Circus Up of Jamaica Plain collaborates with the Band Land Brass Band of Cambridge in 2020 for a Honk! festival that was held mostly virtually. (Photo: Honk! via Facebook)

After the Honk! festival of activist street bands went online-only during last year’s pandemic, this year’s celebration in October will look different yet again from what people have enjoyed since its launch in Somerville in 2006.

The free festival grew to encompass more than two dozen bands annually from as far away as Brazil and Berlin, first playing around Somerville’s Davis Square and then traditionally marching to Harvard Square to merge with a Sunday Oktoberfest. This year there will be a smaller and “decentralized” version to reflect the continuing problems of the coronavirus, according to Mary Curtin, a publicist working on behalf of the Honk! festival. (The slogan for the year: “Health, Hope … and Honk!”)

Over Indigenous Peoples Day weekend Oct. 8-10, the festival is planned to encompass more than 15 bands from around Greater Boston and “be held outdoors, in-person, on-site in many small gathering places. [The] intention is to reach communities that have not been able to participate in the past, for example Nubian Square in Roxbury, while also retaining Honk!’s historic connection to Davis Square,” Curtin said.

“The rule of thumb being that all participants will need to be local enough so that at the end of any given Honk! day, they can all return home and turn in on their very own beds,” she said.

In April, as plans for this year’s event were taking shape, the the Honk! organizing committee updated a message to bands on its website to underline the message: “We ask that you respect our decision by not making plans to independently travel to Somerville during Indigenous People’s Weekend as ‘orphans’ or part of a pickup band.”

Instead of playing to 200,000 people at Harvard Square’s Oktoberfest, bands will devote Oct. 10 to presenting a series of online workshops on topics of interest to the Honk! community, some open to the general public, Curtin said. The music is to take place outdoors on the Friday and Saturday leading up to it, rain or shine.

The new approach will not only deliver “joy and justice” cosponsored by a wider number of grassroots community organizations, but achieve the festivals’ smallest carbon footprint ever, since the all-local rule means no bands need travel by bus or plane to take part, Curtin said.

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