Oswego Harborfest is Back After 2 Long Years – And Yes, It’s Still FREE
July 30, 2022
Growing up, every summer I remember people raving about the fireworks at Oswego Harborfest every July. But it wasn’t until after college until I finally went and experience the festival for myself. It was then that I understood what made Harborfest so popular. Live music, great food, vendors, rides, games – and a killer fireworks display.
Like many events and festivals, Oswego’s Harborfest was canceled for the past two years due to the global pandemic. Luckily for us, the staple of upstate summer celebration is back! The festival brings 4 days of food and entertainment to all those visiting. And the best part? The festival is still FREE to enter, and it’s one of the only events you can arrive to by boat.
Where is Harborfest?
Located in the city of Oswego, New York along Lake Ontario, Harborfest is spread out through a few parks in the area. Most of the festivities take place in Breitbeck Park on Lake Street. That’s where you’ll find half of the musical performances, the children’s puppet theater, and several other attractions. Over in East Park, between 2nd and 4th Street, is the Jazz & Blues celebrations. The midway carnival is over along the eastern end of Lake Street. Lastly, more festivities can be found at Veterans Memorial Park and the River Walk.
Parking at Harborfest
If you want to park as close as possible to the festivities, go early! That’s your best chance at snagging a spot along one of the city streets. If you don’t get lucky with a street spot, you can pay for parking in one of many private lots scattered around. Obey all parking signs because the police WILL be monitoring the parking throughout the festival. It is a safety concern, both for responding to emergencies and regulating traffic.
The other option is to park for FREE at Oswego Speedway and take the shuttle to the various festival locations. You can buy a shuttle button which you can use to ride the shuttle all weekend long. The shuttle will also make stops at each of the festival venues.
Now for the not-so-fun stuff. Pets are not allowed on festival grounds, and drones are not allowed in the air above Harborfest. No smoking, vaping, or outside food or beverage is allowed.
Food trucks and booths are scattered throughout the parks. Local favorites like Bold Coast Lobster and Mac-a-Rollin will be serving up their best dishes. Eating your way through Harborfest is the only way to do it.
One of the highlights of the festival is the live music. Across multiple stages and 4 days of festivities, there are thirty different performances to enjoy. The main stage at Breitbeck Park features local favorites like Scars & Stripes, Hard Promises, and Dangerous Type. In East Park at Washington Square you’ll find all of the jazz and blues artists. Lastly, Veterans Memorial Park features a great line-up, including one of my favorites – the Jess Novak Band.
Since the festival is free, all of the performances are free to attend as well. But consider making donations to support the artists. Buy their merch. Follow them on social media.
In addition to the live music, other performances and activities are scattered throughout the festival, keeping everyone in the family entertained.
The REV Theatre Company will be performing The Fisherman and his Wife, a play perfectly suited for a city like Oswego. Plus the Super DIRT Week car will be on display all weekend for race fans to enjoy.
Saturday night at 9:30 is the much-anticipated fireworks show. Set off at the end of a pier in the lake, Oswego Harborfest’s fireworks show is one of the most popular ones around. The colorful bursts are reflected in the water. If you time it just right, you can get some beautiful photos.
Squawk, a bird show, is scheduled for four shows; two each on Friday and Saturday. Johnny Peers & the Muttville Comix presents daily performances by some incredibly talented dogs mixed with slapstick comedy.
Friday brings the annual children’s parade, followed by many kid-friendly activities. The Catskill Puppet Theater will put on a show Friday afternoon. Throughout the weekend you can enjoy performances by the Shadow Players.
Keep the kids educated during their summer holidays with the STEAM tent and the Altman Science bubble experience. Build-your-own robotics kits will be available while supplies last.
As you wander around during the event, check out the wide variety of vendors in attendance. Local artisans, farmers, businesses and more are waiting to meet you! Get yourself a henna tattoo, grab a gift for your friend, and learn about a local business.
No festival is complete without some games and rides to enjoy. Luckily the Midway Carnival along Lake Street has that covered. Rides cost between 2 and 5 tickets each, which can be purchased at the ticket booth. Discounts are available for bulk ticket purchases – or you can purchase an all-day wristband for $25 ($30 on Saturday).