Vermont artists prepare for Bennington's annual Mayfest
BENNINGTON -- This Saturday, May 24, the streets of downtown will close to traffic to make room for more than 100 vendors offering food, art, crafts, live music and entertainment.
Crafters and artisans will come in from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine and across Vermont, including several newcomers making hand-made goods in Southern Vermont.
Bennington natives Scott Freeman and Kristine McGuire founded Custom Rustic Designs three months ago to make rustic wooden furniture, plaques and home decorations with a distinctive rural Vermont character.
The couple decorates their work with custom wood burning -- text, images, names and decorations. Freeman said they mostly build their custom plaques, clocks, benches and chairs from reclaimed oak and pine. They often start by planing and sanding rough-sawn pieces of lumber.
"I love being able to get barn wood, or anything I can find that has been used," he said.
This year's Mayfest will be Custom Rustic Designs' first craft fair, or public event of any kind, and they're planning to celebrate Memorial Day with a special tribute to America's military veterans and active service members. Freeman and McGuire are working on an oak table they plan to adorn with American flags and a plaque honoring those who have served in the armed forces.
At Mayfest, they will hand out free raffle tickets, eventually holding a drawing to give the table away to one lucky winner.
"We just want to show our gratitude for the veterans and those still serving," Freeman said.
They will also raffle a plaque for children.
Although Freeman splits his time between woodworking and his job as a mechanic, he hopes Custom Rustic Designs will grow to become his main pursuit.
"That's where my passion really is," he said.
At Kelsey's Krafts in Bennington, local crafter Kelsey Rogers makes greeting cards and wooden signs. Rogers started out making meticulous cards out of carefully layered and cut paper. She made her first sign, a "Vermont" sign with a moose on it, from a piece of old barn wood. Since then, she said, she has gotten requests for different sayings and designs, gathering reclaimed boards from her family and friends to give the signs a distressed look.
In business for more than a year, Kelsey's Krafts came to last year's Mayfest, although Rogers hopes for a warmer afternoon this time.
"Last year, it was on the most rainy, cold day in May. It was so windy, two tents blew over before we even started," she said.
But Rogers said she's excited for this year's festival.
"Everyone always expects to widen their business and make a profit, but more than that it's just a great community event," she said. "Everyone comes out, and you can talk and see people, and I think it's a really great way to bring people downtown."
After 41 years as a schoolteacher in Brattleboro, where she used her sewing and design skills to create costumes for student plays, Flo Nestor has created Common Scents Sachets, making one-of-a-kind, silk-and-linen sachets with lavender and balsam. Sachets are small fabric pillows filled with aromatic herbs people have used since ancient and medieval times to freshen rooms, closets, drawers or any other enclosed space.
Nestor's sachets, made with an array of colors, fabrics, ribbons and vintage buttons, look as beautiful as they smell.
"I feel like every sachet I make is like a painting," she said. "Every one is different."
She started Common Scents Sachets a little over a year ago, based in Newfane, and this weekend she will bring them to Mayfest for the first time.
Nestor also makes lavender eye pillows, which she says are popular for yoga, relaxation or to relieve headaches. While the scent can wear off when a sachet sits out in the open, Nestor explained that lavender can hold its fragrance for a very long time in dark, enclosed spaces like closets and drawers.
"They've found lavender in Egyptian tombs that is still scented, which is amazing," she said.
If you go ...
When: Saturday, May 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., rain or shine.
Where: Main Street, Bennington.
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