Manchester welcomes 30th annual arts, crafts festival
MANCHESTER, Vt. — Cooler days, but still pleasant sunshine in southwest Vermont means one thing: leaf season is just around the corner.
And while all those heralds of change signal the arrival of fall, in one village, it also means that families, friends and visitors will get to enjoy the 30th Annual Manchester Fall Art and Craft Festival.
The event brings thousands to Manchester, which benefits the entire community, according to the Wilburton Inn family innkeeper, Melissa Levis. She said the event is one that the inn's visitors, as well as "everyone in town looks forward to."
"The craft fair has been a favorite fall event for our guests," Levis said. "Manchester is a creative and cultural hub with fantastic art galleries and museums, so welcoming talented artisans for a three-day festival is a perfect addition to the community."
The festival — one of the area's best attended — was held for years at Hildene Meadows in the lowlands of the great Lincoln family estate. Over the past four years, however, with Hildene increasing its mission focus on environmental stewardship, organic agriculture and sustainable environments, the meadows were returned to their former natural state and a new home had to be found.
After being hosted at several locations in town, this year's edition will take place at Riley Rink, giving it a combined indoor-outdoor vibe.
The rink will be the main venue, but activities and vendors will spill outdoors surrounding the rink. The festival will run 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, Friday through Sunday. Adult daily admission is $10, and a weekend pass runs just $12. Children can enter free, and parking is also free. Pets are not allowed in any festival venues.
Tim Cianciola, partner of event managers Craftproducers, is once again organizing this year's festival. He said early fall is an ideal time, and Manchester a well-proven destination, for both locals and visitors to make the weekend day trip, and "to stop in for a good time."
"It's a great way to spend a fall day in Vermont, without going too far," Cianciola said. "You can have a nice drive and the event will be fun. There will be an amazing variety of handmade goods to view and you just might purchase something special. You'll get a chance to buy local and meet with talented artists who hand-make things for a living."
As has been the tradition from earlier festivals, there will be live entertainment on the main stage, Cianciola said, and local food and beverages vendors in the food court, which will also feature American craft brews. Well-known artists will also be present.
"There will be decorative and functional items for sale, as well as wine, spirits, jewelry, clothing and more," Cianciola said. "Several exhibitors will be demonstrating their crafts, too."
One of the vendors who plies her wares at the festival year after year is Ava Hu, a mixed-media artist from the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y. Her business is Avalove, a purveyor of hand-printed ready-to-wear women's apparel and T-shirts, which she says her New York studio "prints each piece, one poem, one metaphor at a time."
Hu also enthusiastically expressed how one-on-one encounters with customers make a difference in the quality of her creations.
"It makes such a difference to be able to come to shows like this and meet so many amazing people in person," Hu said. "The reason shows like this make such a difference for artists like me is because Avalove is a grassroots effort, built by the all of the people who buy and wear Avalove from all over the world. We would not be open without each and every one of [them], and without shows like the ones Craftproducer's create."
In all, the festival is an event many locals look to as the start of fall, and which also draws many visitors said Tammie Reilly, executive director of GNAT-TV.
"Every year, I look forward to the festival," Reilly said. "It's a great place to find handmade gifts, try interesting food and most of all enjoy the autumn weather."
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