The mission of the Prescott Park Arts Festival is to provide financially accessible, multi-generational, high-quality family entertainment and educational events to a large and diverse audience.
Prescott Park Arts Festival (PPAF) is an anchor arts organization in the Seacoast of New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts with a rich history of presenting a 10-week summer season of inspiring, family-friendly arts programming including themed music festivals, concerts, a film series, dance, children’s events, and signature musical theatre. Since its inception in 1974, PPAF’s suggested donation model has reduced barriers to high-quality art, and we can proudly say that no one has ever been turned away for the inability to make a donation. A strong economic engine for the region, PPAF’s 200,000+ annual audience members inject $7.5M into the local economy by filling downtown businesses and restaurants before and after performances.
As a result of the consistently high-quality offerings presented on its stage, the Festival holds a beloved place in the hearts and minds of those who grew up in the area as well as newer transplants to the region. Nobody’s “Festival experience” is the same; some patrons purchase a season pass and attend every film, concert and multiple musical performances, while others drive for an hour or more once per summer as part of a family tradition that often spans generations. Some come once or twice a week throughout the summer, while others might come for an evening stroll through the park while their kids dance in the lawn to the soundtrack of that evening’s concert or for a few scenes of the musical.
In addition to the opportunity to shape one’s own experience that the suggested donation model affords, there is something else that makes this place special: the charm, the uniqueness, and the beauty of its Portsmouth, NH home. Nestled along the banks of the Piscataqua River in downtown Portsmouth’s Prescott Park, the Festival combines a grassroots, community feel with the glamour and allure that accompanies the Grammy Award winning national touring acts that grace the stage. Newcomers to town, and even longtime residents who have known and loved the Festival for decades, marvel at how a small, but mighty arts organization in a town of barely more than 20,000 people can attract the level of talent that it does, all without charging an admission price for its performances.
To remove yet another barrier to entry, PPAF introduced the Family-in-Need (FIN) program in 2008 to ensure that social pressure or embarrassment never discourages those without a season pass or the ability to make a gate donation from attending Festival events. Through FIN, PPAF donates hundreds of season passes through partner social service nonprofits who then distribute them anonymously to those they serve. In 2017, PPAF launched an annual holiday musical production in nearby Exeter, NH, and extended FIN in partnership with the Exeter Children’s Fund to provide over 200+ free tickets to families unable to purchase them.
Regular Festival events include a summer-long musical theatre production with 30+ performances, a summer concert series featuring 20-25 well-known national touring acts as well as local and regional talent, and a film series introduced in 2011 that has now become a beloved family tradition.
In 1998, PPAF introduced Camp ENCORE!, a multi-session youth theatre camp where kids ages 8-17 gain hands-on experience with theatre arts, both onstage and behind the scenes. This program is about getting to know one’s self and building confidence through the love of musical theatre. Each session culminates in a fully produced musical on the Festival stage. In the spirit of its mission around accessibility, PPAF routinely provides full and partial tuition scholarships for those in need.
Over time, PPAF has raised the caliber and profile of its musicals and concerts, to include equity actors and national touring acts. The Festival will continue to build upon the trust it has established with its audience by extending its track record of featuring less well-known, but immensely talented, artists. Some of the greatest Festival memories brought up by community members time and time again are of the less crowded nights, for a band they had not heard of previously, and being blown away by the talent and the shared community experience. What remains unchanged is PPAF’s deep commitment to accessibility and its pride in being the only venue in the Seacoast where families and individuals can have that type of experience with no required ticket price.
Let’s Connect: Here’s how
Prescott Park Arts Festival
PO Box 4370
Portsmouth, NH 03802
2nd floor of the Shaw Building in Prescott Park, directly behind The Players’ Ring Theater
Box Office Hours
10pm to 4pm, Monday-Friday