It all began as a birthday party. Lee Mazzola arranged a party nine years ago at his Marlboro farm, complete with a cake that proclaimed he was 50. A whole bunch of bands made the event extra-special.
Nine years later, as Mazzola gets ready for his sixtieth, Mazzstock is now a three-day music festival that draws hundreds of attendees. There’s a long waiting list for bands interested in playing.
That math isn’t incorrect, either. While the lore proclaims that Mazzstock started as a fiftieth birthday party, that was actually a mistake. “The cake said happy 50th, but I turned 51 that year,” he says. Aware that the marketing materials disagree, he tries not to let people make a big deal of his birthday any more.
“We had a few bands that year,” he recalls. “Then we added a few more, and then a few more in year three, and got more organized. It’s evolved from that.”
Mazzola emphasizes that he couldn’t pull off the popular Mazzstock without the vital assistance of Victoria Bourbeau, who helps with ticket sales, and Vinny Pomarico, who hires the bands.
If Mazzstock ever made money, Mazzola says, he’d donate it to local charities. It’s about the music, he said, not the money. He has spent money on running electricity, building stages, renting porta-potties and trucking in enough water to take care of everyone who is there. He has used professional sound and lighting crews.
Exactly how many people attend in any given year is difficult to pin down, because band members – who aren’t paid – can bring along friends and family. A lot of other people are volunteering in the medical tent, at the gate, handling parking and performing other tasks.
“We try to encourage people to get tickets ahead of time so we have an idea,” he says. “But there’s always a bunch who show up that day and pay nearly twice as much.” People at the gate have sometimes let friends in for free, he adds. This year, only family members will be collecting funds and checking tickets.
A site plan was filed this year with the town to confirm Mazzstock organizers provided sufficient parking and that they were in compliance with local health laws. Mazzola said that the paperwork was due to the first noise complaint against Mazzstock being filed last year. Expanding to three days was enough that the application made sense, regardless.
There’s a medical tent staffed by registered nurses, but Mazzola refuses to retain private security personnel, fearing that their presence might chill the atmosphere. “I don’t want a bunch of goons waiting for something to happen,” he says.
He prefers to rely on his own instincts about who might be a troublemaker. “I’m a pretty good judge of character, and I walk around all day long,” he explains. If he encounters anyone who doesn’t fit the peace-love-and-music vibe, he refunds their money and shows them the door.
Camping is part of the experience, and Mazzola encourages everyone who comes to do so. In years past, State Troopers have pulled over attendees as they were leaving, but “they all had designated drivers.” He uses that story to reinforce how important it is to stay put if you’re drinking. “We don’t sell alcohol, but people bring it in,” he explains. “There’s plenty of camping space around here.”
Mazzstock is known for its wide variety of musical genres, and this year will be no different. Some 32 different bands will be performing. Country is the only musical genre which isn’t represented in the lineup this year. “We turned away 110 bands this year,” he says.
He doesn’t go looking for bands. The musicians keep asking to perform there. He prefers to keep the sound fresh by tapping new talent each year, which isn’t welcome news to past performers who would like to see Mazzstock become a regular tour stop for them.
Beyond music, attendees also have access to a wide range of activities, such as face-painting, a graffiti wall, hula-hoop lessons and yoga sessions. A dedicated kid zone offers organized potato-sack races and other games. He has hauled in an old BMW from a back field that he’s going to allow people to paint psychedelic colors.
The fun takes place August 26 through 28 at Mazzstock Field, located at 35 Hampton Road in Marlboro.
Mazzola discourages people from singing “Happy Birthday” to him. Since he’s walking around anyway, however, he’s sure to get plenty of birthday wishes for this, the ninth anniversary of his fiftieth birthday party, which took place when he turned 51.
Mazzstock goes down the weekend of August 26 through 28 at Mazzstock Field at 25 Hampton Road in Marlboro. For info on ticketing, parking, camping options and a complete lineup and schedule, visit www.mazzstock.com.