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Seuss Museum Expected to Provide Boost for Quadrangle, City


Top: an artist’s rendering of one of the scenes to unfold on the first floor of the planned Dr. Seuss museum, set to open in June 2016. Above: kids visit Ted Geisel’s statue in the outdoor sculpture garden.

Top: an artist’s rendering of one of the scenes to unfold on the first floor of the planned Dr. Seuss museum, set to open in June 2016. Above: kids visit Ted Geisel’s statue in the outdoor sculpture garden.

Holly Smith-Bove says that, over the years, the bulk of the phone calls and inquiries from visitors to the Springfield Museums — maybe 80% of them by her estimate — have concerned the “Dr. Seuss Museum,” even though there isn’t one.

There is a sculpture garden featuring Seuss characters, as well as the author himself, on the museum grounds, which helps explain all those inquiries, she said. Still, many assume there is a museum attached to that hugely popular attraction. Meanwhile, there’s also an image of the Cat in the Hat on the museums’ logo, creating additional expectations.

But another huge factor is simply the strong international pull of Theodor Seuss Geisel, the most famous children’s author of all time — an estimated 600 million copies of his various works have been sold in 95 countries around the world — and knowledge of his many connections to Springfield, his birthplace, said Smith-Bove, president of Springfield Museums. And thus it is with a good deal of relief — and anticipation — that such questions will now be given a different answer.

Specifically, that the Amazing World of Dr. Seuss Museum will open its doors in June 2016 in the William Pynchon Memorial Building, which once housed the Connecticut Valley Historical Museum.

The new facility will be highly interactive and have a strong literacy component, said Kay Simpson, vice president of Springfield Museums, who spearheaded the Seuss museum project.

She told BusinessWest that the first floor of the Seuss museum, some 3,200 square feet of exhibition space, will house “The Amazing World of Dr. Seuss,” a permanent, bilingual exhibit deigned to introduce children and their families to the stories of Geisel, promote joy in reading, and nurture specific literacy skills.

“The exhibit is really focused on Ted Geisel growing up in downtown Springfield, and how the sights that he saw and some of the characters he encountered later appeared in his books,” said Simpson, noting that there are many connections, including Mulberry Street, just a few blocks from the Quadrangle, which was the focus of his first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.

The second floor, meanwhile, which is due to open roughly a year later and is what Simpson called a “work in progress,” will house additional exhibits, including a planned re-creation of Geisel’s studio, an exhibition about the making of the sculpture garden, and other related displays.

“We’re calling it ‘Ted’s Room,’” said Smith-Bove. “It might include his writing desk — setting up his studio as if he just left it.”

The new museum is expected to generate perhaps a 25% boost in overall visitorship to the Quadrangle (currently about 400,000 annually), said Smith-Bove, adding that the attraction has strong potential to bring a number of economic benefits to the City of Homes, especially if the museum concept can be built upon in ways to include other city landmarks.

Holly Smith-Bove, left, and Kay Simpson

Holly Smith-Bove, left, and Kay Simpson say the new Dr. Seuss museum will bring many benefits, including a boost in sales of Seuss items in the gift shop.

Indeed, museum officials are already pondering such possibilities as Seuss walking or driving tours that could possibly include his childhood home on Fairfield Street (currently on the market), his alma mater, Classical High School, the site of his maternal grandparents’ bakery on Howard Street, and other sites.

They also envision packaging a Seuss experience with other facilities honoring artistic and literary figures, such as the Mark Twain Museum in Hartford, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, and others.

For this issue and its focus on travel and tourism, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at plans for the Seuss museum and talks with those involved about how it might prompt visitors to explore not only the worlds Geisel created, but the city that inspired so much of what he drew.

Rhyme and Reason

Simpson told BusinessWest that discussions concerning a Seuss museum began in 2002, not long after the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden opened, and it became immediately apparent just how powerful a draw the children’s author and his famous characters were.

“It was a huge attraction the day it opened to the public, and it still is today,” said Simpson, noting that, because people don’t have to purchase admission to visit the garden, it is hard to keep an accurate account of visitorship, but she estimates at least 100,000 people a year.

From a qualitative standpoint, she said the sculpture garden has been a hit with people of all ages, and it has attracted cars bearing the license plates of nearly 50 states.

“When the kids come onto the Quad, the minute they see the sculptures, they immediately run toward them — it’s very meaningful for people,” Simpson noted, adding that, while it is mostly a spring and summer phenomenon, weather doesn’t stop many of the faithful.

“I’ve gone out onto the Quad even during the chilly autumn,” she noted, “and you’ll see someone in the middle of a rainstorm with an umbrella just reading the text from the sculpture that represents Oh, the Places You’ll Go.”

And many of those visitors, as Smith-Bove noted, want to know where the Seuss museum is.

While there has long been a desire to create one and meet that recognized need, Simpson explained, many pieces had to fall in place for such a facility to become reality.

Such pieces included physical space, a problem that was solved when the various collections in the Pynchon building were moved to the new Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History in 2009, freeing up that square footage. Another was gaining the blessing of Geisel’s widow, Audrey, and Dr. Seuss Enterprises, an organization that zealously promotes and protects the Seuss name and brand, while still another was funding.

In many respects, Simpson said, those challenges were woven together.

“We had a conceptual plan for the first floor of the Pynchon building, which had received approval from Dr. Seuss Enterprises, but they had a condition,” she explained. “And the condition was that we had to raise all the money that we needed to execute that conceptual plan before we started any construction or fabrication.

“It’s been like a patchwork quilt,” added Simpson of the efforts to create the museum, adding that a key stitch came from a $1 million appropriation from the state, which, when added to roughly $600,000 and other donations, including a $150,000 gift from the Institute of Library Services, gave the Museums more than the $1.5 million needed to greenlight the project and begin work.

Following an extensive RFP process that yielded responses from firms across the country, the Springfield Museums contracted with a design group comprised of 42 Design Fab, based in Indian Orchard, and 5 WITS Productions and Boston Productions Inc., both based in Norwood, to create the interactive elements for the first floor.

The new Seuss museum

The new Seuss museum will focus on the many connections between the author and Springfield, including early vehicles produced in the city.

Visitors will enter the exhibition through a large entry hall designed to simulate elements of And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. In succeeding galleries, they’ll explore a series of environments that replicate scenes from Geisel’s imagination and encounter life-sized, three-dimensional characters and places from the books.

Character Witnesses

Overall, what’s planned for the two floors of the Pynchon Building, a Georgian Colonial Revival style structure, is a celebration of the author, his works, and his many connections to Springfield, said Simpson and Smith-Bove, adding that childhood literacy will be an important component of the facility.

That’s because one of Geisel’s primary motivations for his many children’s books was to get young people excited about reading, said Simpson.

Indeed, starting with The Cat in the Hat, published in 1957, he launched what became known as the I Can Read It All By Myself Beginner Book Series, which would also include The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, and many others.

“We’re going to be a resource for the community in terms of emphasizing reading and the importance of reading,” she said of the new museum. “And our exhibits will have literacy built into them.

“For example, the interactive displays will teach kids how to rhyme and have really fun rhyming games,” she went on. “They will teach letters of the alphabet, and they provide places where families can read together — little reading nooks. There will be a focus on vocabulary with a ‘word wall.’”

As for Springfield connections, there are many, said Simpson, noting that, while the author never lived in the city following a brief return after doing graduate work at Oxford, his birthplace was always important to him, and many of its landmarks, as well as the inventions and products with which the city is most identified, can be seen in his works.

It’s all explained in a number of informational panels on the author now on display in the history museum.

One cites the stunning resemblance between the towers in the armory building on Howard Street (set to become part of the MGM casino complex) that sat across the street from his maternal grandparents’ German bakery, and a tower in The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins.

Another panel speculates on how the Knox automobiles and Indian motorcycles manufactured in the city early in the 20th century may have influenced vehicles presented in his books, while another cites how his paternal grandfather’s brewery, the Kalmbach & Geisel Brewery, may have inspired some of his drawings. And still another informs readers of how the animals in the Forest Park Zoo — which Geisel’s father served as superintendent after Prohibition torpedoed the family brewery — inspired the many creatures in his books.

“Ted grew up on Fairfield Street, which was not far from Forest Park; he used to go over to the park as a boy, and he always had his sketchbook with him,” said Simpson. “He would go to the zoo, and he would draw all those animals — he would spend hours doing that — and it’s believed that seeing all those animals inspired him to create all those crazy creatures you see in his books.”

These myriad connections help explain why the Seuss family and Dr. Seuss Enterprises determined that, if there was to be a museum devoted to the children’s author, it should be in Springfield, said Smith-Bove, adding that it will be the only facility of its kind dedicated to his life and work in the world.

And while it will be launched in the Pychon building, there are expectations that it may be expanded down the road, said Smith-Bove, adding that, in the meantime, the other facilities in the Springfield Museums could be utilized to provide a broader Seuss experience.

“We have five museums on our campus that can hold thousands of people,” she explained. “It’s up to us to make sure that we program each of the other buildings. In the art museum, we can have Seuss’s artwork; in the history, we can talk about his life; for the science museum, there’s the Lorax … there are many possibilities.”

These extend well beyond the Quadrangle itself, said Simpson, adding that Springfield Museums and city officials should work together to use those connections between Geisel and his hometown to bring more attention — and visitors — to the museums and the city as a whole.

“Ted really knew downtown Springfield — he went to Classical, he used the main branch of the city library [on State Street], and some of his books actually to refer to what was then called the municipal auditorium, Symphony Hall,” she explained. “So we were thinking that we could do a walking tour, which goes to the idea of cultural tourism.

“We’d be making connections between the museums and other sites in downtown Springfield,” she went on, “and would really get tourists walking around the city.”

When asked about the projected impact on the Quadrangle from the new museum, Smith-Bove and Simpson again flashed back to when the sculpture garden opened. The first few years it was open, it was a huge draw, they said, adding that visitorship to the museums grew by roughly 25% over that time.

A similar increase is expected from the new facility, along with a corresponding increase in the museums’ overall economic impact on the city, currently pegged at roughly $28 million.

And for the Springfield Museums themselves, in addition to the surge in visitorship, there is an expected trickle-down to facilities like the gift shop, where sales of Seuss-related items — from books to Cat in the Hat hats to plush toys — account for more than 25% of total revenues.

Chapter and Verse

The health and vitality of both the Seuss name and brand is evidenced by the coverage given the news of the planned Seuss museum, said Matt Longhi, the museums’ director of marketing and public relations, who tracks such things.

He said stories or notes have appeared in the Boston Globe, the New York Daily News, Time, Entertainment Weekly, and even the South African Art Times and Al Jazeera’s New York bureau.

More significant than the press is the manner in which the Seuss brand continues to grow — in scope and also in terms of revenue, said Simpson, adding that the Seuss name, and the books, have enormous staying power.

“Other book series just seem to fade out over time,” she explained. “But he just keeps getting more popular.”

In addition to staying power, it is expected that the celebrated author will have drawing power — in a figurative sense — which will bode well for the museums at the Quadrangle, the city itself, and all those who want to celebrate the life of Springfield’s most famous resident.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Travel and Tourism
Berkshire East Positions Itself as Outdoor Adventure Center

Berkshire East’s new mountain coaster

Berkshire East’s new mountain coaster opened last October and has earned the distinction of being the longest alpine mountain coaster in North America.

In the fall of 1976, Roy Schaefer drove his family from Michigan to Charlemont to look at Thunder Mountain Ski Resort, which was about to go bankrupt.

Although it was failing, Schaefer was optimistic that he could bring it back to life, and he and a partner purchased it from Greenfield Savings Bank for $1, plus a debt of several hundred thousand dollars.

Schaefer renamed the resort Berkshire East, and although his hard work and dedication paid off, he dedicated only the fall and winter months to the operation.

“My father and his partner operated a ferryboat company in the summer on Mackinaw Island in Michigan, and when the ski area ended, all of their energy shifted there,” said Roy’s son, Jonathan Schafer, who co-owns Berkshire East Mountain Resort with his family.

However, Roy and his partner kept the area alive, and it became a place where generations of families learned to ski. But, because it was a seasonal operation dependent on weather, he battled Mother Nature for decades. However, his commitment and belief that outdoor recreation is a sustainable model for economic growth not only helped area businesses and provided seasonal employment, but was passed on to his four children.

Today, the resort is undergoing a $5 million transformation and is ushering in a bevy of recreational activities designed to transform it into a year-round destination that offers not only alpine skiing, but snow tubing, ziplining, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, and the opportunity to ride North America’s longest mountain coaster.

The family also added overnight accommodations to the resort last September by purchasing the nearby, 530-acre Warfield House Inn and Farm, a bed and breakfast located just over a mile from Berkshire East that operates as a working farm complete with llamas, cattle, chickens, and gardens.

Jonathan has worked alongside his father for years, and says he and his brothers developed their own vision for expanding the family ski resort into a year-round retreat years ago.

“We were all ski racers who traveled the world, and due to our racing, we got to see a lot of things: bungee jumping in New Zealand, mountain biking, and other amazing activities,” he said. “We knew that we wanted to bring them to Charlemont and also realized that the Berkshires compare to any mountain range anywhere.

“We never had a written master plan, but we knew where we wanted to go with the resort due to our shared experience,” he went on, “and our goal now is to become the number-one family, four-season resort in Southern New England.”

The vision morphed into reality in 2008, when Jonathan’s brother, James, who lives in New York City, bought out his father’s business partner in Michigan.

Change began almost immediately, and in 2009, Berkshire East installed its first new recreational venue, Zipline Canopy Tours, that would change its status from a winter resort into one that offered year-round activities.

For this issue and its focus on travel and tourism, BusinessWest looks at the many changes and additions at Berkshire East, and how the resort is now at the top of its game — in more ways than one.

Reaching New Heights

The expanded venue has been a success, and people can choose three different zipline options that begin with a ride up the mountain on a chair lift that offers panoramic views of the Deerfield Valley. The descent is exciting, moving from platform to platform through mountainous terrain, and Zipline Canopy Tours was named by USA Today as one of the top 10 ziplines in the nation.

“The tours are guided and were built to fit in with the landscape. It’s a great adventure that lasts two to two and a half hours,” Jonathan said.

The Schaefer family has always strived to be in tune with nature, and in 2011 they installed a wind turbine, followed by a 10-acre solar field in 2012.

“We were the first ski area to produce all of our own electricity, and we remain the only ski area in the world to produce renewable energy on site,” Jonathan told BusinessWest.

Berkshire Whitewater

Berkshire Whitewater will begin offering rafting trips in May, with a variety of excursions designed for people of different ages and abilities.

The wind turbine powers the pumps that transform water into snow, and from 2009 to 2013, Berkshire East made dramatic upgrades to its snowmaking operation. “We also added a mountaintop pond, which allowed us to double our snow guns and open earlier each season,” Jonathan said, adding that the resort contains 160 skiable acres. “We opened the last weekend in November, and this year is our longest season ever.”

Another new attraction has increased business and added to the operation’s year-round status. It’s a 5,400-foot, all-season mountain coaster that opened last October on Columbus Day weekend.

“It was built as a diversification against the weather; ski weekends can be wiped out due to cold and snow, so we needed a way to drive business and give people a great experience,” said Jonathan. “The things we have done allow us to be open 365 days a year, and we built a 12,000-square-foot addition onto our lodge last year. It’s beautiful, as it’s made from hand cut timber.”

He noted that the lodge has two floors, two restaurants, and a bar, and has been a tremendous boost to the property. “Many couples book their weddings here, and now their guests will be able to enjoy the activities we offer year-round.”

The mountain coaster is one of them, and it’s a noteworthy attraction. “It is the longest mountain coaster in the nation and the third-longest in the world. It’s powered by our wind turbine and solar panels, and is an inviting way for people to enjoy the outdoors, as there are no fitness or skill requirements,” Jonathan said.

The coaster’s construction proved to be an extraordinary engineering feat, because each section had to be designed to adapt to the contour of the mountain with minimal impact to the landscape. The sections were installed in 10-foot lengths, and each car is towed up the mountain by a stainless-steel cable and strategically released when it reaches the top.

“Each car is independent of the others and has its own braking system, which allows people to slow down or speed up by pulling on the handles,” Jonathan said. “However, if one car gets within 80 feet of another going down the mountain, the brakes automatically stop it.

“The track twists and turns down a mountainside of cliffs and trees, so it’s a wild ride on a dynamic hillside,” he added. “Anticipation builds in riders who are going up, as they can see others coming down because the course crosses uphill four times.”

The new attraction has attracted coaster enthusiasts from across the nation, and groups have already booked trips there this summer.

Growing Venues

Berkshire East enjoyed a cooperative partnership with Moxie Outdoor Adventures for years, and recently acquired its Deerfield River rafting operation. It has been renamed Berkshire Whitewater, and although it kept most of Moxie’s river guides, Berkshire East purchased 10 new rafts designed exclusively for the river, along with other state-of-the art equipment.

“We have 60 spots on the river, plan to open in May, and will continue the rafting trips until it gets too cold to run them in the fall,” said Jonathan. “We can’t add 1,000 vertical feet to the ski area, so we are adding world-class activities to show off what a beautiful spot we have here.”

Trips will be available five days a week and will begin when the hydroelectric Bear Swamp Generating Station releases water, which is done on a regular, scheduled basis. Since it stores approximately 1.7 billion gallons of water almost 800 feet above the river, when it is released, it turns the river into an ideal spot for rafters, kayakers, and downriver canoeists.

A variety of adventures along different sections of the river are planned for different age groups and abilities, but all rafters will receive a 20-minute safety lecture before they leave. A picnic lunch is provided for people who opt for one of the easier excursions, while another, more advanced course ends with a barbecue.

Each trip lasts four or five hours, and there are options to satisfy everyone, including a leisurely, half-day float trip that families with children ages 5 and up can enjoy.

