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Monday, Dec 5, 2022

Middlebury hosts first Fall Festival and Car Show

The inaugural Middlebury Fall Festival and Car Show is coming to town on Sunday, Oct. 16. Situated in the Triangle Park area of downtown Middlebury, the festival will feature live music, 75 antique cars and the opportunity for attendees to buy food and products from small vendors.

The event will include activities such as raffles and a scavenger hunt throughout the 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. window.

The festival was the product of collaboration between the Addison County Chamber of Commerce and the Better Middlebury Partnership, in an effort to promote local business and build the town community.

“We want people from all over the county to come to Middlebury and experience this, not only the festival itself, but to come down and see the town and the new businesses,” Phil Summers, executive director of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, told The Campus.

Summers said he expects a significant turn-out of attendees; he estimated that the event will attract around 2,000 people from various parts of Vermont to Middlebury’s downtown square.

By promoting engagement with both the vendors at the festival and shops in the town of Middlebury, the Fall Festival and Car Show will bring many new patrons to local businesses. Festivals such as this one offer a unique opportunity for economic stimulation in the town — visitors from out of town can stay in Middlebury’s hotels, eat at the downtown restaurants and enjoy the town community.

According to Karen Duguay, executive director of the Better Middlebury Partnership, efforts like this are particularly important in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, which deeply impacted community members and businesses in the town.

“During the Covid-19 years, it was a little bit like a ghost town at times… The businesses felt it, the community members felt it, the residents felt it — it just wasn’t good,” Duguay told The Campus.

Duguay said she is focused on re-invigorating the vibrancy of the downtown area and the sense of community spirit after it was significantly impacted by the pandemic. Events like this festival are important in achieving this goal.

The completion of long-term construction projects and opening of new stores in town are examples of some of the work that the Addison County Chamber of Commerce and Better Middlebury Partnership have put into town development. Storefronts that were once empty are now attracting new businesses.

“Everybody is focused on bringing Middlebury back, and I think we’re there and now we’re just like, let’s keep going,” Duguay said. “It feels like we’re in a really good place right now in Middlebury.”

Not only will the festival encourage economic regeneration, but it also offers an important opportunity for town residents and the college community to interact.

Duguay said she hopes that students will develop a similar connection to the local community as that of town residents. “It comes back to connection… I just think we all need that now more than ever,” Duguay said.

One student who attended the market, Noah Tyau ’25, said it provided him with many opportunities to engage with the community. He danced to live music with locals and learned about the small businesses and the people that managed them.

Tyau added that the painting he bought from a local artist serves as a constant representation of the sense of community the event provided. “[The Midd Summer Market] was definitely the most I’ve interacted with the town people,” Tyau told The Campus.

Duguay said she greatly values the student perspective in event planning. The Better Middlebury Partnership has been in communication with the Middlebury Student Government Association in an effort to gather student ideas on current and future events.

“The biggest thing is just come. We want students downtown, we want them at these events, we want their presence there,” Duguay said.

Aside from attending the festival, there are several other opportunities for Middlebury students to get involved with this event. Students who wish to sell their products can register to be vendors at the festival up until Oct. 12. Students can also volunteer to help out on the day of the festival. Anyone interested in being involved with the festival or future events can contact Duguay at karen@bettermiddleburypartnership.org.

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