September 23rd, 2013 at 6:38 pm
A few Saturdays ago, on an absolutely gorgeous September weekend, I headed out for a drive to Chadds Ford Days, a yearly two-day event held on the grounds of the Chadds Ford Historical Society. The air was cool, the sky was deep blue, and my drive along the back roads to get there brought back fond memories of growing up in rural Pennsylvania. Fall has always been my favorite time of year, and I was looking forward to kicking off the season with a bit of history, a hayride, music, food, and shopping.
When I arrived at the festival I took some time to stroll around the host of vendors who were there with their wares. The array was really wonderful, from woodworkers and potters to soap-makers and basket-weavers. The hand-crafted goods on display were quite remarkable, exhibiting a pride of workmanship that’s a welcome change from what’s found in the average big box store. After shopping a bit I sat on a hay bale and enjoyed the sounds of bluegrass music played by the talented Skyline Band.
When the music was done I headed off to watch a demonstration by the Second Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Line, a volunteer group of history enthusiasts who’ve been authentically re-creating Revolutionary War units and battles since 1966. What a treat! The re-enactors were at the festival all day long to talk about the uniforms, flags, and lives of Revolutionary War soldiers, offering visitors a realistic look into this integral piece of American history, including my favorite, the firing of the regiment’s cannon.
There was plenty of great food to be had, too, from local favorites Jimmy John’s and MomPops, but the highlight for all had to be the chocolate milk from Baily’s Dairy at Pocopson Meadow Farm. The milk was delicious, yes, but accompanying the farmers were two lovely mascots—Prada, a 6-year-old Jersey cow, and Naomi, a brown Swiss calf that was just born on August 26. Pretty much everyone stopped to pet these beautiful, docile creatures, who seemed remarkably unbothered by the cannon fire around them.
After visiting with Naomi and Prada, I took a tour of the John Chads House, a two-bedroom stone-built home that dates back to the mid-1720s and gives visitors a look into Colonial life during the period of the Battle of the Brandywine. Then I strolled through the demonstrations area to see authentic representations of Colonial caning, blacksmithing, spinning, and more. I also chatted with several young men and women from the society’s Junior Guides program, a group of young history buffs who learn eighteenth-century crafts and skills and then volunteer during Chadds Ford Days. The enthusiasm these kids showed for the day’s events was really incredible. I was even able to by a loaf of bread that they had baked authentically in the John Chads House’s beehive oven.
After having such a wonderful time at this event, I’m definitely going to check out the upcoming Great Pumpkin Carve (October 24–26), featuring the artistry of 60+ local pumpkin carvers, and the Annual Candlelight Christmas tour of homes in the Unionville area and Marlborough Village (December 7). For more information about these events, visit the Historical Society’s website, where you can also find out about the many benefits of membership.
May 28th, 2013 at 4:48 pm
Summer is here! I just love this time of year, with late nights under warm, starry skies; cookouts, lemonade, and ice cream; and trips “down the shore” for sun and sand. To kick off our summer-long festivities this year, we headed to State Street in Media for the town’s Memorial Day parade. After a rainy, chilly start to the holiday weekend, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for the annual event.
I still can’t believe I’m able to be so close to the city yet still live a small-town life. Nothing beats a parade down Main Street USA in terms of Americana, and Media’s was no exception. Hundreds of peopled decked out in red, white, and blue joined us in a festive celebration of local heroes, complete with classic cars, a marching band, little leaguers, and fire trucks to delight the little ones.
Young and old from all walks of life—and a whole lot of dogs, too—lined State Street for the parade. The crowd cheered and applauded as veterans from all branches of the military from World War II forward, men and women, passed by. I thought of my 94-year-old grandfather, a Pearl Harbor survivor who lives in Harrisburg, and how touched he would be to see the outpouring of respect. Beneath the excitement over the unofficial start of summer was a palpable solemnity. The playing of “Taps” at the memorial wall honoring Media’s veterans at the start of the parade reminded us all of the true meaning of the day.
