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Families swarm to 7th annual Bee Fest

  • Steve Roberto, of Northfield, explains the activity of the bees inside a bee hive owned by Dan Conlin, owner of Warm Colors Apiary in South Deerfield, to Robert Quinn-O'Connor, of Wendell, and Zoë Naughton-O'Connor, 10, of Montague at Bee Fest at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield Saturday, June 3, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Corey Sanderson, the pastor at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield, plays his banjo while walking with kids from Karen's Dance Studio in the Bee Fest parade around the town common Saturday, June 3, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt

  • Children reach for candy as it spills out of a bee piñata at Bee Fest at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield Saturday, June 3, 2017. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt—Matt Burkhartt



Recorder Staff
Saturday, June 03, 2017

GREENFIELD — Soft thumps traveled from the hill alongside the Second Congregational Church Saturday as one child after another delivered a series of whacks to a bee piñata.

At last, the bee’s body fell to the ground, resulting in a collective “hooray” from the children and their families. In an instant, the youngsters swarmed for the treasure hidden within, a collection of small toys.

The piñata served as one of many bee-oriented activities for children at the 7th annual Langstroth Bee Fest, held Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Greenfield resident Kate Holdsworth attended with her nearly 1-year-old son William Holdsworth-Clarke, and remarked at how Bee Fest has grown since its start in 2010.

“It’s fun, now being a parent, to connect with other young families at a community event,” she said. Plus, being an early educator at Gan Keshet Preschool in Northampton, which focuses on agricultural education, Holdsworth knows a lot about bees’ importance to the environment.

Humble bee-ginnings

Ensuring childen feel comfortable around and knowledgeable about bees is one of the goals of Bee Fest, according to festival co-chairs Sandy Thomas and Sue Weeks.

“We try to get kids to feel very informed about bees, and not scared of them,” Thomas said. “It’s a part of our planet.”

The festival started as a celebration of the Second Congregational Church’s sixth pastor Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth’s 200th birthday. Langstroth invented the modern moveable frame beehive, which is still used by a majority of beekeepers today.

“It revolutionized beekeeping,” Weeks said.

“It’s unbelievable,” Thomas added. “He lived right here … We thought he must be somebody important because he’s got a marker. And then we found he’s the father of modern beekeeping!”

Raising awareness

Rev. Corey Sanderson, the church’s current minister, said that since its roots, the festival has evolved to become more of a celebration of modern beekeeping.

“(Bees are) on the decline, they have a lot of problems and they’re really so important,” Weeks explained. “We really wanted to raise awareness.”

In fact, Thomas said, 75 percent of the world’s food crops depend at least in part on pollination.

Toward the goal of raising awareness, Bee Fest includes a lecture series. This year, keynote speaker Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, shared ways to help the bee population flourish.

“I think each of you can be a force,” Flottum said to attendees. “You can plant a flower, you can feed a bee.”

In particular, Flottum suggested using seed bombs (dense balls of seeds) to spread flowers, encouraging towns to plant trees that will attract bees, and having pollinator plants grow on the sides of highways.

“It’s good for business, but it’s good for bees,” Flottum said, noting how having plants on the sides of highways cuts down on required mowing.

Supporting the cause

Additionally, the event itself is an indirect way of supporting bees. Raffle prizes are donated, and the money raised from ticket sales supports Just Roots community farm, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Heifer International. Through Heifer International, Thomas said, Bee Fest’s fundraising supports the distribution of beehives around the world.

Thomas said between $1,000 and $1,500 is raised through selling raffle tickets each year.

“That’s our way, as a church, to be a part of the community and to give back,” she said.

A new development

A new feature of this year’s festival was the Bee Space Garden Awards, which were presented to Franklin County gardens that meet criteria to support pollinator health including no pesticides or toxins, bee-foraging flowers and plants used in the landscape, and a water source. The awards were presented by former Massachusetts governor and beekeeper, Deval Patrick.

Patrick told of unexpected struggles in his first few years as a beekeeper, but also of “the magic of beekeeping.”

The hobby, he said, has allowed him to slow down and feel more closely connected to the planet, while “harvesting that liquid gold” and feeling “the extraordinary joy” of sharing it with family and friends.

The four awards were presented to Erving Elementary School for its pollinator garden, Laughing Dog Farm in Gill, the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls and the University of Massachusetts, for two of its pollinator gardens.

You can reach Shelby Ashline at: sashline@recorder.com

413-772-0261 ext. 257