David Mugar, philanthropist who added fireworks to


As chairman and CEO of Mugar Enterprises Inc., Mr. Mugar oversaw a sprawling, privately held empire comprising real estate holdings, retail businesses, performance venues, and other investment- and arts-oriented enterprises.

Beginning in 1982, he served as principal owner of WNEV-TV (Channel 7, now WHDH-TV), then the local CBS network affiliate, for more than a decade. As executive producer of the July Fourth Esplanade show, he almost single-handedly transformed the event from a parochial celebration into a star-spangled extravaganza seen by millions on national television.

A scion of an Armenian American family that built the Star Market grocery chain, Mr. Mugar belonged to an elite group of donors whose wealth and influence reached into virtually all aspects of public life, from college libraries and concert halls to hospitals and shopping malls.

In Greater Boston alone, the Mugar family name is affixed to the Museum of Science’s Omni Mugar Theater, Boston University’s Mugar Memorial Library, Northeastern University’s Mugar Life Sciences Building, and Mugar Hall at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Diplomacy.

Other institutions substantially benefiting from Mr. Mugar’s largesse include the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Cape Cod Hospital. In 2012, he created a separate foundation dedicated to helping individuals through what he called “random acts of kindness.”

“He was a Bostonian through and through, continually finding ways to give back to the community he loved,” Mr. Mugar’s children said in a statement. “He was humble and generous. Quietly doing good for others and always leading with his heart. The many gifts he gave to civic and cultural organizations across the city and the state were most often given in recognition and honor of his parents, our grandparents.”

Mr. Mugar, with Boston Pops conductor John Williams outside the Hatch Shell.Joseph Dennehy, Globe Staff/The Boston Globe

Beyond the holiday Pops concert, Mr. Mugar helped fund the city’s Family Fireworks show on First Night on New Year’s Eve and was a major investor in its live music scene, partnering with Live Nation’s Don Law to own and operate the Boston Opera House, Paradise Rock Club, and the House of Blues.

For years, Mr. Mugar ranked among Massachusetts’s richest citizens, with a net worth pegged at $600 million or more.

“I want to do things that will affect the people in New England especially,” he once observed, “and I like to do things that are nonexclusionary, so that they’re available to everyone.”

Exhibit A was his long association with the Independence Day concert.

For many years, the Mugar family had helped underwrite the event, first organized in 1929 by Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler. As a teenager, David Mugar befriended Fiedler, the two sharing a passion for racing to active fire scenes: fellow hobbyists known as “sparks.”

Mr. Mugar, with Arthur Fiedler in 1976. Globe File Photo

In 1973, with the July Fourth concerts attracting sparse crowds, Mr. Mugar proposed adding fireworks and cannon fire to Tchaikovsky’s majestic “1812 Overture,” a favorite piece of music. Fiedler agreed.

The next year, Mr. Mugar began serving as executive director. His first production drew a record 75,000 attendees. Two years later, 400,000 showed up for America’s Bicentennial celebration, thus seating Boston near the head of the nation’s party table.

No one was more delighted by all those dazzling bombs bursting in air than Mr. Mugar, a former licensed pyrotechnician and accomplished amateur photographer.

Although he never had a direct role in launching the fiery spectacle, Mr. Mugar helped test new fireworks from time to time — back when they were ignited by railroad flares, not computerized firing programs. He also worked on safety regulations that are still being followed.

“His single-minded devotion to our iconic Fourth of July celebration was inspiring, and no one was more responsible for the creation and the preservation of the event than David,” Pops maestro Keith Lockhart said in a statement Wednesday. “His passion for our Independence Day celebration was unparalleled, and meeting him backstage after the fireworks for a handshake and a hearty ‘Keith, you did good!’ was the ultimate capstone on the evening for me.”

For decades, Mr. Mugar personally funded the event, spending $1 million or more.

Mr. Mugar produced his last July Fourth show in 2016. The event is now produced by Boston 4 Productions under management by the Boston Pops.

“He never took for granted the opportunity that was given to him by his father and his mother, and he viewed himself as having an enormous responsibility to give back as a result of that,” his son Jonathan said in an interview Wednesday.

David Graves Mugar was born on April 27, 1939, and grew up in Belmont, one of two children of Stephen P. Mugar and Marian Graves. His father’s roots were Armenian, his mother’s of Yankee stock.

He attended the Cambridge School of Weston and Babson College but flunked out of the latter, having devoted much of his time to running his first business venture, a check-cashing agency. He later took courses in Cornell University’s food administration program.

It was Sarkis Mugar, Stephen’s father, who purchased and ran the family’s original Star Market, located in Watertown, in 1916, a year after it opened. A second store opened in Newton in 1932.