Following the parade, we strolled down State Street to the Pennsylvania Veterans Museum, which preserves the living history of veterans in its remarkable collection. Normally open Thursdays through Sundays from noon until 5pm, the museum, located at 12 East State Street in the Media Armory, opened its doors especially for the holiday.
Dioramas, interactive kiosks, a mini movie theatre, and exhibits display memorabilia and tell of the true cost—and the valor—of war from the perspective of both the military and civilians. The museum is always free, and there are many excellent volunteers there to guide you through the collection. If you’ve never been, I urge you to visit this remarkably moving museum. We all could learn something from what’s contained in its walls.
Now that the summer season has begun, Media will be abuzz with lots of great events each week. Check out the calendar at visitmediapa.com for a complete listing. See you downtown!
February 13th, 2013 at 6:22 pm
Wine and chocolate seem to go together naturally. Both are aromatic, smooth, and a welcome treat at the end of the day. Wine, like chocolate, can be light or full-bodied, sweet or complex. Enjoying a fine piece of chocolate and sipping a great glass of wine are two of life’s simple pleasures. Unlike some indulgences, though, these treats contain heart-healthy antioxidants; in combination (and in moderation, of course), this is a power-packed duo that even your doctor would approve. Thinking about wine and chocolate just makes me happy—tasting it, even happier.
We’re fortunate here in the Brandywine Valley to have a host of local wineries producing some amazing award-winning wines. A great way to check them out is during February, Wine and Chocolate Month along the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail. If you love chocolate and wine like I do, grab your sweetie, your best buddies, or your family and check out one—or two, or more—of the area’s incredible wineries over the next few weekends. Here’s what some of my favorite wineries along the Wine Trail are offering up in honor of the month of love. Be sure to call ahead for reservations when noted; these events are popular and fill up quickly.
Enjoy wine & chocolate samplings at Chaddsford Winery on February 16, 17, 23, and 24 from noon to 6pm. Participants can buy a box of chocolates ($14) to pair with their wine tasting. Explore tasting combinations on your own to find out which flavor combinations you like best. A written guide with suggestions on pairing and information on the chocolates will be provided. Indulge in your chocolates at Chaddsford’s Tasting Bar, in the winery’s cellar with a glass of wine and your special Valentine, or at home with a bottle of Chaddsford wine—your choice! No reservations are required; find out more at the link.
If you like your chocolate in fondue form, you’ll want to head to Kreutz Creek Vineyards in West Grove on February 16 and 17 to sample their incredible fondue made with dark chocolate from Bevan’s Own Make Candy dark chocolate and the winery’s Ruby “K” Port. To put you in the mood, harpist Maureena Spadaro will be playing love songs on February 16 from 2–5pm. No reservations are required; winery hours are 11am to 6pm. Or visit the winery’s tasting room in downtown West Chester on February 15, 16, 22, and 23 for live music from 7pm to 10pm; bring your own chocolate, cheese, or romantic picnic! Learn more about both winery locations on their website.
Penns Woods Winery’s wine and chocolate pairings are sure to be a real treat! Throughout the rest of February, join them on Thursdays from noon to 4pm (yes, even on Valentine’s Day), Fridays from noon to 5pm, Saturdays from 11am to 5pm, and Sundays from 11am to 4pm to enjoy five reserve wines paired with John & Kira’s handmade artisanal chocolates. The winery will also feature its limited-production dessert wine, Lacrima Dolce, paired with a chocolate-dipped, ganache-filled fig from John & Kira’s. (Side note: I’ve had this chocolate, and it’s nothing short of spectacular!) Pairings are $20 per person; reservations are required. Visit Penns Woods’ website or call 610-459-0808 for more information.
Other wineries along the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail are getting in on the fun, too–for information about wine and chocolate events at Black Walnut Winery, Paradocx Winery, Twin Brook Winery, and Borderland Vineyard, visit the Wine Trail’s website.
Best wishes to all for a wonderful Valentine’s Day filled with loved ones, chocolate, and wine!
December 18th, 2012 at 4:43 pm
Looking for holiday fun? Head to downtown Media! From decorated storefronts and buildings illuminated by night to carriage rides and a chance to whisper your fondest wish in Santa’s ear, the whole borough of Media gets in on the spirit of the season. Here’s what’s happening in Media over the next few weeks.
