|Arts and Crafts Festival|
Craft fairs find new home at Riley Rink
By Mary Miller Lee
The popular summer and fall events commonly known as the Hildene Craft Fairs will move to the field at Manchester’s Riley Rink this year.
The summer show – the Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival – is slated for August 3-5. The fall show, which has been re-named The Manchester Fall Art and Craft Festival, is scheduled to be held September 28-30.
The move was precipitated by Hildene’s decision to return the Hildene Meadow to its original use as working farmland.
In a way, the move “is like coming home,” said Charley Dooley, founder of Craft Producers, which organizes manages and promotes the show. In 1984, Dooley said, he started his first show in Manchester at the Manchester Recreation Center.
Moving the events to the field at Riley Rink is a positive move, said Dooley. Advantages include better public access, as there are two entrances, one on Route 7A and one off Route 30. The site also affords better visibility for show-goers, he said.
Other advantages include some good gravel roads, which make set-up much easier. The soil also has better drainage in the event of rain.
Dooley said he doesn’t see any real disadvantages to the move. “The atmosphere will not change. The field is very pretty with scenic views, and will have the big white tents, music, extensive food offering, and artisan exhibitors who are the heart of the show.”
The shows provide a venue for showcasing Vermont products. Dooley estimates that about half of the artisan exhibitors are from Vermont, with about 10 percent of all exhibitors, including restaurant exhibitors, from the greater Manchester area.
The shows are popular with local residents, as well as visitors who contribute to the local economy. Depending on the weather, the shows draw between 7,000 to 10,000 people, said Dooley: “Many book their visits around the show dates.”
While these numbers are very strong, Dooley recalled that, “in the old days when there were [Volvo] tennis tournaments, and outlet stores weren’t commonplace, the show would draw 15,000 people.”
April 2012 Battenkill Business Journal