Hancock Shaker Village to feature baby animals on virtual tour

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PITTSFIELD — For many Berkshire families, a visit with Hancock Shaker Village's newest arrivals is an April tradition; one that's now been canceled by COVID-19 pandemic safety precautions.

But the village being closed won't keep the public from peeking in on its newborns. Fans of the annual Baby Animals exhibit will get their first look at the newborns at 1 p.m. Easter Sunday, when Bill Mangiardi, director of farm and facilities at the living history museum, hosts a live virtual tour of the Round Stone Barn on Facebook.

"We're enjoying the births so much. It's just so painful that we're closed, and understandably so, but we wanted to share the births," said museum President and CEO Jennifer Trainer Thompson during a phone interview on Thursday. "Right now, we're all so anxious and wondering what the world is going to look like on the other side of this. When you go into the barn and you see all this new life, it all really feels OK. That's what we want to share on Sunday."

Hancock Shaker Village, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this summer, was scheduled to kick off the season on Saturday with the popular Baby Animals event. Both the season opening and Baby Animals have been tentatively pushed back to May 15.

During Sunday's livestream, Mangiardi, who has worked at the village for 15 years and is more commonly known as "Farmer Billy," will tell stories about the animals and their care as he walks through the pens in the barn.

"We have seven kids (baby goats), five lambs, two calves and more on the way," Trainer Thompson said. "We have many pregnant animals still. When you see them, they're all walking slow, laying down and looking uncomfortable."

The first baby born this season was a calf named Star, who arrived on March 16. Since then, staff members attending the animals have posted videos of the newborn births on Facebook and Instagram.

"We're trying to post pretty regularly,' she said. "One thing, I'm told is that the pigs are not even close to giving birth. We're not expecting them until June. We're hopeful that there will still be babies here when we are able to open."

The Easter Sunday tour will be streamed live on Hancock Shaker's Facebook account at facebook.com/hancockshakervillage/ and posted later in the day to its Instagram and YouTube accounts, as well as to hancockshakervillage.org.


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