The borough of Media is aglow for the holidays.
* Enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride tonight from 6–9pm. With just a teeny nip in the air, the weather couldn’t be more perfect for snuggling with your loved ones on a ride around the borough. Meet in front of the courthouse; the cost is $10 for adults and $5 for children under 10.
* Kids of all ages can find Santa in his village at the Franklin Mint Federal Credit Union, at the corner of State & Olive Streets, today through Friday from 3–7pm and Saturday & Sunday from noon to 4pm. Bring your camera and take all the photos you’d like! On December 20 from 4–7, bring your favorite furry friend to pose with Santa. Use your own camera, or have the Delco SPCA photographer on hand take a photo (free!) and email it to you. (Please consider making a donation to the Delco SPCA if you bring your pet.)
* Visit The Media Theatre for a performance of Dr. Doolittle, starring Philly sportscaster Billy Vargus and a cast of delightful children. Read more about the show here. (Or, drive just a few miles outside of Media for a performance of A Christmas Carol at the Hedgerow Theatre in Rose Valley.)
* Head to downtown Media on New Year’s Eve for the Community Celebration and Ball Drop at the corner of State & Jackson Streets, with live music by Philly Gumbo. This much-anticipated annual event brings out residents and visitors for dancing in the street and the area’s only ball drop. Music starts at 11pm.
As an added bonus, parking is free in the Olive Street Parking Garage through December, and stores are open late through Christmas Eve. To find out more about these events and other happenings in Media, visit the Media Business Authority website.
Media's merchants get into the holiday spirit! Find winter items like this authentic Flexible Flyer sled at Blueberry Bog.
If you’re like me and have left most of your shopping for the last minute, you’ll find something for everyone on your list in Media’s boutiques, artisans’ galleries, vintage and home decor shops, jewelry and clothing stores, and more. Supporting local, family-owned businesses is a wonderful way to put money back into the community—and if customer service is important to you, it doesn’t get any better than at a small “Mom and Pop” shop.
Need a show-stopping outfit for a holiday party? You'll find just the right fit at one of Media's clothing stores, like Sorella Boutique.
As America’s First Fair Trade Town, Media also prides itself on its stores’ selection of items by local artisans and its focus on fair trade products. In Media, you can shop with the knowledge that your purchases will help provide a living wage for artisans both locally and globally. Such hand-crafted items are special, not mass-produced; if you’re looking for something that’s one-of-a-kind, Media is the place to find it.
Support artisans around the world with your purchase of fairly traded items at stores like Earth & State.
You’ll want to get a bite to eat while you’re shopping or paying a visit to Santa. No trip to Media would be complete without a visit to one of its fabulous restaurants—the only problem is which one to choose! Name it; Media’s got it (seriously). I can’t think of another town where you can walk down the main street and find Italian, Irish, French, Middle Eastern, Asian, Mexican, Continental, vegetarian/vegan, pizza, soup and sandwiches, pub food, and dessert—and I’m sure I’m leaving something out!—just mere steps from one another. And of course, restaurant gift certificates always make a great gift.
One of my favorite restaurants in Media is Diego's Cantina and Tequila Bar. Call 484-442-8741 to learn more about their January 16 Patrón Tequila Dinner.
I’ve gotten to know the faces behind many of the shops and restaurants in Media—the people who put a whole lot of heart and soul into their businesses to create a warm and welcoming environment you’ll want to return to again and again. If you have a chance, pay them a visit. I’m sure you’ll grow to love them, too.
Note: Street scene photograph by Ralph Nardell Photography.
December 11th, 2012 at 2:26 pm
One of my favorite family traditions at the holidays is getting our Christmas tree at Linvilla Orchards. For the past three years my husband, son, and I have been hopping on board a hayride, grabbing a saw, and venturing into Linvilla’s fields to pick the best tree we can find. This year we truly outdid ourselves, bringing home our biggest tree yet. And what fun we had finding it!
