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Hancock Shaker Village

Hancock Shaker Village

by KATHRYN BOUGHTON

Spring is in the air and with it comes a feeling of expectation at Hancock Shaker Village. As in the 19th century when the agricultural community awaited the awakening of the earth after its long winter slumber, so does the village staff today welcome the coming of a new season of programs and activities.

“The village is going to sparkle,” said Maribeth Cellana, spokesperson for the village. “A lot of planning goes on in the winter and the work that was done on the barns and silos was the largest construction project the director of farms and facilities ever had to live through in one winter.”

The village, situated on 750 acres of bucolic farm and woodland, recalls the Shakers’ lifestyle and the religious convictions they held. It consists of 20 historic buildings, a working farm, heirloom gardens and a collection of 22,000 authentic Shaker artifacts.

There is a jam-packed scheduled for the coming season, including the ever-popular Baby Animals on the Shaker Farm. “We had a litter of piglets born last week and a calf two weeks ago,” said Cellana. “The lambs will be born in a couple of weeks.”

Visitors will be invited to meet the village’s newest arrivals, starting April 14th, in the restored Round Stone Barn and Dairy Ell. “We’re opening Baby Animals in the wonderfully renovated barn,” Cellana said. “It’s not only going to make a favorite springtime event wonderful for our visitors, but also for the animals. The dairy ell has been restored and what had been added has been replaced—so it’s not just a coat of paint. The animals are absolutely loving it.”

At 10:30 AM on opening day there will be a blessing of the animals and Shaker singing in the heart of the Round Stone Barn led by the Rev. Mark Longhurst of the First Congregational Church of Williamstown.

April brings a plethora of events celebrating the natural world. Farmer Bill and his knowledgeable staff will provide hayrides through the gardens and forest to a private area where visitors can help during feeding time and have special access to the village’s newest additions. Tours are offered every day at 11AM and also at 1PM on weekends.

Opening April 14th and continuing through May 20th the final exhibit of Berkshire artist Susan Merrill’s barnyard paintings, displayed appropriately in the Poultry House Gallery. The opening reception will be held from 4:30-6:30PM.

Also included in the April schedule is a Shaker Sustainability Tour, highlighting how the innovative Shaker community met its needs and anticipated the modern sustainability movement. It will be held April 19th from 11AM TO 2PM.

A Barnyard Dance enlivens Saturday, April 21st at 11AM and noon and Earth Day will be celebrated Sunday, April 22nd, 10AM-4PM. Visitors can plant a seed to take home and make a seed packet—originally an innovation of the Shakers, who invented and sold them as part of the industries at the village. At 2PM that day, greenhouse tours will be offered.

A sausage-and-beer dinner is on tap Friday, April 27th, at 6:30PM.

The sheep will give up their wool Saturday and Sunday, April 28th and 29th, 10AM-4PM, during the sheep-shearing weekend. On Sunday, 10AM to 3PM there will be a knitting workshop. Advance registration is required.

Things heat up even more in May with events as varied as a guided walk to explore the plants and creatures living within the village’s environs; farm games such as the grain-bag toss, moo juice squeeze, a wheelbarrow push and the like; a wreath ‘n sip workshop; a curator talk on Shaker Gift Drawings; a homeschool day; farm friends for ages 2 to 5; a tour to forage for wild foods, and Goat Yoga.

An exhibition will put Hancock Shaker Village’s magnificent gift drawings on view for the first time in decades. Steeped in symbolic imagery, these drawings are decorative, colorful and complicated.

Food for Thought, a monthly dinner series returns May 5 when Francis Greenburger, whose Risk Game: Self Portrait of an Entrepreneur, reveals how he became a force in the competitive world of New York real estate-and a champion for nonprofit organizations.

Greenburger is followed June 23rd by Roy Blount, Jr., the author of 24 books, and a regular on NPR. In his latest book, Save Room for Pie, Blount applies his wit and charm to a fundamental topic: food.

And on Saturday, July 21st, Chris Jennings, author of Paradise Now, offers an account of American utopianism and the bold, eccentric visions for the future put forward by five of history’s most influential utopian movements, including the Shakers.

Amy Dickinson, the nationally-syndicated Ask Amy advice columnist and author of the New York Times bestselling memoir Strangers Tend to Tell Me Things: A Memoir of Love, Loss, and Coming Home, will appear August 11.

