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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Southwestern Vermont Groups Join Forces For 'Hills Alive!'

In southwestern Vermont, a group of inns and performing arts venues are hoping there is strength in numbers.  And they’re hoping that the arts are just as attractive to tourists as shopping and recreation. 

A  five-week summer festival, called Hills Alive! is the result of their effort and it has already attracted the support of the state.

Hills Alive! started in a modest way last summer when four arts organizations decided to market their offerings collectively.

Those groups asked businesses and inns to help make summer visitors aware of the many arts happenings the region.

Steve Stettler of the Weston Playhouse Theatre was among the initiators -- along with the Manchester Music Festival, the Dorset Theatre Festival and the Southern Vermont Arts Center.

“For years we’ve felt that we’re kind of the Berkshires north, if you will and that the amount of arts and culture and the level of arts and culture here really needs to be known and enjoyed,” says Stettler.

Megan Smith, Vermont’s Commissioner of Tourism and marketing, thought it was a great idea and agreed to help.  She says the region deserves attention for more than the Manchester outlet stores.

“I have just seen it as a more rich cultural experience. We obviously need the shopping, we want the shopping but I wanted to help them pair that with something that would bring a broader audience,” she says.

Smith’s department had received $230,000 from the legislature for a special marketing effort in Washington DC and Philadelphia. Hills Alive!  is one of ten attractions selected as part of that campaign.

Smith also encouraged the partnership to expand. This year, thirteen performing arts groups and seven inns are participating in a five-week Hills Alive! Festival. It starts on June 28.

The plays, concerts and events listed in the Hills Alive! brochure would be happening without the festival. Smith says packaging those events together makes it easier for inns to promote coming attractions.

“So the innkeepers can say ‘Oh come for three nights, you can do this and this and this and have some variety,’" Smith explains. "There’s a hundred and twenty five events happening within that five-week period.”

Tickets to those events can be purchased through a single  “Hills Alive” website.

They’re also available from the Manchester and the Mountains Chamber of Commerce, which has appointed a special ‘concierge’ to help visitors plan an arts-rich visit.