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Storrowton seeks volunteers for Big E

Aug. 8, 2014 | By Lori Szepelak

Jessica Fontaine of Chicopee has been donating her time as a volunteer at Storrowton Village Museum since she was 14. She is seen with her son, Gabriel, in the Gilbert House, circa 1794.
Reminder Publications photo by Lori Szepelak

WEST SPRINGFIELD – The Storrowton Village Museum is encouraging area residents to consider volunteering their time as a costumed guide during The Big E.

Village volunteers dress in Early American-inspired apparel to give fairgoers a glimpse of New England’s past, according to Dennis Picard, museum director.
“We have a great blend of men and women and young people who volunteer,” Picard said during a recent late afternoon interview with Reminder Publications.
The museum encompasses nine antique buildings assembled around a traditional New England green, which was founded by Helen Storrow more than 85 years ago.
Among Picard’s dedicated volunteers is Gerry Barbeau of Agawam, who especially enjoys her time in the North Center School, circa 1810.
“We are trained well and it is a joy to be a volunteer here,”  Barbeau said, noting she has been volunteering for 13 years at Storrowton.
Barbeau’s role at the one-room schoolhouse includes working with children on field trips during the school year.
“I have two rules – attention to duty and no unnecessary noise,” she said with a wide smile.
Barbeau, dressed in her period attire, spends class time on spelling, reading, arithmetic, science and geography.
“Children learn that men taught school in the winter and women taught classes during the summer,” she said, adding that in the spring children were expected to help plant the crops and in the fall to assist in the harvest.
During the Big E run, Barbeau answers questions from those who come in to see the schoolhouse.
“During the Big E it is more conversational with those stopping in,” she said, adding that her time volunteering is a “joyful experience” because of the extensive training that guides receive.
Jessica Fontaine of Chicopee, a longtime volunteer, echoed the sentiments of Barbeau.
“My grandmother, Betty Kaeding of Chicopee, started taking me with her when she volunteered at Storrowton many years ago,” Fontaine said. “I’ve always loved history and when I was 14 I decided to volunteer on my own.”
Fontaine noted there are many reasons why she would encourage others to consider volunteering at Storrowton.
“People love being here and it’s all about family,” she said. “I’ve made friendships throughout the years and it’s a place that can become a home.”
Training sessions for prospective volunteers – ages 14 and older – begins Aug. 20. To participate, volunteers must complete a Volunteer Interest Form and schedule an in-person interview with a Storrowton Village staff member. Selected volunteers must be available to attend all three training sessions which take place Aug. 20, 27 and Sept. 3 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Picard noted that volunteers will gain a wealth of knowledge about crafts, food, and daily life of the era while participating in the excitement of The Big E.
Costumes, parking and admission for volunteers on-duty will be provided by The Big E as well as a 25 percent discount on items purchased at the gift shops operated by Storrowton Village. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to attend the staff field trip, picnic and the annual Big E staff party.
For more information or to schedule an interview, call 205-5051 before Aug. 15, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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