Town squares, throughout history, have been geographically and culturally at the center of a community.
This is the case for Bethlehem’s Payrow Plaza, where you can stand on the north side and take a look over to the south side.
It’s the reason it was so important for Payrow Plaza to once again be a part of Musikfest, which returns for its 39th year on August 4.
“We are back to the original footprint of the festival,” said Kassie Hilgert, president and CEO of ArtsQuest, the nonprofit that organizes the festival.
The town square venue will be known as Stadtplatz, and is among what’s new for the festival this year.
When: Aug. 5-14, with a preview night on Aug. 4
Where: Various “platzes” or venues on the north and south sides of Bethlehem
How much: It’s free to attend. Tickets are required for concerts at the Wind Creek Steel Stage. (More on that later)
North side (Historic Moravian district)
- 5 to 11 p.m. Aug. 5 and noon to 11 p.m. Aug. 6 to 14.
- Zinzenplatz and Liederplatz weekday hours are 5 to 11 p.m.
- Stadtplatz: 5 to 10 p.m.
South side (SteelStacks and ArtsQuest campus)
- 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. Aug. 5 and 12
- Noon to 1 a.m. Aug. 6 and 13
- Noon to midnight Aug. 7
- 4 p.m. to midnight Aug. 8 to 11
- 4 to 11 p.m. Aug. 14
Musikfest kicks off with its traditional preview night on Aug. 4, featuring Grammy-winners Boyz II Men taking the Wind Creek Steel Stage.
Here’s the full list of headliners at Wind Creek Steel Stage.
- Boyz II Men: Aug 4
- Kip Moore: Aug. 5
- Willie Nelson & Family: Aug. 6
- Poison: Aug. 7
- Counting Crows: Aug. 8
- Ziggy Marley: A Live Tribute to His Father: Aug. 9
- Disturbed: Aug. 10
- Kelsea Ballerini: Aug. 11
- Ja Rule and Ashanti: Aug. 12
- Alabama: Aug. 13
- Olga Tañón: Aug. 14
These are ticketed shows.
Info, tickets: musikfest.org/tickets/
There are more than 500 performances across the full run of Musikfest. Full lineup: musikfest.org/lineup/free/
Musikfest is known for its food. This year’s lineup does not disappoint. Here’s a taste of what you’ll find:
- The Little Sicilian: Specialists in arancini (fried balls of rice), you can try a number of varieties including the pizza balls as well as other varieties such as chicken parm, Philly cheesesteak, and sausage and peppers — as well as fried ravioli and cannolis.
- The Munchy Machine: Chicken and waffle cones, loaded pierogies, kielbasa, and pork bahn mi.
- Big Wil & The Warden: Alligator sausage on a stick, Cajun grilled shrimp taco, jambalaya, gumbo, Cajun swamp bowl, and gator bites.
- Homer’s Girls: Donuts, cheeseburger quesadilla, buffalo chicken egg roll, cheesesteak egg roll, veggie empanada, chicken and cheese empanadas, loaded tots, iced coffee, and cookies.
- French Toast Bites: French toast bites, bacon on a stick, cold brew
- Slabs and Crabs: You’ll find pulled pork, beef brisket, ribs, lobster roll, fried shrimp, seafood mac, baked beans, coleslaw, and corn.
‘Fest favorites will of course be back. (Aw Shucks Roasted Corn for example.)
Last year, as Musikfest returned to a fully in-person event, the footprint of the festival was slightly smaller. Volksplatz, a venue that had been chronically prone to flooding damage after summer storms would swell the Monocacy, was axed.
ArtsQuest knew this year that they needed to add a venue to bring the size of the festival back to what it was and return to the total of 16 stages.
“It was really important to have more elbow room,” Hilbert said.
Payrow Plaza, at 10 E. Church St., between City Hall and the public library, had been the site of Americaplatz, which moved to SteelStacks in 2011.
ArtsQuest asked fans to name the new venue and the top choice was “Stadtplatz” — German for city place or town square.
Stadtplatz will feature free performances from 5 to 10 p.m. every evening of the festival. Artists include The Clarks (Pittsburgh), We Banjo 3 (Galway, Ireland), and festival favorites Igor and Red Elvises.
Hilgert said the stage will be clear and will allow people to see through to the city’s south side.
It’s very important to have a parking plan before you head out to Musikfest. The chances of finding a space on the street are highly unlikely.
Remote lots and shuttle service
Hilgert recommends using the shuttle service from the two remote lots.
NORTH SIDE SHUTTLES
If you are planning to visit the north side of the festival, you’ll want to head to the lot at 1525 Valley Center Parkway, Center Valley.
Hours: 5 to 11 p.m. Monday through Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Drop off and pick up at Shuttleplatz North. The final shuttle departs 11:40 p.m.
Round-trip service pricing: $5 per adult (13+); $3 per child ages 3-12 when accompanied by a fare-paying adult; free for children 2 and under (must be able to sit on the lap of an adult). Ticket price includes same-day access to the North/South Transfer Service (must change buses).
SOUTH SIDE SHUTTLES
If you are planning to visit the south side of the festival, head to 240 Emery St. (just off Rt. 412 on the south side)
Hours: 5:30 to 11 p.m. Monday to Friday; 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; drop off and pick up at Shuttleplatz South; final shuttle departs at 11:40 p.m.
