TICKET GIVEAWAY: Medieval Faire at Ventfort Hall

Medieval Faire & Armored Tournament
Ventfort Hall in Lenox, MA
Sunday, October 9 from 10am-5pm

Medieval Faire Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum

3rd Annual Medieval Faire with displays of armored combat; equestrian demonstrations; medieval arts, crafts, and clothing; strolling troubadours; and lectures on feudalism and medieval society. (Courtesy Photo, Kevin Sprague)

Medieval chivalry comes alive in the Berkshires at the Ventfort Hall 3rd Annual Medieval Faire & Armored Tournament in Lenox, MA on Sunday, October 9th from 10am-5pm … and Hilltown Families has a family 4-pack of tickets to giveaway to one lucky family!

The Medieval Faire & Armored Tournament is an excellent way to learn about medieval society through demonstrations and enactments. There will be strolling troubadours, lectures, people dressed in period costumes, medieval arts, armored combat demonstrations and much more!

Enter to win a family 4-pack of tickets.  Deadline to enter to win is Wednesday, 09/28/11 @ 7pm (EST). Details below.

ABOUT The Medieval Faire & Armored Tournament

Medieval chivalry and armored tournaments are not dead, but alive and thriving. Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum will host the 3rd annual Medieval Faire at the historic Jacobean-Revival mansion in Lenox on Sunday, October 9 from 10am to 5pm. The series of events will include exciting displays of armored combat every hour, equestrian demonstrations, medieval arts, crafts and clothing, strolling troubadours and musicians, and lectures on feudalism and medieval society. Men in armor and women in period costumes will take part in the action.

Heading the program is Jeffrey Mann,  a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism, one of the world’s largest medieval living history organizations, for nearly 30 years. Mann’s specialty is the study of the evolution of armor through the Middle Ages, how it is made and tournament combat. For over 20 years, Mann, his squire and retainers have taken their interest and knowledge of medieval life to schools, nursing homes and scouting organizations, bringing the Middle Ages alive.

Mann states, “Our lively presentation helps sort fact from fiction and explain how many of our modern customs evolved from then till now.”


Ventfort Hall is an imposing Jacobean Revival-style mansion built in 1893 for Sarah Morgan, the sister of J. P. Morgan. Designed by the architects Rotch & Tilden, it is located in Lenox, Massachusetts. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and declared an official project of “Save America’s Treasures,” a Millennium program of Hillary Rodham Clinton and the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Ventfort Hall is the home of The Museum of the Gilded Age.

Ventfort Hall was one of the approximately seventy-five so-called “Cottages” built in Lenox in the last century when the village became a popular Gilded Age resort. Through lectures, exhibits, theatrical performances and other events, The Museum of the Gilded Age interprets the great changes that occurred in American life, industry, and society during the Nineteenth Century, a fascinating period of American history.  For more information visit www.gildedage.org.


Your chance to win a family 4-pack of free tickets to the 3rd Annual Medieval Faire & Armored Tournament at the Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum on Sunday, October 9 from 10am-5pm in Lenox, MA is as easy as 1-2-3 (4, 5)!

To enter to win simply:

  1. CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting the Facebook icon below.
  2. TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO SPEND AN AUTUMN DAY IN THE BERKSHIRES WITH YOUR KIDS  below (one entry per household), and be sure to tell us your
  3. FULL NAME and where you
  4. LIVE (TOWN/STATE). Must include your town to be eligible.
  5. ACCURATE EMAIL IN THE EMAIL FIELD BELOW (we never share your email address).

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below. Deadline is Wednesday, 09/28/11 @ 7pm (EST)

Read the rest of this entry »

Ticket Giveaway: Redcoats & Rebels Weekend at Old Sturbridge Village

Redcoats & Rebels
at Old Sturbridge Village
Weekend of August 6th & 7th

History comes alive for families at one of our local living history museums! Enter to win a family 4-pack of tickets to "Redcoats & Rebels" at Old Sturbridge Village for the weekend of August 6th & 7th, 2011. Details on how to enter to win below. Deadline to enter: August 3rd.

