ITVFest: Festival readies for start

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MANCHESTER — For months, residents have been wondering what it will look and feel like when the Independent Television Festival arrives — and how many television industry executives, personalities and content creators will descend upon Manchester for five days of networking and celebrating the work of creative minds.

In less than three weeks, it will be here.

And executive director Philip Gilpin Jr. feels good about the prospects for the festival.

"The key is you can't do it on your own. It requires that the town buy in. And the town could not be more supportive," he said.

While a number of

volunteers are in place for the event, including Burr and Burton Academy students, more are needed to provide information, take tickets and handle the hundreds of small tasks at venues that make an event this size work, Gilpin said.

"The biggest position we need is drivers. Side note: If anyone wants to make a lot of money that week, they should sign up to be an Uber driver," he said.

One of the big questions is whether there will be enough late-night food and drink options for the night owl crowd. So far, ITVFest has worked directly with the Copper Grouse, Mulligans, Seasons and Gringo Jack's to stay open late. "Others said they'll play it by ear," he said.

During a day, a shuttle bus will bring guests between BBA, Village Picture Shows and Manchester Community Library. With more people out late, the Manchester Police Department will have more officers on patrol, particularly at night, to make sure everyone gets home safely.

Festival and public safety stakeholders met last week, said Gilpin and police chief Michael Hall, and Hall said the department intends to treat the festival like it's a major holiday weekend and anticipates greater vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

"We're pretty confident based on what I know thus far. We're not expecting any kind of major behavior issues," Hall said.

As for lodging, Gilpin said area hotels are selling out or close to it, and guests are making reservations as far away as Stratton.

Like a number of logistics questions, "this year is the find-it-out year" for determining the festival's housing needs, Gilpin said. "My guess? I think we will need more houses, especially in the proximity of Manchester Center."

Hampton Inn and Suites general manager Dan Duvernoy said the hotel is fully booked for the weekend and nearing full occupancy for the festival's full five-day run. "We have seen strong demand, which is coming from ITV groups, leaf peeping visitors and wedding blocks," he said. "We planned for a strong October and this event is just part of it."

The arrival of as many as 1,300 guests for five days presents opportunities for any number of businesses. In a news release, ITVFest suggested that eateries stay open until 11 p.m., that those serving breakfast prepare for large crowds, and that stores stay open until 7 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

"The key is that people feel welcome and appreciated and part of the community," Gilpin said. "That's the heart of it. As soon as that happens, they'll want to come back and shoot here in November and in April."

Some businesses are jumping at the opportunity to welcome industry executives and content creators to Manchester.

At Eileen Fisher on Depot Street, managers Lana Prouty and Kim Kowanko got in touch with Gilpin with an event for women in mind. The result is a VIP panel discussion titled "Women in Production" with Kelly Edwards, HBO's VP for talent development, and Dorset Theatre Festival playwright in residence Theresa Rebeck.

"Festival goers and attendees tend to be influencers in popular culture and we wanted them to have a chance to hear our powerful message about women and social justice in general," Prouty and Kowanko said in an email. "It stands to reason that this group will increase sales in most of our local stores. It's another great way to bring people to our beautiful town."

And Lisa Helmholz-Adams of Helmholz Fine Art on Depot Street is pulling out all the stops for a VIP reception on Thursday, Oct. 12 at her art gallery. She's asked artists to contribute work in every medium representing Vermont in the fall, and hired caterer Gail Morin of Thymes Tables. She expects about 400 guests will attend.

"What I love is that these creative minds are coming together to bring this here to Manchester, Vermont. I want them to be here every year and make it grow," Helmholz-Adams said. "This is our chance to embrace this and make it sing. "

Reach Journal editor Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000.

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