A Page From North Quabbin History: The Full Moon Coffeehouse

Carla Charter pf Phillpston.

Carla Charter pf Phillpston. Paul Franz

Wendell Town Hall has been home to the Full Moon Coffeehouse for the last 38 years. 

Wendell Town Hall has been home to the Full Moon Coffeehouse for the last 38 years.  FILE PHOTO

Published: 07-01-2024 2:28 PM

Modified: 07-08-2024 3:45 PM

By Carla Charter

The Full Moon Coffeehouse, located in Wendell Town Hall, has been a staple in Wendell and the surrounding North Quabbin towns for 38 years, and along the way has become the longest-running coffeehouse in New England.

“The coffeehouse is about supporting the arts, activism, creativity and helping those in need,” said Paul Richardson, one of the coffeehouse’s coordinators and volunteers.

The Full Moon got its start in 1985 when the state of Massachusetts was considering rerouting Route 2 through Wendell. The coffeehouse was created as a way to help raise funds for the effort to prevent the rerouting, according to Richardson. The efforts by all involved, including the Wendell Coffeehouse, were successful, and thus Route 2 is now in its current location.

From there, according to Richardson, it was decided by coffeehouse volunteers, “Why don’t we continue and have it and benefit other causes?..People saw a need and made it happen.”

Over the years, the coffeehouse has benefited the community and continues to do so today. It has raised funds for local nonprofits, including the Wendell Free Library and other nearby libraries, the Wendell Fire Department, the Swift River School, the Friends of Wendell, The Miller’s River Watershed and Seeds of Solidarity. The coffeehouse also raised money after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 to assist New Orleans musicians in replacing instruments destroyed in the storm. No Assault and Batteries, a group opposed to the building of a lithium battery storage facility in Wendell, is among the coffeehouse’s recent beneficiaries.

Musicians, many from the area as well as other parts of New England, play at the coffeehouse. Over the years, they have brought a variety of music to the stage including rock, jazz, folk and reggae. Past performers have included Tom Rush, Livingston Taylor, Vance Gilbert, Dave Mallet, Matt Haimovitz and Charles Neville of the Neville Brothers.

Another past performer was Waffles the Clown, the coffeehouse’s original emcee. When Waffles would perform he would choose members of the crowd and have them come on stage to tell jokes or sing.

“It created a little bit of a variety act,” Richardson said.

The coffeehouse is run by volunteers, with no money made by the coffeehouse itself, other than what is needed to cover the rent. Proceeds are split 60/40 with 60% going to the musicians and 40% going to the beneficiary organization. The organization benefiting from the concert also puts on a bake sale at the event and receives 100% of those profits.

Since the onset of the pandemic, Richardson said, the coffeehouse has struggled.

“Nothing has has been the same since Covid,” Richardson said. “It’s very different now. Arts have been taken out of the schools. People get their art out of screens or television, rather than the old tradition of people and musicians coming together. The world is changing how people interact with one another. The community interacting with one another and helping each other is something we are losing in the present day. I say that during Covid people got used to putting their PJs on and they haven’t taken them off yet. People don’t want to come out – they are spooked about being in crowds.”

Richardson added that economics have also played a role. The volunteers have committed to one more year of running the coffeehouse, and the next season begins in the fall.

“In the past we didn’t think about it going year-to-year,” he said. “If the community wants it to continue then we continue to need volunteers.”

Among the work done by volunteers includes organizing the bands, setting up, taking down and cleaning up the hall after the event.

“Community members have been stepping up for decades,” Richardson said.

The coffeehouse’s upcoming season begins Oct. 19, and will feature Briezy Jane and benefit the Wendell Historical Society. More information about the Full Moon Coffeehouse can be found at www.wendellfullmoon.org.

Carla Charter is a freelance writer from Phillipston. Her writing focuses on the history of the North Quabbin area. Contact her at cjfreelancewriter@earthlink.net.