History comes alive as Redcoats & Rebels, New England’s largest military reenactment, returns to Old Sturbridge on August 6th & 7th … and Hilltown Families has a family 4-pack of tickets to giveaway to one family for the weekend!

Redcoats & Rebels is an excellent way to explore early American history with the family at one of our local living museums, including fashions and customs from Colonial America,  marching and drill demos, fife and drum music, medical procedures, Revolutionary War reenactments, and much more!

Enter to win a family 4-pack of tickets for the weekend.  Deadline to enter to win is Wednesday, 08/03/11 @ 7pm (EST). Details below.


See the largest military re-enactment in New England — nearly 1,000 soldiers portraying British, Irish, Welsh, German, Scottish, French and Colonial troops. The Village is transformed into a military camp from the time of the War for Independence, as it was known in early New England. Come see what it was really like for those who fought to win America’s freedoms.

Following a parade of British troops through the town, the Village fields will become the site of a mock battle each afternoon. Troops will reenact a battle scenario where Americans and their allies attack a British-occupied town. Visitors can see surgeons “treat the wounded” and see the American troops get their smallpox inoculations. Throughout the day they can tour behind-the-scenes in both the British and American camps to learn what life was really like for these 18th-century soldiers. See how laundry was done, and meet the surgeons who tended to the wounded and administered smallpox inoculations.

Other events designed to provide a look into the lives of soldiers include reconnoitering with a Ranger from Peter’s Corps, and a prisoner exchange between the Americans and British (Saturday only). Special events on Sunday include a Sunday Service for the troops, the arrival of American soldier’s pay and uniforms, and a court martial trial with the HMS Somerset. Young visitors will enjoy learning the real words to “Yankee Doodle,” making tri-cornered hats, and drilling with the Second Massachusetts Regiment.

In addition, visitors can learn about the fashions and customs of the time during programs like “Mrs. Peabody’s Levee” – a look at 18th-century foundation garments presented by the group “Ladies of Refined Taste,” which will also present “Runaway Runway” – a look at civilian clothes in the late 1700s. Military fashions through the years will be presented by the Tenth Massachusetts Light Infantry.  On Saturday, music, dancing, and ball games will be featured. A complete schedule of activities can be found at www.osv.org.


Old Sturbridge Village celebrates life in early New England from 1790 – 1840. Located just off the Massachusetts Turnpike and Routes I-84 and 20 in Sturbridge, Mass., OSV is open year-round, but hours vary seasonally. Currently, the Village is open seven days a week from 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Admission is: $20 for adults; $18 for seniors; $7 for children ages 3-17; children under 3 are admitted free. Each admission includes free parking and a free second-day visit within 10 days. For details, visit www.osv.org or call 800-733-1830.


Your chance to win a  a family 4-pack of tickets to Redcoats & Rebels for the weekend of August 6th & 7th at Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, MA is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!

To enter to win simply:

  1. CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting “Like” below
  2. TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE WAY TO SPEND A DAY OUT AND ABOUT IN WESTERN MA WITH YOUR KIDS (any season) below (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  3. FULL NAME and where you
  4. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) Must include your town to be eligible.
  5. ACCURATE EMAIL IN THE EMAIL FIELD BELOW (we never share your email address).
  6. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Wednesday, 08/03/11 @ 7pm (EST).

A Day at Historic Deerfield

Historic Deerfield: That Museum Town

Visitor's center at Historic Deerfield in Deerfield, MA (Photo Credit: Sienna Wildfield)

My mom and I had a little time on a sunny day a few weeks back and took the kids to Historic Deerfield. To be very honest, I felt like it might be a tough sell. I have three boys. They are 4½, 6 and 11½ years old.  My oldest has been very tween-y lately. My youngest has been very sleepy, running himself ragged at the Parent’s Center and then preschool. He is often heard saying on the weekend, “I just want to do what I do,” in other words, “let me be.” And Henry, my 6 year old, likes to know exactly what everything is ahead of time. Historic Deerfield is a village dedicated to early New England Colonial History. It is also just a neighborhood with homes, streets, sidewalks and a post office. This is a bit much for my 6 year old to take in, but I convinced him to trust me.

