Bridge work in downtown Middlebury prompts Festival on-the-Green to move

MIDDLEBURY — Faced with the prospect of noisy and disruptive construction on the two downtown Middlebury railroad overpasses next summer, organizers of the popular Festival on-the-Green week of outdoor musical performances will temporarily take their show on the road — to the Middlebury Recreation Park off Mary Hogan Drive.
Festival board President David Andrews and Middlebury Parks and Recreation Director Terri Arnold pitched the temporary relocation of the event to the ID-4 school board on Monday. The board quickly endorsed the proposal after gleaning some additional details, including assurances that no alcohol will be served on premises. The ID-4 board oversees uses for the town’s recreation park, located next to Mary Hogan Elementary School.
“The board was very supportive and voted unanimously to accept the proposal, as submitted,” ID-4 Chairwoman Ruth Hardy said on Tuesday. “We are excited to have this partnership.”
Andrews was also pleased about the agreement for the festival, which next year will take place from July 6 to 12. The free, nonprofit event next summer marks its 36th birthday of bringing local and regional musical acts to Addison County’s shire town.
“We are very pleased,” he said. “It will be a good place for the festival.”
Work is scheduled to begin next spring on replacement of the Main Street and Merchants Row overpasses, which are deteriorating. Plans call for the spans to be replaced with a concrete tunnel. The tunnel construction would allow enough clearance for double-stack rail cars while giving the downtown some extra surface area by filling in the space between Triangle Park and the town green.
The prospect of disruptive excavation work, and at the very least construction noise, prompted festival organizers to seek the temporary move. St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church on the green has historically provided space on its grounds and within its building for some festival activities, too.
Festival organizers specifically asked to use the “warming hut” and an area south of it at the recreation park on which to erect the 40-foot-by-60-foot tent and stage for performers. As usual, spectators will bring their own chairs and blankets.
The warming hut will provide hospitality for the performers and will serve as a base of operations for festival staff and volunteers. In order to serve food, organizers might request installation of an outlet for an electrical stove (an expense to be covered by the festival). Two portable toilets will be placed on site, one of which will be accessible to disabled persons.
On Saturday, July 12, the festival street dance will be held in the Mary Hogan Elementary School parking lot. Organizers are pleased with the on-site parking possibilities and will encourage festival attendees (who will be driving) to also use lots at the nearby county courthouse and municipal pool for nighttime shows.
The festival board will provide overnight, paid security to monitor the site throughout the festival.
Andrews said that while the recreation park site is flatter and won’t offer as much shade as at the town green, it will have more parking options and should be freer of traffic noise. The temporary recreation park site should also be very convenient for children attending summer programs on Mary Hogan Elementary School grounds. Those students have, in the past, been walked to kid-friendly, mid-day festival entertainment at the green.
Andrews said it’s possible permission will be sought to hold the festival again at the recreation park in 2015, depending on the duration of work on the overpasses.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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