By Patrick McArdle
BENNINGTON — The weather has been uneven in the last few days but the start of summer is surely here with Bennington’s Mayfest set for Saturday.
The outdoor festival has itself fallen on days likely to have a bit of chilly rain rather than the kind of weather associated with weeks off from school and lakeside vacations, but the event is still an opportunity to get outside, eat fried food and see neighbors, according to John Shannahan, executive director of the Better Bennington Corp.
A veteran of several Mayfests, Shannahan said he understood the weather forecasts for Saturday were “iffy” but said unrelentingly hot days could be even tougher so he was optimistic for 2014.
“A day like today (Thursday when there was some rain throughout the day) wouldn’t be horrible. We have all the (downtown) shops indoors anyway so people can come in and out,” he said.
The National Weather Service is predicting rain, but temperatures should be in the upper 60s.
Mayfest takes place in Bennington’s downtown, specifically the area known locally as the Four Corners where Routes 7 and 9 cross. Route 9, known locally as Main Street is closed from the Four Corners to Union Street and School Street between Main Street and Pleasant Street.
Shannahan said the Bennington Farmers Market, which used to be the Walloomsac Farmers Market, would be returning to the river walk on Depot Street. They were closer to the main festival in 2013 but Shannahan said it caused confusion about where they would be the rest of the summer so they will be back in their usual location this year.
Another change this year will be two stations, one set up by the Vermont Department of Health and one by Second Chance Animal Shelter, where people can take care of their babies or dogs respectively.
The crafts for sale this year will include works made from glass, tin, silver, wood, textiles and other materials.
Nonprofits will bring a number of activities, especially for families, like a dunking booth, climbing wall and a shooting range.
More than 40 performers will be parts of events throughout the five stages at Mayfest. Shannahan said they will include shows for kids, vocal and instrumental music and dance performances.
Mayfest runs from 10 a.m to 5 p.m. There is no charge for admission and there are many free parking spaces adjacent to the festival.
Food is an important part of the festival either to eat there or take away, Shannahan said.
“Throughout the show there are a lot of specialty food vendors with sauces, syrups, jellies and jams,” he said.
Visitors can also stop in at Bennington’s downtown stores. Shannahan said this year is expected to be a little different because a new shop, the New England Cafe, is expected to open Saturday on Main Street, just in time for Mayfest.
Shannahan encouraged people to consider marking the turn of spring into summer by visiting a festival which gets people outside and walking around.
“It’s Memorial Day weekend so it really is the start of the summer season. It’s the first big event of the season in Bennington and after Mayfest, it becomes one event after another,” he said.