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Editorial: It takes a village to keep a festival vibrant

As Middlebury’s 37th Festival on-the-Green kicks off this Sunday, we paused to consider what it takes to make a festival so beloved.
It takes a lot of creative energy, hard work, restless nights and thousands of volunteer hours over the past 37 years.
It takes committees researching musical acts for the twice-nightly performances, plus magicians and a whole other set of performers for the kid shows each noon. It means reaching out to them, getting rejections, negotiating prices, and finally booking the 17 acts each year.
It takes an army of volunteers, year after year, to put on the show they love, knowing that without them good things can fade and run their course.
It takes an effort to recruit new converts to be the soldiers of tomorrow, to reinvent and create anew. It’s the hard work of perpetuating cultural events that so enrich our lives.
It takes coordination with town crews to set up the tent, assemble the 200 chairs, be sure the lawn is mown and grounds prepared for the inevitable rain.
It takes flexibility and being willing to shift locations when need be to accommodate town development, and working hard to let everyone know that this year the event is, once again, actually OFF-the-Green at the town rec park near the Mary Hogan Elementary School.
It takes thoughtful marketing and branding, changing themes to keep it fresh and exciting while maintaining tradition. It takes working with partners and creating new friends along the way.
It takes a belief in the value of something so deeply that you make it part of your life.
Tip your hats, then, to all those volunteers — and to all those performers — who have contributed to the Festival on-the-Green’s success over these past 37 years. The festival kicked off this year’s show on Sunday with Caroline Rose’s mix of Northern grit and Southern charm playing rockabilly, vintage country and blues. Brown Bag specials start on Monday and go through the week with magicians and musicians to entertain the kids. Ten Strings and a Goat Skin lead off the show at 7 p.m. on Monday night with their unique blend of folk music, followed by the 24th Street Wailers and their “raw, gritty and funky” blues. And the great music continues throughout the week through Saturday when the Vermont Jazz Ensemble takes the stage for its annual street dance — so bring your dancing shoes, or take off what you have and dance barefoot.
And here’s the kicker: Give back if you have fun.
Ask how you might be able to help at next year’s event. Join a committee. If that’s too ambitious, the daily shows are free, but donation buckets are passed around at each performance. Put in $5 or $10, as you would if you were to go to a movie, or $20 for a family’s night out. Or become a sponsoring member if you believe the festival adds to the enrichment of our community. It takes big money ($40,000 or more annually) to put on the show for the enjoyment of us all. Support is needed to keep it vibrant and relevant. Information to join can be found at www.festivalonthegreen.org. Contributions of $100 or more can be one of the best ways to ensure the Festival reaches middle age.
In the end, after all, it takes a village of many supporters to thrive for 37 years.
Angelo S. Lynn

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