Centrally located within the Lake Champlain Region, resting on the banks of the Boquet River, is the little hamlet of Whallonsburg. This hamlet is within the Town of Essex, about 4 miles from their NHR collection of houses and the Essex to Charlotte ferry dock. A central focus within this hamlet is The Whallonsburg Grange and what is happening there will surprise you.
The Grange building itself is about 100 years old. It flourished in the first half of the last century as a social hub for the community and outlying area. Farmers, agricultural associates and their extended families, met inside regularly for a variety of activities. Regular meetings of the local Grange Chapter, weddings, banquets, social functions of all varieties were held there. It was “the” place to go during the early to mid-1900s and today has been restored to that rank thanks to the innovative, creative hard work of volunteers.
The late 20th century saw the structure decline and witness little use, but at the turn of the century the Town of Essex assumed ownership and in just a few years the Grange received a new breath of life from 100s of volunteers throughout the region. Now managed by the Whallonsburg Civic Association (WCA), it has become a very popular event location hosting a wide variety of events; films, dances, lectures, musical performances, and fundraisers of all kinds; just to mention a few. The Grange even boasts a certified commercial kitchen available for food producers, canners, caterers, cooking classes; you name it! It has everything you might need, even a commercial dishwasher to assist with clean up. If you have an interest in making use of the fabulous space, contact them at 963-4170.
I spoke with Mary-Nell Bockman, Program Manager for the Whallonsburg Grange, regarding what activities and events were planned for the near future. Oh my! I could not keep up with my notes! Applying asterisks to the ones I certainly did not want to miss, my page began to resemble the “speckled pup”. I noted opportunities to tweak my intellect and others that appealed to my desire for entertaining fun. I will share some of these with you and perhaps I will see you there.
For a couple years now, The Whallonsburg Grange has held what they call a Winter Lyceum Series. I had to look up “lyceum” when I first read about it. I admit it wasn’t in my regular vocabulary. I discovered that during the mid-1800s, (remember this was pre- TV and internet) lyceums were large lecture or concert halls where people would gather to get information, listen to music or a debate; generally to gather knowledge or be entertained. Often performers, lecturers, etc. would travel town to town in a circuit.
Again this winter, The Whallonsburg Grange has put together a fabulous collection of pertinent topics coming from nothing but the best authorities on the subject. As I write this, I note that this series began in early February, and grab my calendar so as not to miss more. Most of the Winter Lyceum Series are held Tuesday evenings; beginning at 7:30. Admission is a very modest price; usually $5.00 with students free.
Keeping in sync with current events, next up is a Special Lyceum Program recently added to this winter’s list. On Thursday, February 13th, 7:30, The Grange will offer: Nelson Mandela and the Struggle for a Free South Africa. Everyone will have an opportunity to learn about and discuss this topic with speaker Jacob Tropp, Professor of History and Spencer Chair in African Studies at Middlebury College. [UPDATE! Unfortunately the February 13th program is canceled due to a family emergency for the speaker]
The following evening, on Friday, February 14th (Valentine’s Day) at 7:00 The Grange will host a special concert: A Heart for Nelson Mandela with Sharon Katz & The Peace Train traveling from South Africa to perform. Their performance will be high energy, danceable Afro-Pop music. Both of these tribute events are co-sponsored by John Brown Lives!
More of the regular Winter Lyceum Series continues on Tuesdays at 7:30:
February 18th: Settling the Wilderness: When Men and Mountains Meet with historian and author Glenn Pearsall. This lecture focuses on the critical settlement period of the Adirondacks, mostly between 1790 to 1820.
February 25th: The “Invention” of the American Wilderness with Andy Buchanan, lecturer in history at UVM. This presentation examines how the concept of “Wilderness” developed.
March 4th: Forever Wild: A History of the Forest Preserve with Ken Hamm, NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Attorney. This program looks at the origins and development of “forever wild” over the last century.
March 11th: The Influence of Wild Places, with environmental philosopher, Marianne Patinelli-Dubay. This presentation looks at the impact of “wild” places on the human spirit and how place and people affect one another.
March 18th: Wild Waves: Adirondack Boats & Boating with author Hallie Bond. This illustrated lecture explores the Adirondack boat shops, liveries, and boating travels. ( Note this lecture is free; sponsored by the NY Council for the Humanities.)
Should you be looking for more musical entertainment, The Whallonsburg Grange has additional plans for March and April.
On Saturday, March 8th, 7:30, The Modern Grass Quintet, will perform traditional and progressive bluegrass.
Friday, March 21st, 7:00, Peggy Lynn and Sandra Weber will be celebrating Women’s History Month with their performance: Wild Spirits: Songs and Stories of Remarkable Adirondack Women.
Friday, April 4th, 7:30, is the opportunity to be entertained by two incredible singer/songwriter/musicians from Scotland and Canada; Archie Fisher and Garnet Rodgers will perform one show, together.
Stop in at the Pink Pig, Village of Essex, or the Dogwood Bakery, Wadhams, for advance tickets for these performances. You can also order by mail with a check payable to WCA, PO Box 54, Essex, NY 12936.
Beginning in early in the year, The Champlain Valley Film Society offers films at The Whallonsburg Grange every other Saturday at 7:30. This organization brings fabulous opportunities to us to see current and classic first class films. Often the movies are accompanied by a guest speaker or renowned interpreter to enhance the “movie going experience”. Early birds were fortunate last weekend to get in to meet and hear from Captain Richard Phillips himself and watch the movie nominated for four Academy Awards. Understandably, the building had reached its capacity when I arrived a mere 45 minutes early. What was I thinking? I did get a picture of the Captain’s back however as he arrived and met with the Program Manager, Mary- Nell Bockman. Ah well.
Future films on the calendar are:
February 15th: All is Lost, March 1st: Gravity, March 15th: 12 Years a Slave, and March 29th will feature: Animated and live –action Oscar Shorts. Tickets are generally $5, under 18, $2. Check CVFilms.org for reviews, trailers, and up to date information.
Other exciting happenings
On Friday, February 21st,, 7:00 Sue Morse of Keeping Track will be giving a presentation on Animals of the North: What Global Climate Change Will Mean. Admission $8. This program will educate about ways in which our wildlife are already being affected as well as examine the challenges ahead and is sponsored by the Northeast Wilderness Trust and Elizabeth Lee, Outdoor Guide.
Spring will have The Whallonsburg Grange hosting even more programs and workshops. On March 7th, 7:00, there will be a presentation entitled, Bird Language Through the Seasons, followed by a field class, Winter Bird Language and Behavior on March 8th, 9:00-1:00, with Connor Stedman and sponsored by the Northeast Wilderness Trust and Elizabeth Lee Outdoor Guide. For more information or registration for these two events, email Elizabeth at email@example.com.
Workshops on creating a rain garden, fruit tree grafting and farming techniques are in stages of development now. Stay updated by signing up for The Whallonsburg Grange email newsletter at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow them on Facebook.
Perhaps I will, as they say: See you at the Grange! 1610 NYS Route 22, Whallonsburg, NY 12936 at the juncture of Rt 22 and Whallons Bay Rd.