Remembering Ayer’s Cliff Music Fest

By Matthew Sylvester, Special to the Record

While the cancellation of town fairs is on the minds of many as mid-August rolls around the corner, regulars at the Ayer’s Cliff Music Fest undoubtedly already feel that the summer was missing something big this year. Normally held on the first weekend of June, the Fest was held for the final time last year on its 25th anniversary.
Peter Mackey and his wife Chrissie Wiley along with their friend Bruce Giddings were the ones who started the festival over two decades ago.
“Bruce and I wanted to have a music festival, and we wanted it to have a reason,” Mackey said, explaining that the Fest was partnered up with the Children’s Wish Foundation for its run of over two decades.
Mackey’s band, The Mountain Dews, was one of the first to play at that first Fest 26 years ago. Mackey says he doesn’t regret it one bit. “It was a positive thing overall,” he said. The town of Ayers’ Cliff also welcomed the event every year because of the people it brought to the town, but also because Mackey and the rest of the volunteers made sure to leave the fairgrounds in perfect shape.
Over the years, a total of more than $400,000 was raised to grant the wishes of 30 kids. These ranged from TVs and bikes to Disney trips and family cruises. The event was a staple of summer life in the region, with campers lining the midway and parking lots and anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 visitors at least stopping by for a few dances over the weekend during later years.
The event kept growing each June, Mackey said, and mostly through word of mouth. People would come back and bring their friends to listen to music and have fun. All the bands that participated were donating their time to perform at the venue. Other activities included a silent auction, bingo night, and lots of activities for kids.
Every spare dollar raised by the event’s activities, auction, and the ticket sales was sent to Children’s Wish to give a child struggling with a disease or disability in the region a little bit of hope. “All the money we raised stayed in the Townships,” Mackey explained. At least one kid was given a big wish at the event each year, and the foundation used any leftover money to grant other wishes to families who wanted it to be more private.

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