All about the bees: 14th Bee Fest draws record attendance, new statue unveiled at fire station

Twice As Smart students sing at the 14th Annual Bee Fest in Greenfield Saturday.

Twice As Smart students sing at the 14th Annual Bee Fest in Greenfield Saturday. staff photo/paul franz

A child takes an enthusiastic whack at the bee pinata at the 14th Annual Bee Fest in Greenfield Saturday.

A child takes an enthusiastic whack at the bee pinata at the 14th Annual Bee Fest in Greenfield Saturday. staff photo/paul franz

Sonia Oppenhiem, right, takes a picture of her 3-year-old daughter Myra in her festive hat they created at the 14th Annual Bee Fest in Greenfield Saturday.

Sonia Oppenhiem, right, takes a picture of her 3-year-old daughter Myra in her festive hat they created at the 14th Annual Bee Fest in Greenfield Saturday. staff photo/paul franz

Adults and children paint bee hives at the 14th Annual Bee Fest in Greenfield Saturday.

Adults and children paint bee hives at the 14th Annual Bee Fest in Greenfield Saturday. staff photo/paul franz

A child hugs the bee pinata before it was destroyed at the 14th Annual Bee Fest in Greenfield Saturday.

A child hugs the bee pinata before it was destroyed at the 14th Annual Bee Fest in Greenfield Saturday. staff photo/paul franz

Sculptor Rachel Katz and painter Andrew Easton, with Mayor Ginny Desorgher and Fire Chief Robert Strahan in back,  reveal the city’s newest bee sculpture in front of the new Greenfield Fire Station. The statue is called Fearless and is complete in turn out gear.

Sculptor Rachel Katz and painter Andrew Easton, with Mayor Ginny Desorgher and Fire Chief Robert Strahan in back, reveal the city’s newest bee sculpture in front of the new Greenfield Fire Station. The statue is called Fearless and is complete in turn out gear. staff photo/paul franz

Sculptor Rachel Katz and painter Andrew Easton, with Fire Chief Robert Strahan in back,  reveal the newest bee in town in front of the new Greenfield Fire Station called Fearless complete in turn out gear.

Sculptor Rachel Katz and painter Andrew Easton, with Fire Chief Robert Strahan in back, reveal the newest bee in town in front of the new Greenfield Fire Station called Fearless complete in turn out gear. staff photo/paul franz

By ANTHONY CAMMALLERI

Staff Writer

Published: 05-19-2024 1:11 PM

GREENFIELD — From 9 a.m. Saturday, when families began making their way to the Second Congregational Church’s front lawn, to the unveiling of Greenfield’s 12th bee sculpture, “Fearless,” outside the Greenfield Fire Department’s new station on Main Street at 12:30 p.m., more than 1,000 people of all ages stopped by this year’s Bee Fest — the largest attendance the event has seen since its inception 14 years ago, according to its founder Sandy Thomas.

“It’s off the charts, we’ve never had this many people. We clicked in [counted] 500 just a few minutes ago, but its got to be more than that now,” Thomas said at 10:30 a.m. “These people came from Wrentham specifically for this because they’re new beekeepers, they heard about it and they just came. It’s wonderful, they keep coming and they want to learn about bees.”

The roughly three-hour festival honored the Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth, the sixth minister of Second Congregational Church who is known as the father of modern beekeeping. Langstroth patented the bee hives with movable frames in 1852, a design still commonly used by bee keepers today, according to Franklin County Beekeepers Association President Art Canterbury, who manned a bee education table with a live beehive demonstration at this year’s festival.

Canterbury engaged with curious festival-goers, educating them on bees and beekeeping, and answering questions ranging from best beekeeping practices, to general inquiries about the nature of bees and their colonies.

“My grandfather kept bees and I worked with him when I was a little kid. Now it’s just the easy attachment to go right back to and enjoy it and develop it,” Canterbury said. “This community loves the idea of bees in general and pollinators like to have that exposure and understanding of the bees [...] The colony of bees itself is a super organism. Everything that they do is for the colony. There’s not a bee in there that’s only doing something for itself.”

Children, many sporting elaborate bee costumes, marched through the farmer’s market for the Pollinators Parade and took turns swinging at a bee pinata. Families also centered around the beehive painting station, putting their unique marks on beehives that will be used at apiaries across Franklin County. Thomas said since bees are capable of sensing color and design, the practice of hive painting could make it easier for bees to find their hives.

The festival also featured a silent auction of bee-related products, bee-related games for children, a pollinator plant giveaway table and a 214th birthday cake for Langstroth. Katie Rozenas-Hanson and Rick LeBlanc of the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture Resources also operated an informational booth, where they distributed sunflower seeds and informed the public on best practices for planting pollinator plants at home. Rozenas-Hanson said she was pleased to see how effectively the festival engaged children.

“This event is so wonderful because it’s evolved from a festival that’s mainly for the general public, to being really kid-focused and having a bunch of free activities for kids to do to engage with bees, learn about beehives and best apiary practices — I just can’t think of a better event for them to go to,” Rozenas-Hanson said.

Sculpture unveiling

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Bee Fest wrapped up with the unveiling of the city’s 12th bee sculpture “Fearless,” depicting a bee dressed in a firefighter’s uniform, in front of the new fire station on Main Street. Before the unveiling Fire Chief Robert Strahan announced that the department will begin moving into the station this week before a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 10.

Designer Rachael Katz, an artist and owner of The Greenfield Gallery, produced the original “Beatrice” bee sculpture prototype. Over the past three years, her first 11 bee sculptures have been installed along Main and Federal streets, at Court Square, and at the John W. Olver Transit Center. She said that while the other bee sculptures took identical forms with unique decorations, she and the sculpture’s painter Andrew Easton wanted to give the “fearless sculpture” a unique character and form.

“For most of the other bees, the form just served as a canvas, and the artists painted images upon it. And this one we really wanted to make a character in and of itself — it’s not decorated with pictures of fire engines, it’s an actual character [...] it’s our firefighters, they’re there for us. They’re heroes and they charge into danger and it just seemed right to honor them,” Katz said.

Easton, who said he spent roughly 160 hours painting the “fearless” sculpture, put significant work into not only painting the bee, but arranging various elements, such as the oxygen tank on its back and its “343” fire helmet, which he said was a tribute to the 343 New York firefighters who were killed during 9/11.

“This is a special honor for us. There is a personal story that goes along with this bee, and we are humbled to have it at our new headquarters,” Strahan said.

Mayor Virginia Desorgher, who joined Strahan and the artists as they removed the tarp from the Fearless sculpture, said she was pleased by how the annual festival has evolved and grown over the years.

“It gets better and better every year, there were more people from out of state this year than I’ve ever seen,” Desorgher said. “It’s very exciting.”

Anthony Cammalleri can be reached at acammalleri@recorder.com or 413-930-4429.