Festival moving from longtime home to Bennington
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | February 16,2013
BENNINGTON — A three-day craft festival that attracts thousands of people a day is moving to Bennington from Manchester this year after almost 30 years at Hildene.
The Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival will be coming to the grounds of Camelot Village, current home of the Southern Vermont Garlic and Herb Festival, Aug. 2 through 4.
Charley Dooley, one of the organizers of the festival and founder of Craft Producers, said the show is juried and will have artisans and craftspeople whose work is original and handmade.
The section of specialty food producers will include maple syrup, jams and jellies, hot sauces, chocolate and Vermont wine and spirits.
The festival has music, activities for children, demonstrations on creating craft projects and a food court.
Residents of Bennington may be looking forward to the craft show as a place to visit, but John Shannahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corp., said the show should also be a boost for local businesses.
A group of people interested in the town’s economic development and a group of artists have been working together recently to see how the arts can enhance economic development and vice versa. Shannahan said one of the opportunities identified was big events like MayFest and the garlic festival.
“We’re all thrilled that a new, major, established, high-end event is coming to town because we already know that events like those, especially three-day events, have a huge impact on the economy,” he said.
According to Dooley, there are typically about 150 vendors at the festival, which can have 6,000 to 7,000 visitors over the three-day period.
“One of the benefits of going to Bennington is it’s a half hour closer, each way, to the core audience. We get an awful lot of day-trippers who come and we’re also closer to the Berkshires (in Massachusetts) so we expect to see a big boost from the Albany metro area and the Berkshires simply because we’re a lot closer,” he said.
Dooley said he founded the Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival in 1979. It took place in the municipal park in Manchester and moved to Hildene about four years later.
However, Dooley said officials at Hildene told him they were no longer hosting festivals as they moved the site toward more agricultural use. Dooley admitted they were not happy with the decision and said the show’s organizers “would not have thought of leaving.”
Still, Dooley said he was positive about the possibilities in Bennington.
“We have the opportunity to move to a much larger town. We’re being embraced very well by the Bennington Chamber of Commerce,” he said.
Shannahan pointed out that the garlic festival had also started in another town but had come to Bennington, grown and become an annual tradition. He said he was confident the same would happen with the art and craft festival.
Craft Producers, which is based in Charlotte, also hosts a fall show in Manchester at Hunter Park. Dooley said he expects that show, the Manchester Fall Arts Festival, scheduled for Oct. 4 through 6, to remain where it is.
“The fact that we now have only one craft show in Manchester, in the fall, will make that show more exciting and more special. We think the move will actually benefit both shows and both towns,” he said.
Vendors interested in the Bennington festival can apply for a spot through the website at www.craftproducers.com.