“They float along in a whitewater raft, and there are places for them to get out, splash around, and swim,” Jonathan noted.

In addition, guided kayaking trips will be offered daily, and children ages 5 and up can accompany an adult in a boat on the four-hour adventures.

Since some people have already rafted on the Deerfield River, Jonathan said, Berkshire Whitewater is offering trips on the Millers River, east of Greenfield, and the West River in Jamaica, Vermont. “But they all start here, and people are taken to those sites in vans,” he told BusinessWest.

skiing remains a major part of Berkshire East

Despite the resort’s all-season changes, skiing remains a major part of Berkshire East’s roster of offerings.

The Schaefer family is also building a new mountain-biking park and commissioned a group from Whistler Mountain, whose track record includes building the largest and most dynamic bike trail in the world, to construct 10 miles of trails down the mountain. “We plan to open the park in early July and will have a major focus on beginners, with a learn-to-ride program,” Jonathan said.

Meanwhile, because the Schaefers know that many people want to enjoy their resort for more than a day, the purchase of the mountaintop complex that contains the Warfield House Inn will allow them to offer overnight lodging.

“It was a logical move because there was no housing at the ski area and this was a beautiful facility that needed new life. We thought it would be a great complement to our business,” he said.

The bed and breakfast, which was recently renovated, contains a meeting facility, restaurant, and pavilion with mountaintop views. “It’s a gorgeous place to get married,” Jonathan said, adding that the farm is also known for its maple-sugaring operation, producing about 1,000 gallons of the sweet treat each year.

Endless Possibilities

Over the past few years, Berkshire East also installed a new Sky Trac Quad chair lift, with the help of a helicopter and an army of loyal employees, that can deliver 2,400 people an hour to the top of the mountain to ski, mountain bike, hike, and enjoy other outdoor activities.

“For many years, we were just a ski area, and we have continued to expand the skiing and offer a lot of learn-to-ski programs for children,” Jonathan said. “But it’s a sport that takes skill. There is a learning curve, and it requires equipment, so we wanted to add other year-round activities that would give families the experience of a lifetime.”

He added that his brother Bill, who lives in Iowa, is part-owner of the whitewater-rafting business and has purchased rental properties in the area; his brother Tom, who lives in California, has also purchased rental properties; and he, his brother James, and their father run the day-to-day operation of the resort and remain committed to providing healthy, recreational outdoor activities.

Today, the family is excited about the expansion, and their goal is for Berkshire East to become known as “New England’s Outdoor Adventure Center,” Jonathan said.

“We think it is possible,” he noted, “because we have added attractions that will drive business and give people a great experience here 365 days a year.”

Features Sections Travel and Tourism

Clark Art Institute Reopens After Major Renovation

The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown celebrated the grand reopening of its 140-acre campus on July 4. It has been transformed by a $145 million renovation designed to give visitors a more coherent and expanded view of art and nature.

“It’s a whole new Clark; we have recast the public profile of the institution,” said Thomas Loughman, associate director for programs and planning. “We have maintained the beautiful, intimate experience we are known for, but created a better way to experience it so visitors can connect with the great pinnacle of human creation, which is art.”

Reflecting pools greet visitors to the Clark.

Reflecting pools greet visitors to the Clark.

The changes, which include new architecture and the newly built Clark Center, the main entryway into the campus, are breathtaking and have attracted rave reviews. The building was designed by Pulitzer Prize-winning architect Tadeo Ando to direct people’s views as they enter through walls of glass and three-tiered reflecting pools outside, where trees and hillsides are mirrored in water that comes right to the edge of the glass. In addition to their aesthetic value, the pools are advanced water-management systems that will reduce the Clark’s potable water use by 1 million gallons a year.

“Ando is truly dedicated to the idea that great architecture needs to be in harmony with the landscape, and the reason the Clark Center has so much glass is because it was meant to bring the outside in,” Loughman said.

“The glass was installed to create a connection, historically and visually, with views to the left and right,” he continued, as he sat in a room backed by glass that looked out onto another pool of water. “The materials used in this building frame one’s view of the landscape, whether it is man-made and orderly or partially wild, with gradations in between.”

New ways to circulate between the buildings have also been created, which include a bridge outside and a hallway between the Clark Center and the museum. It has glass on one side, which changes as people travel along it, redirecting their view from a lily pond on the left to the reflecting pools on the right. Exhibit space has also been increased within the museum building itself, which had been closed for three years before the grand reopening last month.

Sally Majewski, manager of public relations and marketing, said reaction to the transformation has been overwhelmingly positive. “We’ve had an incredible response to what has been done, which has been very gratifying.”

She added that, when the museum building closed for the renovation, 75 French paintings from the Clark’s collection were sent on a three-year international tour in 11 cities. “They returned just in time to be reinstalled before we reopened,” Majewski told BusinessWest, noting that the international tour drew more than 2.6 million visitors.

In addition to the Clark Center and renovated museum building, other changes have been made, and the entire campus has become so inviting that locals can be seen walking their dogs along miles of pathways in the verdant landscape and pausing to sit beside the reflecting pools, while people from all over the world view art, study, and conduct research inside the buildings.

Ambitious Plan

Loughman said the expansion plans were first conceived in the late ’90s, when it became clear that the facilities at the Clark were too limited for their program, but they had ample room to grow.

Thomas Loughman says the design of the Clark and its surroundings help visitors make the connection between the beauty of nature and art.

Thomas Loughman says the design of the Clark and its surroundings help visitors make the connection between the beauty of nature and art.

“The population of the town is only 5,000, but we have a very big impact on the region and on the global mission of portraying the history of art,” he said. “The fellows who do research here come from all over the world, and we have exchange relationships with museums around the world in terms of lending and borrowing. And although we had 140 acres, we were hunkered down in two old buildings. So we commissioned Cooper Robertson and Partners in New York City to create a master plan. They told us we needed to change the circulation of the campus, which included moving the parking to one spot, and responsibly crossing two brooks via a bridge to allow access to the rest of the campus.”

In 2002, an architectural competition was launched, and Ando was chosen to design two new buildings. The first — the 42,600-square-foot Clark Center — includes more than 11,000 square feet of gallery space for special exhibitions, a multi-purpose pavilion for events, a dining area, a museum store, family spaces, and an all-glass museum pavilion that creates a new entrance to the original museum building.

The second new structure is the Lunder Center at Stone Hill, which houses smaller exhibits and contains a new art classroom, a seasonal café on a terrace that offers a sweeping view of the landscape, and the Williamstown Art Conservation Center’s facilities.

Phase 1 was completed in 2008 and included the Lunder Center, a new bridge, and a free shuttle service provided between that building and the main campus. Phase 2 involved the construction of the Clark Center with its reflecting pools, site work to the parking lot, and renovations to the museum building and Manton Research Center.

Consideration was also given to the environment, and the terraced reflecting pools that cover an acre were part of Ando’s master plan. They unite the museum’s campus by providing a peaceful view from inside and outside of Stone Hill Meadow, Christmas Brook, and its wetlands.

But they are functional as well and have helped position the Clark at the forefront of the museum world as a leader in sustainability and energy conservation.

Loughman said all the rainwater from the roofs and terraces is channeled into the pools and used to flush the toilets. “It’s a huge advance to have our stormwater-management system and gray-water system tied together in a sustainable fashion,” he told BusinessWest, as he gazed at the sheet of water, which is about 12 inches deep and has a bottom composed of Berkshire river rock and fieldstone.

Funding for the project came entirely from donations, with the exception of $1 million from the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund, and financial vehicles were created to keep it moving forward. “People care deeply about our mission, which is to bridge the distance that separates the general public from what is happening in art history,” Loughman said. “We try to connect our guests with ideas and objects, and our new facilities let us do this better.”

Unification Efforts

Each of the four buildings on the campus has a distinct character. “The museum, which was built in the ’50s, is clad in white marble and looks like a Greek temple or mausoleum, while the Manton Research Center, designed in the ’60s, is clad in purple granite and built in New Brutalist style,” said Loughman, pointing out some of the differences.

But today, thanks to Tadeo Ando Architect and Associates, Selldorf Architects, and Reed Hilderbrand and Gensler, materials used in the Clark Center mirror those used in the museum and Manton Center.
The museum’s interior has also undergone change. The building gained 15% more exhibit space, which equates to about 2,200 square feet. That was made possible by moving the loading docks, mailroom, and other service spaces. “It allows us to put a substantially greater number of works on view, many of which were held in storage,” Loughman said.

New lighting and environmental controls were also installed, and three small galleries were created to showcase silver and porcelain as guests move west to east throughout the building. “In the past, we had very primitive displays, but the new cases give us so much more space,” he continued. “There is also a purpose-built gallery for American paintings in the former mailroom that allows us to show off our great collection of Winslow Homer and George Inness. We originally had two of Inness’ works in our collection, but two years ago, we were given eight more of them. Now, we have a place to display them.”

Other changes made to the museum building included raising and reconfiguring the height of the academic gallery to mirror the Impressionist artwork on display there. In addition, new walls were erected to create small showcases within the larger gallery, and the color in some areas was changed to create a more spacious feel.

A new small room with special lighting allows the museum to showcase pastels, and is one of three areas carved out to spotlight select pieces of art. “Ando and the curators tried to create moments of surprise by creating them so they could highlight a small number of works,” Majewski said.

There has also been a change, which began seven years ago, in the type of work put on display. “We wanted to challenge ourselves to show things beyond what people expect to see at the Clark,” Loughman said.
In the past, that was a collection of great 19th-century French and American paintings. But today, the Clark has exhibitions of 20th- and 21st-century art as well as non-Western art and antiquity.

“What we’ve done on these fronts seems very provocative, but we have created immersive experiences that include contemporary art,” Loughman noted, referring to a number of exhibitions, including “Circles of Influence,” which showcases the work of the abstract expressionist Georgia O’Keefe and the modernist Arthur Dove.

Today, a show called “Unearthed: Recent Archaeological Discoveries from Northern China” is on display in the new Clark Center, while an exhibit titled “Raw Color: The Circles of David Smith” can be seen in the Lunden Center.

The multi-million-dollar, multi-phase project that began 15 years ago is almost complete, and a video presentation near the new entrance to the museum building documents the undertaking. Although it has taken time, the end result is a seamless experience, due to the work of four internationally renowned architects who added more than 13,000 square feet of gallery space, demolished the former physical plant building to make way for the new Clark Center and its three reflecting pools, upgraded major utilities, added a series of new geothermal wells, planted 1,000 new trees, and created new ways to circulate among the four buildings on the campus.

Unified Atmosphere

Other changes include upgrades and expansion of the walking trails, a new entry drive, and parking areas with water-permeable surfaces that lead to the rainwater-collection system.

A renovation of the Manton Research Center will complete the project. “The lobby will be turned into a public reading room. It’s one of the greatest art-history libraries in the world, but it has been behind doors, so it is critical to bring it out,” Loughman said.

Although this is important, he added, what has been already accomplished is extraordinary.

“The transformation allowed us to leap over something very old and non-functional and become something that is a generation ahead of our peers in terms of design and sustainability,” he said. “It was difficult to do everything at once, but our project was driven by unity and the historic connection to the earth, which is really art.”

Sections Travel and Tourism

The Big E Continues to Be an Economic Engine

Eastern States Exposition CEO Gene Cassidy and the man who inspires his work, fair founder Joshua Brooks.

Eastern States Exposition CEO Gene Cassidy and the man who inspires his work, fair founder Joshua Brooks.

Joshua L. Brooks was a man who got things done. And Gene Cassidy, CEO of the Eastern States Exposition, doesn’t let anyone forget it, hanging a large portrait of Brooks, the fair’s founder, at the front of the conference room where he meets with his staff.

“Mr. Brooks was concerned about agriculture,” Cassidy told BusinessWest. “He was an industrialist, but he saw that agriculture was losing ground in New England at the turn of the last century, with so much agriculture being produced out of the Midwest and South Central estates. So he established the Eastern States Agricultural and Industrial Exposition.”

Specifically, he got the National Dairy Show to move its annual event from Chicago to West Springfield in 1916, but only after he transformed a bare plot of land into a property where the expo could be staged.
“There’s a great story of how he capitalized the fairgrounds and got people to donate incredible sums of money,” said Cassidy, citing, as an example, the night of Feb. 1, 1914, when a major blizzard hit the Pioneer Valley. A fund-raiser was scheduled for that night, and Noyes Fisk, owner of Fisk Tire Co. in Chicopee — which later became Uniroyal — was given the responsibility of raising $750,000. “Even in that blizzard, with limited attendance, he was able to raise $450,000. That was the initial capital providing resources to build these facilities, including A Barn, B Barn, and C Barn.”

All three of those barns, including several other structures built in the early years of the fair, still stand today, while the fairgrounds has added many others over the years. More importantly, however, the fair — its name eventually shortened to the Eastern States Exposition and known colloquially as the Big E — has built a nearly century-old legacy that’s measured by more than its impressive regional economic impact (more on that later).

“The impact of Eastern States is dramatic, and it’s important to the region,” said Cassidy, who joined the Big E 20 years ago as chief financial officer and took the reins from longtime CEO Wayne McCary. Cassidy’s first two fairs as CEO set records for attendance, but he has been equally successful with another mission: bringing the expo’s history to life, partly by decorating the expo’s offices with dozens of posters, documents, and artifacts from the past 98 years, including more than one celebrating the work of the man he respectfully calls Mr. Brooks.

“Since I became CEO, my goal has been to reconnect and resurrect, if you will, the spirit of our founder, Mr. Brooks,” Cassidy said. “This building was pretty sterile before, but I think the history is important, and it’s important for all of us who work here to be reacquainted with why we’re here — and what, really, is the purpose of the Eastern States Exposition.”

As the 99th edition of the Big E gets set to roll out in two weeks, Cassidy sat down with BusinessWest to answer that question in a number of ways.

Animal Attraction

Although the words ‘agricultural’ and ‘industrial’ are no longer in the fair’s name, Cassidy said, it would be a mistake to underestimate their importance to what the Big E is all about.

“Yes, entertainment drives people’s interest, and we make a big deal about food; that drives people’s interest as well. And certainly the midway is an attraction, so making sure we have a good, clean, safe, attractive midway is key,” he explained. “Behind the scenes, though, we’re engaged in producing an event that serves the agricultural industry and the commodities industry for all of New England. Those are less exciting things for some people, but we get very excited about them.”

He said the fair has become known over the decades as a prime showcase for what he called the “bovine, equine, and swine” categories of livestock shows, as well as for produce and other food products. “If you win a blue ribbon at the Eastern States Exposition, whether it’s for cheese or cattle or goats, whatever it is, that gives you national cachet, national attention. Most fairgoers aren’t cognizant of that, but it’s very important for both the agriculture and industry that drives a large part of the New England economy.”

The fair has always educated people about livestock and agriculture, and Cassidy feels that mission is more important than ever, with so many Americans, particularly of the younger generations, unaware of what goes into putting their food on the table.

“So much time has passed from 1916 to today, and people are so distant from production agriculture. In many cases, animals [at the show] are viewed as if they’re domestic pets and not domestic food products. Youth today have no connection, no understanding of where their food actually comes from,” he said, adding that this disconnect isn’t limited to the agricultural side, and he’d like to see more fair offerings that teach people about food processing as well.

In addition, “it’s a continuing battle with animal-rights organizations,” Cassidy noted. “We get blowback from rogue groups that raise money on the Internet, anonymously, and they influence our programs in a way that’s detrimental to the general public.”

For example, “my office is two miles from the house where I was born and raised,” he continued. “When I was a kid, the Eastern States Exposition had a carcass exhibit, and a butcher butchering beef cattle and explaining the different cuts of beef. People would be mesmerized, and would learn where the loin comes from, the shoulder, and so on. In this day and age in New England, you could never have an exhibition like that, and it’s sad.”

Just like today, fairgoers have long been able to peruse and buy the latest products at the Big E.

Just like today, fairgoers have long been able to peruse and buy the latest products at the Big E.

While maintaining as much of the expo’s agricultural focus as possible, Cassidy said he would like to strengthen the connections the fair has to other notable industries, such as machine tools, using the fair as a platform to grow those businesses and generate jobs as well. He also believes promotion of consumer products still has a place.

“Companies used to use fairs as a means of promoting their new products,” he noted. “With the advent of television, fairs became less attractive for, say, Westinghouse or General Electric to launch their latest washing machine or other product. But we’re working very hard here to create opportunities for companies to re-engage people on the one-to-one level.”

This year’s fair will showcase the Ford Mustang, which made its debut at the New York World’s Fair 50 years ago. The Big E will display one of the Mustangs that was actually on display in New York in 1964, and Sarat Ford has produred a few rare special-edition Mustangs to display as well. “In many ways, we’re celebrating the World’s Fair,” Cassidy said. “It’s a throwback feature, which I’m really excited about.”

Eat, Listen, Love

Cassidy told BusinessWest that he fully understands the fair’s appeal to tradition and nostalgia that repeat visitors enjoy — everything from the livestock shows to the parades and circuses to the state buildings, where the six New England states promote their most popular foods, crafts, and other products. The challenge, of course, is maintaining those traditions while keeping the fair fresh.

Entertainment is a large part of that, and the Big E has long offered free concerts to visitors — this year’s extensive lineup features up-and-comers like The Voice winner Cassadee Pope and veterans like Eddie Money — while mixing in a few bigger-name shows that require an extra admission fee, including Darius Rucker, Little Big Town, and ZZ Top.

“I’ve been trying to get ZZ Top for 10, maybe 15 years, and I finally got them, so I’m very excited,” Cassidy said, adding that financial changes in the entertainment-booking world have made charging for some acts necessary.

