reality. Visitors were permitted to toss tea into the same part of the ocean where the Boston Tea Party occurred more than two hundred years ago, just as in previous events. In addition, visitors were free to wander about Griffin’s Wharf, the Tea Party ships, and the historic South Conference Center.

boston harborfest
The Boston Tea Party cast takes a moment to pose for the camera. Their first of many that day!
The cast shows off their flute skills.
Those who choose to be a part of the festival were celebrated for their service.
Boston’s legendary 2.5-mile Freedom Trail.

The Robinson Tea Chest, the only known surviving tea chest from the actual 1773 Boston tea party, was also accessible to tourists.  Later in the night, visitors watched an award-winning film at the Minuteman Theater, titled “Let it begin here,” which depicted the events of April 9, 1775. The Panoramic movie screen allowed viewers to see, hear and feel the sensations of battle in the countryside. The event took place at 306 Congress St. Boston. Since this was a fee-based event, tickets were $31.95 and could be purchased online or at the museum. Tours ran from 10 am to 5 pm, Thursday through Monday, but the gift shop and restaurant were open daily.

Saturday, July 2, Boston JerkFest and Boston Hot Sauce Fest. The 2022 Boston JerkFest and Boston Hot Sauce events were held at the Harvard Athletic Complex, 145 North Harvard Street. From 11 am to 7 pm. General admission tickets were sold at $22.50 and VIP tickets were also available. Boston JerkFest is a two-day Caribbean-style culinary event for families that incorporate Jamaican jerk spiced cuisine and other hot and spicily-flavored dishes. Jerk is a spicy and slow-cooked style of cooking native to Jamaica. This year’s 9th annual Boston JerkFest featured Caribbean chefs, Jerk cooking, spicy specialty foods, and homemade Caribbean drinks. However, this year’s events were different in the sense that the events incorporated the new Boston Hot Sauce Fest that featured hot sauces, jams, jellies, and candy. According to Picard and Robinson (2006), “the festivals have changed over time: before, the festivals used to be small and only the citizens of the country were allowed to attend. Nowadays, the festivals are organized to celebrate multiple events, and people from different parts of the world attend for the exchange of experience.”

The event also incorporated live bands playing reggae, steel drums, and world music, kicked off by one of the event’s ambassadors, Freddie McGregor. The attendee was also able to taste the “seafood throw down,” a rum and beer tasting (for those above the age of 21), and other foods. Will Thompson, a young Boston resident that considers himself “the BBQ king” said this of the event: “a bunch of meat lovers getting together and celebrating good food and drinks? Catch me there.” Rand et al. (2003) state that sustaining nearby nourishment enhances solid tourism, adds to the legitimacy of the event’s objectives, and gives a solid purpose to the economy and framework of the neighborhood. For that reason, the Boston JerkFest and Boston Hot Sauce Fest marked one of the core events in this year’s Harborfest event (Sieber, 1997).

Jerk Fest Salmon
Courtesy of Jerk Fest photographer. This delicious dish was served and is known as Jerk Salmon. Ever so popular among pescatarians and those that enjoy seafood with a kick.

Sunday, July 3, Freedom Trail Guided Tour. Gilded freedom trail tours led through the entire day and departed from the Boston Common Visitor Information Center, 139 Tremont St. In this event, more than 250 years of recorded history were presented to tourists along Boston’s renowned Freedom Trail. 16 national historic sites that tell the tale of the American Revolution are connected by the 2.5-mile red route. “It’s more intense than you’d think, actually.” a young woman named Sam told me of the trek. She highlighted how the guide could make or break the experience. Such sites include churches, burying grounds, meeting houses, parks, a ship, and a historic marker. Visitors were allowed to select their tour and join their 18th-century costumed guide for a 60 to 90-minute walk around Boston. Notably, the tours vary in distance and meet at different times and days throughout the week. In this year’s event, the “Walk into History” was the most popular introductory tour that passed through 11 of the 16 sites, including the Boston Massacre Site and Old South Meeting House.

Monday, July 4: Independence Day at the Coolidge Corner Theatre. The Coolidge Corner Theatre is situated in Brookline at 290 Harvard St. The festivities for Independence Day began at 7 am, and adult tickets were $15.50.Visitors participated in a flag-raising ceremony on City Hall Plaza at 9 o’clock in the morning. There was then a procession to the Granary Burying Ground, where wreaths were placed on the graves of the heroes interred there. Following the wreath-laying ritual, the customary reading of the Founding document was delivered by the present captain heading the Historic and Noble Artillery from the terrace of the Old State House, where it was first read to the people of Boston on July 18, 1776.

USS Constitution Museum and Ship. To commemorate the US Independence Day, the USS Constitution undertakes an annual turn-around trip in Boston Harbor. This majestic 204-foot-long wooden vessel was initially built in 1797 and was commissioned out to Castle Island to fortify independence before turning around and returning to the Inner Harbor. They engaged in a cannon fire duel with the North End coast guard base of Boston. Once the ship returned, visitors were allowed to go aboard the ship from 3 to 6 pm to ask questions and speak with the active-duty US Navy sailors stationed on the ship. The USS Constitution Museum is in the Charlestown Navy Yard, Charlestown. On ordinary days, the USS Constitution is situated inside the Boston National Historical Park, next to the USS Constitution Museum.

Boston Red Sox game.  The Red Sox faced Tampa Bay Rays on the same day at Fenway Park. The game began around 1:35 and included a 4th of July beach towel giveaway for the first 7500 fans. July 4 was the first game since June 22, when Red Sox played Detroit Tigers.

Boston Pops Fireworks.

The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular began at 8 pm, with fireworks at 10: 30 pm, at the Hatch Memorial Shell, 47 David G. Mugar Way and was free and open to the public. However, this year, viewing fireworks from the Longfellow and the Harvard Bridges was not allowed. Having said that, it was noteworthy that the Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular made its first appearance at the Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River Esplanade in 2019! The Tangle wood Festival Chorus, the Boston Pops Orchestra, and the Middlesex County Volunteer Fife and Drums were all included in this annual event, which was conducted by Keith Lockhart. Chaka Khan, a Grammy winner, Heather Headley, a Tony winner, and Javier Colon all took part in this year’s Pop concert. There was also a special moment in memory of businessman and philanthropist David Mugar, who passed on earlier this year and was an ardent supporter of the event for more than forty years. When it comes to the event as a whole, Adrian Duque, 25 BCH, put it best, “It was a nice minute to take a break from now and visit then.”



About Leila Smith 4 Articles
Hi, there! My name is Leila Smith. I’m a multimedia journalist currently based in Boston, Massachusetts. I am an enthusiast of all forms of storytelling, I have experience in print, online, radio, on-air, and video production. I’ve reported on a wide variety of topics but have a special interest in reporting on entertainment. Contact me: