Harmon Museum volunteers Jaynie Flaherty and Audra Blaney Higgins, Town Historian Dan Blaney and Harmon Museum Curator Jeanne Guerin at the museum in Old Orchard Beach on Monday.LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

Harmon Museum volunteers Jaynie Flaherty and Audra Blaney Higgins, Town Historian Dan Blaney and Harmon Museum Curator Jeanne Guerin at the museum in Old Orchard Beach on Monday.LIZ GOTTHELF/Journal Tribune

OLD ORCHARD BEACH — Many people think of Old Orchard Beach as sun, surf and sand, but a new exhibit at the Harmon Museum shows that song has shaped the town’s culture as well.

Harmon Museum, 4 Portland Ave. is now open for the season Tuesdays through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. through Sept. 2. The museum will be closed July 4. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

The museum’s new exhibit highlights Big Band, pop music and rock and roll performers who came to Old Orchard Beach in the ballrooms in the first half of the 1900s through the 1960s and then at The Ballpark in the 1980s and 1990s.

On display are photographs, posters and other memorabilia of performances from musicians and celebrities that performed at The Pier Ballroom and The Palace Ballroom in the 1920s through the 1960s.

The Pier Ballroom, located at the end of The Pier and The Palace Ballroom, located in the downtown were the places to be to listen to music during The Big Band era. Big names like Duke Ellington, who played in Old Orchard Beach 19 times, and Guy Lombardo, Glenn Miller and Cab Calloway came to Old Orchard Beach to play, and also popular were Old Orchard Beach native John Trull, who played with the Lee Russell Orchestra, and Maine native Rudy Vallee.

“Anybody that was anybody played in Old Orchard Beach,” said Town Historian Dan Blaney.

In the 1960s, music continued at the ballroom, and Dick Clark’s Caravan of Stars brought a host of musicians to The Palace.

The exhibit also features a display of musicians who played at The Ballpark, which was host to a wide range of musicians in the 1980s and 1990s. Acts included the Pointer Sisters, the Beach Boys, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Aerosmith, the Grateful Dead and New Kids on the Block.

Audra Blaney Higgins, daughter of the town historian, recalls fondly the concerts she saw at The Ballpark, including Michael Bolton with opening act Celine Dion, which she saw with her parents, the Steve Miller Band and Poison.

She said she enjoyed the convenience of having a music venue close by, and not having to travel out of town or to Boston to see big names.

“It was right here in my hometown,” she said.

Museum volunteers are hoping the exhibit appeals to multiple generations. To help attract visitors to the exhibit, the museum will display life-size cutouts of Duke Ellington, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Bob Dylan and Louie Armstrong outside in front of the museum later this week.

Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]


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