“You’ve got to have good entertainment — that’s the thing that puts the buzz in the air. But that’s extremely difficult to do, and every year, it’s harder and harder. When I started here in 1994, we could book the biggest acts in Las Vegas for $40,000 or $50,000, and they would do two shows a day. Now, in the current age, we can’t afford these acts,” he said, noting that booking Reba McEntire in 2011 cost $335,000. “So we’ve been forced to charge now for the biggest acts, and we do our best to find solid acts we can give away.”

He credited John Juliano, the long-time special-events director for the Big E, with always being able to book talent on the rise, from Beyoncé before Destiny’s Child was popular to Hunter Hayes last year to Pope next month.

Still, for many fairgoers, music isn’t the number-one attraction; they’re more interested in finding out how many foods can be successfully deep-fried.

“Talent is such an important way of keeping people interested, but the other way is gastronomically,” Cassidy said of the Big E’s extensive selection of fair food. “I love cheese curds, and this is the only place in the world I get cheese curds. But we also have to continually discover new products and find means by which to bring new products to the fairgoing public.”

After all, the vitality and continuing popularity of the Big E has a direct economic impact on the region. According to a report the Eastern States Exposition produced this year, the 17-day Big E, plus all the other events that take place on the fairgrounds each year — which feature exhibitions for animal lovers, car enthusiasts, gun owners, campers, and dozens of other groups — benefit the region with an annual economic impact of $479 million.

The tax revenues alone include $3 million in income tax, $1.4 million in sales tax, $427,000 in hotel tax, and $3.3 million in food and beverage tax. More significantly, events generate $299 million in gross regional product and account for 3,000 jobs in Hampden County that generate $91.9 million in personal income. The exposition’s impact on the rest of New England and New York include 2,000 jobs generating $134 million in personal income. In all, 2.5 million visitors stop by the fairgrounds each year, well over 1 million for the Big E alone.

“We need all the stakeholders — which include the fair patrons, business leaders from throughout the region, and our own board of trustees — to be able to draw a direct link toward the Eastern States as a mechanism to drive the economy and jobs,” Cassidy said. “The fair has a broad impact on agriculture worldwide, but has its most important role in this region. It plays a very important role in generating business on a grand scale, and that ripples throughout the economy at many different levels.”

Into the Next Century

At one point, Cassidy pulled out an old, worn book filled with stock certificates that Brooks sold to some of Greater Springfield’s most notable citizens in the fair’s early days — then later bought back so that no individual or group could set the event’s agenda.

To continue Brooks’ legacy for the next 100 years, Cassidy knows that the fairgrounds need some attention, starting with those century-old buildings. Renovating the large B Barn, otherwise known as the Coliseum, is a $60 million endeavor, and that’s just one structure. Last year, the fair generated about $5 million in profit — a success, of course, but not the kind of revenue flow needed to sustain multiple improvement projects.

“We need to continue to grow, not just because we’re a 100-year-old facility with a great deal of deferred maintenance, but to re-educate the fair-going public,” he said. “I think we’re the most successful fair in the country; we’re recognized nationally as a best-practices organization. We’re one of the largest fairs, and the largest fair that’s not state-subsidized, which is really remarkable. But we need to put a lot of attention into this 100-year-old plant.”

To do that, Cassidy says it’s crucial to generate regional philanthropy, like Brooks did when he reached out to his wealthy friends to launch the exposition in 1916. “We’re a 501(c)(3) public charity, and financially, we’re a very stable organization, but we need to reinvigorate our stakeholders — not just to sustain ourselves, but we owe it to the region to grow, so the region grows.”

As board treasurer of the Regional Employment Board of Western Mass., Cassidy is keenly aware of the region’s need to retain talent to grow a number of its industries, and he feels like the Big E and its myriad activities can play a role in that, if only by improving quality of life in the Pioneer Valley.

“We have access to the best education in the world, and we’re exporting our graduates. Any company executive who scoffs at that is not being responsible in their duty to grow the economy and make their mark on the general citizenry,” he told BusinessWest. “It’s all about quality of life. My hope is that the Eastern States Exposition adds to quality of life for people in West Springfield and all of Greater Springfield.”

It’s an easy thing to get excited about, Cassidy added. “People pay to get in, and they’re predisposed to happiness. There are very few jobs in the world where the person coming through the gate is coming in to have a good time. You go to the grocery store because you have to, or go to the tire store because you need tires. You don’t have to come to the Big E.

“Our job,” he concluded, “is to deliver a product that makes you want to be here. If we can take our presence here and use it as a multiplier to drive industry in the local economy, we’ve succeeded.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Travel and Tourism
Mark Your Calendar with These 20 Happenings


In the mood for some music or theater? Enjoy art or antiques? Feel like trying out some different kinds of food?
The Pioneer Valley offers myriad opportunities to enjoy the summer, so if you’re feeling stir-crazy — or the kids say they’re bored — check out these 20 summer destinations, which only scratch the surface of what’s available in Western Mass. Whether you’re into baseball or fireworks, concerts or dogs, you’re sure to find plenty to do.

Taste of Amherst
Town Common, Amherst
Admission: Free
June 19-22: Kick off the summer by eating your fill during the four days of the 2014 Taste of Amherst. In addition to food offerings from about 20 town restaurants — most for $5 or under — the event will feature live entertainment by the River, 93.9 FM, as well as fun family events. The Taste runs from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, 5 to 10 p.m. Friday, noon to 10 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, and is presented by Atkins Farms Country Market, with sponsorship by the Amherst Business Improvement District, Amherst College, Hampshire College, and UMass Amherst.

Stearns Square Concert Series
Worthington and Bridge streets, Springfield
(413) 781-1591; www.facebook.com/stearnssquare
Admission: Free
Starting June 26: Thursday evenings heat up in downtown Springfield for another season of concerts in Stearns Square, starting with a visit from Black 47 on June 26, this summer’s kickoff concert. And the bands — from notable local lights to internationally acclaimed acts — just keep coming, including FAT (July 3), the Spin Doctors (July 10), Roomful of Blues (July 17), Diamondback (July 24), Truckstop Troubadors (July 31), Maggie Rose (Aug. 7), John Eddie (Aug. 14), Doug Demings and the Jewel Tones (Aug. 21), and the Smithereens (Aug. 28). All concerts begin at 8 p.m., and there are no opening acts this year. What began 14 years ago as a way to liven up downtown Springfield — it was originally held in the Court Square area — has become a weekly destination for music lovers, people watchers, and scores of motorcyclists. The series is sponsored by the Springfield Business Improvement District.

Williamstown Theatre Festival
1000 Main St., Williamstown
(413) 597-3400; www.wtfestival.org
Admission: $15 and up
July 2 to Aug. 17: Sixty years ago, the leaders of the Williams College drama department and news office conceived of an idea: using the school’s theater for a summer performance program with a resident company. Since then, the festival has attracted such performers as E.G. Marshall, Blythe Danner, Colleen Dewhurst, and Christopher Reeve. This summer, the program will present a range of both classical and original productions, plus other programs like the interactive workshops, post-show Tuesday Talkbacks with company members, and ‘A Festival 4th,’ when actors will celebrate the Fourth of July by gathering at the Williams College Museum of Art to read the Declaration of Independence and the British reply before viewing the college’s noted Founding Documents collection. Williamstown’s classic small-town parade then kicks off on Spring Street at 11 a.m. and ends at the Clark Art Institute for the grand opening of its newly expanded campus.

Clark-ArtClark Art Institute
225 South St., Williamstown
(413) 458-2303; www.clarkart.edu
Admission: Free on July 4; otherwise $20 for adults, free for under 18 and students
Starting July 4: Immediately following the Williamstown parade, enjoy hot dogs, live music, balloons, and other family fun on the museum’s East Lawn before the Clark — which has been closed for an extensive renovation — officially reopens at 1 p.m. Admission is free on grand-opening day. Galleries will be open until 9 p.m., and the Eagles Band will perform at 7 p.m., followed by fireworks at 9. Founded in 1936, the Eagles Band is the oldest continuing performance ensemble in the Berkshires, performing music from the late ’30s through the early ’50s, in styles ranging from traditional brass to contemporary and pop arrangements. Guests are welcome to return throughout the summer (admission $20, students and under 18 free), with new exhibitions including “Make It New: Abstract Paintings from the National Gallery of Art,” which will include Jackson Pollock’s “Lavender Mist,” opening Aug. 2. Perhaps the most impressive work of all is the Clark’s new, 42,650-square-foot Visitor Center — designed by the Pritzker Prize-winning architect Ando, who is known for incorporating landscape into his design. The center boasts new dining facilities, a museum shop, outdoor terraces, and 11,070 square feet of additional special exhibition space. And if you can’t make it to Williamstown on July 4, there’s always…

Monson Summerfest

Main Street, Monson
(413) 267-3649; www.monsonsummerfestinc.com
Admission: Free
July 4: In 1979, a group of parishioners from the town’s Methodist church wanted to start an Independence Day celebration focused on family and community, The first Summerfest was held at the church, featuring food, games, and fun activities. With the overwhelming interest of nonprofit organizations in town, the event immediately grew, and relocated onto Main Street the following year. With the addition of a parade, along with booths, bands, rides, and activities, the event has evolved into an attraction drawing more than 10,000 people every year. The festivities will be preceded this year by a town fireworks display on June 28.

Star-Spangled-SpfldStar Spangled Springfield
Downtown Springfield
(413) 733-3800
Admission: Free
July 4: Speaking of fireworks, what’s a better end to an Independence Day filled with food, family, and outdoor fun than taking in a spectacle of the skies? Springfield’s annual show, starting at 9:30 p.m., is a welcome tradition, but it’s hardly the only one. For example, South Hadley and East Longmeadow have slated their displays for July 3, Old Sturbridge Village will light up the night on July 4, and Westfield and Greenfield have events scheduled for July 5. Many other cities and towns are planning fireworks as well; check with municipal offices for times.

Berkshires Arts Festival
Ski Butternut, 380 State Road, Great Barrington
(845) 355-2400; www.berkshiresartsfestival.com
Admission: $5-$13
July 4-6: Now in its 13th year, the Berkshires Arts Festival has become a regional tradition. Thousands of art lovers and collectors are expected to descend on the Ski Butternut grounds to check out and purchase the creations of more than 175 artists and designers, as well as experiencing theater, music, and dance from local, national, and international acts. Founded by Richard and Joanna Rothbard, owners of An American Craftsman Galleries, the festival attracts top artists from across the U.S. and Canada. Visitors can also participate in interactive events like puppetry and storytelling, all the time enjoying a respite from the sun under tents and in the ski resort’s air-conditioned lodge.

297 West St., Lenox
(617) 266-1200; www.bso.org
Admission: $21 and up
Starting July 5: Tanglewood has been the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937, and like previous years, it has a well-stocked slate of concerts in store for the 2014 season, including an All-American Opening Night Gala Concert on July 5 and a special gala concert on July 12, a dance-inspired program featuring both the Boston Symphony and fellows of the Tanglewood Music Center, the BSO’s prestigious summer music academy. This season, Tanglewood will offer a special focus on American music with orchestral, opera, and film presentations in the Koussevitzky Music Shed, and opera, chamber music, and recital programs in Ozawa Hall, which marks its 20th anniversary season in 2014. Check out the website for the extensive roster of shows and events, including a number of non-classical shows, such as Tanglewood regular James Taylor, who perform in the Koussevitzky Music Shed on July 3 and 4, with both performances followed by fireworks displays.

BrimfieldBrimfield Antique Show
Route 20, Brimfield, MA
(413) 283-6149; www.quaboaghills.com
Admission: Free
July 8-13: What began humbly — when a local auctioneer decided to hold open-air auctions on his property, and grew into a successful flea market — eventually began including neighboring properties as it grew. It expanded in the ’80s and ’90s to a one-mile stretch of Route 20 on both sides, and these days, the Brimfield Antique Show is a six-mile stretch of heaven for people to value antiques, collectibles, and flea-market finds. Some 6,000 dealers and close to 1 million total visitors show up at the three annual, week-long events; the first was in May, and the third runs Sept. 2-7. The Brimfield Antique Show labels itself the “Antiques and Collectibles Capital of the United States,” and — judging by its scope and number of visitors — it’s hard to disagree.

Green River Festival

Greenfield Community College, One College Dr., Greenfield
(413) 773-5463; www.greenriverfestival.com
Admission: Weekend, $75; Saturday, $49.99; Sunday, $34.99
July 12-13: For one weekend every July, Greenfield Community College hosts a high-energy celebration of music; local food, beer, and wine; handmade crafts; and family games and activities — all topped off with four hot-air-balloon launches (rides are available) and a spectacular Saturday-night ‘balloon glow.’ The music is continuous on three stages, and this year features Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band, Lucius, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Trampled by Turtles, Grant Lee Phillips, and more than two dozen other artists. Children under 10 can get in for free, as the family-friendly festival features children’s music performers, a kid’s activity tent, games, circus acts, a Mardi Gras parade, and other surprises. New for 2014 is the Maker’s Market, a collective of fine artisans from across Western Mass., offering an impressive array of handmade crafts and jewelry. The festival began in 1986 as purely a hot-air-balloon affair, but quickly integrated musical entertainment into the event. Now, its one of the most eclectic events in the Valley.

Hampshire College, 893 West St., Amherst
(413) 256-4900; www.yiddishbookcenter.org/yidstock
Admission: Festival pass, $145 for members or $185 general admission; tickets may be purchased for individual events
July 17-20: Boasting an array of films, concerts, lectures, and workshops, Yidstock 2014: The Festival of New Yiddish Music lands in Amherst in mid-July. The third annual Yidstock festival will bring the best in klezmer and new Yiddish music to the stage at the Yiddish Book Center. The festival pass includes admission to all concerts, lectures, and workshops.
The weekend will offer an intriguing glimpse into Jewish roots and jazzy soul music through popular Yiddish bands like the Klezmer Conservatory Band, Klezmatics, Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All-Stars, and more. Friday and Saturday feature dance workshops as well.

New England Collegiate Baseball League All-Star Game
MacKenzie Stadium, 500 Beech St., Holyoke
(413) 533-1100; www.valleybluesox.com
Admission: $5-$8
July 20: The Valley Blue Sox (formerly the Holyoke Blue Sox) continue to bring plenty of baseball excitement to Holyoke and its surroundings, playing in a league that attracts some of the top collegiate talent each summer. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for these guys to really showcase their talent in a professional setting,” General Manager Hunter Golden said. “Major League Baseball is a big believer in our product and the caliber of players we bring. Watch the College World Series, and chances are you’ll see half our roster.” This year MacKenzie will host the league All-Star Game, starting at 12 noon on July 20, but the club will play plenty of other home games into early August — usually featuring giveaways and other promotions — to provide families with a fun, affordable evening out.

Bang on a Can Plays Art
1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams
(413) 662-2111; www.massmoca.org
Admission: Festival pass, $75; individual concerts, $15-$24
July 26 to Aug 2: The Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival, a residency program for composers and performers, will take place from July 15 through Aug. 4 at MASS MoCA. The heart of this three-week workshop is a week-long series of 14 concerts running from July 26 to Aug. 2, highlighted by two major Saturday events in the museum’s Hunter Auditorium. The first is David Lang’s “death speaks” on July 26 at 8 p.m., featuring the Bang on a Can All-Stars with special guest Shara Worden. Lang combed through every song by Franz Schubert and pulled out just the moments when Death is a character, speaking directly to us, and then set those texts to new music. On Aug. 2 at 4 p.m., the museum will present the six-hour Bang on a Can Marathon with special guests Steve Reich and Glenn Kotche of Wilco. The festival finale will include more than 50 musicians and composers from around the world, and will feature Steve Reich’s newest composition “Radio Rewrite,” a remix of two songs by Radiohead. Another highlight will be a rare performance of Edgar Varese’s riotous masterpiece “Ionisation,” the first piece ever written for percussion ensemble.

Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival
Court Square, Springfield
(413) 303-0101
Admission: Free
Aug 9: Following in the footsteps of the Hoop City Jazz and Arts Festival, which drew more than 20,000 people to downtown Springfield, is the inaugural Springfield Jazz & Roots Festival, intended to celebrate the emergence of Springfield’s Cultural District and promote an arts-driven, community-oriented, and sustainable revitalization of the city. The event will offer a festive atmosphere featuring locally and internationally acclaimed musical artists, a variety of ethnic cuisines and local food producers, and more. This inclusive event aims to bring people from Springfield and the surrounding region together to foster connection, stimulate the local economy, and highlight positive initiatives contributing to the betterment of Springfield’s residents, and uniting the city with the rest of the Pioneer Valley. The festival is being produced by Blues to Green, a nonprofit organization led by Kristin Neville, wife of legendary jazz musician Charles Neville. The organization’s mission is to use music and art to celebrate community and culture, build shared purpose, and catalyze social and environmental change.

Dog Shows at the Eastern States Exposition
1305 Memorial Ave., West Springfield
(413) 737-2443; www.thebige.com
Admission: Free
Aug. 20-24: The Big E fairgrounds certainly haven’t gone to the dogs, but it will seem that way for five days in August, when dog shows take over the Better Living Center. The Elm City Kennel Club Dog Show will be in town on Aug. 20 and 24, the Newtown Kennel Club Dog Show will take over on Aug. 21 and 23, while the Northwestern Connecticut Kennel Club Dog Show will make an appearance on Aug. 22. Come see dogs in all breeds compete for best in class and best in show.

Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival
358 George Carter Road, Becket
(413) 243-0745; www.jacobspillow.org
Admission: $50-$150
Aug. 23: In its 82nd season, Jacob’s Pillow has become one of the premier venues for dance in the U.S. Dance enthusiasts will surely marvel at the dozens of free and ticketed recitals performed by celebrated companies from around the world, not to mention Jacob’s Pillow’s other offerings of photography and art exhibits, seminars, discussions, and film screenings. The season concludes on Aug. 23 with the Festival Finale, featuring a performance by the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet or LeeSaar. The ticket also includes entry to a festive after-party, with drinks, desserts, photo-booth fun, and DJ BFG spinning live at the ultimate dance celebration. Proceeds benefit the community programs of Jacob’s Pillow.Jacobs-Pillow2

Three County Fair
41 Fair St., Northampton
(413) 584-2237; www.threecountyfair.com
Admission: $8-$10
Aug. 29 to Sept. 1: In 1818, the Hampshire, Franklin & Hampden Agricultural Society was formed, with the purpose of promoting agriculture, agricultural education, and agricultural science in the Commonwealth. The society relied on exhibitions, displays, competitions, and demonstrations to fulfill its purposes, awarding prizes in agricultural and domestic categories. Almost 200 years later, the society’s original purpose still provides the umbrella under which the Three County Fair is presented to the public. Over time, however, various entertainment events became part of the annual fair, from carnival rides and games to thoroughbred horse racing, horse demonstrations, crafts, and, of course, plenty of food. “Taste the past, enjoy the present,” fair organizers say, and visitors will certainly experience a good deal of both.

Blandford Fair
10 North St., Blandford
(413) 848-0995; www.theblandfordfair.com
Admission: $5-$10
Aug. 29 to Sept. 1: Not much has changed in the 145 years of the Blandford Fair, but that’s what makes it so charming. This Labor Day weekend, at the 147th edition of the event, fairgoers can witness the classic rituals of the giant pumpkin display, the pony draw, and the horseshoe tournament, plus more modern additions, like the fantastically loud chainsaw-carving demonstration and the windshield-smashing demolition derby. With many more exhibits and attractions to offer, a weekend at the Blandford Fair is an ideal way for families to close out the summer.

SturbridgeOld Sturbridge Village Family Fun Days
1 Old Sturbridge Village Road, Sturbridge, MA
(800) 733-1830; www.osv.org
Admission: Adults, $24; children, free
Aug. 31 to Sept. 2: Bring the whole family to Old Sturbridge Village on Labor Day weekend, when the largest outdoor history museum in the Northeast opens its doors to children for free (normally, youth admission is $8). Guests are invited to play baseball the way early New Englanders did, make a craft, join a game of French & English (tug of war), meet the oxen in training, try their hand at marbling paper, see a puppet show, watch a toy fire-balloon flight, visit the Freeman Farm, stop and see craftsmen at work, and much more. In addition, the weekend will feature appearances by Bob Olson, performing 19th-century magic, as well as the Old Sturbridge Village Singers and the Old Sturbridge Village Dancers. Let your kids step back into the 1830s and enjoy the last summer weekend before school.

St. George Cathedral, 22 St. George Road, Springfield
(413) 737-1496; stgeorgecath.org
Admission: Free
Sept. 5-7: Every year, St. George Cathedral offers thousands of visitors the best in traditional Greek foods, pastries, music, dancing, and old-fashioned Greek hospitality. In addition, the festival offers activities for children, tours of the historic St. George Cathedral and Byzantine Chapel, various vendors from across the East Coast, icon workshops, movies in the Glendi Theatre, cooking demonstrations, and a joyful atmosphere that the whole family will enjoy.

Sections Travel and Tourism
Six Flags New England Reaches Higher — Much Higher


Jennifer McGrath

Jennifer McGrath says the 400-foot-tall New England Sky Screamer will take the classic theme-park swing ride to the extreme.

Just cross the South End Bridge in Springfield and look south, and it’s easy to see how Six Flags New England already towers over the Connecticut River. On a clear day, Bizarro, Scream, Goliath, and the Cyclone are clearly visible in the distance.

The tallest of those, the award-winning Bizarro rollercoaster and the Scream drop ride, reach about 200 feet into the air, offering breathtaking — and, for some riders, nerve-wracking — views of the river, Mount Tom to the north, and Connecticut to the south.

Now imagine being twice that high.

Actually, visitors won’t have to imagine once the park unveils its newest attraction, the New England Sky Screamer, this summer. Lifting patrons 400 feet up and then swinging them around for two minutes at 35 mph, it’s touted as the world’s tallest swing ride.

Clearly, Six Flags has come a long way in the 15 years since the chain acquired historic Riverside Park, adding it to its international stable of destinations, adding numerous major rides and a bustling water park, and effectively doubling the property’s size. And now, it’s touting a new height record to boot.

“It’s taking that swing ride we know and love and adding every possible element of thrill and fear into it,” said Jennifer McGrath, communications manager for Six Flags New England. “Your arms and legs are exposed in the air, your swing is on chains, just like that classic family swing ride — except this is not classic.”

The ride, which is painted red, white, and blue, will glow with color-changing LED lights at night, she added. “We don’t feel it’s just a new ride for Six Flags New England; we feel it’s a new icon, something people will identify with Western Mass. You can see it from the Springfield area and well into Enfield and Suffield. Six Flags loves breaking records, and they feel this ride is something special, and they know Six Flags guests are going to love it.”

As a prominent chain in a highly competitive industry, Six Flags is always looking to the future, mapping out a national strategy of park additions to keep the buzz high at its 13 parks in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Not every park gets a major addition on the level of a Sky Screamer every year, but Agawam has received plenty of recent attention, adding the Bonzai Pipeline slides in the Hurricane Harbor water park in 2013, the Goliath switchback coaster in 2012, and the Gotham City Gauntlet mouse coaster in 2011.

“It’s amazing what we’ve evolved to, and we continue to grow,” McGrath said, noting that it’s a cornerstone of the Six Flags brand to continually invest new capital in its properties.

“In true Six Flags fashion, we’re going even bigger in 2014 with our new attractions,” added Jim Reid-Anderson, the chain’s chairman, president, and CEO, in a press statement. “Our promise to you is to bring something new to every single park every year.”

Work and Play

Economic-development and tourism officials have long pointed to Six Flags New England as a major economic engine for the region. While the park, as a publicly held company, does not release attendance figures, it easily outdraws the number-two tourist attraction in Western Mass., Yankee Candle Village, which records 1.5 million guests per year.


Six Flags officials say they’re committed to introducing something new at all the chain’s parks every year.

“Six Flags has been a wonderful neighbor to Agawam. They’re one of the top five taxpayers in the community, they work closely with all our departments, and they are a huge economic boon to the Pioneer Valley as a whole,” Agawam Mayor Richard Cohen told BusinessWest. “And it’s a regional tourist attraction, so it’s not just great for Agawam, but for the whole Valley.”

Six Flags is a significant employer as well, with more than 100 year-round employees, about half of whom work in maintenance. In the offseason, they’re busy enhancing the grounds, from new painting and signage to landscaping and structural improvements.

In addition, the park hires more than 3,000 seasonal workers annually, giving a major boost to the region’s efforts to employ high-school and college-age individuals, who are facing an historically lean market for summer jobs.

“They’re one of the largest hiring employers in the summer for seasonal purposes, which is great in these economic times,” Cohen said, referring to not only young people, but older individuals who might be unemployed or between jobs. “They really are good neighbors, and we’re really proud to have them in Agawam.”

He noted that the public ownership group that bought Six Flags in 2010 has been much easier to work and communicate with than Premier Parks, which operated the chain from 1998 until its Chapter 11 bankruptcy and restructuring a decade later. That’s important, he said, when planning a project like the Sky Screamer, which has the potential of drawing bigger crowds to the park, but is also a significant change to this small town’s skyline.

“They came to us early, in a very timely manner, and answered all our questions,” the mayor said, adding that Agawam residents were largely supportive of the project. “There were some people — not many — afraid that this would change the landscape of the area. But we already have cell towers. And they did this in patriotic colors. They took our concerns into consideration, and it was done tastefully. I have not had many — if any — complaints at all.

“Everything was done expeditiously — the public announcement, meetings, permits,” he reiterated. “They don’t wait until the last minute. Since the new regime took over, they work well on the local level, answering the concerns that people have. The relationship is much healthier, and communication has been much better.”

That’s not to say the park hasn’t been growing all along. Since becoming a Six Flags property in 1998, it has introduced a raft of thrill rides, including Bizarro (formerly Superman: Ride of Steel), winner of five Golden Ticket Awards from Amusement Today as the nation’s top steel coaster, in 2000; Flashback, a switchback coaster, also in 2000; Batman: the Dark Knight, a floorless coaster, in 2002; Pandemonium, a kid-friendly spinning coaster, in 2005; and, of course, the recent additions.

Meanwhile, Hurricane Harbor, which now totals 33 waterslides in addition to a lazy river, two wave pools, and other watery fun, opened in 1998 as part of the Six Flags makeover.

The entire property now comprises more than 270 acres, and ranks as both the largest amusement park and largest water park in New England.

Food for Thought

Other recent changes are less flashy, but are significant to many patrons. For example, McGrath said, restaurant menus will add food items, including more vegetarian fare — a shift that guests had been asking for. Once again, the park will offer a $99 dining plan along with its popular season-ticket options, allowing guests one lunch and one dinner per visit throughout the season.

As for the season tickets, they are priced at different tiers — higher tiers include free parking all year, among other amenities — but tend to pay for themselves within two or three visits, making Six Flags an affordable recreation option for area families, McGrath said. That’s important in a stressed economy, when many families can’t afford to fly to vacation destinations. “This is a day trip for anyone, all the way up to Maine — down to Pennsylvania, even.”

Many of those visitors are parents and grandparents taking their kids to Six Flags and sharing their fond memories of Riverside Park, which existed as an amusement park alongside the Connecticut River for about 90 years.

Some relics remain on the grounds, McGrath said, from the 1909 carousel to the antique automobiles that rattle along a metal track and give youngsters the chance to experience driving a car. Then there’s the Thunderbolt, the 1941 wooden coaster — standing 70 feet tall and traveling up to 40 mph — that has been called a landmark by American coaster enthusiasts. Six Flags preserves rides like this, McGrath said, because the company understands the special memories they have for many.

No matter what a ride’s age, she noted, maintenance teams check each attraction daily, often from as early as 5 a.m. “Our staff is diligent in regard to checking safety, and it’s a main focus — before the park opens, during, after, every potential minute for our guests, it’s a thorough process.”

Besides its obvious link to families, Six Flags involves itself in the community through charity events as well, working with more than 3,000 organizations annually across its 13-park footprint. Locally, that includes school-supply drives and coat drives for children, as well as Cause for Paws, an event that raises money for the Dakin Pioneer Valley Humane Society, and an annual skin-cancer-awareness event.

But the main buzz right now is clearly on the rides, which opened to their first guests of the 2014 season on April 12. New England Sky Screamer will open a bit later in the season, and though it’s expected to be a hit, it won’t be the last one, McGrath said.

“Right now, we are well into the planning process of 2015, even though we are executing 2014,” she told BusinessWest. “When it comes to building a new attraction for the park, we listen to our guests, of course, and what they would like to see in the future. We want to entertain those of all ages.”

After all, at the end of the day, it’s all about reaching new heights of entertainment — literally and figuratively.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Travel and Tourism
Historic Deerfield Opens a Door to 18th-Century New England


Philip Zea

Philip Zea says his mission at Historic Deerfield is to bring the heritage of the Connecticut River Valley to life.

For Historic Deerfield President Philip Zea and his staff, the yearly mission is not simply to preserve the heritage of the Connecticut River Valley, but instead to bring it to life.

And they do so with an intriguing, and always evolving, blend of education and entertainment.

“We’re a lot like a professional sports team in the sense that what we do for a living is other people’s recreation,” said Zea as he worked through an interesting analogy. “We want everyone who comes here to have a great time, but also an informative time.”

Once a bustling destination along the 18th-century Boston-to-Albany road, the 104-acre property is now one of the state’s most popular outdoor history museums. Zea, who has enjoyed two stints at Historic Deerfield, first as chief curator for 18 years and later as president — a position he has held for 11 years — oversees a staff of 47. His passion for researching history and sharing it with others has allowed the museum to steadily increase its attendance over the past five years, thus boosting the bottom line at a time when many museums struggle to gain the time and attention of families with plenty of entertainment options.

And Zea and his staff have a positive outlook for the museum, which saw its total income increase by more than $328,000 from 2012 to 2013 (excluding $510,000 awarded to the museum in 2012 through business-interruption proceeds disbursed as a result of Tropical Storm Irene; more on that later). The solid rebound year generated total revenues of more than $4 million for the facility, said Zea, noting that the biggest challenge facing his staff in future years is to continue to evolve and improve to better serve the community’s needs.

“We want to provide people with a sense of confidence that, if they invest their time and money in us, then they are going to come here and have a good time,” he said. “We’re constantly reinventing ourselves and learning more about the history of the area to ensure the public has a great experience here.”

Education is a primary focus for the museum staff, which hosts thousands of students each year from throughout Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Along with Plimoth Plantation and Old Sturbridge Village, Historic Deerfield ranks at the top of the field-trip list for teachers looking to bring their students to an outdoor history museum. Boasting 54 buildings and an expansive campus, students can view everything from hearth-cooking demonstrations to architectural woodworking.

“We have a very robust education program here. In addition to field trips, we also provide programs to help Girl Scouts earn their badges,” said Laurie Nivison, Historic Deerfield’s director of marketing. “We’re looking into arranging programs for the Boy Scouts as well.”

Drawing new visitors is an annual priority for the staff. Zea said the museum has seen an increase in school field trips since 2012, but family trips and private tours in the summer and fall months have also accounted for a significant percentage of visitors. While Historic Deerfield largely remains a hidden New England gem — residents of New England states represented just half of the museum’s total visitors in 2013 — national and international interest has picked up, with 10% of last year’s guests visiting from foreign countries.

The museum’s collection of early-American furniture, ceramics, textiles, and metalwork is a key draw for many guests. The collection was expanded in 2013 with the acquisition of 178 rare objects, including 48 items from the William T. Brandon Memorial Collection of American Redware and Ceramics. All but 30 of the items acquired this year were gifts to Historic Deerfield.

“What’s great about working here is that the setting is the story, with the meadows and village and buildings all adding up to be our biggest artifact,” Zea said. “We like to focus on what people’s lifestyles were like back in the 18th century, learning not only from the physical environment but also the temporal environment.”

Added Nivision, “depending on what your interests are, there’s something here for everyone.”

History Lessons

With ongoing research conducted daily by staff members, there’s something new to learn about the region’s history with each visit. From Benedict Arnold’s arrival in Deerfield to recruit troops (before his turncoat days) to the significance of Barnard Tavern as a political and social hub of the community, new knowledge is just waiting to be discovered at a very old place.

As early as the 1800s, Historic Deerfield, site of the infamous Indian raid of 1704 that claimed the lives of 50 settlers, was attracting history buffs, Zea said, describing letters in the museum’s research library that document Mount Holyoke College students traveling to the campus in the 1830s.

But in order to preserve and present history, the staff at Historic Deerfield must address a number of challenges — everything from Mother Nature (this is an outdoor facility) to that aforementioned competition for the time and dollars of 21st-century families.

For starters, said Zea, the staff must embrace the innate challenge of maintaining the buildings where history was made. Major renovations of two prominent buildings have topped the list of priorities in recent years. The Deerfield Inn, which was damaged by floodwaters during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, was dramatically transformed, including a completely renovated kitchen, the installation of a new fireplace in the dining room, and significant upgrades to the terrace room. Built in 1884, the building continues to serve travelers as it did 130 years ago.

“Reactions to the new interior design have been overwhelmingly positive,” wrote Anne Groves, chair of Historic Deerfield’s board of trustees, in a letter for the museum’s annual report. “The project team did an exemplary job in managing the renovation and the financial analysis involved in bringing the Inn back online.”

Meanwhile, Barnard Tavern is in the process of undergoing an extensive makeover, which includes repairing the foundation, stabilizing the chimneys, restoring wall paneling, replacing the heating system, and reconstructing the stairway and railings. Completion of the project is scheduled for 2015, 220 years after the tavern was first constructed in 1795.

Meanwhile, attendance is an ongoing challenge, and the staff at the museum addresses it by establishing new and engaging programs and exhibits.

Last year, for example, introduced a three-day workshop called “Every Dish Has a Past,” focused on research of historical recipes — a program that concluded in tasty fashion, with participants cooking the meals they researched.

Moreover, the theme of the museum’s 2014 Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife will be sports and recreation in New England. Taking place June 20-22, the annual seminar will include presentations on hunting, fishing, hiking, climbing, marksmanship, horsemanship, and the paths to popularity of sports like hockey, baseball, and basketball. Lectures will also be given on the history of sports record keeping and statistics, as well as the evolution of sports apparel.

Along with these new additions to the museum’s lineup, Historic Deerfield will return many of its beloved events and activities from past years, beginning on April 26, when a Patriots’ Day re-enactment will feature a cannon-firing display, a parade, and colonial craft activities. The museum will also host its annual Columbus Day antique show, presented by the Antiques Dealers Assoc. of America.

“The Patriots’ Day event is always fun for families, usually drawing at least 300 people,” Nivison said. “It’s a great chance to come out and see several different groups take part in the re-enactment.”

Another goal for the staff in 2014 is to not only educate visitors about the setting and the historical events that have taken place in Deerfield, but to also accentuate the stories of the people who made those events significant.

Zea said it’s imperative to emphasize what people’s lives were like so visitors will have a better understanding of their motivations and interests. The rise of Deerfield as a cultural and political hub, for example, was contingent on geography and the arrangement of roadways, with Deerfield marking the intersection between the Boston-to-Albany road and the north-south Hartford-to-Hanover (N.H.) route, an 18th-century equivalent to the junction of I-90 and I-91.

“It’s important to focus on community history and also domestic history by sharing how people lived and traveled and encountered locations like Deerfield in the first place,” said Zea.

It Takes a Village

The phrase ‘living museum’ has come into use in recent years to categorize facilities like Historic Deerfield, and it’s an apt term.

It accurately describes how such museums show how people lived, but it also suggests that such facilities are constantly evolving and finding new ways to not only transport people back in time, but to help them understand what they’re seeing and put it into historical perspective.

It’s all a part of making the past come alive, said Zea, adding that Historic Deerfield’s imaginative work of the past several years will ensure a solid future for this key regional tourist destination.

Sections Travel and Tourism
Area Vintners Are Seeing the Fruits of Their Labor

Larry Godard

Larry Godard says a close-knit network of vintners has sprung up organically across the region.

Larry Godard acknowledged that he considers them somewhat backhanded compliments. But he loves hearing them anyway.

“They’ll taste one and look at me and pause and say, ‘this is really good,’ and they emphasize the ‘really good’ part as if they are surprised at the high quality,” said Godard, referring to comments about the labels, including Red Hen Red, he’s now producing at Mineral Hills Winery at the Red Hen Farm in Florence.

Elaborating, he said that many of the growing number of visitors to Mineral Hills are from Connecticut and New York. They are wine connoisseurs, and they’ve been to many small wineries across the Northeast. But Western Mass. is a relatively new destination for many of them, and this is one of the reasons behind many of those ‘really good’ comments.

And Godard’s not the only one hearing them.

Gary and Bobbie Kamen

Millennials are a promising new customer base for Gary and Bobbie Kamen at Mount Warner Winery.

Indeed, he is the sole proprietor of one of a growing number of what could be called start-up vineyards and wineries across the Valley, including Black Birch Winery down the road in Southampton, Amherst Winery in Amherst, Mount Warner Winery in Hadley (which overlooks the UMass Amherst campus), Pioneer Valley Vineyard in Hatfield, Les Trois Emme Vineyard & Winery in New Marlboro in the Berkshires, and several others.

They are all part of something called the Massachusetts Wine & Cheese Trail, overseen by the Mass. Farm Wineries and Growers Assoc. (MFWGA), to which Godard belongs, but could eventually comprise a separate wine trail in the four western counties.

In the meantime, Godard and others like him — individuals with a passion for wine and the means and the inclination to go into business making and selling it — are creating what could be described as a community of vintners, and a close-knit one at that.

“A wine trail is already happening by default,” Godard said, explaining that he’ll send his guests to Black Birch and Amherst Winery, and they will in turn send their visitors along to the other wineries in the area. “We have a nice little cluster right here. In fact, Ian Modestow [partner with Black Birch Winery] came over one day to borrow a cup of yeast, like a neighbor borrowing a cup of sugar.”

Mary Hamel, a partner with Black Birch Winery, also noted the fellowship among the region’s wine makers. “That’s one thing about the wine industry that I think is very cool,” she noted. “You don’t feel like you’re in competition with anyone because we support each other, and the more wineries there are, the better it is for all of us.”

More wineries would seem to be a likelihood in every state because demand is growing, and there are many aging Baby Boomers eyeing wine making as a bridge to full-time retirement. According to the 2012-13 “State of the Wine Industry” report by Silicon Valley Bank, a California financial institution specializing the U.S. wine industry, Millennials and Baby Boomers are the two largest sectors of wine consumers, and consumption rates are growing most rapidly among Millennials and men.

And while a burgeoning wine trail will help the region’s vintners, an official trail will certainly be a boon to the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau (GSCVB).

Michele Goldberg, director of marketing for the GSCVB, told BusinessWest that, while the Connecticut Vineyard and Wine Assoc., with its established wine trail, is a longtime member, Western Mass. wineries fall perfectly into the emerging ‘farm-to-table’ movement in the tourism industry.

Ed and Mary Hamel

Ed and Mary Hamel of Black Birch Winery have doubled their visitation for wine tastings through great word-of-mouth referrals.

“From a tourism perspective, wine tasting is incredibly popular with groups and for ‘girlfriend getaways,’ and a future wine trail would be a welcome addition to our diverse list of things to do in the Pioneer Valley,” said Goldberg, adding that the tourism bureau is constantly fielding inquiries from meeting planners looking for unique after-hours activities for convention attendees.

For this issue and its focus on tourism, BusinessWest visited with several area vintners to talk about their businesses and their outlook on how wine can become a prominent part of the region’s economy and tourism sector.


Heard It Through the Grapevine

The stories beyond the wineries taking root in the Valley all vary, but there are many common denominators.

They were started, in most cases, by professionals who decided to turn a hobby into a business venture. These entrepreneurs had some struggles getting things both in the ground and off the ground, but they’re now seeing the fruits of their labors — in more ways than one. And they all will inevitably use the phrase ‘an art and a science’ to describe the process of making a fine wine.

Godard, former vice president at MassMutual, with his wife, Susan, a schoolteacher, is a great example of today’s vintner whose passion for making wine became his ‘second-life’ business.

They established their 60-acre Mineral Hills farm in 1984, and for years they had a well-established honor-system farm stand offering apples, blueberries, cider, and honey products from Susan’s bees. Soon their hobby grew to include a variety of flavors of wine made from apples, blueberries, and grapes. It was only after Godard retired from MassMutual in 2009 that he decided to “go pro,” as he called it, and turn the winemaking hobby into a full-time venture, launching Mineral Hills Winery in the fall of 2010. Godard now produces wines from French-American hybrid grapes, but also imports European vinifera grapes from California for his reds.

At Black Birch Winery, two couples share various duties to run one of the newest wineries in the area. Florence dentist Ian Modestow is the vintner, while construction and home-inspection-company owner Ed Hamel manages the two acres of new vineyards, with five more acres soon to be cultivated.

Modestow’s wife, Michelle Kersbergen, and Hamel’s wife, Mary Hamel, both dental hygienists, manage the marketing and outreach, but all four partners pitch in wherever needed.

Because the vineyards at Black Birch were planted in 2010 and are young (they still have about two years of maturity until they can be harvested), the proprietors currently source their grapes from Southeastern Mass. or the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Since June 2012, they’ve doubled their visitation, from 650 tastings to 1,480 this August, with wines priced between $16 and $20.

Hamel was one of the many who put ‘art’ and ‘science’ in the same sentence as she talked about wine making. “That’s why Ian is so good at it, because that’s what dentistry is, too,” she explained. “A dentist has to know the science, but has to be an artist to get your tooth to look exactly as it did before.”

The owners of Mount Warner Winery in Hadley — Gary Kamen, a UMass professor of Kinesiology who is in ‘phased retirement,’ and his wife, Bobbie, a strategic planner with AARP — agreed.

“I think the reason I enjoy grape growing and making wine is because they are both part art and part science, probably because of my science background,” said Gary Kamen. “Each person who gets into this business enters it with a different perspective.”

Like Godard and the partners at Black Birch, the Kamens started growing grapes with six cuttings, or vines, in their field in 2000. Soon they were making wine, and, like Godard, they decided to ‘go pro’ in 2010, opening their winery in June 2012. Now, with 725 vines per acre, they have six wines, including two dessert wines priced between $14 and $20.

Les Trois Emme Winery in New Marlborough, owned and operated by Wayne and Mary Jane Eline, is located just south of Ski Butternut in Great Barrington and minutes from the Norman Rockwell Museum and Tanglewood. While the rural town has a residential population of 1,400, it swells to more than 3,000 with tourists and second-home residents from New York.

Wayne Eline is a former chemistry teacher and high-school principal who, like Godard, took his hobby to a whole new level after retirement in 1999. The Elines set their first vines in the dirt in 2000, and by 2003, they were open for business.

“If you’re going to get into it, you’ve got to make it into a real business, rather than just playing games. It didn’t take long to go from where it was to where it is now,” he said, adding that he has tripled his yield over the past decade due to “getting really earnest” about the business in 2009.

The venture now produces 11 to 13 wines, with Stingy Jack Pumpkin, a white wine with a fusion of pumpkin spices, emerging as the most popular.


Age-old Tradition

Godard described wine tasting as a very personal experience — for both the taster and the winemaker — and something he’s getting used to as visitation numbers continue to climb.

But he admits that some comments, including those spiced with ‘really good,’ leave him amused and often surprised.

He recalled one visitor from California who commented, “your wines aren’t like our wines,” to which Godard jokingly replied, “that’s like saying your chicken isn’t like our duck.”

The difference, he said, is between French hybrid grapes that grow best in the Northeast, and European vinifera grapes that area vintners source from California, and the two very different climates in which they grow.

“Our wines are different, and they [people from California] should have learned their lesson, because they were treated the same way by the French until the French had their eyes opened when the California wines started taking gold medals at international wine competitions. And that’s happening here now.”

All four wineries have won awards regionally for their wines, and this is perhaps one reason why they’re seeing and meeting a number of avid wine lovers from Connecticut, venturing past that state’s wine trail.

To help bolster visitation, the MFWGA has been promoting the annual Massachusetts Wine Passport Program, which offers a $2 passport to 15 participating wineries in the state. Once the visitor has all 15 unique passport codes from each winery, they are eligible to enter a drawing to win a cellar full of Massachusetts wine.

For Goldberg and the GSCVB, anything that promotes regional ‘buy-local’ efforts is beneficial, and a Western Mass. wine trail would certainly help bring more people to the western counties.

“Eventually, having a number of successful wineries could lead to a Pioneer Valley Wine Trail, wine festivals, and harvest festivals,” she noted.

Western Mass WineriesA number of wineries already feature their labels at area farmers’ markets, thanks to the Massachusetts Farm Winery Bill, backed by the MFWGA, which allows vintners in the Commonwealth to sell their wine at such venues.

Keeping with the theme, the Kamens’ philosophy is to make wine only from grapes and fruit that they grow.

“We intend to make a Massachusetts product out of a Pioneer Valley product.” he said, adding that his winery regularly attends the Amherst and the South Hadley farmers’ markets, while Hamel said Black Birch Winery has seen definite growth and awareness of their wines through their appearances at the Northampton Farmers’ Market.


Juicy Futures

Just this summer, the Wine Marketing Council, working with the Nielsen Co., released its annual statistics regarding the global wine market, and found that Baby Boomers spend the most on wine, but with more than 15,000 Millennials coming of age per day, a new target market is emerging. Bobbie Kamen is definitely seeing more young people at Mount Warner Winery.

“Millennials are very eager to try a lot of different things; it’s an exploration for them,” she said.  “And if they like it, they’ll buy it.”

Hamel said Black Birch also sees a number of Millennials, which she considers somewhat surprising, but very promising for the future. “On our Facebook likes, the Millennials age group is the biggest,” she said, adding that, while they may not yet have the disposable incomes that Baby Boomers do, they appreciate fine wine and are establishing themselves as solid customers for decades to come.

While advertising will be important, trust in the valued word-of-mouth endorsement will become even more important to this younger generation in learning about the next new thing in wine.

“Word of mouth is really important for us no matter what age, because, yes, we’re in the business of wine,” Hamel stated, “but we’re also in the business of giving people a great experience.”

And at the moment, this is a business laden with potential — not only to spur economic development and jobs, but also to provide a big boost to a host of efforts to put Western Mass. on the map for many different types of visitors.

In other words, when it comes to wine and wineries, the region’s producers have grape expectations.


Elizabeth Taras can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Travel and Tourism
Springfield Seeks State Designation for a Cultural District
Kay Simpson

Kay Simpson says creation of a cultural district will help Springfield brand its many attractions, while spurring economic development.

Evan Plotkin equated it to a business hanging out a sign that reads “under new management.”

Though he quickly acknowledged that the analogy isn’t perfect — the city hasn’t actually changed leadership at the top, and won’t for at least a few more years — he went ahead with it anyway, because he considers it an effective way to talk about what the creation of a cultural district in Springfield can and likely will do for the community.

“Business owners put out an ‘under new management’ sign on a restaurant, for example, when they want to change the dynamic,” said Plotkin, president of NAI Plotkin and a prime mover in ongoing efforts to revitalize and promote the city’s downtown. “They do it because they want people to know that something has changed, something’s different, something’s better — that people should want to come there again.”

Creating a cultural district can do very much the same thing for Springfield, he went on, noting that it will help the city brand itself and its many cultural attractions and, in many ways, give people a reason to give the community a look — or another look.

Kay Simpson agreed. She’s the vice president of Springfield Museums and one of the primary architects of a proposed cultural district that would cover several blocks downtown and include everything from the Armory Museum to the Paramount; from the Community Music School to the five museums in the Quadrangle; from Symphony Hall to the clubs on Worthington Street.

The formal application for creation of the district was sent to the Mass. Cultural Council (MCC) on Aug. 15, said Simpson, who literally knocked on some wood as she talked about what she considers decent odds that the city will join Pittsfield, Easthampton, Lowell, Gloucester, and other cities gaining state designation for a cultural district.

“This is a great tool for promoting the arts,” she said, adding that, beyond building awareness of the city’s attractions, creation of a cultural district will also better position the city for funding from such organizations as the National Endowment for the Arts, and also spur economic development. “A district can stimulate business, especially creative-economy businesses.”

Her optimism about the proposal’s chances is based on comments made by MCC officials who have walked the planned district already and provided input on the application and how it should be written, and also on the large volume of attractions and institutions packed into the multi-block area identified in the map to the right.

Springfield Cultural District Map loRes 5“It’s remarkable when you consider how many major cultural institutions are located in the downtown area,” she said. “This is not a huge geographic area, but there is a dense concentration of cultural assets.”

David Starr concurred. The president of the Republican and chair of the city’s Cultural Coordination Committee described the planned district as a “true gem,” and said its creation will provide new and potent opportunities to increase awareness of the city’s cultural amenities and build on that foundation.

“The problem has always been that these institutions never got the outside recognition that they deserved,” he explained, referring to the museums in the Quadrangle, the symphony, and other organizations. “A cultural district will help sell them and help brand them to not just the local area, but people outside this region.”

For this issue and its focus on travel and tourism, BusinessWest takes an in-depth look at the proposed cultural district and what its architects believe it can do for the city and its ongoing efforts to revitalize the downtown area.


Mapping Out a Strategy

The MCC’s Cultural Districts Initiative was authorized by an act of the state Legislature in 2010 and launched in 2011.

It was inspired by mounting evidence that thriving creative sectors stimulate economic development, said Simpson, noting that the prevailing theory has been that such districts attract artists, cultural organizations, and entrepreneurs, while helping specific communities create or strengthen a sense of place.

“By having the cultural-district designation, you’re creating an environment where all kinds of businesses can come into an area,” she explained. “These creative-economy businesses include everything from art galleries to graphic-design enterprises to coffee shops and restaurants.

“You’re creating a brand for a community,” she went on, “so that people from outside that community know that, if they go to the cultural district in Springfield, there’s going to be a lot for them to do. They can go to museums, see historic monuments and sites, and have lots to do in terms of both the visual arts and the performing arts.”

There are currently 17 cultural districts across the state, with more being proposed. They have been established in Barnstable, Boston, Cambridge, Concord, Easthampton, Essex, Gloucester (which has two), Lowell, Lynn, Marlborough, Natick, Orleans, Pittsfield, Rockport, Sandwich, and Shelburne Falls.

Springfield’s proposed cultural district would be bordered by East Columbus Avenue, Bliss Street, Stockbridge Street, High Street, Federal Street, Pearl Street, Dwight Street, Lyman Street, and Frank B. Murray Street, according to a prepared summary.

That section is home to number of cultural attractions and institutions, including the Springfield Armory National Historic Site, the Quadrangle, the historic Mattoon Street area, the MassMutual Center, Symphony Hall, CityStage, the Paramount, and the Community Music School, said Simpson, adding that it also includes several parks, some retail areas, and a number of restaurants, clubs, and hotels.

One of the required traits of a district, as set down by the MCC, is that it be walkable, said Simpson, noting that, while this comparatively large area — which officials originally thought might encompass two districts — constitutes a “good walk,” it meets that stipulation.

Most of the existing cultural districts have names that identify a specific neighborhood, landmark, or street. Easthampton’s, for example, is called the Cottage Street Cultural District, a nod to the many former mills and storefronts on that thoroughfare that have become home to arts-related businesses and agencies. Meanwhile, Lowell’s Canalway District takes its name from an historic section of that former textile-manufacturing center, which has also become a center for the cultural community, and spotlights the city’s most enduring character trait — its canals.

Those leading the drive for Springfield’s district recently ran a contest to name it; submissions are currently being weighed by a panel of judges, and a winner is to be announced soon.

By whatever name the district takes, it is expected to become a point of reference for Springfield, a vehicle for branding the City of Homes, and a source of momentum as the community seeks to build its creative economy and, overall, bring vibrancy to a long-challenged section of the city, said Plotkin.

In a big-picture sense, the broad goal behind the cultural district is to change the conversation about Springfield, he went on, adding that, in recent years, most of the talk has been about financial struggles (the city was run by a control board for several years), crime, poverty, and high dropout rates in the city’s high schools.

“This cultural district will build a sense of community,” he noted. “It will help break down some of those walls that people have about Springfield, including the sense that we’re a broken city with low self-esteem.

“We have to break out of that and build some pride and some community,” he went on. “We have to start doing things that will really change the city, and I believe a cultural district will do that. Doing this can help to start changing the conversation about Springfield and about what we really are culturally and what we have here.”

It can also help make a community more visible — and attractive — to those looking for landing spots for a company or sites for everything from day trips to meetings and conventions, said Simpson, who said creation of a cultural district in Boston’s Fenway area has apparently done all that.

“In the Fenway, they’ve said they have seen an increase in occupancy rates in office buildings and storefronts since the cultural district was created,” she said, noting that the area, home to several museums and other attractions, is in many ways similar to downtown Springfield. “Meanwhile, it has created for them the sense that they’re more recognized in terms of gaining political support.”


Sign of the Times

Springfield will probably find out sometime this fall if its proposal for a cultural district has been accepted by the MCC, said Simpson.

