LUDLOW, Vt. – Intermittent rain didn’t dampen the crowd attending the first year of the Best of Vermont Summer Festival, which drew over 5,000 visitors over the course of the festival’s two days.
Organized by the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, the event featured nearly 60 vendors; six bands providing live music throughout the festival; special performances including clowning and circus entertainment from Troy Wunderlee’s from Big Top Adventures; a live performance by Calvin Coolidge impersonator Tracy Messer; and special activities and demonstrations by vendors including golf games by Fox Run Golf Club, wool spinning demonstrations by Six Loose Ladies, and face painting by Springfield Art Gym.
Carol Lighthall, director of the OVRCC, was delighted with the turnout and the feedback she received from attendees. Saturday was the busier of the two days with “fast and furious” attendance. When rain did come in, it was toward the end of the day so Lighthall felt it wasn’t as much of an impact as it could have been. Sunday was calmer particularly in the morning, which also saw some rain, but saw a steady crowd regardless.
“People felt it was a real family-friendly event. Food was standing room only and the music scheduled throughout worked out really well,” she said. She was particularly proud that the festival offered several interesting free attractions for visitors in addition to their many vendors, including the live music, interactions with the clown, and hearing the Calvin Coolidge impersonator.
There were a few unforeseen glitches to the festival. Unfortunately, weather prevented Balloons of Vermont operator Darrak Daoust from launching his balloon on Saturday evening, the only window of the festival for that event. The advertised Antique and Classic Car show, which Lighthall termed more of a pop-up this year, also didn’t solidly materialize and will be more of a dedicated event next year, she said.
Vendors spoke glowingly of the turnout, especially since it was the first year for the festival. Jenn McBride, who was showcasing her vegan cheese in specialty tacos, was so busy, she sold out of her tacos on the first day. She also praised Lighthall for organizing the event and assembling an impressive mix of vendors and musicians. She said that several attendees she talked to had returned for both days.
Miranda McNamara, custom jewelry designer of Miranda Kae Jewelry, also praised the turnout particularly since she didn’t know what to expect in the first year of the festival. With her positive experience, she said she looks forward to attending again.
Mary Rider, who works at both Wine & Cheese Depot and Stemwinder and was manning their combined booth selling both wine samples and food, also praised the high turnout and said they achieved exactly what they hoped for – to see old friends and reach out and meet a lot of new people. “We wanted to do something where we were part of the community but also looking for a way to reach new people and this was a great way to do that,” she said.
Vendor Kathy Dockum of Night Owl Earrings traveled from Shaftsbury both days to attend the event and wasn’t disappointed with that effort it took to travel back and forth. She praised the crowd size, the event organization, and that it was widely advertised.
Lighthall is already making notes for things she’ll tweak for next year but is pleased that she now has the beginnings of a successful, annual festival that will attract tourists and locals to Ludlow and the Okemo Valley.