When is a trip to Cooperstown not an uplifting, fun experience? I’m not sure how long ago it began, but Dave and I have made it a point to attend the Candlelight Evening at the Cooperstown Farmers Museum (bet you thought I was going to say “farmers’ market”, right?) as long as I can remember – that must make it an official tradition! I used to attend with my family, but I think it’s pretty poignant and heart-warming that I’ve ended up with a man who looks forward to it as much as I do.
This year, Dave’s brother, Dan, and his wife, Tara (and let’s just take a quick moment to tell you how talented Dan is , from his design abilities to his musical talents – between Dave and Dan, there’s lots of creativity in that there blood…not that Tara’s not uber talented – she is, in my humble opinion!). They had never been to Candlelight Evening, so it’s always fun to bring a different group of people every year, especially when they don’t know what to expect.
So, for those of you who’ve never been, let me paint the picture. Firstly, I have probably already contacted you (or forced my husband to contact you) to warn you to bundle up. By “bundle up”, I mean, “Get ugly warm.” Wear embarrassingly unattractive, too warm for the car clothing. A hat that will actually keep your head warm (rarely are these ever cute). Wool socks. Boots (again…not the cute kind). The coat you use to shovel snow, or as I wore, the past-your-knees wool coat (gotta cover up that tush and as much of the legs as possible). Anything else that you can fathom in the realm of ugliness, throw it on.
Why all the ugliness? No, there’s not an ugly sweater contest. A strange puzzlement occurs annually in which, regardless of the weather prior to or following the Candlelight Evening, it just so happens that THAT evening…is…freezing. There may be hardly any snow (as with this year – at least there was a dusting; we still have nothing locally), but be assured that there will be frozen tundra status. As sure as taxes and death.
After parking (we always seem to find a spot in front of the Fenimore Art Museum, across the street), we schlep in our ugliness to the main building to drop more cash than we’d prefer – in all honesty, most of the events at the Farmers Museum are pretty steep, but this is worth it to us.
The choices, at this point, are plentiful. Grab some warm, homemade food (also at a price) in the main building, listen to some incredible carolers (which are stationed at intervals throughout the property, along with the occasional brass band…how their instruments don’t freeze to their lips, I have no clue), or meet the Fabulous Beekman Boys, who are signing their latest book (which I missed out on this year due to a limited schedule, *sigh*).
The main building also displays random exhibitions of how-is-that-related-to-farming products. A Jell-O display? Okay. Shredded wheat? Sure, I guess farms help produce that. It’s all retro and neat and quirky, so ya can’t really complain. When you’re done walking through this structure, you’re let loose upon the reconstructed historical village that never was. Buildings have been taken from various areas (but all dating from the early- to mid-1800s) to create a possible cross-section of American life in, say, 1840. Some buildings aren’t open to the public, but the important ones – like the general store, school, tavern, church farm (along with a couple of barns), apothecary, and several other skill-drive foundries – are available to peruse and learn from living history reenactors dressed in the timely fashion.
The first place that we visited was probably one of my favorites – the school. This year, they had St. Nicholas (the real one…I swear to you) giving a lecture on, well, St. Nicholas and how he came to be known as Santa Claus, as well as what a Christmas celebration to an average American family would have looked like in the 1840s. We didn’t expect him to speak at such length, so we ended up leaving before the end, but I always find it magical to listen to this actor. He looks like THE Santa Claus, only dressed in slightly more old-fashioned clothes (far less fancy than a modern day Santa), and simply makes me giddy.
We also enjoyed checking out the printing shop, wonderful singers in the church, the apothecary that showed us how ginger tablets (for an upset stomach) were made, and the blacksmith. There was plenty more to see, and we did, but those were definitely the highlights.
While we didn’t partake, there were also sleigh rides, which are always exciting…but those lines were crazy bananas. Oh, and, of course, one thing we all DID partake in was the wassail. At strategic points throughout the “town”, cauldrons of hot spiced cider were brewing over fires – the fire along with the sustenance helped to keep us toasty warm. Well, warmer than we would’ve been otherwise.
Before leaving, we stopped back at the main entrance to get some food (gingerbread!!!!!) and enjoy a barbershop quartet singing Christmas carols.
Watching the massive full moon set all the farmers’ fields aglow on our drive home with the soundtrack of a classical Christmas radio station in the background definitely helped to set the mood for the rest of the holiday season. I’m ready for some magic; how about you?