'Midd. Summer Festival' planned

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury has already carved out a niche as the state’s premier chili destination, drawing upwards of 3,000 people to its annual winter carnival and chili festival.

Now the town is looking to expand its gastronomic reputation into the warmer months: The Better Middlebury Partnership (BMP) is looking this August to launch the first annual Midd Summer Festival to showcase the best cheese, wine and beer the state has to offer

The event is set to run from 3 to 7 p.m. on Aug. 6, and organizers believe it will provide a boost to local businesses and nonprofit organizations as well as satisfy visitors’ taste buds.

“It should be a great event, showcasing all the producers we have and all of their different kinds of products,” said Brian Phelps, a BMP member and leader of the Midd Summer Festival Committee. “The event that we are putting together we think will attract not only Vermonters, but tourists visiting the state that time of year. (August) is a great time of year to be in Vermont, to come out and taste and experience these great industries that we have.”

Phelps and his committee are currently reaching out to breweries, vineyards and cheese makers throughout the state to reserve a spot at the festival, which will be staged in the Marble Works complex at the Middlebury Farmers’ Market site overlooking Otter Creek Falls.

Ten breweries have already signed up, Phelps said, including Middlebury’s own Otter Creek Brewing/Wolavers/Long Trail. Green Mountain Beverage — the nation’s pre-eminent producer of hard cider — will also have a prominent place at the festival. Switchback and Harpoon are among the out-of-county beer makers who have also committed to coming, Phelps said.

New Haven-based Lincoln Peak Vineyard will lead a contingent of Vermont wineries that will include Shelburne Vineyard, among others.

And Phelps anticipates the event will draw a good chunk of the state’s more than 40 conventional and artisan cheese makers.

Vermont’s list of cheese makers includes Middlebury-based Agri-Mark/Cabot — internationally renowned for its cheddar cheese. The list also includes Champlain Valley Creamery of Vergennes, Crawford Family Farm in Whiting, Scholten Family farm in Weybridge, Blue Ledge Farm in Salisbury, Dancing Cow Farmstead Cheese in Bridport, Orb-Weaver Cheese in New Haven, and Twig Farm in Cornwall.

Organizers anticipate Midd Summer Festival could draw upwards of 2,000 people to Addison County’s shire town on Aug. 6, depending on the weather. Many of those folks are expected to shop at local stores, eat at area restaurants and stay at local hotels.

While Phelps acknowledged “First-year events are kind of tough to predict,” he noted Middlebury College’s language school will be in session, providing 800 potential festival attendees. The event will also coincide with the college’s Bread Load Writers’ Conference in Ripton, and Phelps hopes some of those folks will give the festival a try.

“The date was carefully chosen so it does not overlap with any other major event in our area,” Phelps said.

While Midd Summer Festival will feature alcoholic beverages, it is being organized as a family-friendly event that will feature safeguards to prevent underage drinking. Per state law, the tented beverage area will be fenced off to prevent wine and beer samples from being passed to minors. The BMP is hiring trained personnel to monitor the event to ensure only adults are drinking — and not to excess.

Festival tickets will be sold locally and on the day of event. Admission will be $20 for adults seeking to sample alcohol and cheese, and $5 for designated drivers and children older than 6. Proceeds will be split evenly among the Addison County Firefighters’ Association, the BMP and the Vermont Food Bank, Phelps noted.

The Addison County Chamber of Commerce will help the BMP promote the summer festival.

Andy Mayer, president of the chamber, is excited about the festival’s potential during this and future years.

“I particularly like events like this one because it shines the spotlight on local products, and pulls from throughout the state,” Mayer said. “I think it will draw a lot of people. It sounds like a winning combination.”

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.


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