BENNINGTON >> A little bit of heat didn't stop thousands of people from taking to Main Street on Saturday for the 31st annual Mayfest.
Food, craft vendors, community organizations and live music were on tap for one of the biggest events in downtown Bennington.
"We've lived in town for a couple years but have never been to Mayfest," Megan McNamara said. "We wanted to check out what's going on."
McNamara, her husband Kiernan and their three children had just stopped by the Bennington Rescue Squad table for free stickers.
At the ambulance service's special operations trailer, passersby could grab free swag, learn about new CPR guidelines and cool off in front of one of two mister fans.
The fans provided some relief from the heat during the event. But they serve a more official purpose during an emergency situation and are the same ones used under the rehabilitation unit for the squad, explained Executive Director Forest Weyen.
"If we're outside for a long time during an emergency, we need to cool responders off," Weyen said. "Our responders won't be doing well in that heat.
Four-legged friends need to stay cool, too, and organizers accommodated them. Over at the Second Chance Animal Center booth, dogs of all shapes and sizes were grabbing drinks
Executive Director Cathi Comar said she and others wanted to make it a dog-friendly event for the furry fellows that turned out for Mayfest. Biscuits and cool, fresh water were on the menu.
She said that in addition to talking shop with animal lovers, events like Mayfest are great ways to connect with community members. Her group was one of 25 non-profit organizations with information and activity booths.
"In a world of texting, it's nice to meet people face to face," Comar said. "We talk about people's pets, volunteer opportunities, our programs and services, and pets we have for adoption."
Nearby, five stages hosted live music on a rotation to make sure attendees had a spring in their step wherever they went.
Local businesses, like retail stores, pubs and restaurants, had steady customers. The Bennington Fire Department ran a concessions stand. And food trucks on School Street served up standard fair like pizza, burgers and fried dough as well as ethnic dishes like Indian, German and Thai.
Over 125 crafters and artisans from the region, the majority hailing from Vermont, were selling a variety of goods: From metal and glass jewelry and other items, to handmade signs made from reclaimed wood, to "upcycled" t-shirts, to lawn sculptures made from manure.
At least 200 people took the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center's jump rope challenge, said Ashley Jowett with the hospital.
"We've had a whole family jumping at once," she said. "People who wouldn't normally interact were cheering each other on. It was an amazing thing to see."
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979