Craft fair moving to Bennington

MANCHESTER - The Southern Vermont Arts and Crafts Festival will no longer reside in Manchester for its summer show in August and will make the move to Bennington this year. A second show, which takes place in October during foliage season, will, however, be staying in Manchester.

After residing at Hildene for nearly 30 years and Riley Rink at Hunter Park for one, the festival is moving to Camelot Village in Bennington, which is also home to the Southern Vermont Garlic Festival.

The event is run by Craft Producers which has developed festivals in New York and New England for over 35 years. The owner of Craft Producers, Tim Cianciola, said that the move was made for a couple of reasons - one being that Bennington is more centrally located to where they advertise, he said.

"The move to Bennington makes us more centrally located. We are closer to Albany and Massachusetts, which is where we do a ton of our advertising for the event," he said.

Cianciola also said that adverse weather conditions which resulted in a lot of rain and made the fields at Hunter Park muddy played a role in this years decision to be there this summer.

"This year there was no certainty that the fields [at Hunter Park] would be ready to host the festival in August after the rain damaged the field and it had to be repaired," he said. "This prompted the move to Bennington, which had a facility that was 100 percent usable, with everything we needed."

The initial move away from Hildene Meadows to Hunter Park was made by the request of Hildene due to the fact that they wanted to return Hildene meadow to its original use as working farmland, said Cianciola.

Chris Ams, President of Riley Rink at Hunter Park, also felt that the mix of bad weather along with having another arts and crafts event in October led to the Southern Vermont Arts and Crafts Festival moving to Bennington.

"I don't think it went nearly as smoothly as they had hoped it would go," he said. "Personally I think this is a better venue with access from Route 7 and Route 30 and we could promote it heavily, but we were in the middle of the roundabout project. It wasn't a perfect setup because we didn't have an electrical setup or water at the southern end of the field."

Ams said that last years summer show was the first time they hosted the event and the Hunter Fairgrounds were not ready for a large scale event, but they wanted the show to continue, which has setback the fields in terms of use by about a year.

Riley Rink will still host the Manchester Fall Arts Festival, also formerly at Hildene, from Friday Oct. 4 to Sunday, Oct. 6 along with the Antiques in Vermont Fair.

"Of the two, the October crafts fair is certainly the bigger one because it is during fall foliage season. I think from a local's perspective if I went to the August one I wouldn't make much of a fuss about going to the October one, so this in a way helps us," Ams said.

The Riley Rink is hoping to replace the crafts show leaving in August. Ams said he is working on bringing a barbeque competition on Aug. 17 where local restaurants and other private groups who consider themselves barbeque experts could take part in what would be a relaxed environment where people can listen to music, enjoy themselves and have some free barbequed meals.

The Executive Director of the Manchester and the Mountain Chamber of Commerce, Berta Maginniss, said that they are sorry to see the arts and crafts festival go, but is pleased that they will be staying during the fall foliage season.

"I think any time you have a show that is a long standing event in the community and it moves away, you feel that it is a loss," she said. "We are very sorry to see the crafts fair go, but we are pleased that their fall show will continue to stay during foliage season."

Maginniss said that Manchester will still be busy in August with events such as the horse show that brings visitors to the area. Currently, the chamber is not organizing anything to replace the arts and crafts festival.

The Southern Vermont Arts and Crafts Festival was established in 1979 and took place at the municipal park in Manchester for four years until the move to Hildene was completed. After spending just under 30 years at Hildene the festival moved to Hunter Park for one year.


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