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In new location, Festival on-the-Green still a success

MIDDLEBURY — The 36th annual Festival on-the-Green was a “tremendous success,” said festival Board President David Andrews, despite the initial scheduling conflicts that resulted in the event actually being held off the green at the Middlebury Recreation Park.
The festival concluded on Saturday, July 12, after a week of concerts, children’s activities, and general revelry. Andrews confirmed that the new venue was a great fit for the event.
“We had a wonderful program and great attendance,” Andrews said, adding that the Anaïs Mitchell, Le Vent du Nord, and Josh Panda and the Hot Damned shows were particularly well attended.
Andrews said that “one nasty weather situation” on Tuesday night briefly interfered with the fun. Wind blew out the back of the tent and the top was blown upwards, moving the support poles. Necessary repairs were made, and the shows proceeded successfully the next night, though a noon show was postponed until later in the week.
Pulling off such an event is not without its tribulations, of course. Andrews, who is in his third year as president of the festival board, acknowledged that planning for the venue change was a “confusing situation” at first.
The festival was moved off the green because last fall the organizers received notice that construction on the railroad underpasses around the green would be under way this summer and that the green would be taken up by staging for that work.
The construction ended up being postponed a year, but since the event had already been publicized as being held off the green, the board chose to stick with the Recreation Park plan.
“The festival will likely stay at the Rec. Park for the next couple of years due to the bridge work,” said Andrews.
The new venue also required infrastructure changes.
“We had to restructure the stage to make it higher, which was a challenge,” Andrews said. The stage at the Rec. Park was 30 inches high, about twice as high as the one previously used at the green.
Other community organizations also vie for space downtown in early July for events such as the St. Stephen’s Church Peasant Market sale and the Lions Club Barbecue, and Andrews said that the new venue has the added benefit of not interfering with those organizations’ plans.
Pat Boera, formerly of Middlebury and currently of Burlington, is the secretary of the board and has been involved with the festival since it started. Although she acknowledged that the new venue saw a reduced number of passersby that dropped in spontaneously, the festival went very well.
“We were all pretty apprehensive at first,” Boera said of the venue change, but “everybody was so gracious, welcoming and helpful.”
Boera emphasized that community organizations, notably the Middlebury Parks and Recreation Department, were very accommodating and easy to work with.
“We have kept a very similar format over the years,” Boera said of the festival. The goal has always been to “keep it simple and focus on the music,” without turning it into a commercial endeavor.
Event organizers pass out comment cards during the shows, and Boera said that the response to the new venue and the shows was very positive.
Attendees anonymously polled described the festival as “enchanting” and “fun for the whole family,” praising the “diversity of choices” and describing the whole event as a “gathering of kindred spirits for free music.”
Boera said that she particularly enjoyed watching the whole crowd, including people up into their 90s, dance at the Wednesday evening concert featuring the band Matuto.
“I don’t think anyone was sitting,” Boera recalled. “And that is a magical thing.” 

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