The original Star Market in Watertown, opened by the Mugar family.david mugar

The chain began adding roughly one store per year until the postwar building boom and advent of the suburban shopping mall accelerated its growth. By the mid-’60s, the chain, under Stephen Mugar’s management, comprised 35 stores plus the Brigham’s ice cream plant and retail shops.

Mr. Mugar apprenticed in the business as a meat cutter and store manager. In 1964, his father sold the family’s interest to a Chicago company and founded Mugar Enterprises, focused mainly on developing shopping malls and hotels. David Mugar began running the company in 1982 following his father’s death.

That same year, after waging a protracted legal battle with WNAC-TV owner RKO General, he became majority owner and CEO of New England Television, fulfilling his dream of running a local network affiliate. (A separate dream, to own a stake in the Red Sox, failed to materialize when a proposed deal with a group of minority owners fell through in early 1983.)

The 1980s and ‘90s overlapped with Boston’s Golden Age of TV news as the city’s three network affiliates — including WBZ (Channel 4, owned by Westinghouse) and WCVB (Channel 5, a Hearst property) — competed fiercely for ratings, ad dollars, and bragging rights. Local news anchors commanded hefty salaries and celebrity status.

Not every owner turned a comfortable profit, though. Despite Mr. Mugar and his partners investing heavily in the newsroom arms race, their station stayed mired in third place in the ratings. As financial pressures mounted, shareholder fights erupted. A particularly ugly one broke out in 1991 involving minority owner Robert Kraft. In exercising a $25 million buyout option, Kraft put Mr. Mugar in a financial bind, triggering a bitter public feud between the two men.

In 1993, mounting debt service and slumping ratings persuaded Mr. Mugar to sell the enterprise to Ed Ansin of Miami-based Sunbeam Co. for a reported $215 million. Channel 7 later affiliated with NBC and is now an independent station.

The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular at the at DCR Hatch Shell on the Esplanade in Boston on July 04, 2016. Craig F. Walker

After the sale, Mr. Mugar admitted to the Globe that competing against the likes of Westinghouse and Hearst had been challenging: a “cutthroat business,” he called it.

Yet his most stinging criticism was reserved for the lawyers, bankers, and insurance companies that he felt profited unduly from his ownership struggles. Their actions along with staff cuts and layoffs he had been obliged to make bothered him deeply.

“That hurt me personally because I knew so many of the people,” he said.

Mr. Mugar was married twice, to Martha Sillen and Rosemary Love. Both marriages ended in divorce. He leaves three children from his first marriage, Jonathan, a Hollywood writer, producer, and actor, Peter, a basketball coach at Caltech in Pasadena, and Jennifer Mugar, a philanthropist; his sister Carolyn Mugar, executive director of Farm Aid; five grandchildren; and his longtime companion, Carolynn Cartelli.

A service will be announced in the days ahead.

“He meant everything to me and all of us children,” Jonathan said Wednesday. “I think that the older we got, and the more our relationships evolved over the years, we grew to appreciate more and more facets of my father. And he was an incredible guide throughout our lives.”

In 1998, Boston’s Embankment Road, near Beacon Hill, was renamed David. G. Mugar Way in honor of his long association, personal and financial, with the July 4th show.

Mr. Mugar, lending a hand to Boston Pops conductor Keith Lockhart in 1998.BRETT, Bill GLOBE STAFF/The Boston Globe

A member of the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame, he also served as a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Museum of Science, and WGBH Educational Foundation.

Notwithstanding his lofty profile as a businessman-philanthropist, Mr. Mugar remained an intensely private man, according to friends, largely avoiding public functions and turning down offers of honorary degrees and such.

Mr. Mugar himself often said his closest friends and personal heroes were not fellow A-listers but firefighters and other working-class people.

“Our Dad used the opportunity he was given to think imaginatively, act honestly, and make a difference to those most in need,” his children said in their statement. “That is a legacy we will work hard to preserve. We love you Dad, and we will miss you.”

According to Steve MacDonald, a retired Boston Fire Department spokesman and longtime friend, people often expressed surprise about his own connection to someone of Mr. Mugar’s stature.

“But that’s just who David was,” MacDonald said. “He was friends with regular people. He drove a Ford or a Kia. And he was more comfortable around people who didn’t want something from him.”

By the same token, MacDonald said, Mr. Mugar was not shy about soliciting fellow VIPs to support such pet causes as the Vendome Hotel Fire Memorial, which honors nine Boston firefighters who perished in the 1972 blaze. It was dedicated at a 2016 ceremony from which Mr. Mugar made a point of having his own name omitted, despite having played an outsized role in the memorial’s construction.

