Summer in the Upper Valley brings myriad opportunities for outdoor entertainment. Farmers markets come back into full swing. Concerts are performed on town greens and gazebos. Craft shows pop up. County fairs and community carnivals come and go.
Festivals are part of the summer scene, too, and in the Upper Valley, the biggest of the summer festivals are concentrated in two towns—Quechee and Woodstock, Vermont. You couldn’t attend every outdoor summer event in the Upper Valley even if you wanted to. But once a month, from June through August, you might mark your calendar for a visit to Quechee or Woodstock.
- 39th Quechee Balloon Festival: June 15, 16, 17 The gates to this perennial Upper Valley favorite open at 3 p.m. on June 15, with the first set of more than 20 hot air balloons lifting heavenward from the Green in Quechee at 6 p.m. that night. Thereafter, the balloons set off at 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. daily. What are you supposed to do with the 12 hours in between? Listen to live music. Acts are scheduled to perform every three hours throughout the weekend, with Gerry Grimo & The East Bay Jazz Ensemble kicking things off at 3 p.m. that Friday and Jukyjoynt & Ally Sun closing things out at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday. There are craft and food vendors to visit, dog shows, parachute demonstrations, and the juggling insanity of Jason Tardy to watch. Admission is $5 or $15, and it’s good for the entire weekend.
- 10th Annual Bookstock: July 27, 28, 29 The whole town of Woodstock, Vermont, gets in on this three-day homage to the written word. Workshops, presentations, poetry slams, art exhibits, live music, two book sales, and more take place both inside and out. Drawing on local and regional talent, Bookstock features both new and established writers. Award-winning novelists and poets rub shoulders with high school playwrights and first-time memoirists. All programs are free and open to the public, with the exception of events such as the Sunday brunch reading at Bentley’s Restaurant.
- Scottish Festival & Competition: August 25 Bagpipes and kilts, snare drums and dancers take over the polo grounds one day each year at Deweys Mills Road in Quechee. The day starts with athletic competitions at 9 a.m. and ends with closing ceremonies sometime around 4 p.m. Men in skirts hurl 16-pound stones and 22-foot long trees (called cabers). Women chuck 10-pound bags of chopped straw with pitchforks. Groups and individuals compete in bagpipe, snare drum, and Highland dance. Live music, Celtic craft and food vendors, and a beer tent top off the festivities. Admission is $20, children under 12 free.