By virtually all accounts, the Independent Television and Film Festival held in the Deerfield Valley last weekend was an overwhelming success.
ITVFest was held from Sept. 26 to 28 in Dover and Wilmington. Multiple screening tents were set up around the valley with vendors and musicians scattered along Route 100. It brought people from places such as Los Angeles and New York City as well as London and Denmark, and included all the pomp and circumstance of a red carpet awards gala that one usually associates with Hollywood.
But this wasn't Hollywood; it was a small New England community with a unique charm not found anywhere in tinseltown. Add to that the gorgeous mountain scenery the Deerfield Valley has to offer and you have a winning combination. And apparently the out-of-town festival-goers loved it.
"People loved how friendly everyone in town was," said ITVFest organizer Phil Gilpin. "I had people asking me where to get real estate brochures."
One inn owner told the Dover Selectboard earlier this week that a filmmaker will be returning in June to shoot a movie at his inn.
"We talked to several filmmakers, who had been to (festivals in) Hollywood and other ones. They said it was a lot better than any of the ones there," he added.
ITVFest organizers must have felt the same -- on Thursday they posted the following on Twitter: "It's official. Loved Vermont so much, it's our new home. The 9th Annual ITVFest will be held Sept. 26-28 in Dover."
The potential this festival offers in terms of boosting the local economy and maybe even turning the valley into a mecca for film and arts has everyone absolutely giddy with excitement. They envision a marked improvement in business activity and a much-needed revitalization of the whole area as future festivals introduce more new people to the valley who might not otherwise come.
The predominate message these local supporters brought to the Selectboard Tuesday night was that if the Dover Economic Development Department comes to solicit funds for ITVFest in the future, to please approve that request.
That would seem a no-brainer for the Selectboard.
While Gilpin said the festival did not meet the 1,000 ticket quota that would ensure its return, he attributed much of that to the lack of local support, as barely 100 people from the valley and greater Windham County area bought tickets.
We can only speculate about why the festival did not attract more locals. Perhaps they didn't truly realize how grand an event this would be, or the amazing potential it offers for the area's economic future. But judging from the buzz generated by last weekend's events, we feel certain that given another chance there would be much more local support and more people investing in the festival if it returns next year.
As Sandy MacDougall, owner of Layla's Riverside Lodge, told the Selectboard: "I think for its first year, it was phenomenal. Now, it's just honing in on the logistics."
We can't wait for next year!