Fallapalooza finds its groove

BENNINGTON — Downtown Bennington opened its doors to trick-or-treaters on Saturday afternoon for the annual Fallapalooza street festival.

During the festival by the Bennington Downtown Alliance and downtown businesses, children dressed up in their Halloween costumes went store-to-store for candy. Vendors were stationed throughout the street with activities, food, and other goodies.

Live entertainment was offered throughout the day. Entertainment ranged from cloggers to a ukulele ensemble. A flash mob kicked off the day's activities.

Fallapalooza had record crowds, according to John Shannahan, executive director of the Bennington Downtown Alliance. He said that not long after the festival began the streets were full of eager trick-or-treaters.

Children and their families from the local region attend the festival and some travel from outside the county. Even some vendors come from as far away as Rhode Island to attend, Shannahan said.

"Fallapalooza is our way of wrapping up the fall foliage and the summer season," he said. "It also introduces a lot of businesses to the public for the first time."

The festival helps make people aware of what downtown Bennington has to offer and it helps bring business to each shop, Shannahan added.

The event is the second to last event held by the Bennington Downtown Alliance for the year, with their final one set for just after Thanksgiving. The organization also hosts downtown events like Mayfest and Midnight Madness.

The annual festival began in 2011 and was created after turnout decreased for the Great Pumpkin Challenge. The group sought to bring a different fall event to the community and created Fallapalooza. The festival is similar to Mayfest.

Activities expanded beyond Main Street over to the Four Corners. A haunted shuttle bus brought attendees to the area, where they could visit The Tap House at Catamount Glass, Bennington Potters, and the Hawkins House.

The Tap House offered Ciderpalooza and Hawkins House had free pumpkin carving and painting. The Bennington Potters gave free tours and offered other activities for kids.

Roaming Railroad provided small train rides down Main Street and other vendors offered small games for children such as ring tosses and much more. There was also a small petting zoo with goats, where children could feed the animals food. Children could also get their faces painted.

Shannahan said that some shops and organizations opened up specially for the festival, such as Hoisington Reality, which is not normally open on Saturdays.

Each store started the day off with 1,000 pieces of free candy. Orange signs hung in each window front, advertising candy. As the stores ran out, they were instructed to take signs down.

"It was so much better than last year," Lucy Gardner-Carson said, as she sat outside of the Bennington Bookshop. She volunteered to pass out candy for the business, as she is not a regular store employee. Gardner-Carson dressed up as a lion.

"Last year it was cold and raining," she said. "It's been a lot of fun to see the variety of costumes and seeing people out. Fallapalooza gets people out and together, it also gives people something good to think about."

Vendors varied from small local businesses, to crafters, and much more.

Green Mountain Concessions was stationed at the event with pink vanilla, blue raspberry, and maple syrup flavored cotton candy available for purchase. Sarah Perrin, who owns the business with her husband, Mike Nigro, said that many kids and their families showed up at their stand. This was their second year selling cotton candy at the event.

"It was nice and we had a great time," Perrin said. "The weather was much better than last year, it was a beautiful day. We also enjoyed seeing people we know from Bennington and being able to talk to them throughout the day, as we do few events in town."

Shannahan said that next month the Bennington Downtown Alliance will meet to discuss Fallapalooza and see which ways that they can continue to expand and improve the event. The group researches for each event that they hold.

Their last event will be after Black Friday — the National Small Business Saturday — where people are encouraged to go to downtown stores and do holiday shopping. This year, it falls on Nov. 25.

To learn more about the Bennington Downtown Alliance visit the Bennington Downtown Alliance Facebook page or their website, www.betterbennington.com.


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