We are a household of Christmas fanatics. Granted, it’s probably hard to find a person who doesn’t like the holiday season, and having a 10-year-old in the family definitely brings a whole lot of fervor to the month of December. But how many families do you know that wouldn’t buy a house unless it was the perfect “Christmas house”? We stay in the Christmas spirit all year long, purchasing ornaments as souvenirs whenever we’re on vacation or visiting a new place, so the prelude to buying our tree each year lasts for months.
Three years ago we decided to check out Linvilla’s cut-your-own-tree hayride. Prior to that we had changed our tree-buying spot each year, searching for just the right place with just the right tree—and a bunch of Christmas spirit, too. We were looking for somewhere that took the holidays as seriously as we do. Now that we’ve found Linvilla, we’ll never go anywhere else.
Being on a hayride with other folks going to get their tree for the holidays is a special experience. Little ones bundled up for the chilly weather, parents taking pictures, young couples snuggling . . . for a Christmas-lover like me, it’s perfection, plain and simple. As the tractor approaches the field, passengers start scanning the area for “their” tree, the one that will go home with them and become the centerpiece of their family’s holiday celebration.
And here’s the best part about it: Every family has a different idea about what their tree should be. Tall, short, skinny, full—there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to Christmas trees. People scatter in all directions after disembarking from the hayride; cries of “I found it!” and then “Tim-ber!” arise from the field. After they’re cut, trees are taken back to the path, where they’re spirited away by Linvilla’s friendly staff. Then it’s back on the hayride to return to Linvilla, where a warm fire and marshmallows for toasting greet you.
While we waited for our tree to be bundled to go on the roof of our car—and I must give a shoutout to whoever devised this wonderfully efficient system!—we sipped some homemade hot apple cider and browsed through Linvilla’s Garden Center chock full of Christmas decorations, poinsettias, candles, toys, and much more. After a wave to Santa, it was off to the Farm Market for fresh cider donuts. We picked up our tree, returned home, cranked up the Christmas music, and spent the rest of the day decorating the perfect tree for our family, in our perfect Christmas house.
Linvilla’s Cut-Your-Own Christmas Tree Hayrides run Monday–Friday, 10am–5pm, and
Saturday & Sunday, 9am–5pm, through December 23. For something extra-special, enjoy Wassailing Caroling Hayrides on December 15 & 22 at 5pm and 6:30pm (more information on hayrides at the link). Santa visits Linvilla Saturdays and Sundays from 1–3pm; bring your camera!
Don’t want to cut your own tree? Linvilla also has a wonderful assortment of precut trees in all sizes and prices, in addition to greens, roping, and wreaths. For a special treat for someone who made your “Nice List” this year, send them one of Linvilla’s fruit and gift baskets (see the full selection here). And don’t forget to place your holiday order for Linvilla’s renowned baked goods—I recommend the apple caramel walnut pie!
December 6th, 2012 at 5:11 pm
I knew that a trip to The Media Theatre for its production of Dr. Dolittle would be a real treat for my son, a lover of all things nature- and animal-related. Having reviewed several shows at the theatre over the past few years, I was looking forward to Artistic Director Jesse Cline’s interpretation of this classic story of a man who prefers animals to humans.
As luck would have it, the Philadelphia Zoo On Wheels was making an appearance upstairs before the show. We were able to meet Hardy, an active prehensile-tail skink; Picchu, a lovely (and vocal) blue and gold macaw; Phoebe, a shy hedgehog; and Pinky the nine-banded armadillo. After learning more about these amazing creatures and enjoying a homemade sugar cookie from the cafe, we headed into the theatre for the performance.
As Dr. Dolittle, Bill Vargus commands the stage with a stately and confidant manner that projects just the right mix of compassion (for animals) and disdain (for people). Lauren Cupples gives a strong, soulful turn as Emma Fairfax. Sean Thompson imbues his portrayal of Matthew Mugg with wonder and innocence. The blustery General Bellowes is portrayed with flair by Dan Schiff. Jef Canter is comedy perfection as opportunistic circus-owner Albert Blossom. Spirited ensemble pieces include “My Friend the Doctor,” “I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It,” and “Save the Animals.”