If all goes as those behind this initiative believe it will, then the city will soon have a new vehicle for marketing itself and perhaps making some real progress in ongoing efforts to change some of the perceptions about the community.

In other words, the ‘under new management’ sign can go on the door. It will then be up the city to make the most of that development. n


George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]


Sections Travel and Tourism
The Carle Celebrates a Decade of Connecting Generations

Eric Carle

Eric Carle spends time with a mother and child at one of the museum’s many book signings.

Eric Carle may be legendary for his picture books for children, but kids aren’t the only ones welcome at the museum he founded in 2002.

“It’s a very unique concept in that it’s not a children’s museum,” said Alexandra Kennedy, executive director of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst. “It’s an art museum that celebrates picture books and really welcomes children. There are a lot of things to do here.”

What’s most gratifying, she told BusinessWest, is the way the museum cuts across generations.

“One of our favorite things is when families come in — grandparents, parents, and children — and each have a different reaction to what they’re seeing,” Kennedy said, noting that older visitors wax nostalgic for the books of their youth, while children experience the “immediacy” of having a world of literature opened up to them.

“Children’s literature has a unique place in everyone’s heart,” she continued. “And educationally, it’s a perfect thing; it embodies both storytelling and art making. It’s about children’s first experiences — being read to, reading, looking at art, making all those observations. There’s almost nothing like it in terms of an educational or emotional experience; there’s nothing like sitting on the lap of someone you love, being read a story. Every parent has experienced that.”

The goal of the Carle, then, is to reflect that sense of wonder and connection, and to inspire a love of art through high-quality picture books.

“The idea for creating the museum came directly from Eric and Barbara Carle; they had traveled extensively in Europe and Japan and had seen many picture-book art museums — especially in Japan,” Kennedy said, noting that the island nation boasts at least 20 such museums of different sizes. “They came back from one of those trips and started thinking, ‘why don’t we have a museum here in the U.S. to celebrate picture-book art? Maybe that’s something we can do.’ So they thought about it long and hard and started working on developing a museum.”

The Carle opened in November 2002 alongside the Hampshire College campus, and has been marking its 10th anniversary with a yearlong celebration that began last fall.

The Carle

The Carle was an immediate success when it opened in 2002, far surpassing first-year attendance expectations.

“They really thought it through,” Kennedy said of the Carles. “They were very careful; they wanted to make sure people got to experience picture books in a lot of different ways — the idea being, they’d go to galleries to see a lot of original art, go to studios and use the same materials and techniques the artists use to make the books, come into the library to find their favorite books or listen to story time, and visit the auditorium for lectures about picture books and artists.”


Delicate Subjects

The museum has no permanent exhibitions; the displays are typically works on paper, which are sensitive to light in the long term, so they’re switched out regularly and replaced by other items from the museum’s vast collection.

The facility is divided into three galleries. The east gallery hosts rotating exhibits of major artists or major themes, while the central gallery is a place to celebrate one specific book at a time. “It’s a wonderful way for people to understand what the process is like for making books,” Kennedy explained, noting that a Charlotte’s Web exhibit earlier this year featured drawings from E.B. White’s original publication. The gallery is currently celebrating Robert Zakanitch’s A Garden of Ordinary Miracles, and later this year it will spotlight drawings from Louise Fitzhugh’s classic Harriet the Spy.

Meanwhile, the west gallery features rotating exhibitions of Carle’s work — a must, since many guests travel to the museum, often from long distances, specifically to enjoy the work of its founder. He has given a great deal of art to the facility, and there’s more coming — at 84, Carle has a book release scheduled for this fall, and he continues to produce abstract art as well, as evidenced by the four massive, colorful murals gracing the museum lobby.

But it’s the participation of other authors and artists — and, in the case of deceased illustrators, their families — that has taken the Carle to its current level of prestige, Kennedy said.

“When Eric and Barbara were working on the concept of the museum, they probably didn’t anticipate what the response would be from artists and their families to the collection. Now we have more than 10,000 pieces in the collection, including large bodies of work from William Steig, Leo Lionni, Arnold Lobel — all major artists.”

Many current writers and artists, she explained, appreciate the idea of a place where their work can be both safely preserved and also occasionally displayed. One of those is Mo Willems, the Northampton resident and Caldecott Award-winning author and illustrator of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary Tale, and the Elephant and Piggie books. He was the subject of an extensive exhibition at the Carle this year, and donated a bright red Elephant sculpture to the outdoor patio.

“We had a really big response to our Mo Willems exhibition. He’s definitely one of the most popular young picture-book authors here now, especially judging by kids’ reactions,” Kennedy said, noting that Willems visited and hid pigeons throughout the gallery, which young visitors were encouraged to find and exchange for temporary pigeon tattoos. “Mo is so playful, and his characters are so universal in their appeal. It has been the summer of the pigeon here.”

In addition, “he has been incredibly supportive bringing attention to the museum,” she noted. “When the Today show profiled him this summer, he said, ‘why don’t we shoot the segment at the Eric Carle museum? Suddenly, we were on the Today show. We’re fortunate that artists are very generous in sharing their own success with us; we’ve really appreciated that.”


Two-way Street

In return, the Carle has shared its own success with the community, notably through two National Endowment for the Arts grants funding year-long art-education projects in the Maurice A. Donahue School in Holyoke, featuring guest visits from nationally noted illustrators. The first such project took place in 2011, and the second will begin this fall. “The grants really allow us to bring our work to other schools that may not be able to have it,” said Sandy Soderberg, the museum’s marketing manager.

One visiting artist, Jerry Pinkney — whose works include the Caldecott-winning The Lion & the Mouse, among others — spent two days in a classroom in 2011, exposing children to the art of illustration through hands-on, interactive activities.

“The best way for a museum to get involved in the classroom is to be there,” Kennedy said. “That’s what is most exciting for the schools and kids.”

She told of one boy in Holyoke who had kept a sketchbook at home. “It was something few people knew about; it wasn’t part of his public life. And suddenly, he’s in a class where that’s being celebrated. Maybe one day he’ll want to be an illustrator.

“The goal of the program,” she continued, “is to make kids feel comfortable with books and how they’re made, to be able to look at them and think about the artist, think about the writer. In our world, where everything is happening so fast, that’s a pretty thoughtful experience to have in the second grade.”

In addition, the Carle has made an effort to increase the participation of artists and writers at the museum itself, from book signings to activities for children. “One of the things I love is having an artist or writer come and do story time in the library,” Kennedy said. “Some of them make it really special; they bring in an easel and do something interactive with the kids.”

With just seven gallery exhibitions per year, those events, as well as auditorium lectures, are another way to include more artists and writers, she explained. “Of course, guests love it; they have an intimate experience here, getting to know a professional children’s-book artist.”

Meanwhile, “we’re traveling our work more, going into more places,” she noted, noting that the Carle has shown parts of its collection as far away as Korea and will bring an exhibition to Japan soon. “It’s important, not just because it raises the visibility of what we do here at the Carle, but it’s also germane to our mission. We think the museum should be displaying this work. We want to draw in young families and create that next generation of young museum-goers.”


Immediate Hit

Since its opening, the Carle has drawn more than a half-million visitors from around the world, including about 30,000 children on school-sponsored visits. The museum benefited from an opening-year buzz in 2002 and 2003 that surprised even the facility’s main proponents.

“They had unprecedented visitation the first year, far beyond what they expected,” Kennedy said. “We’ve now settled in around 40,000 to 45,000 per year, which is what they thought it would be.”

This past year, however, has seen a jump in visitation, which may have something to do with publicity from 10th-anniversary events, or other factors may be in play. “It’s always hard to guess why we’re seeing an increase, or even a decrease. I’m guessing it has something to do with the recovering economy.”

Meanwhile, a Boston-based group called the Highland Street Foundation, which sponsors Free Fun Fridays at museums across the Commonwealth, hosted a free event at the Carle recently that drew 1,470 people; typically, Kennedy said, if 800 people come through the door, that’s a big day. “So many people who had never come to the museum before said, ‘I always wanted to come here.’”

Hopefully, she said, many of them will return.

“I think so many people feel that art museums are intimidating in some way, that they have to have some special knowledge about art to appreciate it. We want to take away that concern,” she said, noting that the Carle emphasizes the experience of interacting with the art, rather than just the work itself.

“To see all these families connecting over books, unplugging for storytimes,” Soderberg said, “I don’t think we could be more proud of the museum right now.”

That’s a happy ending indeed to the Carle’s first decade — with much more of the story yet to be written.


Joseph Bednar can be reached at  [email protected]

Cover Story Sections Travel and Tourism
Holyoke’s Happiness Machine Marks a Milestone

CoverBW-0513bThe Holyoke Merry-Go-Round marks 20 years in operation at Heritage Park this December.
Thus, this is a time of reflection and celebration in Holyoke, concerning both the remarkable story of how residents and businesses in the city rallied to keep the attraction within the community, and the success enjoyed since: more than 1 million riders, hundreds of events staged at the facility, restoration of nearly half the ride’s hand-crafted wooden horses, and the creation of untold memories for generations of area residents.
There will be many opportunities to rejoice and look back this year, with the highlight being a huge fund-raising gala at the Log Cabin Banquet and Meeting House on Sept. 19, an event that is expected to severely test the facility’s fire-code capacity.
But for those most closely involved with this landmark, known to them as PTC 80 (the 80th carousel built by the Philadelphia Toboggan Co.), this is a time for much more than celebrating — although they will do plenty of that. It’s an occasion to do some strategic planning and take important steps that will ensure there are many more anniversaries to celebrate down the road.
And it’s a time, said Angela Wright, to do some difficult, yet very necessary, succession planning when it comes to management of what those in the city call the ‘happiness machine.’


Friends of PTC 80, as it’s called, will mark its milestone anniversary with an eye toward ensuring that there are more of these celebrations for decades to come.

Difficult, noted Wright, who was co-chair of the group that raised the money to keep the carousel in Holyoke and has been its volunteer director since it opened, because that’s the only word to describe what it will be like to “let go.”
“We’re reluctant to give up something that is close to all of us, and something that we worked so hard at —  it’s been a labor of love for all of us,” she said, referring to a strong corps of volunteers that has been with this project from the beginning and seen some of their ranks pass away in recent years. “We don’t want to let go of this, but it’s something we know we have to do.”
Elaborating, she said the Friends of the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round, as this group is called, is engaging in discussions about hiring a full-time executive director for the facility, an individual who will assume many duties currently carried out by those volunteers, from fund-raising to marketing, while also taking on the primary assignment — maintaining the relationships that have enabled this city treasure to survive and thrive, and creating new ones.
Hiring a director is one of many suggestions forwarded during strategic planning sessions staged recently with a consultant, Jeff Hayden, former city development director and current director of the Kittredge Center, said Maureen Costello, administrative manager of PTC 80.
Others include everything from recruiting additional board members to developing and implementing a marketing plan; from multi-faceted efforts to increase visitation to a host of initiatives to increase revenues, especially the scheduling of more birthday parties and other events.
These steps are in various, but mostly early, stages of implementation, said Costello, noting that one important step — a doubling of the price of a ride to $2 after more than 18 years — was undertaken in 2012.
“That was a difficult decision for us, because we had prided ourselves on keeping the ticket price at a dollar since we opened in 1993,” she explaned. “But it’s been very well-received by our visitors; many people said, ‘it’s about time you did this.’”
There will be more difficult and far-reaching steps taken in the months and years to come, said Jim Jackowski, business liaison and customer service and credit manager for Holyoke Gas & Electric and current president of the Friends board. He noted that, while the attraction’s first two decades in operation could be deemed an unqualified success, these are tenuous times for independently operated carousels like this one.
The challenges are many, and include everything from the high cost of insurance (carousels have historically had high mishap rates, although this one hasn’t recorded any) to the escalating competition for the time of young children (the ride’s lifeblood) and their parents.
“There are just a lot more things for kids and families to do today,” said Jackowski. “We have to respond to that by promoting ourselves and doing what we’ve always done — providing a truly unique experience.”
Wright agreed. “Many carousels are closing — hardly a week goes that we don’t hear of one of them shutting down,” she said, noting that she and others read about such casualties in industry publications like the Carousel News & Trader and Merry-Go-Round Roundup. “These things are becoming very expensive … our liability insurance is extremely high. Between insurance, staffing, maintenance, upkeep, promotions, and marketing, they’re becoming simply too expensive for many operators to run.”
For this issue and its focus on travel and tourism, BusinessWest takes a quick look back at how PTC 80 remained a Holyoke institution, but a more comprehensive glance ahead to the challenge of making sure the happiness machine will be there to create memories for future generations of area residents.

Turns for the Better

‘Middle horse #5’

‘Middle horse #5’ is next in line for a complete restoration. To date, nearly half of the horses on the carousel have been refurbished.

It’s known simply as ‘middle horse #5.’ And that says it all — if you know this carousel.
It has three rows of horses (there are 28 in all, both ‘standers’ and ‘jumpers,’ with two chariots), with the largest animals on the outside and the smallest on the inside. This particular specimen is fifth in a sequence known only to those intimately involved with this attraction. And it is showing some definite signs of wear and tear, much of it caused by the buckle on the stirrup, which has knocked off badly faded paint in several areas.
As a result, it is next in line for restoration work that will make it look like the much shinier and newer ‘middle horse #4’ just ahead. This work, to be carried out at the New England Carousel Museum in Bristol, Conn., will cost roughly $5,000, said Costello. To help pay that cost, the merry-go-round is staging a raffle this summer, with the winner gaining the right to give the horse a real name — like ‘Lancelot,’ ‘Flower Power,’ and others that have been assigned to other animals on PTC 80.
Restoring horses, staging raffles, and giving names to the stars of this attraction have been some of the many aspects of that labor of love which Wright described, made possible by the truly inspiring story of how Holyoke came together to keep its carousel a quarter-century ago.
Most in this region are now at least somewhat familiar with the saga, which began with Mountain Park owner Jay Collins’ decision to shut down the popular tourist attraction after the 1987 season ended.
After unsuccessful efforts to sell the park, the 300 acres it sat on, and all the equipment and inventory as one package (asking price: $4 million), Collins opted to start selling off the pieces. He had some attractive offers (up to $2 million, according to some accounts) for PTC 80, which was in extremely good condition. And while he was considering them, John Hickey, then manager of Holyoke’s Water Department, approached him with a plan to keep the carousel in the city.
The two agreed on a price of $875,000, and Collins gave Hickey one year to raise the money.
The rest, is, well, history.
An elaborate ‘save the merry-go-round’ campaign was launched, complete with a request for pledges with rhetorical calls to action that included ‘stop them from riding off with Holyoke’s mane attraction’ and ‘if you care about Holyoke’s future, put some money down on her past.’
In the end, residents, business owners, and schoolchildren heeded those calls, raising enough money to buy the carousel and build it a new home in Heritage State Park. Thus, PTC 80’s second life began in December 1993.
To say that it’s been a smooth ride since then would oversimplify things, said Wright, who noted that there have been many challenges over the first two decades, from getting people to come to downtown Holyoke to attracting revenue-generating events, such as birthday parties and weddings, to overcoming the loss several years ago of the four-day Celebrate Holyoke event that gave the carousel much-needed exposure and ridership.
“The real business challenge for us has been to replace the revenue from the Celebrate Holyoke festival, which was probably 10% to 15% of our annual revenue,” said Jackowski. “We’ve done it largely through the promotion of the birthday parties, the private functions, and the corporate functions, and spreading the word through an extended Pioneer Valley area.”
The attraction has managed to remain in the black throughout and meet its annual budget of roughly $100,000, he noted, largely through perseverance, imagination, and resourcefulness.
But if PTC 80, one of only 100 antique classic wooden merry-rounds still operating in North America, is to keep its Holyoke address, it must continue to act as a small business would, and that means strategic planning and, as Wright and Costello said, succession planning.

Round Numbers
That later assignment is a difficult one for many small businesses to even acknowledge, let alone address, said Wright, adding that it’s the same with the merry-go-round, where this exercise takes a number of forms.
For starters, it means active recruiting of younger professionals within the community to join the board and become involved with the carousel, she said, adding that a new generation of leadership must eventually take the reins — literally and figuratively — from the group that waged the campaign to save PTC 80 a quarter-century ago.
Succession planning also means developing and advancing a plan to hire a full-time executive director, said Costello, adding that the merry-go-round has a part-time operations manager (15 hours per week), and there are others who have held that position in the past.
Hiring a full-time manager would be a big step, one that would dramatically alter the budgetary picture, Wright told BusinessWest, but such a move is necessary given the current challenging climate. But the broad “transition,” as she called it, will nonetheless be difficult for the carousel’s older ‘friends.’
“We’ve all been here 25 years,” she said. “And we’re all somewhat reluctant to let anything happen to this merry-go-round. We all have a personal investment in this, and it’s a sizable investment.”
Succession planning is just part of the discussion when it comes to securing the long-term future of the merry-go-round, said Costello, adding that strategic planning initiatives involving the attraction, like those staged for businesses of all sizes, have focused on that acronym SWOT — strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Clearly, the 20th-anniversary celebrations fall into that third category, she said, adding that the attraction’s leadership intends to use the many events and special programs on tap this year to introduce (or re-introduce) people to the carousel, with several goals in mind. These include everything from increasing direct ridership to booking more special events involving both children and adults; from recruiting more supporters to simply raising more funds.
“The 20th anniversary is a time to reflect on the many things that we’ve accomplished here and be proud of those accomplishments,” Costello said. “But it’s also an opportunity to re-connect with our supporters and make more friends.
“We recognize that, while our merry-go-round was the crown jewel at Mountain Park, the people who remember the park are older now,” she went on. “We understand that those people are not going to be able to share their memories of Mountain Park, so we need to attract a new generation of riders and supporters, and we’re cognizant of that as we make our plans for the future.”
As it did 25 years ago, the Friends group is reaching out to the community for donations, she said, adding that donors can become members of the merry-go-round’s Ring of Honor, a collection of brass plaques that bear the names of supporters ranging from Holyoke schoolchildren to businesses across all sectors.
Beyond fund-raising, one of the main goals moving forward is to maximize other revenue resources, said Costello, adding that the increase in ticket prices resulted in a roughly 70% increase in total revenue in 2012, “which made a huge difference.”
But long-term, the merry-go-round must be more successful with scheduling events, she continued, because they are both solid revenue generators and vehicles for generating future ridership and more get-togethers.
Overall, the ongoing assignment for the merry-go-round’s leadership team is to make the attraction — and downtown Holyoke in general — more of a true destination for families with children, said Jackowski, adding that there are many developments that are moving the city closer to that designation.
“We hope, by keeping this building as attractive as it is, and this park as attractive as it is, that the future looks bright,” he told BusinessWest. “We have our new neighbor, the computing center, we’re hopeful that the canal walk comes to fruition in the next five years, and there is more development down here that creates optimism. We want to be the focal point of all that.”

