Vermont Arts Council

In the Height of the Season

We’re at the tipping point.

The ground has warmed since the solstice; the days are as hot as they get. Cicadas sing. And when you notice the sun sets earlier you hear the call. “Get out. Now. Grab what’s left of summer while it’s here.”

Get out on the road with the windows down. Get out on the lawn and picnic or dance, listen, or watch. Whatever your groove is, and whichever #VTArts251 towns you still need to score, look to a festival as a solution. These events abound in Vermont in August and September.

It’s a Tradition

Randolph’s New World Festival takes place downtown September 1. Main Street is closed to traffic; the Chandler Center for the Arts and Bethany Church (as a performance venue) are open, and all-weather tents line the street. This is a celebration of Vermont’s Celtic and French Canadian heritage. Expect traditional music and dance, and be on the lookout for some not-so-traditional.

Have you been to Peacham? It lies between Danville and Ryegate and is home to the Peacham Acoustic Music Festival held August 16 and 17. The event features national performers dishing up “a blend of the old- and the new-roots music from the Celtic traditions, old-time fiddle tunes, and a touch of blues and bluegrass—not to mention The Dance!!” There’s also something called the Band Scramble: put your name in the hat to create a few new ensembles. Just a heads up: the scramble is for the adventuresome only.

Organizers of the Green Mountain Bluegrass Festival encourage you to fly, ride, or drive to Manchester Center. They also say you won’t want to leave once you’re there. Whether you trek the one hundred miles from Burlington or the one hundred miles from Hartford, Connecticut, you’re promised four days (August 15-18) of “a variety of bluegrass, roots, and Americana music from both icons of the industry and innovative up-and-coming artists.”

Some Fancy Folk

It’s two days on the green, family-friendly, and with a lineup this year that includes the Milk Carton Kids and Shawn Colvin. Soak it all in at the Spruce Peak Folk Festival, where attendees can partake of live performances, food, local brews, and fun for all. August 10-11.

Now in its fifteenth year, the Plymouth Folk and Blues Festival happens at the President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site in Plymouth Notch August 31 and September 1. Vermont musicians and internationally known artists team up to provide two days of free concerts (yes, free—though you can certainly make a donation). Wagon rides and face painting are available for the youngsters.

Chasing Chamber Music

Jim Lowe wrote last year in the Rutland Herald of two long-standing chamber music festivals. He ended with “Both the Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival and Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival have become integral parts of the Vermont music experience. Aren’t we lucky?”

The Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival takes place August 12-25 mostly in Randolph at the Chandler Center for the Arts with some performances in Woodstock. This festival is solid in the classic sounds of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms without shorting Klezmer!

Musicians at the Yellow Barn Music Festival. Photo by Ben Bocko.

The Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival in Chittenden County presents concerts, masterclasses, gallery talks, and radio presentations through August 10.

Counterpoint works big magic in Southern Vermont, also. Preeminent players will perform just three more concerts including the finale August 3 at the Yellow Barn Music Festival in Putney; two weeks remain in the Marlboro Music Festival. After that, head to the Pikes Falls Chamber Music Festival to soak in a wide range of programming in Townshend, Brattleboro, and Jamaica through August 10. Multimedia work is included, and the 2019 artist in residence has something to show.

I’ll Just Watch, Thanks

The team at Dorset Theatre Festival describe their work well with “We discover new talent. We launch new plays that go on to national acclaim and the lights of Broadway. We mount regional premiers of Tony Award-winning plays to bring the best of Off-Broadway to Vermont.” Still in the queue for August are Mrs. Christie, a world premiere, and Slow Food, a new comedy.

Make plans to get to Randolph ASAP if you want to catch the last weekend of the Chandler’s Pride Theater Festival. There’s one more showing of each: A Late Snow (August 2), Standing in This Place: Growing Up LGBTQ in Rural Vermont (August 3), and All Together Now (August 4).

A Little Bit of Everything

The Mad River Valley’s Vermont Festival of the Arts is well underway, but book talks, workshops, exhibits, concerts, and one-on-one photography instruction are still available through September. This series of gatherings is in its twenty-second year, and has been deemed a “Time-Honored Event” by the Vermont Department of Tourism. There is surely something to pique your interest!

The intersection of State Routes 7 and 4 is downtown Rutland. Vermont’s second-largest city continues to vie for its share of Vermont’s creative economy as the Chaffee Art Center holds the fifty-seventh annual offering of Art in the Park August 10 and 11. Artists showing jewelry, fine art, fiber art, and photography as well as works in clay, wood, and glass fill the green. Music and face painting round out the offerings.

Thirty vendors, two days, and a green as quaint as you’ll find in Vermont. The Woodstock Art Festival makes for a perfect September (8-9) weekend full of art, live music, and food.

The Chelsea Arts Collective holds the Arts on the Green Market and Festival on the historic village’s North Common August 31. Their on-purpose messaging draws a crowd from all over New England to experience “a unique experience that is interactive and accessible to all lovers of the arts.”

Visitors from all over the Northeast head to the Southern Vermont Art and Craft Festival each year where “juried fine art and craft exhibitors line outdoor paths and fill soaring white tents with expertly handcrafted creations.” Close to two hundred exhibitors show work in a wide variety of style and medium! Specialty foods and artisan spirits are in a separate section. August 2-4 in Manchester.

Music, art, beer, and camping on the slopes of Mount Ellen are the call to Bear North August 2-3. Arts vendors and workshops as well as interactive installations and live music intersect with craft beers and delicious food. Pink Talking Fish will headline. Bring your tent!

Outside the Box

Mr. Spin at a previous Festival of the Fools.

Who knew Springfield was the SteamPunk Capitol of Vermont? Apparently, Melody Reed and Sabrina Smith did. Two friends had lunch, started a Facebook group, then joined forces with a local attorney to found the Springfield Steampunk Festival. If you’ve been waiting to see the Dust Bowl Faeries—a dark carnival band based in Hudson, New York—September 21 is the day.

The Festival of the Fools on Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace is all about busking. This gathering “transforms the downtown district into a world of foolish fun” beginning August 2 as it offers “three full days of acrobatic feats, circus arts, quirky comedy, diverse music, and other surprises.” Free family-friendly events are a part of this showcase curated by Burlington City Arts.

Susan McDowell

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