Playing the roles of the doctor’s furry and feathered friends in the show are members of the theatre’s Youth Ensemble. The whole menagerie—including seals, dogs, a chimp, a duck, a fox, a cow, a pig, and more—is a delight! These talented performers are a testament to the theatre’s outstanding education programs. My son was quite interested in finding out more about these young actors. Could I have a budding performer on my hands? I hope so!
Dr. Doolittle will be on stage at The Media Theatre through January 27; visit the link for showtimes and tickets. The Zoo On Wheels will be visiting the theatre before matinee performances for the next three Saturdays.
The holidays are an exciting time at The Media Theatre. A Velveteen Rabbit Christmas, part of the theatre’s children’s series, is also showing each Saturday morning at 11am through December 29 (with an additional show Friday, December 7, at 9:45am). New this year, the theatre is offering a special five-day holiday camp featuring acting, dance, and vocal lessons for kids ages 6–16, starting on December 26. The theatre is also raffling off tickets for a chance to win a trip to London valued at $12,000. Only 200 tickets will be sold (making the odds of winning far better than that Powerball lottery last week); the winner will be announced at the theatre’s annual gala, to be held February 23.
Still looking for a great holiday present? The theatre has gift cards! I can’t think of a better treat for a theatre lover or aspiring actor on your list. Or ask about purchasing an engraved gold star to be placed on the theatre’s Wall of Fame, part of the upcoming remodel of the theatre lobby. I hope you’ll join me in supporting Delaware County’s only professional theatre, and help keep the arts alive!
Note: Performance photos by Maura McConnell of Maura McConnell Photography in Media.
October 24th, 2012 at 6:22 pm
I’ll admit it; I’m probably a little bit too “connected.” With my iPhone always in my hand, I’m usually switching from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, then on to email, text messaging, the stock market app, and Huffington Post—and let’s not forget Fruit Ninja. I could say that I need to stay on top of everything because of work, but that wouldn’t entirely be true. It’s become a habit, an all-too-familiar one in our modern age.
So what struck me most when I walked across the wooden walkway and entered the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation, located on 112 acres inside Ridley Creek State Park, was the silence. Other than the wind rustling through the trees and the sound of a rooster crowing, it was quiet—noticeably so. I slowed down my pace, breathed in deeply, and put my iPhone in my purse—and I didn’t reach for it again until I left, several hours later.
The Plantation seeks to re-create the life of an Edgmont farm family during the mid-eighteenth century. Owned during this time by the Pratts, Quakers who purchased the property in 1720, the land belonged to the family until 1833. The property was privately owned and used as a home until the 1950s. In April 1976, in honor of the Bicentennial Year of our country, the Plantation began welcoming the public as a living history site. Now open on weekends from spring through early December, the Plantation, staffed by volunteers with a true passion for making history come alive, provides visitors with a remarkable look back at our country’s early days.
I lingered as I walked the grounds of the Plantation, stopping to photograph the beautiful fall foliage and to visit with the piglets in their stall (the Plantation is also home to sheep, chickens, and geese that roam throughout the grounds; a horse named Abigail; and Frye, a steer), but the smell of a wood fire coming from the house invited me to keep moving. I was told before I arrived that I’d be able to see a demonstration of authentic Colonial hearth cooking, and this was something I’d been anticipating all week.
When I walked through the front door of the Plantation home and into the kitchen, I was greeted by Vicki, a 9-year volunteer; Sue, who’s been at the Plantation for 2 years; and young Miriam, who’s been volunteering with her father David for 3 years. Vicki was in the midst of cooking, which is how she spends much of her time as a volunteer. All of her cooking is done authentically according to the time period—using the methods and ingredients our forbears would have used. She stepped into and out of the huge hearth, moving cast iron pots from place to place as she prepared a meal, as she does each weekend, for her fellow volunteers.