I’ve been meaning to tell you all a secret. My local library has a collection of museum passes. They usually admit 4 or 5 people for free or at a discounted rate. Your local library may have a similar program. It’s incredibly easy to use. You check out the pass with your library  card and return it to the circulation desk 2 days later.

Making and baking apple pies in the open hearth kitchen. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

After picking up our museum passes at the Forbes Library, we went to Historic Deerfield.  On our way to the visitor’s center we saw a demo of a craftsman steaming felt hats into shape. The old iron was heated by flame, steam was everywhere. Hat-making looked dangerous and the boys were hooked. We took our pass to the visitor’s center, got our bracelets that would be our tickets for the day and got some very solid helpful advice from the staff about the best spots to visit with the boys. We settled on the Open Hearth Kitchen, the History Workshop and the Apprentice’s Workshop.

We walked into the open hearth kitchen where cakes were cooking in cake pans inside dutch ovens on the hearth. The kids enjoyed chipping sugar off a cone and grinding it in the mortar and pestle. We poked around the kitchen equipment making a little matching game for ourselves: the whisk was made of twigs, the toaster was a spinning piece of cast iron that was set hearth-side. I will return with Henry to take an open hearth cooking class so he can really get his hands on all the equipment.

Child-sized loom in the History Workshop. (Photo credit: Karen Bayne)

The Children’s History Workshop is a play and pretend area for families. There are costumes, an open hearth kitchen with pretend food, a mini one room school house with the type of desk that has a chair attached. My children have never sat in these before, although I remember sitting on its more modern counter-part in my little school as a child. The kids played with the slates and chalks giving each other silly dictations and pretending to write in fancy script. The staff person there helped the kids make a jar with the ingredients for split pea soup which we brought home. She also let them use the child-sized loom. Nothing surprised me more than my boy children loving the loom. They loved the pedals, the yarn, the swift rhythm of moving the shuttle back and forth. It was hard to tear them away.

We did pull them away to the Apprentice’s Workshop. Seems like we hit a pretty quiet day in the workshop; there was not too much happening. There was  a full size loom which was impressive to see. There was a second smaller loom which Isaac used, hopping on and following the posted pattern. The joiners’ workshop and the pottery studio are places I’d love to go back to; as well as, walk through some of the historic homes – very quickly, I’m sure, with three kids, but I would still love to see the interiors. We pulled them away from weaving for a second time in an hour. Henry asked if we could go back to that museum town again soon – that’d be a yes. When you visit, there is a helpful family guide and schedule of family events on their website. The staff in the visitor’s center were very helpful as we were trying to decide how to plan our time with the kids – so take a minute to ask their advice. We truly had a wonderful time and now I want a child-sized loom in my home for keeping them busy, quiet and productive during the winter months ahead.


Karen Bayne

Karen grew up in Manhattan and lived in Connecticut before moving to Northampton with her husband Matt to raise their boys. Her sons Isaac, Henry and Theo are 11, 6 and 4,  leaving Karen on a search for all the “just right adventures” that will wow them and wear them out.  She works as a birth doula, childbirth and parent educator in the greater Northampton area. She writes about mothering at Needs New Batteries and about birth in our culture at Gentle Balance Birth.


Five Months of Celebrating History and Nature at Historic Deerfield

New Family Programs Celebrate History and Nature

The history of berries as used for food, medicine, dyes and ink in Colonial America will be explored at the Historic Deerfield Museum in June 2010. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Have you ever wondered what life was like for families in Colonial America? How were clothes made? Where did foods come from? How did people survive without modern appliances? The 2010 summer family programs at Historic Deerfield will explore the lives of colonial families, and various aspects of their nature-based life.

