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Monday, May 20, 2024

Bristol Harvest Festival brings local community together for 24 years

While the word “harvest” is typically associated with farms, gardens and Thanksgiving, this year’s Bristol Harvest Festival had much more to offer — 70 vendors sold crafts, local goods and food while local musicians performed live music all day.

The Addison County Chamber of Commerce and the Bristol Recreation Department sponsored the 24th annual Bristol Harvest Festival on Saturday, Sept. 23. The event took place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the Bristol Town Green. With attendees’ cars lined up on Route 116 before Main Street was even visible, the festival would have been difficult for anyone to miss.

The festivities also featured trolley rides into town with New Haven, Vt.-based Thornapple Farm, and pony rides for children hosted by the Harvest Moon Valley Ranch in Starksboro, Vt.. 

Phil Summers, executive director of the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, sat down with The Campus at the festival to discuss the event’s community-building goals.

“It’s a fun family event to bring people to Bristol who don’t normally come here on a regular basis and also to work for the people of Bristol and hopefully help with businesses downtown,” Summers said.

When asked what their favorite booth was, many attendees of the festival said that Green Mountain Kettle Corn is a must-try. Maple kettle corn, maple cotton candy and maple syrup are some of their best-known offerings, appealing to adults and kids alike at the festival. 

In addition to the ample goods available for purchase, the festival also offered visitors the opportunity to learn about several community services.These groups included Vermont Gas Systems, a Vermont-based integrated energy services company promoting a pump water heating system, and Addison County Readers, an organization working to improve literacy rates in preschool children through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library. The Bristol Have-A-Heart Food Shelf, Mountain Community Health Center and Northlands Job Corps Center also participated in the event. 

The music performances were all by local artists — Rick Ceballos and Lausanne Allen, Bob Recupero, Whiskey & Wine, and the Michele Fay Band all performed under the gazebo in the Town Green. Summers said that the people of Bristol want to hear “folky, homey and soft-rock” music, especially during a family event. The audience’s enjoyment came through as one festival-goer danced happily on the grass song after song.

In addition to supporting local businesses and community members, the Bristol Harvest Festival works with national organizations such as The Three Day Stampede Toward the Cure for Cystic Fibrosis, which held a Walk-a-thon through Bristol Village and a 5k Run from Mt. Abraham High School to the Bristol Green. Green Mountain Health also offered health exams for kids during the event. 

While many attendees of the Harvest Festival came from Addison County, the festival’s large size can attract people from all over Vermont, Summers said. Large community events like the annual harvest festival support not only the artists and craftspeople selling from booths, but also help bring tourism to small towns in Vermont, he added. 

“At the Chamber, we market our members, we market tourism to the county, and we advocate in Montpelier for businesses and nonprofits that are members of ours,” Summers told The Campus. He explained that in many ways, the Bristol Harvest Festival functions as a marketing event for all three of these avenues — it encourages tourism, helps local businesses increase their visibility and brings the community together. 

Especially in late September through October when leaf-peeping is at its prime, many people travel significant distances to experience the beauty of fall in Vermont. Nestled at the base of the Green Mountains, the Bristol Harvest Festival is the perfect setting to experience Vermont autumn at its finest.