“When all is said and done, David would try to help people any way he could,” MacDonald said. “He was an unassuming and very generous man.”

Bryan Marquard of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

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Greenfield farm to be featured at Farm Aid 2023 –


GREENFIELD, Ind. (WISH) – Tyner Pond Farm sits on hundreds of acres in Hancock County. Once fields of corn, since 2010 it has been home to grass-fed cattle, pasture-raised chicken, and locally-raised pigs. It also focuses on Regenerative Farming practices.

The practice of farming holistically is a process aligning with the mission of Farm Aid — a nonprofit founded by country music legend Willie Nelson to help family farmers in a myriad of ways.

“As you know, Farm Aid is a nonprofit organization that works to build a family farm-centered agricultural system in the United States. Their mission is to keep family farmers on the land and to help them access new markets, transition to more sustainable practices, and survive natural disasters,” Chris Baggott, Tyner Pond Farm founder, said.

This week, Tyner Pond announced Farm Aid has selected the farm to be featured at the popular Farm Aid festival, which is returning to Ruoff Music Center for the first time since 2001.

“We are truly grateful for the notice.  Our mission is restoring soil health. We accomplish this by holistic management of our land with equal consideration for the soil biology, living plants, the herbivores, and the people who manage it all,” said Baggott.

As Willie Nelson, Neil Young, John Mellencamp, and a slew of other musicians take the stage on Sept. 23, hungry festival-goers can find family-farm sourced foods at Farm Aid’s HOMEGROWN concessions®. This year, Tyner Pond will supply grass-fed beef for the brisket.

“They told me that as they were researching farms across Indiana and many people suggested they talk to us.  Tyner Pond Farm epitomized their mission. A family farm working on Regenerating the soil and bypassing the commodity trap by working directly with consumers,” said Baggott. 

While the complete 2023 menu has not been released, Farm Aid has kept the 2022 menu up on its website to give people an idea of what to expect — family farm-raised fruits and vegetables served in a variety of ways, chicken tenders, tenderloins, stuffed sweet potatoes, shrimp and grits and more.

“We believe that consumers have the power to create the world they want. Those who support us by buying our meat are sending a message that they care about things like the environment, like food security, like nutrition, like animal welfare, like globalization, etc.,” said Baggott. “Farm Aid gives us a large platform to share that message to an Indiana audience.”

Along with Farm-Aid choosing Tyner Pond to supply the grass-fed beef, the non-profit also sent world-renowned photographer Scott Streble out to photograph the farm last week and captured 100 images.

“The day was perfect and you’ll be seeing a lot of his work in the coming weeks,” said Baggott.

For those who cannot attend the music festival, Tyner Pond offers free delivery of its family-farmed beef, chicken, and pork to central Indiana customers. An online shop has everything from grass-fed ground beef and ribeye steak to pork chops and whole chickens.

The 2023 Farm Aid Music Festival will be at Ruoff Music Center on Saturday, Sept. 23. The event is sold out.



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Waylon Payne at the Parthenon at Centennial Park in Nashville , Tenn., Monday, Sept. 4, 2023.

Waylon Payne’s career comes full circle with


Waylon Payne at the Parthenon at Centennial Park in Nashville , Tenn., Monday, Sept. 4, 2023.

On a recent sunny morning at the Parthenon in Nashville, a passerby paused to listen to a musician sitting on the steps, strumming his guitar and singing. The man extended some cash offering the player a tip.

The musician lowered his guitar and gracefully declined the monetary gesture, thanking him and telling him he was a good person for offering.

The man obliged, then stepped away and quietly googled the name “Waylon Payne.” After a minute, he came back, apologized and asked for an autograph and a photo with the acclaimed singer, who was having his photo taken for this story.

This is classic Payne, whose story, career, background and childhood are legendary, although not obvious at first glance. Payne is the child of Grammy-winning singer Sammi Smith (“Help Me Make it Through the Night”) and guitar player Jody Payne who spent the bulk of his career touring with Willie Nelson, who Payne says has been a constant force throughout his life.

After spending the bulk of his life around Nelson and “the boys” as he calls them, for the first time in his career, Payne is now embarking on tour as Willie Nelson’s guitar player.

Waylon Payne stands with his dog, Petey, at the Parthenon at Centennial Park in Nashville , Tenn., Monday, Sept. 4, 2023.

The letter that changed everything

In part because of his parents’ careers, Payne was mostly raised by an aunt and uncle in rural Texas. In fact, he didn’t even meet his father until he wrote his dad a letter at age 16. While his mom and dad were among the pioneers of the outlaw country movement of the early ’70s, Payne groomed his musical chops singing Amy Grant and Sandi Patty songs in the Baptist church.

