Ashfield WinterFest celebrates town’s best offerings

  • American cream draft horses pull people around town during Ashfield's WinterFest. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • There were several studios of local artists to pop into this weekend at Ashfield's WinterFest. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

  • The annual Ashfield WinterFest took place the first weekend of December. Recorder Staff/Joshua Solomon—

Recorder Staff
Sunday, December 03, 2017

ASHFIELD — As dusk started to creep its way in, the final sleigh ride of the weekend began.

Molly and Maggie began trotting out of the lot of Elmer’s Market, past the Town Hall and fire department and then uphill onto the Town Common.

It was a brisk Sunday afternoon on the first weekend of the last month of the year, and the Ashfield WinterFest was wrapping up.

Little children held on in excitement as the rare breed of American cream draft horses trotted through the grounds.

“You can really see how it puts a spark in children’s imagination and you love that,” Roy Nilson said, after leading the horses.

The weekend had dozens of activities across Ashfield, celebrating the crafts and the culture of the town. From the sleigh rides out of Elmer’s to tours of Double Edge Theatre to crafts and cookies at the church, there was enough to keep anyone busy all weekend long.

“This has been a different year for sure,” local artist and New York Times best-selling author Greg Ruth said. “We thought this would be a quiet time to catch up on some planning but it’s been quite hectic.”

Ruth and Jen Smith welcomed people into their studio across the street from Elmer’s. It was something they couldn’t do during the annual fall festival, like they typically do, but they didn’t expect the turnout that would pass through Ashfield. Ruth said there was a mix of locals and people from across the region, coming specifically for the winter festival.

“This (festival) seems to be starting to snowball a bit,” Ruth said. “I haven’t seen it this busy for this since eight years ago.”

As families hustled around the festivities, spread across town with a focus on Main Street, they had a chance to head to the First Congregational Church for its annual crafts fair, best known for its cookies.

“My objective’s to make it like walking into a little country store as opposed to your typical craft fair,” organizer Maryellen Abbatiello said.

The event, which predates the WinterFest and goes back years, if not decades, is a way for the church to raise money to support its annual efforts. Abbatiello has been involved in the organization for about 15 years.

The church’s fair has benefited from the increase in efforts across the town, with WinterFest drawing people in for a day focused on supporting Ashfield. People come by to the church for Christmas gifts, but primarily for the dozens of different cookies its church members bake annually.

“My husband probably made 20 dozen cookies because he loves to bake his mother’s cookie recipe,” said Caroline Murray, who is in charge of the cookie fundraiser.

Other places for families to go this weekend included Cranston’s, Pieropan’s and Wolfie’s tree farms. They could go to open studios, like Ruth and Smith’s on Main Street, or for Ed Brandson’s glass or Maya Machin’s pottery.

There were cider tastings at Bear Meadow Farm Cidery and Bear Swamp Orchard & Cidery. There was an art opening by Andrew Quient on his architectural renderings of 19th century buildings in the region. There was music too, like the Ashfield Community Band Concert.

It was a weekend with cars parked, lining the town’s streets, with families out celebrating the local fare. A weekend highlighted with horses normally found up the road on Norton Hill, instead down on Main Street, carrying heaps of people up and around town.

“We like going down to the lake so we can see the geese. The Canada Geese have been coming and going like an airport,” Nilson said.

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

413-772-0261, ext. 264