BENNINGTON — The 31st annual Mayfest will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free.
Main Street will welcome over 125 crafters of wood, pottery glass metal fabric jewelry and more. School Street will house all food and there will be a variety of entertainment and live music scattered between South Street and Valentine Street. The event is expected to draw about 12,000 people.
Entertainment consists of a dunking booth hosted by Mount Anthony Union High School, a jump rope challenge hosted by Southwestern Vermont Health Care, rock climbing, a National Guard fitness center, Trustco Bank bouncy house, Four-H indoor shooting range, Anytime Fitness face painting, Planned Parenthood bubble blowing, Cancer Center Community Crusaders stained glass art and United Way paper flower crafts.
There will be five stages for music, featuring soloists Anna Butcher on violin, and folk singer Ben Mackin on guitar, Arlington based band Legato Blues, indie rock band Immune Friction, reggae and world-fusion band from Albany, N.Y. Dread Resistors, bluegrass group Hale Mountain Pickers, The Lost with Vermont Arts Exchange, the Wild Country Cloggers and the Crossover Cloggers.
Mayfest was originally organized through merchant associations, John Shannahan executive director of the Better Bennington Corporation (BBC) said, and it emerged from Midnight Madness; BBC evolved with it. Tents used to be set up along the sidewalks on Main Street, but left the middle congested and some merchants were being overlooked. Now, tent quads are placed in the middle of the street so that businesses can spill out onto the sidewalk, and visitors can access tents from all sides. Each quad has four 10 by 10 tents.
Shannahan started at BBC 10 years ago, which is when the booth setup was changed.
"Merchants now have very good days during Mayfest," he said. "People when they're at events or big crowds like that, it can get crowded between the booths. They feel like they're rushed. We have the luxury of a lot of room."
Shannahan said there's a psychology behind the festival setup. Tents are arranged to leave designated standing space every 75 feet. There are different categories for vendors, and they're strategically placed amongst each other so that not one quad has same or competing products.
Jewelry is one of the biggest categories for craft shows, in which a cap for vendors was set at 18, Shannahan said. Nonprofit organizations receive a discount on admission, which is optional, and they are required put on an activity and not just hand out pamphlets of information or sell items. There are roughly 25 nonprofits attending.
"The purpose for that is, because there are so many nonprofits that want to be in the show, we don't allow them to just hand out information," he said. "You [organization] can host an activity, usually a children's activity. That way, you engage the children and somebody else can engage the parents. So, it works out. There's face painting, stained glass art, bubble blowing, dunking booth, indoor shooting range, bouncy house, VNA [Visiting Nursing Association] Hospice will do blood pressure screening. Everyone does a little so it's interactive."
Crafters travel from all over the northeast with the furthest being Rhode Island. Shannahan said the event is advertised in trade magazines up and down the east coast.
"Anecdotal we all ask them [Merchants] face to face, 'Was it a good day?'" he said. "If it wasn't, we work with them and say, 'What do you think you can do next year or we can do next year to take advantage of?'"
Merchants who don't think they'll sell much on Saturday, such as appliance stores, will supply Mayfest coupons so consumers remember to return. Shannahan said next year reusable Bennington bags will be made for the festival.
Pets are strongly discouraged due to the variety of activities and food served, however, Second Chance Animal Shelter will provide a free pet care booth at Valentine Street next to a water station.
BBC rented the bathrooms at the First Baptist church, and those will be available for use as well as two port-a-johns and the Bennington Free Library.
Trash cleanup is taken care of by the MAU Dollars for Scholars group. Shannahan estimated 40 to 50 volunteers will help with Mayfest. The Interact Club at the high school will act as the hospitality team visiting booths throughout the day offering water, food, and bathroom breaks.
"We want this to be their most enjoyable show. Whether it's their most profitable show, we're not sure," John Shannahan executive director of the Better Bennington Corporation (BBC) said. "But we make sure they feel very welcomed, very informed and paid attention to."
The Bennington Farmer's Market will run during the same time, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the river walk on Depot Street. At Fiddlehead at Four Corners, the Mount Anthony Union Middle School will have art showcased.
There will be no overnight parking on May 27. Main Street down to Valentine Street will be closed to motor vehicles from 4 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
For more information visit www.betterbennington.com.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.