An Inside Look at Hatfield’s Fall Festival

Ghost town, fiber arts, sauerkraut and more!
An Inside Look at Hatfield’s Fall Festival
by Kathie Gow

Outside of the Hatfield Farm Museum. (Photo credit: Kathie Gow)

If you’re looking for a traditional New England Fall Festival with bits of local history, antique cars, art and archaeology thrown in, then Hatfield’s Fall Festival on Sunday, Oct. 7 from 11am-3pm is the place. I’m biased, of course, because I’m curator of one of the two museums involved, but I’m also a frugal, busy soccer mom who works part-time, and this event meets my criteria: educational and fun for the kids, low-cost, easy to find, and has some intriguing things for me.


Monica and Pat from the Weavers Guild of Springfield lead youth in hands-on weaving demos. (Photo credit: Kathie Gow)

Our family has attended for the last four years, and my daughter (who’s now 10), still likes getting her face painted and turning the apple cider press, though she now leaves Balloon Man to the younger kids. She’s into knitting and other kinds of needlework, so she always checks out the fiber arts demos toward the back of the Farm Museum (housed in a converted tobacco barn). The Weavers Guild of Springfield comes and demonstrates every year and often gives out samples to the kids. (The samples are beautiful – sometimes it pays to have a kid in your group.). Other fiber arts demos include knitting with Elinor Bell, rug making with Avis Fusek, and hand quilting with Marsha Molloy. What’s nice is that you can get up close and ask them questions while they work.


Speaking of questions, I encourage you and your family to ask questions about the items you see in the Farm Museum. With so much to look at, it makes all the difference. Ask to see the six-at-once mousetrap. Or the broom-making machine from when broom sales were big in Hatfield, MA. Or the Native American-styled dugout canoe made by a Northampton scholar. And don’t miss the recreated tobacco shop, where workers sorted the leaves.


My son, who just started high school, now prefers to wander around and see what interests him. It might be a vintage Corvette or Indian motorcycle, an antique tractor, or a corn shelling machine (It might just be finding another teenager with a soccer ball and slipping behind the elementary school to play!).  Speaking of which, if your younger kids need a break, try the playground at the elementary school, just beyond the Farm Museum, and the school should be open for bathroom visits.


Around lunchtime, I’m sure my son’s interests will include a cheeseburger and fries, and I’ll probably ask him to bring me a plate, since I’ll be working in the Historical Museum down the road. What I love about the fries is that the Boy Scouts make them, using potatoes from Hatfield farmers, and the kids can watch them cutting and cooking the potatoes. Real food, tastes good, local.

Our family is into eating healthy and buying local produce whenever we can, so we always stock up at the Fall Festival and buy bags of Hatfield onions and potatoes and several large cabbages at the farmers market. I don’t know about this year’s crop, but last year’s cabbages were bigger than your head and mine put together! The cabbages will be particularly appropriate this year, because local farmer John Pease (grandson of Hatfield Polish immigrant Jan Waskiewicz) will be demonstrating making sauerkraut outside the Farm Museum. If you’re not already a fan of this Eastern European staple, look up some of the health benefits of fermented vegetables and you might become a convert.


After watching John’s demo, stroll back down the road to the library and head up to the second floor where you’ll find the Hatfield Historical Museum and an exhibit that shows what life was like for those Polish immigrants who arrived in Massachusetts in the early 1900s. One of those newcomers was Matt Klocko, who came to America on his own at age 14 (the same age as my wandering soccer player!), and arrived in Hatfield soon after. You can see a photo postcard of Matt with his father, just before he left home, never to return, and another as a 37-year-old groom, then a store owner and farmer, marrying the lovely 19-year-old Helen Kugler.


But while you’re at the Historical Museum, don’t miss the new exhibit opening that day on Hatfield’s “Ghost Town.” This site, discovered by archaeologist and UMASS PhD student Randy Daum, is the only preserved 17th century English village site EVER discovered in Southern New England – and it’s right in our own Connecticut River Valley! Come see what artifacts and foundation elements he found of the 10-house village abandoned in 1704, more than 300 years ago. The photos and artifacts do more than prove the village existed – they tell stories of the people who lived there and hint at what life was like at the turn of the 17th century.


Well, the abandoned village exhibit would be my first stop at the Festival (if I wasn’t already there) since I’m interested in archaeology and local history, but my next two stops would be the Friends of the Library book sale in the parking lot outside (since I’m a library book sale junkie – you can get such good deals), followed by the unveiling of the “Art of Farming” mural on the south side of the Farm Museum at 1:30. If you’ve ever driven through Hatfield before, you might have noticed these barn-sized, eye- popping murals celebrating farming. A joint project of the Smith Academy Art Dept. and Hatfield’s Agricultural Advisory Commission, this 6th year of the project traces the history of farming in Hatfield from Native American settlement to the present. It’s been on display at the back of the Mass. State House at the BigE, where my daughter and I saw it last week – it’s big and it’s beautiful!

Hope to see you Sunday. Stop by and say hi!

Fall Festival Details:
Sunday, Oct. 7, 11 am to 3 pm
Billings Way, Hatfield (corner of 39 Main St.)
If you’d like to participate in the antique & classic auto show, call Pat at 413-247-6193 to see if there’s still room. For photos from past years, more info or a question on the Festival, click here:


Kathie Gow is curator of the Hatfield Historical Museum and writes the blog “Bird by Bird” for the Hatfield Historical Society website. For her business producing audio memoirs, she also writes a periodic blog about the value of saving your family’s stories. Kathie lives in Hatfield with her husband and two children.

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