WOODSTOCK, Vt. — Logging, ecology, wood-based arts, and crafts took center stage during the annual Forest Festival held at the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park over the weekend.
"We're celebrating all things wood and forestry," said Rainey McKenna, the program manager at the historic site.
The national park is dedicated to "telling the story of conservation and stewardship in America," according to McKenna. The Forest Festival aims to promote understanding of "the process of where our wood comes from, how we produce it, how we use it, and how we preserve the ecosystems."
In addition to showcasing various aspects of wood-related activities, the event featured "Abenaki representatives talking about the cultural connection to the forest — particularly the ash tree," which is facing extinction due to the emerald ash borer, explained McKenna.
One woodworker, George Ainley, of Perkinsville, presented his "reproduction colonial design" chairs, made from either white oak or ash wood, known for their durability. The festival brought together different perspectives on forest resources and their significance.
Attendees were serenaded by the Slow Cookers, a Burlington-based folk-country band, who played acoustic and tenor guitars, mandolin, and upright bass.
Richard Holschuh, of Brattleboro, Vt., led a guided hike called "Alosada Kpiwi: An Abenaki Perspective with Place," during which he described the cultural significance of the Abenaki people's connection to the land. Holschuh serves as the chairman of the Vermont Commission for Native American Affairs and represents the Elnu Abenaki Tribe. He emphasized the importance of restoring relationships and reconnecting native people, immigrants, and the land.
Holschuh also shared an Abenaki perspective on the ash tree, describing it as the "snowshoe tree" because of its bendable wood, historically used to make snowshoes. The ash tree holds cultural significance for the Abenaki people, as it is tied to their origin story.
McKenna highlighted that the possible extinction of the ash tree has implications for wood management and forest ecology. The festival's core purpose is to explore the intersection of stewardship across cultures, time, and perspectives.
Another guided hike, "Forest Past, Present, and Future: History Through the Trees," delved into the environmental history and the impact of human activities on forests throughout history.
On the mansion's pasture, Vera Longtoe Sheehan, the artist-in-residence for the National Park, displayed her traditional knotting creations, including baskets, skirts, and bowls made from twine processed from milkweed and stinging nettles.
Attendees had the opportunity to explore Native American woodcrafts, tools, and art, such as toboggans, moose-antler combs, baskets, bowls, and axes.
Horse-drawn carriage rides, led by massive "Percheron workhorses," provided an educational experience about the history of logging, as logs were historically drawn by horses. According to McKenna, it was "a really fun day to celebrate the history of forestry and land stewardship."
The festival successfully combined education, cultural exchange, and appreciation for nature, showcasing the importance of responsible wood management and preserving our ecosystems.