New England Street Food Festival deemed a rousing success

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DUMMERSTON — The New England Street Food Festival was bigger than anyone at the Brattleboro Reformer expected.

The advertising staff had been working for months to launch the festival. It cost the company $44,000 to promote, Richard "Bud" Lolatte, an advertising account representative, said. The company wasn't looking to profit from the investment, he said. The day wasn't about paper sales. It was about the community, Lolatte said.

The festival was held on Saturday at Kampfires campground in Dummerston. Local street food vendors battled lines of hungry patrons. Whetstone Brewery sponsored the event, lent out the venue, and served up brews that customers were allowed to carry with them throughout the site.

Within the first half hour, all 500 of the New England Street Food Festival T-shirts the Reformer was giving out had vanished. While no one was sure exactly how many people showed up, the common estimate, based on parking, was about 2,000 people.

Among the organizations participating was the Vermont Food Bank. Festival-goers could drop off non-perishable items to the food bank and pick up information about what the food bank does. By 12:30 p.m. the food bank had collected about 300 pounds of donations.

"This is a positive event just to get our name out in southern Vermont," Matthew Linn, a member of the Food Bank, said. "Not a lot of people know we're down here."

Rescue Inc. was also present, not only to cover the event in case of emergency, but also to raffle off a car. Each year, the organization buys a car from Subaru, which helps Rescue Inc. with advertising about the raffle.

"Ticket sales are slow this year," said Lew Teich, a volunteer Rescue Inc. member since 1980. Tickets will continue to be sold until the drawing on Oct. 12 at The Marina.

Teich was chewing on a turkey leg from Peter Havens. "It's delicious," he said. He was also excited to see The Gaslight Tinkers play, he said.

Vendors weren't the only ones enjoying themselves.

Clyde and Sharon Mears, Joe and Tammy Sohl, and Ray and Tina Rebideau, from Bennington, had a grand old time. They rode to the festival on their motorcycles and delighted in the food and music. The six of them stood at a table with an onion blossom, which were being munched on by the group and offered them to passersby.

"We're the third family who's been left [the onion blossom]," Tina Rebideau said. "We're going to pass it on to the next family."

Onions weren't the only food the group enjoyed. Tina Rebideau's favorite item was macaroni and cheese from Whetstone. "It was delicious cheesy, awesome," she said. "I loved it."

They also enjoyed the local brews. Clyde Mears said his beer was "icy-cold and refreshing."

The group made new friends with other groups and families at the festival. They said they'd definitely come to another street food festival. They especially enjoyed the New England Circus Center Arts' aerial performance. They said they'd never seen anything like it.

"It's like being on America's Got Talent," Tammy Sohl said.

Overall they concluded that the day was beautiful and they were happy to be there, "with good friends and good food," the group cheered.

Based on Saturday's success, Josh Unruh, the advertising sales manager for the Reformer, said he could see the Reformer continuing the festival.

Lolatte said in future street food festivals he'd be looking to expand. "We've exceeded our parking," Lolatte said. "Everybody's been really successful at this."

He's hopeful that the Reformer will host even more events like this one. "I'm going to be encouraging more of these types of things," he said. "Because it's a positive thing for the community and a positive thing for the Reformer."

Harmony Birch can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext.153. Or you can follow her @birchharmony.

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