Op/Ed

Letter to the editor: BMP official explains rationale for special events

First of all, congratulations to the Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP) and the Addison County Chamber of Commerce (ACCOC) for brainstorming, planning and executing one of my new favorite one-day downtown events! The 1st Annual Middlebury Car Show and Fall Festival was, by my account, a smashing success! What thrilled me most was to see such a huge cross-section of people from locals to out-of-towners, from car enthusiasts to craft fair shoppers, from kids to adults, from foodie food trucks to fried chicken and so much in between! For more than 15 years or so, I’ve been involved in planning, attending, chairing and volunteering at events in this town. I have a lot of experience…and I’ve heard a LOT of feedback. I’m thrilled that 99% of the comments from friends, neighbors, fellow business owners, colleagues and attendees were all positive. But, as you might understand, we cannot please everyone and those who are not pleased have been more vocal than in previous years.

I would like our community to know, and to understand, why we put on these events and how we hope to engage as many people as we can.

1) We love this town. We want other people to love this town and the greater Middlebury community. Most of our events are free to the public and we aim to maintain that. Cost should not be a barrier to entry at such fun stuff! We also know that a community thrives when more of its residents are engaged. At every turn, the BMP tries to foster community engagement by giving people the opportunity to volunteer and give back to the community. We continually collaborate with other organizations, like we did with the chamber for this event or as we’ve done recently with the Town Hall Theater during the Midd Summer Market series, and giving folks the opportunity to attend one of these great events that helps them feel connected to one another and our town.

2) Middlebury has a lot to offer. We have great coffee shops, restaurants, retail establishments, clothing, experiences, hardscape parks, green space, heck, we even have a rail platform now in this small town. When we plan an event, we want to expose these attributes to locals and visitors. Downtown changes on a regular basis. Can you name all the shops in our downtown? If you answered no, then you are also our target audience!

3) We want to support local businesses by highlighting them and bringing people into the downtown space. This includes our local creators, artisans and entrepreneurs. As you might have noticed, the BMP held 18 Midd Summer Markets this year between the end of May and the beginning of October. We were able to provide a space for nearly a hundred local vendors to sell produce, pottery, t-shirts, handmade bags, spirits, canned goods, to-go food and so much more. It was well received by the vendors and the folks that made their way downtown to shop, socialize and support these wonderfully talented people. The weekly market also served as an important tool in revitalizing the downtown after construction and Covid. The area was rejuvenated and filled with energy on these evenings, despite some weather challenges!

4) We hold events on just about every day of the week during the year. There’s always a compelling reason, but sometimes the day we choose is bad for some local businesses/ establishments but really great for others. This is just the nature of the situation. It is simply impossible to pick a day/time that works best for all our local businesses AND will bring people to an event downtown. The wheels of commerce have to move in order for success to permeate our local businesses and events, like the Car Show/Fall Festival, do just that.

In this social media, dare I say, post-COVID era, there are lots of ways to express an opinion. Please take a moment to reflect on the fact that the organizers of events have ONLY the best of intentions for our community. These are hard working people that are generally operating with volunteer boards and very minimal staff time. If you are interested in being a part of making this town even better, please consider volunteering your time to help. We can always improve and constructive feedback is always welcome. I’m here asking that you please consider the tone of your comments. This old adage would be great for us all to keep in mind: is it true, is it kind, is it necessary, is it helpful? Incidentally, this works for communication with our local businesses as well, as many have reported a pretty serious uptick in negative treatment by customers.

As a BMP board member and ACCOC member for many years I could not be more proud of the work that the BMP and ACCOC have done. I am honored to be a part of their success and I invite you to honor them with kindness and gratitude as well.

Amey Ryan

Salisbury

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