The Ride Stuff
John Hickey, who passed away in 2008, once wrote of carousels, “man, and high tech, has not yet devised a better way to illuminate the faces of children and parents with pure joy. The lights, the music, the kids dashing for the right horse, the clang of the starting bell, and the motion … you don’t really understand human nature unless you know why a child on a merry-go-round will wave every time around … and their parent will wave back. It never fails … it never will.”
PTC 80 has lived up to those words for more than eight decades, and especially in its new home in Holyoke’s downtown. Its first two decades there have been an extraordinary ride in every sense of that word.
And that’s why this anniversary will be a time to celebrate, but also a time to make sure that the ride will continue for decades to come.

George O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Travel and Tourism
Robert E. Barrett Fishway Offers Learning Experiences on a Grand Scale

Paul Ducheney

Paul Ducheney says the fishway was the culmination of years of study involving fish behavior, as well as considerable trial and error.

Paul Ducheney acknowledged that it’s difficult to look upon the elaborate, cutting-edge Frank E. Barrett Fishway and grasp that it was inspired by a net and a bucket.
But it was. Well, sort of.
As legend has it in Holyoke, in 1955, an Atlantic salmon was trying to make its way north on the Connecticut River, back to its birthplace to spawn, when it hit what was then a roadblock — the Holyoke Dam. The story goes that an engineer with what was then the Holyoke Water Power Co. caught the confused fish with said net, but then didn’t know what to do with it.
“So they said, ‘well, lets put it in a bucket of water and bring it up over the dam and dump it in,’” explained Ducheney, superintendent for Electric Production at the Holyoke Gas & Electric Department (HG&E), which acquired the dam in 2001. “And that was pretty much the start.”
Today’s Robert E. Barrett Fishway is the result of that ongoing story of how, through the use of exponentially more sophisticated means of fish attraction and larger buckets, HG&E has created a fishlift that has become a model for hydropower systems in this country and around the world.
The two-bucket system carries hundreds of thousands of anadromous fish — those born in fresh water (salmon, smelt, shad, striped bass, and sturgeon are common examples), and spend most of their life in the sea, but return to fresh water to spawn — over the dam each year so they continue their migratory journey north.
And while doing so, it provides powerful lessons to visitors, many of them schoolchildren on field trips, about these fish, hydropower, and how they can coexist.
This was the dream of Robert E. Barrett, former president of the Holyoke Water Power Co., whose imagination and perseverance made it reality.
The current fishway, opened in 1955, hosts more than 11,000 visitors a year between April and June, when the fish make their annual treks north, said Kate Sullivan, marketing coordinator for the HG&E, who told BusinessWest that the facility is still far too much of a best-kept secret from a tourism perspective, and that the utility is working to see that it loses that distinction.
“People are always amazed; they can’t believe this is in their own backyard,” said Sullivan. “And this was part of Robert Barrett’s mission, to make this an educational experience for kids, too.”
For this issue and its focus on travel and tourism, BusinessWest paid a visit to the fishway for an educational experience on a grand scale — in more ways than one.

Current Events

This illustration shows how the fishway

This illustration shows how the fishway enables migratory shad, Atlantic salmon, and other species to be collected, lifted in buckets over the dam, and released.
Illustration by Robert Oxenhorn

As she gave BusinessWest a tour of the facilities, Sullivan said the creation of such facilities to ferry fish over hydroelectric installations became a federal mandate for those seeking to hold licenses for such facilities decades ago, and there are many such lifts operating today.
But the fishway in Holyoke is somewhat unique because of the breadth and depth of the educational opportunities it provides and the large scale of the operation. Indeed, it is said to be most successful fishlift on the Atlantic coast in terms of the number of fish it ferries.
For visitors, it’s an opportunity to see how nature and modern technology can collaborate and create some powerful images.
Once through the entrance of the power station, visitors are led — on the right, past the giant HG&E turbines that harness the river’s power, and, on the left, past a series of historical pictures of the dam and older fish-assisting devices — out to the large outdoor observation deck. Standing high above the Connecticut River on the deck, they get a southern view of the river and the special canal, which shows the two ways fish enter the gathering area by way of a high-velocity water flow that attracts them to the main collection area just under the deck.
Visitors can then turn their attention to the north and experience the sights and sounds of water coming over a section of the dam, next to the lift structure. On the half-hour, a buzzer rings, signaling the start of the fishlift as its two large buckets begin carrying hundreds of fish and water more than 50 feet up and into an exit flume. This is the point where visitors then move inside to see the fish swim by the public viewing windows, giving them the feeling of being underwater with the fish.
Sullivan told BusinessWest that guided school-group tours take about an hour, which includes time for an activity.
“And this is very unique,” added Ducheney. “If you go to other lifts at other dams, they’re sort of separate from the powerhouse, so it’s pretty neat to see power generation integral with fish passage. It’s Holyoke’s best-kept secret.”
But that secret took some time to materialize.
Kate Sullivan

Kate Sullivan says grassroots efforts have helped increase visitorship at the fishway, which is open only a few months a year.

Dams have been built to harness hydropower for centuries, and attempts to help fish on their migratory journeys have been part and parcel to those efforts, but finding a system that works effectively has often been a frustrating matter of trial and considerable error, said Ducheney, noting that Holyoke’s history serves up some good examples.
Since 1794, several dams have been constructed at South Hadley Falls, where the river drops more than 40 feet, and in October 1849, a large ‘timber crib’ dam was constructed, preventing upstream fish migration.
In 1866, Massachusetts enacted legislation requiring the construction of devices to permit passage of shad and salmon, which resulted in the first wooden fish ladder in 1873 — a system designed to replicate nature — on the South Hadley side of the river. However, the ladder was off the beaten path of the fish’s instinctual travels, said Ducheney, and fish passage didn’t go well; in fact, not one fish used any of the early ladders.
In 1900, the current, much larger dam made from Vermont stone was built, and in 1949, HWP received a license from the Federal Power Commission for the Holyoke Hydroelectric Project. As part of the license, HWP was required to “construct, maintain, and operate fish-protection devices.”
Soon after, the aforementioned lucky Atlantic salmon was saved and lifted over the dam. The stiffer federal mandate had engineers building a different type of fish passage because others hadn’t worked. More research into fish behavior resulted in the reason why: fish needed to sense the sound and current of rushing water on their journey, where a dam now stood. The solution was to create a gathering area by way of a high-velocity water flow that attracts the fish to the main collection area just under the deck, and the first lift, using a bucket in 1955, was built under Robert Barrett’s direction — the first successful fishlift in the country.
“It’s very important for the ecosystem,” Ducheney noted. “From a regulatory basis, today we have a mandate from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to operate the dam, and part of the conditions is to provide for safe and effective fish passage.”
Today, fish can continue upstream migration (if they’re not collected for hatcheries), where fishways further upstream at the smaller Turners Falls, Vernon, and Bellows Falls hydroelectric projects also provide a means to enhance passage for migrating species through a simpler elevated step process.

Hook, Line, and Sinker
When HG&E purchased the Holyoke Dam to operate the hydroelectric facilities and the Holyoke Canal System, more improvements were made to the fishlift, Ducheney explained to BusinessWest.
“It’s automated now, so it runs without operator intervention, and it’s tripled in size, so we can accommodate many more fish,” said Ducheney. “In fact, this lift has become a model for others, including the Susquehanna River and in Japan, China, Brazil, and European countries. Holyoke is pretty well-known for fish passage.”
And the fishlift is a first for something else that’s important.
“Literally, every fish is counted,” said Sullivan, noting that the Holyoke Dam is the first that fish encounter as they move north from Long Island Sound, so keeping accurate inventory is critical to tracking what happens to fish before and after they get to the Paper City.
The counters are biology students from Holyoke Community College who click a designated counter for each species of fish in a special viewing room just past the public viewing windows; its another form of educational experience of which Barrett would be proud.
Since the official counts started in 1965, the most prolific years for fish passage were in 1985 and 1992, at more than 1 million fish. In 2012, more than 500,000, mainly shad, were lifted over the dam.
Shad, said Ducheney, is a river herring, and while that may not sound delectable, he noted that shad is actually on the menu at New York’s famous Tavern on the Green restaurant at this time of year.
But restaurants aren’t the only interested parties when it comes to shad. The annual HG&E Shad Derby, one of the region’s largest fishing events, is held on two weekends in May and offers nearly 600 anglers of all ages the opportunity to win cash prizes and write plenty of their own fish stories as they enjoy the recreational benefits of the Connecticut River.
Marketing funds are tight, Sullivan said, so getting the word out about the fishway is a struggle. But thanks to HG&E’s newsletter to 18,000 customers, as well as more comprehensive grassroots efforts over the past couple of years to increase awareness of the facility, visitation has increased.
In just a short window of six weeks, from late April to mid-June, more than 11,000 visitors came through the fishlift last year, 2,000 more than in 2011, said Sullivan, noting that many of them are students from across the region.
The fishlift is open Wednesday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., until June 16, due to the spawning season each spring. Also open on Memorial Day, the facility offers visitors of all ages a unique combination of science through tourism, and a chance to tell a real fish story about the ones that got away — or at least further upstream.

Elizabeth Taras can be reached at  [email protected]

Sections Travel and Tourism
Museums10 Adds New Brush Strokes to Its Work in Hampshire County

Jessica Niccol

Jessica Niccol says Museums10 helps raise the profile of what she calls “an extraordinary set of historical collections.”

Like a particularly striking sculpture, a museum has many intriguing sides.
The Smith College Museum of Art is a good example of that, said Jessica Niccol, its director and chief curator. The institution was established not long after the college opened in 1875 and was conceived as a teaching museum. Unlike many prominent galleries then and since, it did not launch with a gift collection waiting in the wings, but accumulated its first pieces one at a time.
“So the staff, very mindfully, built a collection with an eye toward what was being studied at Smith College,” Niccol said. By 1879, the gallery featured 27 contemporary American paintings, featuring notable lights like Winslow Homer and a number of lesser-known artists, and steadily grew from there, helped immeasurably by local businessman Winthrop Hillyer, who appreciated the growing museum and decided to fund it.
“He loved that it would be as much of a benefit to the community of Northampton as it was to Smith,” Niccol said, noting that the orientation of the current building, opening onto Main Street in front and the campus in back, reflects that dual identity. “He saw that the museum could be a resource to the community and a gateway to the campus, and you see both of those things in the way the museum has developed over the past 140 years.”
But that dual focus on education (Smith boasts a robust program of college classes, tours serving thousands of schoolchildren each year, plus college students trained to be gallery instructors) and community outreach (including family days and monthly free Friday nights, featuring gallery talks and other special events) is not exclusive to Smith, but is a common theme running through many of Hampshire County’s art and history museums.
That’s one of the reasons Museums10 makes so much sense, said Kevin Kennedy, director of Communications for the Five College Consortium, from which Museums10 sprung in 2005.
“Much of the consortium’s efforts,” Kennedy said, “are really spent bringing people from the campuses [Smith College, Hampshire College, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, and UMass Amherst] together to share ideas, problems, solutions, things like that.”
Therefore, he continued, “it was natural for the directors of the campus museums to participate in that. It’s been going on informally for decades; it started growing organically, and then they decided to formalize it and actually create an organization.”
Kevin Kennedy

Kevin Kennedy says Museums10 acts as a lens to focus the significant energy of its members.

The art museums of the five colleges make up half Museum10’s membership, and they are joined by the Beneski Museum of Natural History, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, Historic Deerfield, the Emily Dickinson Museum, and the Yiddish Book Center. The startup money came from the Mass. Cultural Council, with the goal of raising the profile of the Pioneer Valley as a center for cultural tourism.
“Hopefully it has benefited the community by making these rather extraordinary museum resources housed within the Upper Pioneer Valley more visible to people,” Niccol said. “One of the things that awes all of us is what an extraordinary set of historical collections we have here. And, collectively, we’re able to work together to give greater visibility to these resources to try to help visitors — by suggesting multiple museum visits around a special area of interest, for instance.”
To that end, early on, Museums10 launched a series of cross-institution events, starting in 2006 with GoDutch!, which explored the art and literature of Dutch culture, past and present. “All the museums included it as some aspect of their existing collection or brought in a new exhibition,” Kennedy said. “It was a big success.”
The goal was to increase attendance at the participating museums by 5%; instead, it boosted visitation by 15% across the board, and in some venues by as much as 40%.
So, in 2007, Museums10 launched a second system-wide event, this one called BookMarks: A Celebration of the Art of the Book. That was followed in 2010 by Table for 10, with a focus on food. “That was terrific because this is such a food-rich region, and we were able to tie into agriculture, restaurants, organic food creators, wine folks, you name it.”
Eight years into its existence, the goals of Museums10, and the way the individual institutions work together and share resources, are continually evolving. For this issue’s focus on travel and tourism, BusinessWest takes a look at how the organization paints a collective picture of a vibrant cultural scene in Hampshire County.

Drawing on Expertise
Alix Kennedy, executive director of the Carle — which, with only 11 years under its belt, is the youngest of the 10 museums — said Museums10 is about far more than marketing the museums.
“It’s also about how we can leverage resources we have so we can have a greater impact in our own communities,” she told BusinessWest. “The days when organizations try to exist in silos is over. Thankfully, there’s a tremendous amount of professional rapport that everyone gets to benefit from.”
Niccol agreed, noting that, because the museums have small staffs, “there’s an incredible benefit to building this professional network within the five-college area. We’ve really developed strong ties as the curators meet each other, educators meet each other, the marketing staffs meet each other. There’s fantastic communication and support with problem solving.”
Shared resources are critical, she said, such as bringing in educators and workshops for the entire Museums10 system in specific subjects, rather than each of them sending staff members to conferences around the country.
“A lot of things happened,” Alix Kennedy said, “by taking like-minded groups and this variety of different museums, who all share this incredible passion for education, and figuring out ways to give people access to our resources.”
The 30-year-old Yiddish Book Center boasts a wide range of exhibits, lectures, conferences, and educational programs for both college students and adult learners — not to mention big events like Yidstock, an annual summer festival that brings in top names in the klezmer musical tradition and draws visitors from across the country.
“There’s no other place like it,” said Lisa Newman, the center’s director of communications. “Sometimes we refer to ourselves as the first Yiddish museum; there’s no other institution like this, with the breadth of what’s here and all the programs created to promote Yiddish culture. And it’s all rooted in the first mission of the center, which was the rescue of more than a million Yiddish books otherwise destined for the trash.”
Newman added that she has come to appreciate the collective power of Museums10 in supporting that mission.
“I think it’s a really interesting collaboration internally and externally,” she said. “It helps all of us professionally to engage with one another, but in terms of the community, it makes a strong statement that we have these 10 very unique museums — that we have tremendous resources as well as engaging, interesting, and surprising places to visit, and we’re right here in your backyard with a tremendous amount of programming going on.”
As director of marketing for Historic Deerfield, Laurie Nivison said it can be difficult to adequately communicate what such a large, multi-building facility has to offer.
“We say ‘opening doors to the past’ because we have 11 houses and an extensive museum collection for people to explore. We want to make it a destination, not just for people in the local area, but those from outside the area looking for a daycation — just looking to come and explore.”
Museums10, she said, helps get the word out by linking Historic Deerfield’s goals with those of the broader cultural community.
“This is a good group of people,” Nivison said. “As nonprofits, this sort of collective power is helpful, because something one museum might be able to do, another museum might not have the budget to do. Part of Museums10 is leveraging our power, helping us get into those markets we may not otherwise be able to reach.”

