NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON -- A well-established craft show will bring thousands of visitors to Bennington this summer when it relocates from Manchester.
The Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival has been held at the Hildene Meadowlands in Manchester for more than three decades, according to organizer Tim Cianciola. But Hildene officials told Cianciola and others that use the field about two years ago that the land would be transitioned back to agriculture use.
"We were at Hildene forever. Several years ago they made the determination that they wanted to convert that field for other uses," Cianciola said. "That wasn't our choice by any stretch of the imagination. We would have been very content to stay there, but we didn't have any choice in the matter."
The three-day festival, which runs from Aug. 2 through Aug. 4, will be held on the grounds of Camelot Village, which hosts the Garlic Festival on Labor Day weekend. The location was chosen after searching the Manchester area, according to Cianciola.
"We looked around Manchester pretty hard for locations. In particular, we worked with Riley Rink to move the show there," he said. "Bennington was one of the places, we knew about the Garlic Fest and stuff."
Organizers were "kind of stuck" with choosing a new location, but officials in Bennington, including the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, have been "very, very receptive," according to Cianciola.
"We're going to try to make the best of it. We're reaching out to the Bennington community. They're very appreciative to have the show move there. The different organizations in town are very happy to work with us, so we do see an upside there," he said. "We're going to try to make it positive and see how it goes."
Many of the visitors to the show come from Albany, N.Y., and Pittsfield, Mass., according to Cianciola. Moving the show to Bennington brings the show closer to them, and could help draw additional visitors, he said.
The shift in Hildene's use of the land will also impact other organizations, including the annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. "They've all been asked to leave," Cianciola.
Manchester's loss looks to be Bennington's gain for some time. Moving the festival requires immense planning, and organizers are not likely to look beyond Bennington any time soon, he said.
"Shows aren't that portable," Cianciola said. "We've really got a lot of work to do to establish a show down there. It really wouldn't be practical to move it back."
The show will feature a large, center tent with exhibitors. There will also be surrounding outdoor booths, and a tent with about 20 specialty food makers. A separate beer and wine tent with live music will also be included.
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