Prairie Home Companion: Shelburne Museum Concerts on the Green

{Side note: today is Labor Day (observed). Curious as to the history of Labor Day? Check out this blast-from-the-past post from PiP (2008!)}

As mentioned yesterday, summer is not over. It sticks around for a good three weeks in September. So let’s keep talking summer. What has been your favorite part of summer? The longer daylight hours, barbecues, farmers markets, outdoor concerts, swimming, sunshine, not wearing 10s of layers of clothing, cold drinks, better moods? As for me, I love it all. Summertime in Vermont is particularly beautiful, and on sunny, warm days, I want to be outside as much as possible. This summer I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful outdoor concert at Shelburne Museum: Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion Radio Romance Tour. (A huge thank you to my friend and fellow preservationist, Adam K, for bringing me along.) 

For starters, the Shelburne Museum has an absolutely beautiful setting looking to Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains.

The sun was setting as the show was beginning.

The sun was setting as the show was beginning. The picture doesn’t quite do the view justice…

I had never listened to Garrison Keillor, but knowing that he is a great American storyteller, I was intrigued (hello folklore and oral history!). And what could be an outdoor show on a beautiful Vermont summer evening with a friend? Precisely. What is Prairie Home Companion? It is a live variety radio show, written and hosted by Garrison Keillor, running (with some exception) since 1974. The show focuses on music, stories, and features such as Guy Noir, Private Eye and  News from Lake Wobegon.

A glorious sunset.

A glorious sunset.

Hundreds of people on the lawn.

Hundreds of people on the lawn.

The show was wonderful. Listening to these amazing stories, live entertainment, a radio show in person (as opposed to through the radio) was such a unique experience. Clearly, I’ve been missing Prairie Home Companion all these years. Garrison Keillor is brilliant, creating these ongoing stories for decades. There are many people who can tell a good story, but to hear someone who has what are essentially books in his head – that he’s written – and is sharing it live…wow. How many true storytellers have you heard in your life? I’m grateful to have seen this show live. And now I want to hear ALL of the Lake Wobegon stories. It reminds me of just how special folklore is in our cultures (and all cultures). Folklore represents traditions unique to certain set of people, idiosyncrasies, memories, beliefs, and treasures to that culture.

Close up on the stage.

Close up on the stage.

Have you heard or seen Prairie Home Companion? Who are your favorite storytellers?

Preservation Photos #56

A beautiful October view over the pond to the meeting house at Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, Vermont. What a great place for class field trips, even as a graduate student.

Preservation Photos #55

On the double barreled covered bridge at Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT. Definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

SIA Vermont Tour 2010: Part One

Each year the Society for Industrial Archaeology hosts a conference and a separate fall tour for its members. The fall tour is no papers and all fun (kind of like field trip days at school, but for a few days!) The Society traveled throughout Vermont during September 16-19, 2010. They were based in Montpelier, which allowed for easy access to the Barre Granite Quarries, the American Precision Museum, the Orange County Copper Mines, Burlington, walking tours of historic towns, and of course some covered bridges.

While in Colorado Springs in June 2010 for the SIA Conference (see previous posts: SIA 2010 Overview. Part One. Part Two. Part Three. Part Four), I had the pleasure of presenting a paper and meeting many members, some of whom were fall tour organizers. Well, they were psyched to meet someone in Vermont to help with aspects of the fall tour. Before I knew it, I volunteered to help with the Vermont tour! And I’m glad I did. While I did not have the opportunity to attend the entire tour, I joined in for the day on Saturday September 18. What fun we had! Without making this post too long, I’ll divide it into two parts. Read on for part one.

The bus departed from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier at a bright and early 7:30am (you can’t waste those touring days by sleeping in!) We headed north I-89 through the typical heavy morning fog, but by the time we arrived at the Green Mountain Power Plant No. 19 in Essex Junction, the shine was shining beautifully. Here we had a plant, which has been generating electricity at Hubbel Falls since 1917.  The 10,000 horsepower plant was at that time the largest in the state.  Today, Plant 19 provides power to 4,000 area homes, saving roughly 60,000 barrels of oil annually. {These facts are borrowed from the SIA Fall Tour brochure.}


Interior of the Green Mountain Power Plant



The power plant as seen along the river.


After the power plant, we headed to Shelburne Museum, where we visited the Ticonderoga, a restored 220 ft steamboat, which is a National Historic Landmark. This boat was in service on Lake Champlain from 1906-1955, when it was transported two miles overland, on a railroad specifically built for it. Today the steamboat is restored and visitors can walk inside. The guides were terrific, and one of them remembered traveling on the Ticonderoga as a young boy.


The Ticonderoga.



Just part of the machinery which attracts the SIA crowd.


From Shelburne Museum we traveled down the road to Shelburne Farms, where we saw perfect views of Lake Champlain, the impressive structure of the Breeding Barn, and partook in some cheese tasting! (It’s absolutely delicious.)


Overlooking Lake Champlain towards the Adirondack Mountains.



You can never have too many views of Lake Champlain.



Inside the breeding barn, which is currently undergoing restoration.



Inside the breeding barn, looking up at some of the metal ties.


Shelburne Museum and Shelburne Farms are absolutely beautiful and both warrant much longer visits if you have the time. However on limited time, you’d want to see both, which is cause for our busy day. After Shelburne Farms, we stopped at Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington. (Who doesn’t love the process of brewing and some free samples?)

Already it had been quite a busy day and we were only at about 4pm by the time we left Magic Hat. What’s next? A barn in Richmond, VT and a dinner and lecture in a NHL. Stay tuned for more SIA fun!

Read Part Two.