What’s unique about the Plantation, as opposed to other historical sites and museums, is that visitors are invited to touch and experience everything they see. Sit on the chairs, dig your hands into a basket of freshly shorn wool, pull water from the well—none of it is off limits. I took a brief tour of the house with Sue and the grounds with David, but when Miriam rang the dinner bell, I headed back to the kitchen quickly, anxious to try the meal to which I’d been so graciously invited.
I’ve eaten at many of the area’s finest restaurants; you could say it’s a hobby of mine. But I’ve got to say, that meal of Swiss chard with potatoes, onions, and sorrel; pumpkin soup with clove; and fresh-out-of-the-hearth wheat bread with preserves made from raspberries picked in the park was the most soul-satisfying one I’ve had in quite some time. Maybe it was the company of those who enjoy what they do so much, maybe it was the warmth of the fire, maybe it was the stillness of the moment. I can’t quite put my finger on it—but what I do know is that during that meal I felt a deep appreciation for those who came before us and worked together to create what we have today. I can think of no better testament to the hard-working volunteers at the Colonial Pennsylvania Plantation than that.
The Plantation will be open on weekends through December 8. This weekend (October 27 and 28), join them for their annual Halloween at the Plantation celebration from 11am to 5pm each day (last entry at 4pm). Visitors can enjoy story times, a puppet show, trick-or-treating, visits with the animals, a mock witch trial, and demonstrations of candle making, corn husk dolls, box loom rug-making, and more. Other upcoming special events include a Militia Muster with the 4th Legionary Cavalry on November 10 and Christmas on the Farm on December 8. For more information on these and other happenings at the Plantation, visit their website at colonialplantation.org.
December 6th, 2011 at 9:00 am
Did you know that the Brandywine River Museum’s train collection has had the same conductor for 35 years? It’s the responsibility of museum employee Steven Clarke to work year-round to prepare for the six-week display – repairing trains, maintaining the equipment and organizing teams of volunteers for the massive set-up effort.
“Most train displays are either old, wonderful and valuable trains displayed in cases or realistic working models of specific times and locations,” explains Clarke. “We are a combination of both.”
Frequently, Clarke has to play mechanic to rebuild and customize the trains in order to make these objects meant to by toys able to run “industrially” – pulling 150-car freight trains for nine hours straight, seven days a week for six weeks. Clarke compares the train display like prepping for a stage production and his audience is rarely disappointed.
“I don’t think children these days are used to playing with toy trains like they used to,” Clarke continues. “We used to play with toys you built yourself. Children today mostly play with virtual toys, I think, so it’s a novelty to see real things actually doing real things.
“When I was a kid, my Dad was a junior officer and money was tight. When we went somewhere, it was a big deal. That’s why I tell the volunteers that our job is to make the display nice for everyone – it doesn’t matter who you think they are. Everyone who comes, chooses to come here. They easily could have gone somewhere else and we need to be prepared to show them a great display. That tends to be the guiding principle of my showmanship.” Well this sums up our Brandywine Christmas series. Thanks for following along, we hope you all enjoyed reading!
December 5th, 2011 at 9:00 am
Yesterday, you learned the train and ornament tradition of A Brandywine Christmas. Now we will learn another tradition that has been around for quite some time. Another facet of the Brandywine Christmas tradition comes from the legacy of N.C. Wyeth’s youngest daughter, Ann Wyeth McCoy, who began collecting beautiful bisque dolls in her childhood. Through the generosity of her children, more than 60 dolls will be arranged in small groups as though engaged in familiar wintertime activities, dressed in antique doll clothing or costumes designed and sewn by Mrs. McCoy from antique fabrics.
While Mrs. McCoy began collecting the dolls at the age of eight, she didn’t acquire a dollhouse for her beloved toys until 1966 when her husband, artist John McCoy, renovated a former tool shed that was on their summer property near Port Clyde, Maine. Mr. McCoy divided the interior into two floors with six main rooms and added a bow window, chimney and front porch. The “dollhouse” – significantly larger than most – measures 8 x 10 feet and stands 9 ½ feet high, large enough for two people to walk into.