Round-trip service pricing: $5 per adult ($13+); $3 per child ages 3-12 when accompanied by a fare-paying adult; free for children 2 and under (must be able to sit on the lap of an adult). Ticket price includes same-day access to North/South Transfer Service (must change buses).
How to get back and forth to both sides of the festival
Hours: 4:30 to 11:30 p.m. Aug. 5; 11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Aug. 6 to 14; final departure from each Shuttleplatz is 11:35 p.m.
How much: $4 per adult (13+) for unlimited daily rides; $2 per child 3-12 for unlimited daily rides; children two and under ride FREE, as long as they are able to sit on a lap; free for ArtsQuest members with valid membership card
OTHER PARKING OPTIONS
- City lots: $10 event parking. 3 to 10 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends. No cash accepted. All lots except 3rd and Polk streets have pay stations or you can use the ParkMobile App.
- City garages: $10 event parking, 3 to 10 p.m. weekdays; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekends. No cash accepted; payment will be processed at the entrance gates.
Note: Availability at the city’s garages and lots is limited.
During the festival, the Main Street ramp off Route 378 North will be closed to all vehicle and pedestrian traffic during Musikfest hours (11:30 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; 3-11:30 p.m. Monday-Friday).
Main Street will close at noon every day during the festival and parking meters in the 400 and 500 blocks of Main Street will be bagged for the duration.
North side/Historic District: Limited parking for persons with disabilities is available along Conestoga Street, adjacent to Wells Fargo Festplatz, and Lehigh Street, in front of the Wooden Match. Both City of Bethlehem parking garages (Walnut Street and North Street parking garages) also offer parking for persons with disabilities.
SouthSide/SteelStacks: At SteelStacks, limited parking is available at the parking lots on Second Street, across from the Wind Creek Steel Stage. Persons with disabilities may also be dropped off at the corner of Second Street and Founders Way, near the ArtsQuest Center.
Seating for those with disabilities: All Musikfest stages are accessible to persons with disabilities and offer areas for special seating. The Wind Creek Steel Stage offers seating at the venue’s soundboard; tickets for this section may be purchased by contacting the ArtsQuest Box Office at 610-332-3378.
Hilgert also said this year ArtsQuest was able to purchase cable covers that are in place at most high traffic and main stage areas. By covering cables, those who use wheelchairs have smoother, more speed-bump-like area to surpass versus having to navigate around tangled cables.
New this year, this sensory-friendly, dedicated quiet area will be available on both sides of the festival. It will be at Familienplatz on the north side during festival hours and at the SteelStacks playground on the SouthSide, noon to 8 p.m. both Saturdays and Sundays of the festival.
Accessible Festivals, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ensuring music and other forms of recreation are accessible to all abilities, has secured ASL interpreters for Inclusion Day at Musikfest on Aug. 7, continuing the tradition for its second year in a row.
Musikfest is an outdoor, ungated festival that stretches throughout multiple parts of the city. Safety and security measures are a critical part of the festival planning process, with ArtsQuest coordinating with county and city officials and law enforcement.
Hilgert said additional safety measures are in place this year but would not elaborate.
“I can tell you that emergency responders are tweaking plans daily,” Hilgert said.
Hilgert’s message to ‘festers: If you see something, say something.
“We are all responsible for the safety of the festival,” Hilgert said. “We all have that responsibility. Safety is the number one priority.”
If you are at the festival and you see activity or anything that seems out of the ordinary, call 911.
As a late summer event, weather historically has been a big factor in turnout. It’s also been a safety issue. As dangerous weather approaches, the festival will be paused. These pauses will be announced on the Musikfest app (which is free to download) and on the festival’s social media.
The days of having to buy paper tickets for food and drinks are over. Like last year, you can use credit and debit cards as well as Apple Pay and other touchless methods. For those who don’t use credit and debit cards, cash can still be used, by converting it into recyclable and reloadable CashCards at several locations. These cards work much the same way as a store gift card. No personal information is taken or stored; the cash is loaded onto the card and can be used and reloaded as needed. Cash will be accepted as well but only on the south side.
Open ceremonies: 5:30 p.m. Aug. 5 at Festplatz
Worship services: 10 a.m. Aug. 7: Contemporary Worship Service (Grace Church Bethlehem), Festplatz; and Tri-Lingual Mass (Holy Infancy Bethlehem); Plaza Tropical; 10 a.m. Aug. 14 Polka Mass (Allentown Diocese), Festplatz
Fireworks: 10 p.m. Aug. 14
It’s been since 2019 that Musikfest included a “spectacle” or an interactive art installation.
Fans may recall the Prismatica installation — which was a glimmering collection of movable, iridescent prisms.
This year, Loop will be featured by the same company. Loop is a hybrid of music box, zoetrope and railway handcar with “retro-futuristic” animated images.
This illuminated musical installation uses cylinders and plays short flip book-style movies inspired by literature. You sit down inside, pump the bar and make the image cylinder turn so you see the pictures move. How fast you move the bar determines the speed of the moving images.
For daily schedules, tickets and more at The Morning Call’s Musikfest page and musikfest.org