Next Phase

Alix Kennedy

Alix Kennedy

“This community is rich in artists,” Alix Kennedy said, noting that the Carle makes an effort to promote and involve the many children’s book artists living in Western Mass. In fact, several museum officials who spoke with BusinessWest brought up the ‘creative economy’ of artists living and working in the Valley.
“We’re really proud of the fact that Museums10 is an important part of the cultural economy,” Niccol said. “Why do people come here? Part of it is the incredible beauty of the landscape, but the other part is the great bookstores, restaurants, concert venues, and museums, and we see ourselves as part of that.”
From those efforts, said Kevin Kennedy, sprung the impetus for what is now known as the Hampshire County Regional Tourism Council, launched in 2012 and funded by the Mass. Office of Travel and Tourism.
“The cultural profile of Hampshire County shows what a unique area it is, and we showed how people could come together to promote that aspect of this area,” he explained.
“It’s been such a natural transition,” said Alix Kennedy, who chairs the new organization. “I think all of us living in the Valley know this is an incredibly rich community for arts and culture, and yet, we’re not confident that people outside this community know that.”
But Museums10 and the tourism council are working to change that, she continued, by bringing some collective marketing muscle to the passion that already exists among the various institutions. “I see these two efforts working in parallel and, ultimately, working in partnership.”
“To a certain degree, I think it’s taken a little pressure off Museums10 to spend all its collaborative time to promote the region,” Kevin Kennedy said, explaining that the member museums are starting to focus more on smaller collaborations involving just a few of them, instead of the system-wide events of past years. “These joint productions were terrific, but they took a lot of energy, and that didn’t leave a lot for other things.
“We’re really taking a step back,” he added, “looking more at where the natural cohesions are among the museums that could be brought to the attention of the media and the public. If a few museums happen to be doing exhibits on photography, we’ll do a press release on that. It used to be an all-for-one approach, and all 10 museums needed to be involved to make it a Museums10 event. Now, if three or four museums are working together because they have similar exhibits or similar interests, Museums10 supports them in that effort.”
It all comes back to supporting culture in the Valley and cultivating new art and history lovers, Alix Kennedy said, noting that the Carle attracts a wide range of constituents, from families and elementary-school students to graduate-level art-degree programs Simmons College operates on site — not to mention those drawn by nostalgia.
“Those books are such symbols of their childhood, and it’s really exciting and reinvigorating to come in and say, ‘they have Charlotte’s Web drawings! I love that book!’” And, like some of the other Museums10 institutions, the Carle reaches into the community with programs like visits from book illustrators to schools in Springfield and Holyoke, hopefully sparking a passion in a new generation.
“The fact that we’ve got these 10 great institutions in the Valley speaks to our culture and the wealth of history and knowledge in the Valley,” Nivison said.
Kevin Kennedy agreed. “Each museum has so much energy,” he said, “and I think Museums10 can act as a lens to focus all that energy.”

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Travel and Tourism
Old Sturbridge Village Changes with the Seasons

Ann Lindblad

Ann Lindblad says families today have less leisure time, so it’s important to make their visit worthwhile — and worth repeating.

Kids don’t want to hear how butter is churned. They want to do it.
And at Old Sturbridge Village, they can do just that — and plenty more. In fact, a renewed focus on hands-on learning and interactivity at this 66-year-old ‘living museum’ has contributed to a turnaround in attendance and finances since both bottomed out five years ago, said Ann Lindblad, OSB’s director of marketing and communications.
The change began, she said, in 2007, when Jim Donahue came on board as the new CEO, replacing Beverly Sheppard, who had resigned the year before. He’d had no previous museum experience — his background was in finance and education, most recently as CEO of the Bradford Dunn Institute in Rhode Island — but since Donahue’s appointment, the museum has reversed the declines and, starting in 2009, balanced the operating budget every year.
“It’s a stunning turnaround, and it’s happened as we’ve focused more on hands-on activities,” Lindblad said. “Today’s visitor doesn’t want to just watch; they want to see and touch and take part. We offer crafts and hands-on activities every day, and we have a whole host of special things visitors can try. For example, they can come in the fall and try plowing behind the oxen and see what that feels like.”
The past decade at OSB has felt more like a roller coaster. In the heyday of Old Sturbridge Village — the late 1970s through the 1980s — it wasn’t uncommon for annual attendance to approach 600,000 visitors. In 2004, that number had declined to 288,000, and in 2007 it plummeted to just over 220,000. It’s a phenomenon that other museums across America, of all types, have had to deal with.
“A lot of this is true of the whole living-history-museum category,” Lindblad said. “The high-water mark for attendance was during the Bicentennial back in the ’70s, and think about how much society has changed since then. Now you can shop 24/7, organized youth sports are popular, you have cell phones, the Internet, computer games … and both parents are working more than was the case in the 1970s, when it was common to pack the kids into the station wagon and head out on a day trip.
“There’s just less leisure time,” she continued, “and that is, I think, a strong incentive for us to make sure people don’t view visiting here as a waste of time, but want to come back and repeat the experience.”
Increasingly, they are doing just that. Despite a weather year in 2011 that threw many businesses for a loop — the June tornado tore a line of tree damage dangerously close to the 40 historic buildings, while the October snowstorm cut power and shut down the facility for a week — the museum finished the year with 263,000 visitors, just off the 273,000 pace of 2010. With weather acting a bit more cooperatively in 2012, the year’s attendance to date is 4% ahead of last year’s pace.
“Since our CEO took over the reins in 2007, we’ve had a 24% increase in attendance, and three consecutive years of balancing the operating budget,” Lindblad said, noting that a stronger focus on seasonal variety and interactive programs have been matched by a stronger marketing plan.
“And I think there’s a lot of grassroots marketing,” she added. “Visitors are coming, having a good experience, and helping us to spread the word. It still comes down to programming. If they come here and don’t have a good time, or they don’t learn anything, or they don’t find it compelling, then there’s no reason to come back.”

Interpreting the Past
For decades, Lindblad said, Old Sturbridge Village — which focuses on New England life from the 1790s to the 1830s — leaned on its ‘interpreters’ as its main draw. These employees — who dress in period garb and demonstrate trades ranging from printing to shoemaking, from pottery to tincraft — remain one of the most significant aspects of the museum.
“We’re famous for our historians in costume; that’s what sets us apart. They’re so knowledgable about that time period, and they’re our teachers,” she said — and the lessons aren’t always rooted in the past. Take agriculture, for example. “Some kids come and don’t know where a carrot comes from; they wonder why there’s dirt on carrots. They have no clue about which plants and vegetables are native. So there’s an amazing amount of teaching going on.”
She was quick to add, however, that these village inhabitants do a “third-person interpretation,” meaning they’re not acting out a character from the early 19th century, but simply performing the tasks of that era while speaking in their own, modern voice. “Visitors would get frustrated if they asked a question and someone couldn’t answer it because they couldn’t break character. It’s all about having fun, but making sure our guests are learning something while they’re having fun.”
Still, in recent years, the museum’s leadership felt interactivity was lacking, so they began to institute a more hands-on approach across the 220-acre grounds, as well as in classes visitors can sign up for on period cooking, blacksmithing, woodworking, textile crafts, and more.
“As an educator, our CEO would say that kids — or anyone, really — remember something longer if they’ve actually taken part in it; it sticks with them,” Lindblad said.
She noted that hearth cooking demonstrations are conducted every day. “There’s a fire in the fireplace, and the women who are cooking will teach things like how they judge the heat by putting their arm inside the hearth and counting. If they can count to 12 or 15 before it gets uncomfortable, then it’s about 350 degrees.”
Another focus at Old Sturbridge Village has been on seasonal and yearly events that provide more variety for those who choose to return, or purchase yearly memberships.
“The program staff has really bumped up the seasonal activities, so visitors can have another reason to visit — see something they hadn’t seen before,” Lindblad said. “And these can appeal to different age groups.”
Those seasonal activities extend even to the winter months — not normally a time when families are thinking about tourism and day trips.
“We’re committed to being open year-round, and we want people to see what the winter was like,” Lindblad said. “So, for example, we added Fire and Ice Days in January, where we demonstrate ice cutting and harvesting. In the days before refrigeration, ice was a huge cash crop in New England, and they had special tools to score and cut the ice and store and haul it, and merchants in Boston would ship it all over the world. People are fascinated by the process, and the enormous saws, and kids and adults can try sawing.”
The following month, visitors flock to an antique sleigh rally, where horse-drawn sleighs compete for prizes. “The winter was the social season,” Lindblad said. “The harvest was over, and people had more free time.”
Other seasonal events — dozens of them — follow throughout the year, from fireworks in July to harvest parties and Apple Days in the fall. And the museum isn’t afraid to occasionally step out of its time period. For example, it hosts an antique car show (all cars must predate 1946, the year the museum was established).
While focusing on 20th-century lifestyles, Lindblad said, the exhibition remains true to OSB’s historic bent. “We see grandparents bringing their grandchildren to that, so they can say, ‘this is what cars looked like.’”
Speaking of children, the museum still relies heavily on visits from school groups — around 65,000 students visit each year — while parents with children under 12 comprise another steady constituency. Older adults and empty-nesters also enjoy visiting, particularly during the leaf-peeping season in the fall. Meanwhile, families with young children often prefer the spring, when most baby animals are born.

Historic Showcase
At the heart of Old Sturbridge Village, however, are its period homes and shops. The most recent addition, the Small House, a 420-square-foot clapboard structure erected several years ago, is the first building added to the village since the mid-1980s, and the first ever to be built from the ground up; all the other buildings are actual historic properties relocated to Sturbridge. Unlike the middle-class houses in the village, the Small House tells the story of how the lower classes of the time lived.
Other stories are being constantly told as well. The recent Redcoats and Rebels event drew some 800 Revolutionary War reenactors to the village — the largest such war simulation in New England. And the facility recently added an authentic Concord stagecoach, “just like the ones plying roads all over New England in the 1830s,” Lindblad said. “You can get in the stagecoach and get a feel for the rigors of transportation. It’s a replica of the one that ran between Hartford and Worcester — it was bumpy and dusty, but that was the Cadillac of its time.” It was also, she added, a 12-hour trip.
Today, that’s like arriving from Detroit or Charlotte by car, and that’s not unheard of. “We attract a lot of out-of-state visitors, and they’re bringing a lot of money into the Massachusetts economy,” Lindblad said, noting that, while most of those hail from Connecticut, the museum attracts healthy numbers from the rest of New England, New York, and the mid-Atlantic states. In fact, all 50 states are represented each year, while international guests comprise 6% of visitors.
“I think, because we are within driving distance of so many millions of people, this is a good option for a day trip,” Lindblad said, noting that each $24 admission ($8 for kids) is good for a second visit within 10 days, so that families can make a multi-day stay of it. “They might not have the budget, during a recession, to fly to Disneyland or Disney World, but they’re still looking for a family experience. They can drive a couple of hours and have a rich experience, and still feel like they had a mini-vacation.”
After all, it’s only natural to crave some time away from it all. That’s as true now as it was 200 years ago.

Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]

Sections Travel and Tourism
MASS MoCA Fills In the Wide Canvas of Contemporary Art

Joe Thompson

Joe Thompson says MASS MoCA’s constantly changing installations and inclusion of performing arts make it more vibrant than a static art museum.

Joe Thompson was talking about how, over its 13-year history, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) had solidified its reputation as a unique showcase of what is called ‘new art’ — in all of the many forms that takes — and as a facility that is never afraid to take a chance on exhibits, programs, and events that are, in a word, different.
And with that, as if on cue, the sounds of people banging on metal drums, accompanied by a woman singing opera, could be heard from the floor below.
This was the New York City-based, multi-faceted classical-music organization Bang on a Can, which, according to its Web site, is “creating an international community dedicated to innovative music, wherever it is found.” With that mission in mind, the group, led by composers and founders Julia Wolfe, David Lang, and Michael Gordon, sought out MASS MoCA as the home for a summer educational and residency program for fellows and students in all forms of music.
The 18-day festival, which concluded on July 28, is sometimes called ‘Banglewood,’ in reference to the nearby, and much more traditional, Tanglewood Music Festival in Lenox. It is is dedicated, said the group, “entirely to adventurous contemporary music; we will write it, we will perform it, we will think about it, and we will talk about it.”
And for all that, the museum in North Adams, created out of several old mills that were part of the Sprague Electric complex, has become a venue Wolfe called both supportive and inspiring.
“MASS MoCA is a gold mine of support and atmosphere,” Wolfe told BusinessWest, “and this program, with all the surrounding art, allows for students to create and perform as colleagues, side by side with seasoned performers. It gets music into art spaces.”
Creation of this powerful learning environment is one of many ways to qualify and quantify the success MASS MoCA has recorded since opening in the summer of 1999, said Thompson, the museum’s director, adding that others include solid attendance figures (130,000 last year, a new record), a growing endowment (currently $14.5 million), and a large number of return visitors, a statistic that lies at the heart of the facility’s current operating philosophy.
Indeed, instead of a static museum dedicated to contemporary art, MASS MoCA is an ever-changing institution that showcases paintings in canvases, but also film, video, sculpture, and, yes, music.
“The farther away you get from North Adams, the more people think of MASS MoCA as a museum; the closer you get to North Adams, the more people think of MASS MoCA as the place where they see theater or dance events,” said Thompson, adding that this range of descriptions speaks to just how the museum has become different things to different people.
Julia Wolfe and David Lang

Julia Wolfe and David Lang say MASS MoCA helps enable Bang on a Can to “get music into art space.”

For this issue and its focus on the region’s tourism industry, BusinessWest looks at how MASS MoCA continues to grow and evolve while finding new ways to meet its two main goals: to provide a state-of-the-art (and arts) platform for contemporary works of all kinds, and create jobs in a corner of the state that needs some.

Exhibiting Determination
It’s called Solid Sound.
That’s the name that was given to a three-day music festival launched by MASS MoCA administrators in 2010, featuring Wilco, the American alternative-rock band based in Chicago.
Thompson said he and others were confident that Wilco and its opening acts would draw a good turnout, but they actually got a lot more than they bargained for — and more than the town was prepared for. More than 5,000 fans descended on North Adams, filling every available parking space and prompting restaurants to run out of food. Thompson and city officials who helped stage the event feared that litter would be scattered throughout downtown the morning after the event wound down.
“But all throughout downtown, all we saw were full garbage cans and neatly stacked cups and lined-up bottles — by recyclable type — next to each can,” said Thompson with a laugh. “It’s due to the type of engaged and environmentally conscious following that Wilco has.”
And this is, by and large, the same type of audience that is attracted to contemporary, or new, art, he continued, adding that the museum draws more than 120,000 visitors per year — a tribute, he believes, to an operating philosophy that he and others involved with this project agreed upon as they raised and then spent more than $31 million to convert portions of the Sprague complex into one of the largest (area-wise) contemporary-art museums in the world.
Going back to the early and mid-1990s, Thompson said he slowly grew away from his original, and firmly rooted, belief in the concept of a museum with large, fixed installations devoted to pared-down ‘minimal art’ of the ’70s and ’80s. While he admits they look great in the generous, rough-hewn spaces afforded by mill buildings, and don’t require fancy climate control, he came to think that static art offered far too limited a vision — perhaps a dangerously constrained one.
“Many people who shared my love of new art worried out loud whether visitors would make repeat visits to a permanent, fixed installation,” he explained. “That question — ‘would people come twice?’ — that was a tough question, and led me to think that a program of changing, shorter-term exhibitions might be a more engaging way to begin.
“As artists had become increasingly fluid in the way they work, with art-making practices that cross from sculpture to set design to video and film,” he continued, “it became clear that an institution that was to be truly responsive to the needs and trajectories of new art had to incorporate the performing arts as well.”
In a nutshell, the past 13 years of operation have essentially proven Thompson and others right in their thinking. The museum has changed exhibits regularly and hosted a broad mix of media — as evidenced by Solid Sound, Banglewood, and other projects and events — and visitors have come back repeatedly.

Creative Economy
The list of current and upcoming exhibits speaks volumes about the diversity created at MASS MoCA and the ability to present a different museum every time visitors venture to North Adams.
There’s “Oh, Canada” (through next April), the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art produced outside of Canada. It features the work of more than 60 artists who hail from every province and nearly every territory. There also “Invisible Cities,” showing through next February. Titled after Italo Calvino’s book — which imagines Marco Polo’s vivid descriptions of numerous cities of a fading era to Kublai Kahn — it features the work of 10 diverse artists who reimagine urban landscapes both familiar and fantastical.
Meanwhile, “Stanford Biggers: The Cartographer’s Conundrum” is a major multi-disciplinary installation by New York-based artist Stanford Biggers, and was inspired by the work of his cousin, the late artist, scholar, and Afro-futurist John Biggers.
And then there’s “Sol LeWitt; A Wall Drawing Retrospective, which is an ongoing, semi-permanent display that is the one notable exception to Thompson’s basic operating strategy of changing exhibits. It includes 105 large wall drawings — many would use the term murals — created by artist Sol LeWitt, who is considered by many in the art world to be the most influential conceptual artist of our time.
It is due to the sheer size of LeWitt’s large-scale art, some of it measuring more than 30 feet long by eight feet or more in height, that MASS MoCA was considered an ideal home for these works. Thompson told BusinessWest that a call early in 2003 from Yale University Art Gallery Director Jock Reynolds set in motion the process for bringing LeWitt’s art to North Adams, but first he had to be sold on a permanent display.
As Thompson explains it, Reynolds and LeWitt needed the space to construct LeWitt’s legacy (the artist never lived to see the unveiling in 2007) and focused on MASS MoCA because no other museum in the Northeast could dedicate tens of thousands of square feet of space to such large works. Thompson said the collaboration between Yale, the Williams College Museum of Art, and MASS MoCA resulted in a stunning “museum within a museum,” as he called it, on three floors, totaling 30,000 square feet.
“As much as we love our changing program, and you’re only as good as your last show, this was a rule-breaker for us,” Thompson said. “Suddenly, we had this beautiful milestone installation of Sol LeWitt’s, and it’s super-high-quality, it’s colorful, full of detail, and it just leaves you smiling — it just makes you feel good.”
It was a turning point for Thompson. “It made me think that the ideal museum is one that has both a core, permanent collection, but also lots of room for change; you want masterpieces that people return to over and over again, but you also want a vibrant roster of changing exhibitions that trigger the return visit. Sol LeWitt helped us see that.”

Broad Strokes
While MASS MoCA hasn’t yet matched its goal for creating 600 jobs, it has succeeded in contributing to the economic development of North Adams and the Berkshires in general, said Thompson, adding that it has become a day-tripping destination while also filling some hotel rooms as well.
Meanwhile, it has become that proverbial ‘different sort of venue’ that has attracted the likes of Bang on a Can, Wilco, and visitors who want to experience the full range of new art.
Perhaps David Lang summed it up best when he said that, because the museum, perceptions of North Adams have changed.
“Before, it was always a place you could visit,” he said. “Now, it’s a place you have to visit.”

Elizabeth Taras can be reached at [email protected]