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Aldean song, the wrong reflection of a small town


“Well, I was born in a small town
And I live in a small town
Probably die in a small town
Oh, those small communities.”

That’s what John Cougar Mellencamp sang about small-town living back in 1985.

The same goes for me, Mr. Mellencamp. I was born and raised in a small town back in Minnesota. The sleepy little town of 1,200 souls is in the Mississippi River valley surrounded by bluffs. So, ending up settling down in a town named Red Bluff makes me feel oddly comfortable. I am no stranger to small-town living.

When the former Jonny Cougar fought the music industry and started using his real name of John Cougar Mellencamp, he started putting out albums that sprung from his life, growing up in a rural, agricultural community. But you can find references to small towns in his earlier work, especially in his classic “Jack and Diane”.

Back when MTV was only music videos, I used to wait for Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” to air in the rock rotation. The video features a madly in love, elderly Black couple as the iconic line “I can remember when you could stop a clock” is sung in the background about the Black man’s wife.

In 1985 Mellencamp’s major opus “Scarecrow” album was released. The message of the album was the destruction, at the time, of the family farm in the Heartland. In the album he sings about protesting banks repossessing family farms

John Mellencamp also created Farm Aid! concerts along with people like Neal Young and Willie Nelson which, to date, has raised 60 million dollars to save family farms.

Mellencamp, along with other artists like Neal Young, Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen created their own genre of rock. Heartland Rock is often characterized as a straightforward folk/blues/country/rock fusion style, often with a focus on blue-collar workers and farmers. They had the conviction that rock music has a social or communal purpose beyond just entertainment.

I have recently been made aware of another song about small-town living that has become popular. It is Jason Aldean’s “Try That in a Small Town.” I knew who Jason Aldean was due to the fact he was the performer on stage during the Vegas Massacre back in 2017. We all remember that shooting where a deranged white man broke the windows out of the Mandalay Bay Resort and shot 1,000 rounds of bullets at the people enjoying the concert below him before taking his own life.

This deranged white man killed 60 people and wounded 463 people. The panic to get out of the concert area brought the total injury list up to at least 867.

Given the Vegas Massacre as a backdrop for Aldean’s small-town song music video, I decided to watch it. As usual, I got to the controversy a bit late. My mind immediately made me think of Mellencamp’s “Small Town” music video, so I watched them back-to-back for comparison.

Aldean’s small-town song is laced with racial violence and white supremacy. In the video, a small town courthouse is shown multiple times. That same courthouse was the site of a lynching by a racist white mob. Henry Choate, an 18-year-old Black man, was hung outside the Maury County Courthouse in Tennessee in 1927 after he was falsely accused of attacking a young white girl. Tell me please, why would Aldean include shots of that courthouse in his video? To me, there’s only one reason for purposefully displaying that courthouse in the video.

Aldean’s official music video is filled with people of color looting and burning cities and inner-city violence. His lyrics are confrontational and laced with violence and testosterone. Aldean sings, “Try that in a small town. See how far ya make it down the road. Around here, we take care of our own. You cross that line, it won’t take long
For you to find out, I recommend you don’t
Try that in a small town”

Aldean had little to say after the Vegas shooting. But he does talk about guns in his small-town screed including,

“Got a gun that my granddad gave me
They say one day they’re gonna round up
Well, that shit might fly in the city, good luck”

It makes me wonder why Aldean would sing that when he was personally a witness to the largest mass murder in the United States? You would think that he would be a bit more tolerant of those of us who would like to see a few more restrictions on the ownership of guns, I guess not.

Yes, I much prefer John Mellencamp’s song about living in a small town. He doesn’t have to put down city living to highlight small town living. Mellencamp writes, “I have nothing against the big town.” Clearly, Jason Aldean isn’t as tolerant as John Mellencamp.

Mellencamp’s song isn’t laced with Proud Boy gusto. Mellencamp writes purely about his love of his small town. He sings, “No, I cannot forget from where it is that I come from
I cannot forget the people who love me
Yeah, I can be myself here in this small town
And people let me be just what I want to be.”

There is a lesson here. A lot has changed since 1985 when Mellencamp wrote his “small town” song and 2023 when Aldean released his own “Small Town” song. Mellencamp’s song is about saving farms and a love for small-town living. Aldean’s song and video is about vigilante justice.

In my view, Mellencamp’s song is much more accurate about small-town living than Jason Aldean’s chest beating.





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Hudson Valley cidery hosts multi-day music


Stone Ridge Orchard in autumn.

