BENNINGTON -- The Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival returns this weekend for its second year in Bennington, and the arts organizations in town will come together to celebrate the occasion with Bennington's first Arts Weekend, an organized effort to showcase local culture with performances, activities and exhibits from Friday to Sunday.

Organized by Craftproducers, an art and craft show host based in Charlotte, this year's Art and Craft festival will feature 150 exhibitors spread around Camelot Village on Route 9 West, about 1.5 miles from downtown Bennington. The festival drew 125 exhibitors to Camelot Village last year, debuting in Bennington after relocating from Manchester.

All exhibitors at the show make their own products by hand, but the range of products is vast -- just about anything handmade -- artwork, clothing, pottery, jewelry, blown glass, musical instruments, photography and a specialty food tent with handcrafted sauces, dips, wines and craft spirits.

Representing Craftproducers and the festival, Tim Cianciola expressed his excitement about the new Arts Weekend.

"The town of Bennington has bent over backward to work with us," he said. "If the show is going to be successful, we want the whole town to be successful, and they've really done a good job on that."

He estimates about 90 percent of the exhibitors will come from around New England, including many from Vermont, but crafters will also come from as far as North Carolina, Virginia and Arizona to join in the festival.


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The festival opens each day at 10 a.m., closing at 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Musicians will perform: Saints and Liars on Friday, Bob Stannard and Those Dangerous Bluesmen on Saturday and The Bondeville Boys on Sunday.

Children can enjoy facepainting, juggling and magic shows, and a food court will offer falafel, vegetarian curry, steak sandwiches, sesame noodles and more. The Vermont Arts Exchange will also drive its Arts Bus up to the festival, inviting kids and adults to paint and sculpt with Matthew Perry of the VAE and local artist Matthew Marks.

While the Craft Festival bustles up the hill, Bennington will be alive with activity throughout the weekend for the Bennington Arts Weekend, with special events, performances and activities downtown and around Bennington.

One of the main events of Arts Weekend, a plein air-style, outdoor paint-out will begin Friday afternoon. Ten artists will set up their easels downtown and paint from noon to 4 p.m. Their paintings will be judged at a public reception at 5 p.m. at the Better Bennington Corporation building on South Street, where the winner will earn a complimentary exhibitor spot in next year's Art and Craft Festival.

Arts Weekend lines up with Bennington's First Fridays, so many downtown stores will stay open until at least 8 p.m., with entertainment and music in several stores and at the town office, where the Mo Rancourt Sextet will perform on the steps in its Front Porch Music Series.

The Village Chocolate Shoppe will host one of its "Funtastic Fridays," inviting children to visit the store dressed as their favorite character from Disney's "Frozen." The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship will hold an exhibit, "Quilts on the Wall," at its meetinghouse on School Street, Oldcastle Theatre will open its doors for backstage tours and open rehearsals for its upcoming production of "My Fair Lady," and the Bennington Museum will waive its admission fee for Bennington County residents on Saturday, Aug. 2, when they will host a reunion of Norman Rockwell's Arlington models.

Also this weekend, the Vermont Arts Council will hold a public dedication of an exhibit by Vermont artist Gordon Auchincloss in the State Office Building on Veterans Memorial Drive at 1 p.m. on Friday, and the Bennington Center for the Arts will open two new exhibits this weekend, "Impressions of New England" and "Portraying the Human Spirit."

John Shannahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corporation, said Better Bennington is excited to welcome the arts and crafts festival with all these events.

"We are becoming known statewide as the town of big events, so we wanted to make sure they realize how much we appreciate them coming." he said.

Bennington Arts Weekend

Friday, Aug. 1

Plein Air Style Paint-Out Competition, Main Street,
8 a.m.-4 p.m. Artists will be painting in the streets.

Southern Vermont Art & Craft Festival, Camelot Village, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Also Saturday and Sunday) Over 120 booths of fine art and artisan craftwork, Vermont craft beers, wine, and spirits. Children's activities, and entertainment. Entertainment: Friday -- Saints and Liars; Saturday -- Bob Stannard and Those Dangerous Bluesmen; Sunday-- The Bondville Boys.

First Friday Celebration, Main Street, 5-8 p.m.

Live performances, art walk and gallery tour, late night shopping and more. Programs available at the Downtown Visitor Center and at all participating downtown businesses.

Front Porch Music Series, Town Office Lawn, 6-8 p.m. Mo Rancourt Sextet. Free

Bennington Museum, Main Street, 5-8 p.m. Pay-what-you-will entrance fee. Free coffee in gift shop, and gifts for the first 20 people.

Bennington Center for the Arts, Route 9, 10 a.m.-5.p.m. Covered Bridge Museum, plus exhibits "Impressions of New England," Laumeister fine art
collection, "Art of the Animal Kingdom." (Also Saturday and Sunday.)

Bennington College at Usdan Gallery, 12-4 p.m.

"Abstraction: Modernist Masters from the Bennington Collection." Free admission. (Also Saturday and Sunday.)

Saturday, Aug. 2

Bennington Museum, Main Street, 11 a.m.-3.p.m.

Norman Rockwell Models Reunion

11-11:45 a.m. and 1:30-2:15 p.m. Models' slides and stories (Jamie Franklin and model speakers)

2:15-3 p.m. "Our Neighbor Norman," a film project by Matthew Miele.

Park McCullough House, North Benningtonm 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Living Room Theater, "The Cherry Orchard," a comedy by Anton Chekhov.

"Sip and Swirl" painting event at Wave on Main Street, 7 p.m. Create your own piece of artwork.

Sunday, Aug. 3

Bennington Museum, Main Street, 5-8 p.m.

Adult tickets for the festival are $8 each day.

More information about Bennington Arts Weekend is available at betterbennington.com.