The Scene | Hancock Shaker Village "Here We Grow" Gala Goes All Night

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PITTSFIELD — The significance of preserving and treasuring our history is a value and objective we share in the Berkshires and beyond. Our history is where we find the tools to build our future and the pieces of time that engage and link us to our past.

Upon its 750 rural, farm acres, Hancock Shaker Village recently celebrated the beauty, simplicity and sustainability of the Shaker culture. On Saturday, July 29, at its annual summer gala themed, "Here we Grow," Hancock Shaker Village welcomed more than 250 guests, board members, company supporters, and members of the community for this year's fundraiser gala supporting its daily operations and educational programming. Funds raised during the "cause-within-the-cause" portion of the evening will support critical restorations to the 1826 Round Stone Barn at an estimated expense of $95,000.

The festive evening began with cocktails in the gardens at 5:30 p.m. provided by Berkshire Mountain Distillers and Bright Ideas Brewing Company; servers made their rounds carrying delectable hors d'oeuvres.

Dinner in the 1910 Barn commenced at 7 p.m. where guests sat under rustic sky high ceilings with what appeared like mile-long tables dotted in candlelight overlooking a movie-screen mountainous view.

The dinner featured seasonal ingredients, "conscientiously prepared by chef Brian Alsberg, from Hancock Shaker Village as well as neighboring farms including: Cricket Creek Farm, Berle Farm, Equinox Farm, MX Morningstar, and the Berry Patch."

Tables for the evening went from a table of 10 for $5,000 to a table of eight for $2,500 along with individual tickets ranging from $500 to $250. Dance-party-only tickets were available for $25.

Former Gov. Deval Patrick, co-chairman of the gala committee, gave his opening speech to guests where tables were filled to their capacity.

"There's not enough civil discourse these days, but I can see this crowd is very civil," Patrick told the crowd who laughed. "It takes community and Hancock Shaker Village builds community."

Hancock Shaker Village President and CEO Jennifer Trainer Thompson, appointed to the post last fall, welcomed one and all to celebrate and support the living-history museum with its 20 authentic Shaker buildings.

Volunteers at Hancock Shaker Village are vital members of the community and Paul Houston, of Pittsfield, has been volunteering at the village for five years.

"It's a great retreat from the everyday stresses of the world," Houston said.

Lauren Piotrowski, HSV head gardener and community supported agriculture manager, posed for a photo in front of her creation of hanging greenery with suspended flickering candle globes.

As dinner came to a close, the live auction began conducted by Robin McGraw.

Six items were auctioned, including: an 1880s child's rocking chair from the Mount Lebanon community, valued at $500; a two-day sybaritic stay at Canyon Ranch, valued at $5,500; artist Jon Brooks' "Mover and Shaker" sculpture. valued at $13,000; a 36 Hours in the Berkshires Tour, valued at $3,500, and "Maker's Day in Brooklyn," a "priceless" studio tour for six in Brooklyn and Red Hook, N.Y.

Following the live auction, former board member and last year's co-host Darin Johnson, led the "cause-within-a-cause" portion of the evening.

"This is a very special night because we have on our campus the most iconic Shaker building in the world — the 1826 Round Stone Barn — known around the world as a architectural icon and cultural wonder and tonight it needs a little help."

He added, "In 1851, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville visited the village and raced around the round barn where Melville later wrote in his notes, `The barn is amazing.'"

At the end, Johnson called for pledges to aid in the barn's restoration and guests put forth pledges in increments from $10,000 to $5,000 to $2,500 to $1,000 to $500 and to $100.

Ultimately, Hancock Shaker Village exceeded its financial goal of attaining $95,000 for the restorations by taking in $117,000.

Now came the time for the rollicking Shaker Island dance party, produced by Berkshire Shenanigans, in the Round Stone Barn where guests flashed their neon Shaker wrist-bands to enter into a kaleidoscope of lights. And if one was still hungry, Lucia's Latin Kitchen dished up Shishka-bobs and dirty rice just steps outside.

Tiki torches lit up Shaker Island as guest sauntered around in colorful leis with blue umbrella drinks in hand.

DJ Wolf enticed people onto the dance floor and the Berkshire Bateria drummers kept them dancing for hours with addictive music from Brazil and sizzling samba rhythms. Belly dancers from Heart-Shaped Box added to the mix.

Hancock Shaker Village board of trustees chairman Richard Seltzer recalled, "What a fabulous evening in the Berkshires. The village was aglow and alive. The 1910 barn was bursting with generous friends, phenomenal food, a spirited mood. This gala epitomized our exciting year of growth."


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