Friday, April 4, 2014

What's Going on at ESE?

These past few weeks have been extremely busy. We have so much going on at ESE from our off-season events to getting ready for the Fair in September.

I know, I can hear you already – “let’s not rush summer.”

I agree – I love summer as much as the next person – but we are by no means rushing the days of warmer weather.

The thing is, we need the whole season to get ready for The Big E. As soon as the Fair is over, preparation for the next year begins. In fact, we already started the planning process for our 100th anniversary in 2016.

Currently, we are finalizing the entertainment lineup. It is looking incredible so far. There is something for everyone! We have just started announcing the entertainment and will release more information as it becomes available.

So, if you haven’t already heard, Little Big Town is coming to The Big E for the last Saturday of the Fair! This will be the second time the Grammy-winning quartet has played here – they performed on the same stage in 2009.

For those of you who don’t know Little Big Town, they are the reigning CMA & ACM Vocal Group of the Year, have sold 1.5 million records, received multiple Grammy, CMA and ACM awards and nominations and garnered an impressive collection of Top 10 Country hits including “Pontoon,” “Your Side of the Bed,” “Little White Church” and “Boondocks.” They also have a pretty great track record of putting on stellar concerts.

Tickets went on sale today so get them while they last! Get them here >>

Friday, March 7, 2014

Maple Harvest Day & Pancakes

Being a pancake enthusiast, I am really looking forward to our upcoming event at Storrowton – Maple Harvest Day on March 16. Of course, my love of breakfast foods is not the only reason why I am excited for this day – it is a celebration of the tradition of maple sugaring and an awesome way to welcome spring!

This free event marks Storrowton Village Museum’s ninth annual Maple Harvest Day. The day will showcase the history and lore of maple sugaring in the Gilbert Farmstead’s front yard with Sugar Maple tree tapping, sumac spile making and sap boiling over an open fire.

If the aroma of maple sugar outside isn’t enough to make you hungry, the 19th century open hearth cooking demonstrations inside the historic home certainly will! Docents will also be demonstrating quilting and wool spinning techniques of days past during the 11am to 3pm event. There will be a selection of gifts, maple-themed items and cookbooks for sale nearby for those who want to bring the celebration home.

And of course, there is no better way to end the festivities than by eating pancakes!  While guests walk around and take in the sights of the picturesque Storrowton Village, the West Springfield Lions Club will be flipping pancakes and serving them with pure Massachusetts maple syrup in the Village’s Red Barn. Storrowton Tavern will also be offering a Sunday Brunch in the Carriage House.

Bring your family, co-workers, neighbors and friends! There will be enough real maple syrup to go around! 

Let's Eat! 

West Springfield Lions Club Pancake Breakfast – 10am to Noon – $5
Pancakes, sausages and coffee/juice. All proceeds will be donated to Storrowton Village Museum’s educational programs.

Storrowton Tavern – 10:30am to 2pm – Reservations recommended – 413-732-4188

Sunday Brunch in the Carriage House with special pricing for Maple Harvest Day: $18 adults/$10 children. The brunch includes an omelet station, Belgian waffle station and French toast; all served with real maple syrup. There will also be a carving station, luncheon items, side dishes including maple laced butternut squash and a dessert bar. $1 per diner will be donated to the Village’s programs.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Valentine Vows in the Village

ESE is taking over the role of Fairy Godmother for those who are looking to tie the knot. For the next week, couples have the opportunity to enter our Valentine Vows in the Village contest for a chance to win a complimentary wedding ceremony on the most romantic day of the year!

Four lucky couples will be selected from the bunch to receive a private wedding ceremony in the historic Storrowton Village Meetinghouse. The Village is a picturesque setting – perfect for anyone’s big day.

Storrowton Village will provide an official Justice of the Peace, pre-written vows, decorations, music and a wedding coordinator to help out along the way. Weddings take place on the hour from 10am to 1pm. After the ceremony, couples may have their photographer take photos in the quaint Village or along the Avenue of States.

If you would like to enter the contest, all you have to do is tell us why you want to get married in the historic Meetinghouse! Maybe you had a first date at an ESE event, were an Early American Summer Days camper or just love The Big E! 

The four entries with the most votes will get the prize and be set to get married on February 14!