What started as a small musical gathering last year has grown into the massive Meadowlark Festival. The event is being held at Stone Ridge Orchard this coming weekend, with an opener on Friday evening, and full days of music Saturday and Sunday.

Meadowlark features an eclectic mix of musical artists that’s hard to put into a single category, but if you’re a fan of Americana or contemporary indie music, it’s safe to say you’ll find things you’ll like in the line-up.

“We’ve got a single stage that’s going to be very special,” says festival producer Daniel Leslie. “Our production team is bringing in a vintage 1940’s travel trailer called the Ramblin’ Rose that’s been converted into a stage. Between sets we’ll have performers from the Bindlestiff Family Cirkus, and a screening by video artist Preston Spurlock.”

Left, Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah headlines Saturday. Right, The Detroit Cobras will rock out on Saturday.

The headliner on Saturday is Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, fronted by Alec Ounsworth. The band hails from Philly and Brooklyn, and will be performing material from all five of their albums.

“We’re looking forward to getting up there and playing this festival,” says Ounsworth. “It will be a beautiful time of year up there and perfect for the music.”

Saturday’s lineup also includes Jolie Holland, Chris Staples, Babehoven, Kaia Kater, and The Detroit Cobras.

Sunday’s headliner, DeVotchKa, promises to be a most interesting highlight. An alluring blend of instrumentation hints at South America one moment, eastern Europe the next. How does a band from Colorado come to sound so intriguingly international?

DeVotchKa headlines Sunday’s band lineup.

“We started in Denver,” explains DeVotchKa’s singer, Nick Urata. “Kerouac called it the Greenwich village of the west. It’s the stomping grounds of his muse Dean Moriarty. There’s something about the wide open skies and cold hearted reality that makes for great art.”

You’re probably familiar with DeVotchKa’s music, even if you don’t realize it, as it’s been highly featured in indie films, including Little Miss Sunshine and I Love You Phillip Morris.

Whether you come out Sunday or not, make sure to go online and check out DeVotchKa’s luminously filmed video for “Done With Those Days,” in which the band goes searching for a tornado—and finds one!

Kacy & Clayton play Sunday.

Sunday’s line-up will also feature Kacy & Clayton, Chris Smither, Quintron & Miss Pussycat, The Kondrat Sisters and Ryan Lee Crosby.

Kaia Kater performs Saturday.

The backdrop for Meadowlark is one of the festival’s attractions. Stone Ridge Orchard has been a working farm for nearly two centuries. Among the apple trees are McIntosh, Golden Delicious and others dating from the farm’s early years, along with over 1,000 trees of newer varieties. Elizabeth Ryan, of Breezy Hill Orchard, has been managing the orchard at Stone Ridge since 2008.

“I’m from a long line of farmers,” Ryan says. “My mother grew up on a family farm that is still being farmed in Iowa. I went to Cornell and I have a degree in pomology, the science of growing fruit. I’m now operating six farms in two counties. We use ecological best practices, and we also have one of the highest pollinator rates in the State of New York which we attribute to our regenerative farming practices.”

The significance of holding the festival at Stone Ridge Orchard goes beyond the bucolic setting, Meadowlark is also donating a portion of the proceeds to farm organizations including Farm Aid, Rondout Valley Growers Association, and Stone Ridge Permaculture Fund.

“Despite the recent popular interest in local food, farms are being lost in New York State every day,” says Daniel Leslie. “Farmers struggle to break even most of the time. This year alone there have been catastrophic crop losses in New York due to early frost and flooding, and with climate change this is becoming the new normal.”

Leslie says that, assuming they’re able to cover costs, the festival plans on donating 50% of the net proceeds to these organizations, and will give a percentage of each ticket as a baseline contribution whether or not the festival breaks even.

In addition to the music, there will be a variety of local food trucks, as well as things baked, brewed or distilled right at the orchard or nearby. There will be handmade goods by local artisans as well. Does Elizabeth Ryan have any favorite ciders in particular?

“All of our ciders will be available at Meadowlark,” she says. “We’ll be offering fresh fruit ciders and scrumpy along with Northern Spy and other varieties. Our peach cider made with our own ripe peaches is just delightful. We will have eight or ten ciders available for tasting and purchase.”

Tickets for either Saturday 9/9 or Sunday 9/10 start at $90 for general admission. Gates open at 11:30am both days. See the Meadowlark website (meadowlarkfest.com) for information about VIP amenities available at a higher ticket price. Also see the website for information about Friday 9/8 evening’s event at 5:30pm, which for $80 features Lizzie No, Beccs and Cloudbelly, dinner included.