Wednesday May 22, 2013

Two events that are worth staying home for this holiday weekend kick off in Bennington this Saturday and Sunday.

On Saturday, May 25, the 28th annual Mayfest arts and crafts festival will bring thousands of visitors downtown for several blocks' worth arts, craft and food vendors as well as live entertainment.

Main Street will be closed to vehicle traffic between North and Valentine streets, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., foot and stroller traffic will abound at the popular annual festival organized by the Better Bennington Corp. The free event is dog-friendly and will include a tent where canine visitors can cool off and relax.

The Walloomsac Farmers Market will move from its usual Saturday morning outdoor spot on Depot street to become part of the festival at Valentine Street.

According to John Shannahan, director of Better Bennington Corp., roughly 150 vendors will be peddling their wares along Main Street as part of Mayfest. Any event that draws up to 15,000 people to town must be good for business. Some Main Street shops may be holding sidewalk sales to capitalize on the crowd and join in the fun.

Sunday, May 26, will mark the launch of Catamount Prowl 2013, a community street art event that will run through October. Tonight a party will be held at the Brush Building on North Street to unveil a number of the hand-painted catamounts. The public is invited to mingle with the cats tonight for an admission fee of $10, which includes refreshments and a champagne toast. See related story on page 1A.

Organized by the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, the annual event raises money and awareness for the Bennington community and its businesses.

Lindy Lynch, immediate past president of the chamber board, said the endeavor is designed to bring people to Bennington.

"It's not just for the chamber of commerce, it's to increase tourism in the town," she said. "We don't want people to just drive by Bennington, we want them to get out of the car, spend some time and stay the night."

Catamount Prowl 2013 will feature about 50 Fiberglas catamount statues that have been creatively designed and painted over many hours by local artists. It's quite a committment as these are no tiny cats -- the statues are seven feet tall and 6.5 feet wide.

The majestic cats are sponsored by local businesses including The Bennington Banner, which is proud to sponsor "Cattitude," a catamount that is in the process of being painted by our talented resident artist -- and marketing director -- Rae Tetlow.

The completed statues will be displayed at various businesses and points of interest around town for the next five months. At the end of the Prowl, the statues will auctioned off at a gala event slated for Oct. 26. Prior years' events included Moosefests, in 2005 and 2009, and Palletfest in 2006. The three events together raised nearly $600,000. Some of the proceeds are given to area nonprofits, some goes back to the artists, and some stays with the chamber, according to organizers.

The completed catamount statues will hit the streets this Sunday or shortly thereafter. For more information, visit www.CatamountProwl.com.

Events like Mayfest and community projects like Catamount Prowl 2013 help to downtown Bennington to stay vital and to remain a place where folks from out of town would like to stop and stay awhile.

Join the crowds this weekend on Main Street.

~Michelle Karas