PITTSFIELD >> Nearly 1,400 people turned out for the opening of Hancock Shaker Village on Saturday, observing the cycle of rebirth on a beautiful spring day and setting the nonprofit on course for record-setting attendance.
With forecasts Sunday predicting a high of 68 degrees and sunny weather, the historic village, a "welcome retreat from today's hectic pace," should comfortably surpass its previous opening weekend record of roughly 2,500.
A full parking lot showed Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania license plates. Shawn Hartley Hancock, director of communications, said she talked to people from England, Germany, Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands.
"I couldn't get over it, I was like, 'Where the heck are they coming from?' " Hancock said. "Of course, they don't even have enough English to really find out."
She added, "I'm just glad they were here and loving it."
The main attraction year after year is the baby animals housed in the Roundstone Barn. Children and parents crowded in all afternoon watching the goats, pigs, cows and chickens caring for their newborns.
"I grew up on a farm, so it's something I recognize I learned so much from," Krista Mangiardi said. "You learn about the relationship between human and animals, about respect. For kids who've never had that exposure, it's really nice to see them go through that process of discovery."
She added, "Some parents have said, 'We don't have access to this.' It's nice that they can come here and have it."
The village also looks better than it has in years thanks to recent paint-jobs and other renovation work on 20 of its 23 buildings.
"I think it's great that people are getting to rediscover Hancock Shaker Village," Darin Johnson, a member of the organization's board, said. "It's a treasure that's in everybody's backyard, and I think we're starting to see a resurgence in terms of interest. Especially in things like agriculture, farm-to-table cooking and sustainability."
He added, "That's all kind of the bedrock of the Shakers. People are reconnecting with the Shaker dynamic."
The baby animals will be on display through May 8, with village hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Another highlight of the day proved to be a newly expanded discovery center, where children handled baby chicks and ducks, and learned how to milk a cow via a model animal.
The museum will host several art exhibits and a quilt-making exhibit, among other things, during the course of the season.
Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.