The Earth’s soil is a major element sustaining the planet. The rich, fertile soil of Deerfield, MA has nourished crops for thousands of years, making it possible for Native Americans, English settlers, and modern farmers to thrive on the land. Weekends this May 2010, Historic Deerfield will help visitors investigate the diverse ingredients of soil and learn how it is formed in a new program titled “The Earth Beneath Our Feet.” Visitors will make their own soil mix and plant seeds in a small pot to take home.

In June 2010, the many uses of berries will be investigated in a new program called “Berry Season.” Used for food, medicine, and even for dyes and inks, berries were also a seasonal treat for early Americans. Visitors will explore the importance of berries to both Native Americans and English settlers in the 18th century, make berry ink, put together a refrigerator-jam kit to take home, and receive a berry recipe booklet.

In July and August 2010, visitors can continue their exploration of nature with “Colonial Colors: Fun with Paint and Dye,” an exploration of the rich and vibrant colors and hues found in everyday colonial New England life. This program will explore how fabric dyes were made from local plants, as well as imported dye stuffs. Visitors can learn how people colored their houses with paint ground from natural pigments and mixed it with natural materials such as linseed oil or even milk! Historic houses and the Flynt Center of Early New England Life will be open for visitors to see ways in which people made their interiors stand out with color. Visitors can also create their own colors using natural materials and methods, and make a project to take home.

Finally, the programs only get sweeter when “Honey Harvest” is offered on weekends in September 2010. Honey was an important ingredient used to sweeten foods and beverages in colonial America, and to brew a traditional drink called mead. Join museum educators in this fun family program to learn about bees and honey. Taste different kinds of honey, and make a beeswax candle to take home.

All family programs are included with general admission and are free to members. For more information, please call (413) 775-7214 or visit www.historic-deerfield.org.

Hilltown Families Spend a Cozy Winter’s Day in Historic Deerfield

Discovering Colonial America in Deerfield

Faith Deering demonstrating a variety of natural fibers used in Colonial America. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

On Saturday, Historic Deerfield in Deerfield, MA, hosted A Cozy Winter Day at their Hall Tavern. Many Hilltown families gathered together to experience some of the rich history of early New England. The day’s presentations included a hands-on approach to illustrate the homestead activities in which early settlers may have participated, such as sewing, cooking, storytelling or singing songs. Families passed the blustery winter afternoon as early New Englanders did.

Weaving on a loom. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Faith Deering did a wonderful sewing demonstration for small groups of families. She present a variety of natural fibers that were used to sew with, including wool, cotton and flax. Children were shown how to card wool, got to see how cotton was grown and view flax before it was processed into fiber.

Families also had the opportunity to see how wool was spun on a spinning wheel. The process of shearing sheep and explanations on why some wools were different colors was shared, and many questions answered. Once the steps from wool to yarn were completed, children got the chance to weave finished threads on a real loom. Samples to take home were passed out.

Cooking demo over an open heart fire. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Participants also had the opportunity to learn about quilting and make their own small quilt to take home. Fabric was available to paint followed by a demonstration on assembly and sewing. Kids loved making their own special quilts for their dolls or stuffed bears at home.

Around lunchtime a cooking demonstration over an open-hearth was offered. Kids watched how cooks made gingerbread, pies and soups over an open fire. Everyone had a chance to make their own gingerbread cookies to cook in the fire.

Musician Tim Van Egmond performed winter-themed songs and told stories. Encouraging audience participation, Tim sang folk songs, played a variety of instruments, including the hammered dulcimer, and told engaging tales.

The day was well spent in Historic Deerfield. Families were engaged the whole day through and children were afforded a wonderful opportunity to look at the ways of life for early New Englanders. The next family activity that will be offered at Historic Deerfield is All About Maps on March 31st, 2007. This will be a workshop for families, offering map-related activities, including how to make your own map.

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