The Mad River Valley was buzzing with arts activities this past weekend to kick off the Vermont Festival of the Arts. People made their way into town to meet artists, eat fabulous food, listen to music, watch great theater and see beautiful artwork. Children played with clay, made pizza, built faerie houses and ran under parachutes. The weekend ended with a fabulous fireworks display at Lareau Farm. What fun!

Common Man Restaurant got the festival started with an evening of extraordinary food and artwork. Their Uncommon Gallery Gala on Thursday night showcased the select artists whose work they display at the restaurant.

The highly anticipated art exhibit at Waitsfield United Church opened to acclaim on Friday afternoon. Janet McKenzie's work surpassed expectations – extraordinary, thoughtful and beautiful – the images of strong women and motherhood resonated with visitors. Janet spoke to a full house on Saturday, describing the process of painting, working with models and the challenges of being forced into the limelight when her painting Jesus of the People won the New Image of Christ competition in 1999.

Children got their hands dirty playing with clay at Ulrike Tessmer's popular Clay Play workshop on Saturday. Whether learning to use the potter's wheel or shaping clay into pinch pots or clay animals, this annual event is fun. On Sunday morning, families arrived at Lareau Farm pavilion to create beautiful faerie houses. Using bark, branches, acorn caps, leaves, flowers and other found objects, these special structures became magical homes with a final sprinkling of faerie dust. Playing with food was the theme at The Warren Store when kids got to make their own pizzas. Participants got to shape the dough into a "perfect" circle, cover it with toppings and bake it. Of course, the workshop ended with a yummy, homemade pizza!

The weekend concluded at Lareau Farm where music, art and fun collided for a great evening. The Meet the Artist Reception at the Big Red Barn Art Show is always a favorite. Nearly 40 artists from the Mad River Valley have their work on exhibit. Over at the pavilion, families gathered to picnic on the lawn. Whether they brought their own picnic or purchased flatbread and salad, the picnic was hopping. "Our festival interns, Amy and Noa, did a great job planning activities for the kids," said Karen Nevin, executive director. "The parachute was popular with children running under and over the huge billowing chute."

The turnout for the festival picnic was the largest ever, with about 400 people in attendance. "The picnic is a free event to celebrate the Festival of the Arts and our community," said Nevin. "After three years it has become what we hoped for – a fun-filled evening for friends and families to enjoy. And the fireworks display was fabulous."

Now it is the first full week of the festival and there is a lot to do. Don't miss the opening reception of the Photography Show, catch the production of Violet at The Skinner Barn or attend the Beethoven to Bernstein concert at Warren Church. Moosewalk Studios will be busy this week with their Salon Series on Thursday evenings, "Celebrate the Colors" social event celebrating the LGBT community and Gallery Saturday with a variety of artists on hand showing their work. David Garten will repeat his Magic Realism Déjà vu slideshow of photographs from his visits to Cuba next Wednesday.

Taste of The Valley

There is still time to buy tickets to the Taste of The Valley. Make sure to come and cheer on your favorite chefs as they compete to be named Taste of The Valley Iron Chef of 2014!

For more information on Vermont Festival of the Arts, contact Karen at 496-6682 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. The festival program can be found around town and online at