WESTFIELD — One of Westfield’s favorite families is coming home for the holidays, and the town is getting ready to roll out the red (or maybe black) carpet. After a few years of pandemic-related cancellations and adjustments, AddamsFest is due back in all of its creepy, kooky and altogether spooky glory. But, event organizers said, local residents looking to partake in the festivities will not want to wait much longer to reserve their tickets.
“Historically, this has been a tremendously popular event,” said Westfield Councilwoman and event organizer Dawn Mackey. “We try to find the right balance of art, education and entertainment, and this year is really shaping up to check all of those boxes. When we say there’s something for everyone, we really mean it.”
The town-wide festival originated in 2018 to pay tribute to one of Westfield’s most beloved creators. According to the festival’s website, Charles Addams was born in Westfield in 1912. He would later go on to become one of the country’s premier cartoonists, with his work prominently featured in The New Yorker. “His most successful creation, The Addams Family, was inspired by his hometown surroundings. The characters that began as illustrations grew into a television series, a live action movie franchise, a Broadway musical, and a 2019 animated film with a 2021 sequel. In October 2020, he was posthumously inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame,” the website reads. “What better place to honor Addams’ talent and creativity than the town where he grew up?”
The festival has grown in popularity over the years, Councilwoman Mackey said, even despite a brief and unplanned hiatus in 2020.
“Mr. Addams has left a remarkable legacy,” she said. “When you think about it, these characters — these strong, fierce women and these incredibly diverse people that just embrace the things that make them different — were years ahead of their time. That’s why we make such a big deal of this. The arts will always have a home in Westfield, and Mr. Addams is proof of that.”
Some of the highlights of this year’s festival include the return of fan favorites like the Wicked Windows of Westfield art display, the Haunt Your House decorating contest, and Morticia and Gomez’s Masquerade Ball, scheduled to be held on Friday, October 14, at the James Ward Mansion. “After walking the purple carpet, masked guests will be invited to feast on Addams-inspired gourmet fare, sip smoldering libations, and dance in an interactive setting,” the festival’s website says of the party. The lavish, adults-only event is one of the most popular of the AddamsFest traditions, Councilwoman Mackey said, noting that even though the cookies on the dessert table aren’t made from real Girl Scouts, tickets have been known to sell out fast.
“The ball is one of my favorite nights of the whole festival,” Ms. Mackey said. “Imagine if Morticia were throwing a party — it’s beautiful, it’s elegant, but it’s also a little spooky and a little mystical. That’s what makes it so much fun.”
Though younger fans of the iconic family may have been introduced to them by way of either the 1990s’ film franchise or the more recent animated features, the Addams family got its start as a series of humorous but slightly dark cartoons. This year’s festival will give visitors the opportunity to acquaint themselves with those early appearances as part of a special presentation by the Center for Creativity at the Rialto Theater.
The exhibit, entitled “Evolution: Addams and the Artistic Process,” will give visitors a look at some of the cartoonist’s early sketches and invite them to learn a bit more about the creative process.
“In addition to the main exhibition, local students who participated in a weeklong cartooning workshop will have their art displayed alongside original works by Charles Addams,” the festival’s website notes. The Center for Creativity also will present a screening of “Chatting With Charlie: A PBS Interview,” originally filmed for public television in 1981. Guests will be invited to stick around after the screening for a Q-and-A session with Kevin Miserocchi, executive director of the Tee and Charles Addams Foundation.
The 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, which provided the initial seed capital for the revitalization of the Rialto under the direction of the Center for Creativity, has, as the center’s website indicates, “committed to underwriting future art endeavors, with the intention of eventually endowing the Center with Addams works and funding in perpetuity.”
“It has brought the Foundation such joy to witness how this community has embraced AddamsFest, annually celebrating the life and work of Charles Addams including not only the iconic and timeless Addams Family, but also his classic work as an artist, New Yorker cartoonist, and as a fixture in the prominent New York social circles of the 1960’s,” said Mr. Miserocchi via the Center’s website. “We’re thrilled that Charlie will return to the hometown that inspired his work and that his legacy will live on through the many artists that will benefit from the Westfield Center for Creativity at the Rialto.”
The cartoon retrospective will be held at the Rialto Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, October 14 to 30, while the film screening and Q and A will be held on Thursday, October 27.
This year’s AddamsFest also will see the return of Addams Family Fun Day (slated to be held along Quimby Street and featuring Addams Family character visits, live performances, displays by the Maniac Pumpkin Carvers and Bubble Show, and activities sponsored by local vendors and businesses) on Sunday, October 16, and Charlie’s Ale Garden, a popular event that will once again be held in the Westfield Armory.
Charlie’s Ale Garden will be open on Saturday, October 22, and, according to the festival website, will feature a full roster of local bands, as well as beer, wine, and food for purchase from a variety of local restaurants.
“There are still some surprises waiting in the wings, but we’re not quite ready to release the details just yet,” Ms. Mackey said. “Make sure you check back on the website, though. All I can say for now is that we’re really excited, and you’re not going to want to miss anything.”