Up to 12,000 expected to turn out for free annual Mayfest event


BENNINGTON -- This Saturday, May 24, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., Bennington will host its 29th annual Mayfest Arts and Craft Festival.

Hosted by the Better Bennington Corporation, the rain or shine event will close down parts of Main Street, Valentine Street, School Street, and Silver Street, and will feature more than 100 artisans, crafters, entertainers, and food vendors. The BBC expects 10,000-12,000 people to show up for the event.

The parking lot of the Lucky Dragon on School Street will be transformed into a "food court," with vendors serving Thai, Indian, German, and American cuisine, along with fresh baked goods, fried dough, crab cakes, ice cream, kettle corn, shaved ice, maple products, and more. According to John Shannahan, executive director of the BBC, there will be plenty of seating, both near the main stage and the food court, as well as on the grass.

"We do things differently than other organizations that put on events like this," said Shannahan, "All of our events are free. Everything we do, we do for the merchants, not as fundraisers." Shannahan said some businesses on Main Street do very good business during the festival, while others use it as a chance to market their goods, and create long-term customers. "It brings a lot of activity to Main Street," he said.

The event will feature five stages, featuring local and regional talent: Stage 1 will be at the Four Corners; Stage 2 will be near Evans' News on Main Street; Stage 3, the Main Stage, will be in the Lucky Dragon parking lot; Stage 4 will be at the intersection of Main Street and Silver Street; and Stage 5 will be at the intersection of Main and Valentine streets.

Headlining will be the Hill Hollow Band, a bluegrass and folk group from New York's Capital Region, and Black Mountain Symphony, an eclectic band, based out of Albany, whose website compares their sound to artists such as Fleetwood Mac, Belle and Sebastian, Yes, and the Dave Matthews Band. Also performing will be the Wild Country Cloggers, childrens entertainer Whirlygigs, classical violinist Anna Peterson, Immune Friction, Barry Hyman, Crossover Cloggers, and more. All of the entertainers at Mayfest will be playing/entertaining for free, but gratuity buckets will be located near each stage for those who wish to donate money.

The Hill Hollow Band, which will perform at 10 a.m. on Stage 3, features a full lineup of talented musicians, including Barry Hyman on pedal steel guitar and electric guitar; Chris Lane on acoustic guitar and vocals; Jeff Dooley on banjo, dobro, accordion, and vocals; Josh Greenberg on saxophone; Marty Satalino on fiddle, mandolin, and vocals; Nora Lamphere on shakers, washboard, and vocals; Terry Lamphere on bass guitar and vocals, and Wayne Lane on acoustic guitar and vocals. According to the band's Facebook page, "The Hill Hollow Band performs with a rambling energy that must be seen to be appreciated. Armed with a multitude of instruments, eclectic arrangements, and musical influences that span a century, this band has a well-earned reputation as local live performance favorites."

Black Mountain Symphony, who will perform at 2 p.m. on Stage 3, describe themselves as showcasing, "an eclectic range of influences, blended together to create their own special sound. From baroque classical violin and haunting folk-tinged ballads to funk-rock drums and hard-hitting dance numbers, the five-piece band sprinkles their live sets with hints of everything from classical music to bits of Motown, blues, and jazz."

Mayfest will also feature a "Kids Zone" in the parking lot of Nichols' garage, which will be home to the 4-H shooting range, the Army National Guard rock wall, the Mount Anthony Union High School football team dunking booth, and the Trustco Bank bouncy house. Kids will also be able to participate in face-painting and hair-braiding hosted by area not-for-profits. There will also be indoor Infant Care and Canine Care stations for adults with young children or pets to find solitude.

Shannahan said that the planning for each year's Mayfest begins a week after the previous year's event. "The frustrating thing," he said, "Is the things that go perfect, the things we really nail on the head, we have to change them as well. We want people to come every year and say, ‘Oh, this is new' or ‘This is different than last year!' We really want to keep things interesting."

Mayfest is free and open to the public, and free parking will be available in any of the municipal lots and along many of the side streets.

Information booths will be located at the Four Corners and at the food court. Public restrooms will be located at the BBC, the First Baptist Church, and the Public Library, with porta-potties available in the lot behind TD Bank.

The BBC also wants to remind those attending Mayfest that during the event's run all of downtown Bennington's shops will be open for business, and that the Bennington Farmers' Market will be in full swing from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. around the corner on Depot Street at River Walk Park.

Derek Carson can be reached for comment at dcarson@benningtonbanner.com. Follow him on Twitter @DerekCarsonBB


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