So how did this Festival come to fruition?
In 2001 a research project was conducted to provide a strategic plan for the Vermont Secondary (or Value-Added) Wood Products Industry and to give clear direction for their development and long-term viability. One of the suggested courses of action from that plan was to plan a location for a Vermont Secondary Wood Products Industry “Showcase” event that would allow small and large manufacturers to display their Vermont made furniture and wood products to the tourist trade and markets. The industry agreed that local promotion to Vermont’s tourist industry was a great idea and the idea came to fruition just a few years later. In May of 2004 the Vermont Wood Products Showcase was held at Shelburne Farms in Shelburne, Vermont. Model rooms, guided tours, partner exhibits, and demonstrations filled the one-day event. 15 Vermont woodworking companies displayed their product and attendees were primarily from Chittenden County.
The target market of tourists was not reached and with the first show’s lessons it was decided to make some changes for the 2nd Annual Vermont Wood Products Showcase. The event location was moved to Woodstock’s Union Arena on Route 4 and a partnership was formed with the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park to hold the event in conjunction with their Forest Festival weekend, held annually in September. Holding the event in a more centralized location and during foliage/tourist season in Vermont, with the addition of the National Park’s activities, increased the traffic dramatically. A free shuttle service brought attendees from the Arena to the National Park so they could enjoy the many activities at both locations. The number of woodworking companies exhibiting almost doubled in 2005.
The industry was pleased with the changes implemented into the second annual event and decided to stay in Woodstock. In 2006 other aspects like live music and local food were added to create more of a Festival experience and the event was then dubbed the Vermont Fine Furniture & Woodworking Festival. Connections with the local town of Woodstock were established, for example the town’s regional “Palettes of Vermont’ exhibit was on display for the weekend. Hourly door prizes, kids activities, and judging the Vermont Wood Design competition entries were fun aspects that made the event hands-on for attendees. Once again, new woodworking companies were on exhibit.
With every new year the Vermont Fine Furniture & Woodworking Festival has grown with an increase in attendance and exhibiting companies. The event was named a Top Ten Fall Event by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce in 2008 and then again in 2011 and 2012! The industry hears from attendees that they have planned their fall trip around the dates of this event and folks travel from all over the United States, Canada, and several foreign countries to attend.
The event truly represents the talent of Vermont’s wood craftsmen and shares the “forest to finished product” story with the great partnership of the MBR National Historical Park. The 2013 event promised to be another great year with almost 40 woodworking companies on exhibit. The theme Local wood, Local good was used in various displays. The VWMA added the “From Vermont’s Working Landscape to your Home” display, which highlighted the various aspects of the Vermont Wood Products supply chain, from the landowner to the woodworker to the consumer.
In 2015 the event took on a different look when we moved to the Billings Farm & Museum, directly across the street from the National Park! As our hosts and partners, these venues provide an appealing backdrop. The ambiance of the Billings Farm loft and grounds are the perfect complement for fine furniture and wood products crafted in Vermont. Add to this the allure of fall foliage that attracts thousands of visitors, and you have a recipe for success! We are pleased to be holding the event at Billings Farm and Vermont’s National Park again in 2016! The National Park celebrated their 100th birthday in 2016 so there were centennial activities planned in the forest! The Park featured a Spoon Carving workshop where folks could make a wooden spoon from wood harvested right off the land. The vendor space was expanded and we had vendors and demonstrators in all three buildings and outside on the farm green. Mach’s Wood fired pizza was cooked by the farm garden where visitors could enjoy locally & seasonally harvested veggies on organic crusts.
The VWMA was very pleased to have the event named as a Top Ten Fall event by the Vermont Chamber again in 2017! We will once again have live music, outdoor demonstrations, and local food!