BBC BLOG | Downtown Bennington

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Summer is here and events are cropping up EVERYWHERE! Now that people feel they can once again gather and enjoy each other’s company, Bennington feels alive with all kinds of activity. At the Better Bennington Corporation, we are all in full speed ahead mode having launched our part of the summer festivities with Mayfest.


Mayfest planning takes months, and event planning is not for people who expect that things always go smoothly. We had 85 vendors in place for that event and then came the threat of bad weather – not just rain, but wind, hail, and storms! We watched the weather daily, hourly, every fifteen minutes. A rain date is not practical with all the logistics and moving parts involved in such a festive day, so all we can do is hope. We lost 12 vendors due to the weather threat and their positive Covid tests within 2 days of the festival and had 3 no-shows. Those things happen.


NONE of this dampened our spirits and determination that the show must go on and the weather would hold, and that is exactly what happened! The weather report changed as the day progressed. Vendors were happy. Merchants were happy. The crowds seemed to be enjoying themselves. When the monsoon blew in with a vengeance at 4pm, we called the festival and the vendors packed up quickly while Nik Segura continued to play his keyboard. Within an hour, Main Street looked as though nothing had happened.


My assistant, Kaiya, and I found our groove during all of this and shifted immediately into Thursday Night Live the following week. With Mayfest under our belts, we are ready to tackle the rest of the summer. So, what does that include?



Thursday Night Live: The lineup can be found on the BBCwebsite’s event page, www.betterbennington.com/events. Sixteen additional incredible performances will be coming your way.. Mowgli’s Satyrdagg brought over 100 people to Merchants Park on June 2. With 11 people on stage, they gave an electrifying show. We upgraded the event the following week with colorful banners and several vendors for the Taconic Chamber Quartet (plus drummer!) TThe threat of bad weather drew a smaller crowd, but those who came out were given a beautiful treat of both classical and pop music thanks to five state-of-the art musicians playing under blue skies as the clouds disappeared. Starting on June 16, we closed a part of Pleasant Street to accommodate vendors (thank you to Stu Hurd and the Selectboard for their support) and hosted the outstanding Planet Kniffen for a large enthusiastic crowd.



Midnight Madness: On July 21, you will find specials, discounts, and more with our shops staying open from 7pm – 12am.



Town-Wide Tag Sale: On July 24 downtown Bennington welcomes buskers of all ages and genres to entertain you while we incorporate downtown into the successful town-wide tag sale in both Bennington and North Bennington, in partnership with both libraries. We are excited to offer a communal space for those who prefer not to have the sales at their own homes. School Street will be full of people selling household items, clothing, and more that they no longer use.


We are co-sponsoring a few events with The Vermont Arts Exchange, QueerConnect, Hemmings Cruise-Ins, and the United Counseling Service. The Pride Parade and Block Party are on June 26, so come join our neighbors as we all celebrate our LGBTQ community. We have planned three more Cruise-Ins on Main Street/School Street! Good weather will draw out upwards of 250 novelty vehicles to display and show off. UCS is gearing up for their marathon 5th Annual Super Hero 5K, and VAE has invited Alex Torres to return to Bennington and lead us in a joyous concert of Latin music. Food trucks and dancing will accompany this party on August 27.



Finally, we are really looking forward to launching Harvest Fest on October 8. Think “Mayfest “but with more of a nod to novelty foods, lots of activities for kids and adults, and, of course, more music! We are excited to dedicate one area to the farmers and vendors who will be represented by the Bennington Downtown Market when it opens in a few months. Merchants Park will be utilized by closing Pleasant Street to traffic and adding more food trucks along that street to help the flow. If you have an activity you would like to host, give me a holler.


See you Downtown!

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How is the BBC organized?


The BBC has a Board of Directors, an Executive Director, a part-time assistant to the Director, a part-time streetscape and maintenance employee, and an independently contracted bookkeeper. The BBC has volunteer docents who staff its Visitor Center to welcome and provide information to visitors to Bennington.


The BBC has four standing committees: Organization, Economic Vitality, Design, and Promotions.

Members of the Board of Directors are expected to serve on at least one of the standing committees. The Organization Committee is composed of the Board’s president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. Committee chairpersons are customarily members of the Board.


Bennington is one of 23 officially Designated Downtowns in Vermont. For more information about the program, go to:

https://accd.vermont.gov/community-development/designation-programs/downtowns


How is the BBC funded?


The organization is funded through an incremental town tax on Downtown Improvement District businesses, membership fees, sponsorships, grants, and donations.




What is the BBC’s relationship to the Town of Bennington?


The BBC has a strong relationship with the Town of Bennington but does not report organizationally to the Town. The incremental tax mentioned above is levied by the Town and paid to the BBC. The BBC provides its budget estimate and work plans to the Town each year. We provide the Town with our meeting minutes, Director’s Report, and our current financials on a monthly basis. If you are interested in more details, please watch the Selectboard Meeting on May 23.


Who are members of the BBC?


Key members of the BBC are the business owners and landlords within the Downtown District. The incremental tax covers their membership fee. Businesses and individuals not in the Downtown district are welcome to join, and many d


o so. The BBC has also recently offered an extended Downtown version of membership based on nearness to Downtown.


How does the BBC promote Downtown businesses?


The BBC uses its website, the BBC Facebook page, press releases, and news articles along with ribbon cuttings to welcome new businesses and support existing businesses. The BBC hosts events such as its annual Mayfest, Midnight Madness, Small Business Saturdays, Harvest Fest, its new Thursday Night Live summer series, and occasional additional events to support Downtown businesses by bringing people here.


What is the BBC’s relationship to other organizations?


The BBC collaborates actively with other not-for-profit organizations such as the Bennington Performing Arts Center, The Bennington Arts Council, the Bennington Museum, and the Vermont Arts Exchange. We have in common a vision of Bennington as a place to welcome people, their interests, their ideas, and their work.


Does the BBC set policies for downtown events?


The Town of Bennington sets those policies. The BBC helps in publicizing the policies as necessary.


What is the BBC’s role/relationship to Downtown parks in Bennington?


The BBC is responsible for the appearance and care of the Pocket Park on Main Street and responsible for maintaining only the calendar of events for The Thomson Family Stage in Merchants Park (also downtown).




What is the BBC’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion statement?

“The Better Bennington Corporation (BBC) is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion and believes these fundamental principles inform and strengthen the BBC’s ability to respond to changing demographics and to the needs of all who live in, work in, and/or visit Downtown Bennington.”