For more than three decades the Mad River Valley Craft Fair has been owned and operated by the Valley Players. It is always on Labor Day weekend, this year Saturday and Sunday, September 5 and 6, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., at Kenyon’s Field in Waitsfield. When the Festival of the Arts started 18 years ago, organizers decided to make the craft fair the end-cap of the festival’s monthlong celebration, even in years when Labor Day weekend falls in September. Since the craft fair helps fund live theater in The Valley, it is truly artists helping artists, according to fair spokesperson Laura Arnesen.


Trends this year include more furniture makers and more specialty food vendors (think samples). Most craft fairs have plenty of jewelers and that is true of this one, but organizers limit the number of any one medium to a maximum of 25 percent of artists and seek out unusual artists to add variety to the show. There is a personal shopping service in case people need gift ideas for new babies, weddings, graduations, the holidays, etc. Stop by the entrance for help.

“Last year I was looking for a small gift for my son’s friends who were graduating from college. They had all gone to Harwood and were on the verge of moving to different places. Woodworker Jay Brunault, Jay’s Woodshop in Johnson, had the perfect item. It’s a small wooden bottle opener with a magnet on the back in the shape of Vermont with a tasteful 802 on it. These kids all went to Harwood and when they went to out-of-state track meets they used to do an 802 cheer since it’s Vermont’s only area code. It was the perfect gift so I bought five,” Arnesen said.

Each year approximately half the artists are experienced artists but new to the Mad River show. This year is no exception, but three of the first-timers are actually local – Allyson Biondo (stained-glass jewelry) and Mollie German (Mountain High Ceramics), both of Warren, and Michael Cunningham (Granville) of Speed of Trees who makes furniture and wood sculpture. Other local artists like Irene Pluntky-Goedecke (jewelry maker from Fayston and New York City) and Ken Amann (leather maker) have been displaying at the Mad River Valley Craft Fair for more than 20 years.


For the past 10 years two local bands, Green Mountain Swing and Colleen Mari (and friends, now playing as Soulstice Unplugged) have played a full day each. Since it’s such a long day the decision was made to look for two other bands and have all four play for half of a day each. “When I heard the Harwood Jazz Band at The Warren Store on July 4, I knew they would be perfect. They are up-and-coming artists and supporting young adults in their art is exactly what the Valley Players is all about,” said Arnesen.

The Harwood Jazz Band includes Enzo Cormier, Nina Sklar, Eli Leppla, Benjamin Burr and Trevor McNeish, all seniors; Colin Holter and Jon Baron, both juniors; and Merrill Woodruff, a freshman at Temple University. They will play from 1:30 to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

The second new band, Tintype Gypsies, a duo with Angus Chaney and Emily Nelson, will offer eclectic tunes on Sunday from 1:30 to 5 p.m. They played at the Vermont Music Fest and provide a new twist on traveling music since they offer regional songs and cover a multitude of topics. They donate 10 percent of their profits to homeless families.


“Each year we have artists demonstrating under the big tent. Sometimes it is Mary Hill making cards and banners. Last year, Woody Jackson told the story behind his colorful cows, but I really wanted people to be able to do something artistic themselves. We have lots of fiber artists so I asked if they might offer knitting and felting lessons and it was a resounding ‘Yes,’” said Arnesen. Four artists will participate and materials will be available so come to the demo area under the large tent:

11 a.m. – Mary Anderson, Loominations of VT: Knitting Lessons & Problem Solving.
1 p.m. – Sue McFarland, McFarland's Handwork: Felted Beads Workshop.
3 p.m. – Pam Barnes: Beginner Knitting Lessons.

11 a.m. – Sherry Ploof, Woodland Knits: Knitting Lessons.
1 p.m. – Sue McFarland, McFarland's Handwork: Felted Beads Workshop.
3 p.m. – Pam Barnes, Llama Love: Beginner Knitting Lessons.

As for new food, The Common Man’s meatball truck will be on hand and Wicked Awesome BBQ from Norwich will also bring their food truck. A selection of food is available from snacks to outstanding sweets from regulars: Juniper’s Fare, Mr. Rick’s, Tyler Lemonade and Wilcox Ice Cream.

The craft fair is open rain or shine with free parking and kids 12 and under get in free too. Tickets are good for both days and a discount on any Valley Players’ production. Leave pets at home. For more information call (802) 496-3409 or visit