To submit your story and get additional information on Valentine Vows in the Village, visit our contest page

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Storrowton's Christmas Carol

Many of you are probably only familiar with Eastern States Exposition (ESE) during The Big E. Well contrary to what you might think, the grounds are not completely desolate during the Fair’s off season. Apart from The Big E, there are over 100 other shows held at ESE throughout the year.

If you have been keeping tabs on this blog, you might recall that Yuletide week and Walking in a Winter Wonderland are going on now. Another recent event you may not have heard of is Dickens at Storrowton.

Storrowton Village Museum set the stage for this incredible event which featured Gerald Charles Dickens’ magical performance of “A Christmas Carol.” Gerald, the great, great grandson of author Charles Dickens, performed his rendition of the holiday favorite to a large audience in Storrowton’s Meetinghouse last Monday night.

Gerald captivated the audience as he made the entire Meetinghouse his stage. He brought life to each character, using different voices and interacting with audience members. Gerald’s Ebenezer Scrooge sulked on the pulpit steps as Jacob Marley walked the aisles of the church dragging his chains behind him. His emotional portrayal of Bob Cratchit and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come moved audience members to tears. Needless to say, it was an outstanding performance.  

The special event was preceded by a social hour in Storrowton Tavern and invited guests had the opportunity to meet the talented Gerald Dickens following his performance. 

As we were impressed by him, Gerald was impressed with Storrowton Village. Following the show, he wrote on his blog, “What a wonderful, spectacular setting. You are all doing something very special there and it was a complete pleasure to be a small part of it.”

Gerald, a resident of Oxfordshire, England, began his theatrical performance of “A Christmas Carol” in 1993. His one-man dramatization of the holiday classic was inspired by his great, great grandfather’s own readings of the timeless story. This remarkable performance has been recorded, performed at schools, colleges and universities throughout the county and across the seas. We are lucky to have had him!

Friday, December 6, 2013

19th Century Fashion Holidays at ESE

Yuletide coordinator Thelma Greene
Storrowton Village Museum has been swarming with garden clubs and designers in preparation for this weekend’s Yuletide at Storrowton.

If you didn’t see our last post, Yuletide is Eastern States Exposition’s holiday celebration set in the re-constructed 19th century Storrowton Village. The event is completed through the generosity of local decorators and Storrowton volunteers. Everyone donates their time and resources to the project in the spirit of Christmas and community togetherness.

 Every year, ESE invites the community to its grounds for this free family fun event. This year’s Yuletide is taking place tomorrow and Sunday, Dec. 7 & 8! There are also Open House Tours and a Lantern Light Tour of the adorned Village during the week.

Yuletide has truly become a popular holiday tradition, now ready to open for its 24th year. Needless to say, excitement is buzzing all over the grounds for this weekend.

Naturally, we document all aspects of the event, so amid the boxes of evergreen brush, branches of winter berries and Christmas trees, stood me with a camera, ready to capture some great set-up action.

At the beginning of this week, volunteers began hauling in assortments of different materials to their designated areas. The decorators are all assigned buildings and specific rooms to decorate in the Village. Some rooms took a couple days, others took an entire afternoon.

As you can imagine, Yuletide is brimming with innovate ideas for holiday d├ęcor thanks to the work of these clubs and designers. They use all natural materials ranging from greens and berries to fruit and fried herbs.

Check out this great arrangement by Merry Mite Gardens!

Merry Mite Gardens of Suffield Conn., decorated the Gilbert Farmstead kitchen. This arrangement used three terracotta clay pots which filled with dirt and stacked on top of each other in order of largest to smallest. The decorator utilized the space between the pots with cedar and balsam branches. Dried grasses were added to give the arrangement some height and dried hydrangeas provided a nice contrast from the greenery. She completed the decoration with a few branches of winter berries for a little holiday accent color. 

There's a lot more where this came from! Come to Yuletide at Storrowton this weekend to see them all. Everyone is welcome to take pictures or notes on the breathtaking displays. If you can't make it this weekend Open House Tours are Dec. 10 - 14, and the Lantern Light Tour is Dec. 11. Get the daily schedule for this weekend as well as hours for next week's tours on our website!

Check out the displays from years past on our Pinterest page!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Yuletide at Storrowton

The holiday season is the best part of winter. I love the decorations, festivities and music in the air. Lucky for me, Eastern States Exposition appreciates the holidays too and is bringing Christmas cheer to the fairgrounds with a couple of special winter productions.

