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‘We Love the Atmosphere’: Harvard Square Celebrates Oktoberfest and Honk!

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Harvard Square filled with live music, food trucks, and people on Sunday to celebrate the 44th annual Harvard Square Oktoberfest and 18th annual Honk! Parade.

The Honk! festival featured a parade of local activist groups and free live performances from street bands. The festival lasted from Oct. 6 to Oct. 8, traveling to various neighborhoods in the Boston area.

Honk! is a street band movement that is “outrageous and inclusive, brass and brash, percussive and persuasive” and draws inspiration from a diverse range of music styles from around the world, according to its website.

David Brancazio, a pianist who has been participating in Honk! since 2015, said he originally saw the Honk! parade go down Massachusetts Avenue and knew he had to join, but he knew he couldn’t push a piano down the street and learned the melodica instead. He said that the festival has now “become a pretty big part” of his life.

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Honk! is built as an activist festival, Brancazio said.

“People are used to going out and chanting the same things over and over, but when they have a street band with them, it becomes more fun for everybody and becomes more powerful,” Brancazio said.

Like Brancazio, who started the Boston Area Brigade of Activist Musicians, Chantal Sanchez also attended Honk! to support local activism.

Sanchez, a recent graduate of the Harvard Divinity School, is a member of the Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign, which combats inequality at the intersection of systemic racism, poverty, environmental destruction, militarism, and religious nationalism.

Sanchez said the Poor People’s Campaign and Honk! use music and art as a way to “connect with people and get the word out.”

Declan J. Devine, who is from Roslindale, Massachusetts, joined the Jamaica Plains Honk! band about a year and a half ago. He said his favorite part of the band is “seeing so many people who are comfortable being themselves in the bands, who are just expressing themselves and not worrying about judgment.”

Abby A. Fechtman, a Cambridge resident, attended with her spouse and two daughters. She said she and her family are “Huge Honk! fans” and have been following Honk! for about 15 years.

“We love the atmosphere in Harvard Square and how lively it is, and we missed it during Covid,” Fechtman said.

Their daughters, Isabel H. Macedo and Luisa E. Macedo, grew up going to the festival. Isabel Macedo — who is now a sophomore at Cornell — said she remembers getting her palm read in middle school by a palm reader who predicted that she would have three kids one day.

Having lived in Cambridge for 21 years, Marcille C. Macedo — Fechtman’s spouse — considers Honk! his favorite event of the year.

“I love the spirit of Honk!” he said.

As Honk! concluded its three-day festival Sunday evening, Brancazio said he looks forward to seeing Honk! continue “to be a force for helping people fighting for social justice, economic justice, racial justice.”

—Staff writer Sami E. Turner can be reached at sami.turner@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @samiturner_ or on Threads @samiturner_.

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