What happens to the things we leave behind on the Tanglewood lawn?


Photo Gallery | Tanglewood lost and found

LENOX — Sixty-three pairs of glasses; 31 pairs of sunglasses; piles of watches, earrings, rings and necklaces; stacks of credit cards, wallets and iPhones — and a baby carriage, complete with a diaper bag full of baby essentials.

It's a symphony of forgotten items, left behind on the Berkshires' most well-manicured lawn, where they are picked up, tagged, bagged and logged at Tanglewood's lost-and-found room in the visitor's center.

"It has to be well-organized," said Amy Aldrich, associate director of patron services at Tanglewood, whose job includes overseeing the lost-and-found efforts. "The collection is quite voluminous."

In a paneled room in the visitor's center, stacks of plastic bins keep the mismatched chaos neat and organized, with the help of two volunteer staff. There are drawers for sweaters left behind on those not-so-chilly summer nights, for car keys and hotel keys that are perhaps not noticed gone until they are needed the most. Blankets, lawn chairs, umbrellas and water bottles round out the orphaned items that didn't make it to the car when the final note was played.

"I just don't understand what we find sometimes," said Bruce Peeples, grounds supervisor at Tanglewood, who oversees the post-concert cleanup, among many other duties around the property.

Peeples, who has been in charge of the grounds for five summers now, dispatches a staff of at least 12 people to comb the lawn and venue seats after each concert. Cleanup typically takes three hours, according to Peeples, who is notified if anything of significance turns up during the process.

When asked what night is the worst of the summer, he simply replied, "Oh, Mr. Taylor, definitely."

While the legends of fans that turn out for the annual James Taylor concerts at Tanglewood aren't necessarily messier, there are many more of them, Peeples explained.

"Every summer, we get kind of geared up for it," he said of Taylor's visit. "We have to prepare physically and emotionally."

While he hasn't necessarily picked up anything too strange — there are, of course, those unmentionables that he declined to mention — he was once told about someone finding a complete set of clothes on the lawn.

"We wondered if the guy left in a blanket or something," he said with a laugh.

For Aldrich, who has worked at Tanglewood in different capacities for 17 summers, she finds the stroller recently left behind with a full diaper bag rather strange.

"Wouldn't you notice when you were carrying your baby to the car that something was missing?" she said with a laugh.

At the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, where guests fill the 125 rooms all summer long, carrying bags of personal possessions that inevitably get left behind, it's the single shoes that general manager Michele Kotek said she wonders about.

"The one shoe left behind is odd," she said. "When you're packing, wouldn't you notice you only have one shoe in your suitcase?"

Like Tanglewood, the inn logs all items that are turned in to the lost and found by the general public or housekeeping — who often find the things shoved under guest beds, in drawers or closets. The No. 1 item left behind isn't difficult to guess — we've all left, or almost left, our phone chargers plugged in a hidden outlet.

Socks, undergarments and jackets round out the most popular lost list, along with the occasional oddity.

"The strangest thing I can think of that has been left behind is a computer printer," Kotek said. "A fully functioning printer, just left behind."

In an effort to reunite guests with their forgotten items, Kotek and her team recently implemented the practice of calling guests to let them know something was left behind in the room.

"Sometimes they don't even realize they left something," she said. The inn then ships the items to the guests, a practice Kotek implemented after she went on a trip to Disney World and her daughter left behind a skirt and was notified by the theme park. "A lot of guests are really appreciative of the practice."

While reuniting an owner with a long-lost personal treasure is rewarding, it isn't always so easy for large venues. One year, at Mass MoCA in North Adams, 14 pairs of sunglasses were recovered after the Solid Sound Festival. Without knowing who they belonged to, the creative venue came up with something creative.

"One of our adorable security guards modeled them, we snapped quick pics, laid an image out — Hollywood-squares style — and posted to social media," said Jodi Joseph, director of communications. "About half the sunglasses were claimed and we mailed them back at no cost."

Peeples remembers finding a diamond broach once at Tanglewood and receiving a call from a very "distraught woman" that morning. There was also the 10-inch crucifix found with a secret compartment that no one could open. Recently, a binder was found filled with ticket stubs, autographs and photos documenting 40 years of Tanglewood concerts, according to Aldrich. Luckily, it was claimed and the staff was happy to see it returned.

"It's incredible what people leave behind," said Aldrich. "Or what they just don't want to carry out."

So what happens to the piles of stuff that never gets claimed? At Tanglewood, if it's valuable it goes to Boston at the end of the summer and hangs out for a year and then often gets donated, said Aldrich. After six months at the Red Lion Inn, items get donated to Goodwill.

Perhaps the best way to describe a place isn't what we bring — but what is left behind. Stacks of umbrellas, chairs, picnic baskets and blankets paint a picture of what Tanglewood in the summer means.

"It's a fun, interesting thing to oversee and manage," said Aldrich of lost and found. "It's interesting to see what people bring to Tanglewood and what they leave behind."


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