Perhaps you’ve heard of our upcoming event, Yuletide at Storrowton. Once a year, ESE’s historic Storrowton Village is transformed into a 19th century winter festival for the whole community to enjoy.

Through the volunteer efforts of local garden clubs and designers, the Village is completely adorned in all-natural decorations of the season. The authentic setting of the Village truly makes this a magical event, which has been drawing in crowds for over 20 years. 

During the Yuletide weekend, Dec. 7 & 8, visitors can tour the Village and experience the old-fashioned holiday fun of storytelling, ice sculpting, musical performances and early American craft demonstrations. The event is also a great way to get inspiration for your own holiday decorations. I know I’ll be taking notes!

Before you leave, stop by the Storrowton Village Gift Shop and Christmas Shop in Potter Mansion. You never know what unique holiday treasures you might find! There will also be hot beverages and delicious homemade treats available in the Holiday Sweet Shoppe.

The best part is – these weekend-long festivities are free!
If you can't make it on the weekend, Yuletide Open House Tours will be going on all week!

 Yuletide Events

Yuletide at Storrowton
Sat., Dec. 7 – Sun., Dec. 8
11am – 4pm – FREE

Yuletide Open House Tours
Tues., Dec. 10 – Sat., Dec. 14
11am - 3pm – $5

Yuletide by Lantern Light
Wed., Dec. 11
6 - 8pm – $5

Children under 6 are free and parking is free at all Storrowton events!

While you are on the grounds, I highly recommend topping off your day with Walking in a Winter Wonderland, going on now through Jan. 5. This ornate Christmas display is in the New England Center – only a short walk from Storrowton Village.

Be sure you visit these pages for more information!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Big E Trees Get a New Home

Removal of the Trees in front of the N.E. Grange
When we are exposed to things on a daily basis, it is remarkable what can be overlooked. It might be historical significance, value or the individuality and uniqueness of an item. In this case, I am referring to trees.

This week, Eastern States Exposition’s Landscaping department began the process of redesigning the planters in front of the New England Grange. This project included the removal of several trees that surrounded the iconic building.

They are beautiful trees – there is no denying that. Each has vibrant mahogany bark and magnificent flowers during the spring. Despite their eye catching appearance, I only knew them as the trees in front of the Grange.

Come to find out, they are Paperbark Maples and Stewartia. Both are slow-growing, specimen quality varieties which were planted on ESE grounds during the ‘80s. The branch shape, bark color and trunk caliper (trunk diameter) of the trees, all attributed to their specimen grade.  

While tree removal was necessary to showcase the front of the Grange better, Scott Paton, of the Landscaping department, did not want to see the trees destroyed. “Since they take so long to grow, I couldn’t imagine just chopping them down,” Scott said.

To fulfill his mission, Scott recruited Don Ford, owner of Stonegate Gardens Inc., in Granby, Conn., to find the trees a new home. Scott met Don on a field trip to his nursery 13 years ago while he was studying at UConn and always remembered his experience. Don specializes in specimen trees and works with landscape architects across New England. Scott said he has a great business model for larger trees.

When asked whether he would like the trees for his nursery, Don did not have to think twice. “This is a wonderful opportunity,” Don said. “They are beautiful trees and far too valuable to be cut down.”

According to Don, it is a rarity to find Paperbark Maples as large as these. “It is like finding an antique or gem – You can’t pass it up,” he said. Scott even mentioned that one of the Paperbark Maples in front of the Grange is the largest he’s ever seen.

The removal process took two days. The trees, weighing upwards of one ton each, were dug up by hand and wrapped using a special drum lacing technique with rope and burlap.

Drum Lacing Technique
According to the men, this process is a dying art form. Machines that quickly “ball and burlap” plant roots eliminated the necessity of using this old fashioned method.  However, drum lacing still comes in handy for circumstances such as this – when the trees weigh the same as a small elephant.

Once the surface area of the roots was secure, the workers lifted each tree from the ground with a backhoe. They were then able to cut the tap root and continue tying the bottom by tilting the tree from side to side.

After all of the trees were wrapped up into giant disk-shaped mounds, they were put en route to Granby, Conn., where they will be stored in outdoor manmade dirt pits until Don finds a home for them. They will hopefully find permanent residence in the Berkshires.