The dollhouse was moved decades ago to the McCoys’ Pennsylvania property and is a featured part of the 2011 Christmas display. During her life, Mrs. McCoy decorated the rooms and furnished them with pieces from her collection. She especially enjoyed decorating the house for Christmas, recalling her own childhood when Christmas was the special purview of her father. From an old fashioned Christmas tree to the scaled reproduction of N. C. Wyeth’s Old Kris that hangs above the mantelpiece in the living room, the McCoy dollhouse is a delightful miniature world.
And so, the question is this: what are you asking for this year at Christmastime? Maybe to experience again the wide-eyed excitement of seeing a train coming around the track? Being able – as an adult – to appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship of the dolls your grandmother had in her parlor? Perhaps your family tradition is picking out an annual critter for your tree, in order to one day hand them down to a special little someone. However – and with whomever – you choose to enjoy A Brandywine Christmas, it’s guaranteed to make your holiday season magically bright. Stay tuned for some fun facts about our train collection!
December 2nd, 2011 at 9:00 am
Yesterday, we learned about what A Brandywine Christmas meant for some families. Today, we will take a closer look at what makes this experience so special for many. The trains have been a part of A Brandywine Christmas since 1971, with Steven Clarke serving as the curator for the past 35 years. The layout features “O” gauge trains running on approximately 2,000 feet of track. Both scale model and toy trains are included, including one car that features a camera to provide an engineer’s view through a mounted monitor. Some train “celebrities” – a.k.a. Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends – can often been seen in the layout which is home to a town, a working train yard, model dairy, quarry, oil refinery, concrete plant and Herrs Food factory. And yes, even Santa and his sleigh fly over the busy scene.
Just as famous as the train display – perhaps even more so – is the grand collection of whimsical “critter” ornaments that appear every holiday season. The critters, made by volunteers from dried flowers, grasses, seeds and pods, fill several themed Christmas trees within the museum. For many families, it just wouldn’t be Christmas without admiring these natural little charmers who have been around since the early days of the museum when a group of volunteers decorated a small tree with natural materials, to emphasize the museum’s role as part of the Brandywine Conservancy.
Those first ornaments were somewhat simple creations, but as the years have gone by, the critters have become more and more elaborate, eventually gaining national attention. In 1984, museum volunteers were asked to decorate the main Christmas tree in the Reagan White house and more than 3,000 critters were required for the project. Critters have also been on display at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. No matter where they are, they always bring delight to the audiences who admire them.
“In addition to the trains, my daughters also loved the Christmas trees adorned with ornaments made from pinecones, twigs, and other forest finds,” continues Fackler, the mom of two from Ambler, PA. “They were so delighted to see the little “woodland creatures” the artists created.”
And artists, they are. Every year, over 100 volunteers give Santa’s elves a run for their money as they gather to create the ornaments in a workshop on the conservancy campus. These dedicated critter creators work for over 30,000 hours in order to make almost 9,000 ornaments – some for display, but most for the popular Annual Critter Sale, scheduled this year for Saturday, December 3rd and Sunday, December 4th from 9:30am to 4:30pm. (Following the sale, critters can be purchased at the Museum Shop with proceeds benefiting the Volunteers’ Art Purchase Fund, which has added more than 200 paintings, drawings and prints to the Museum’s holdings since 1975.) That’s all for today folks! Please come back tomorrow to learn more about this special occasion!
Founded in 1971, the Brandywine River Museum holds American art, especially the foremost collection of art by members of the Wyeth family, including N.C. Wyeth, Andrew Wyeth and Jamie Wyeth. The museum also features renowned collections of American illustration, landscape and still life painting. The museum is located in a restored, mid-19th century grist mill on U.S. Route 1 in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania along the banks of the Brandywine River. A Brandywine Christmas runs from November 25th, 2011 through January 8th, 2012. The museum is open daily, 9:30am to 4:30pm, except Christmas Day, and with extended hours until 6:00pm December 26th through 30th. Admission is $10 for adults; $6 for seniors ages 65 and over, students, and children over six; free for children under six and museum members. Due to the large number of visitors during the holiday season, the museum is unable to accommodate baby strollers. For more information, call 610-388-2700 or visit www.brandywinemuseum.org.