Tickets for Food for Thought events are $100 and $90 for members and include a seasonal dinner by farm-to-table chef Brian Alberg, wine and the respective book. Cellana said, “Food for Thought started last year and has been very successful. The room where the dinners are served has been expanded and now seats 100. It’s adjacent to the café and is accessible and modern.”

June 2nd begins the Shaker Barn Music concerts with the Sweetback Sisters. Subsequent concerts will be on July 7th with Pi Power Trio and July 21st with The Autumn Defense, Heather Maloney, and Johnny Irion. Doors open 6:30 with the show 7:30PM.

June 9th brings a new addition to the village’s schedule, the first annual Northeast Fiddlers Convention planned for 2PM to midnight. Inspired by traditional fiddlers’ conventions, there will be afternoon workshops led by Bill & the Belles and Nils Fredland. The evening will be filled with open jams and a fiddle and banjo contest. As night falls there will be a square dance with live music by Bill & the Belles and calling by Fredland.

On the weekend of June 9 and 10 there will also be a Maker Day: Oval Box Workshop, from 10 AM to 3PM. Participants will make their own Shaker oval boxes. A second Maker Day event is planned for Saturday, June 16, 10 AM-3:30PM, when participants create a Shorty Cathead Basket. June 23rd and 24th bring the third Maker Day, this time Blacksmithing 101, from 10AM-4PM. Basic blacksmithing skills will be used to make one of several projects using traditional blacksmith's tools and techniques in a coal-fired forge.

More hands-on activity will be provided by another Maker Day on July 14th from 10AM to 1PM when participants explore dovetail construction found in Shaker cabinetry. In this workshop, participants learn the proper layout procedure and techniques for cutting dovetails: spacing, marking, sawing to the line, chopping and fitting. Emphasis is on technique, not a finished project. Saturday, August 11th, brings the last Maker Day, this one focusing on Mastering iPhone Photography.

Silo Songs, a new permanent sound installation, opens June 10, with a reception from 5 to 7PM. The installation offers visitors an immersive musical experience inside one of the museum’s restored silos. The contemporary score captures the ecstatic feel of Shaker worship services and suggest the feeling that Mother Ann’s original singing evoked in her followers.

Saturday & Sunday, June 23rd and 24th, visitors are invited to get Down and Dirty on the Farm. They will meet the farm staff as they care for animals and plants, watch a sheep pedicure, explore the recently-opened manure level of the Round Stone Barn and visit the village’s pigs in their new outdoor pen. They will also discover why pollinators are important—and how to attract them to their gardens.

Young Shaker Tours begin July 2nd for youngsters ages 3 to 12. They don a Shaker bonnet or hat for this 90-minute tour as they work and play like an 1800s-era Shaker child. The tours are offered daily, but space is limited and a parent/chaperone must accompany the youngsters.

July 7th brings an exhibit of new works by contemporary artists Henry Kilmowicz, Abellardo Morell and Marko Remic. The trio work in diverse media to explore Shaker landscapes, objects and sustainability. An opening reception will be held from 5 to 7PM.

Saturday, July 14th, visitors are invited to Let Off Some S.T.E.A.M. Explore the ways the Shaker community was fueled by the power of S.T.E.A.M. There will be talk-and-walks, hands-on activities and programs devoted to water power, solar power, textile technology, medicinal herbs, soil science and acoustical engineering.

Saturday and Sunday, August 4th and 5th, brings the Age of Iron. New England blacksmiths will demonstrate traditional and modern methods of metal working.

Shakerfest, planned for Saturday, August 18th, is a new kind of festival of music, ballads, storytelling, harmony workshops and dance curated by Anna and Elizabeth. They are Appalachian singer songwriters who “are not only extraordinary musicians [but] also visual artists, historians, and storytellers.” This festival offers afternoon harmony and dance workshops, an evening performance in the barn inspired by the Shakers who built it, and a barn dance.

The world premiere of A Simple Gift takes place Friday, August 24th through-Sunday, August 26th (four shows only). It is an a cappella musical by award-winning playwright T. Cat Ford about a Shaker community whose peaceful existence is profoundly challenged by the arrival of a troubled young woman. Following the Friday premiere, there will be wine and conversation with the playwright, director and the curator of Hancock Shaker Village.

For more information about these activities and associated fees please click on the link below.



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