(Photo by David Julian)
By Ali Kane
Tower Hill staff
Over the years, Winter Reimagined has become a tradition throughout Central Massachusetts. Families come from far and wide to experience the glittering lights outdoors, festive indoor displays, and spectacular tropical conservatories. While elements like s’mores in the Winter Garden, the Bromeliad Tree, and the milk jug igloo have become staples of the event, Tower Hill is always looking for new ways to engage visitors.
This year that excitement comes in the form of a woodland fairy train.
As CEO Grace Elton geared up for her first Winter Reimagined, she recollected a treasured favorite from her previous position at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden as well as the iconic holiday railroad at New York Botanical Garden. Upon viewing the stunning fairy houses from this year’s Fall Fest, she was inspired to bring a train to Tower Hill.
(The Lindbergh Engine.)
Calling upon the talents of staff and volunteers, over the course of just six weeks, a woodland fairy wonderland was created in the forest of wishing trees in the Stoddard Education Center.
To begin the project, Tower Hill connected with Greg Maas of the Amherst Railway Society for his advice on how to construct a railroad, what types of equipment to purchase, and how to operate a model railroad. A dedicated train enthusiast, Greg jumped in to find a beautiful O-scale replica of the Pennsylvania Railroad’s 4-4-2 Atlantic locomotive or the “Lindbergh Engine.” Throughout the week before Thanksgiving, he shared his knowledge and talents of model railroad construction, including layout and electrical work. Partway through the week, he was joined by Isiah and Cyndi Manuel from the Amherst Railway Society to round out the railroad engineering team.
(Volunteer Frank Bissett working on the train table.)
Few Tower Hill projects are complete without the contributions of Renaissance Man volunteer Frank Bissett, who constructed the massive 8 foot by 16 foot table for the space. Between decorating indoor displays and putting the finishing touches on outdoor lights, Frank spent the week before Thanksgiving constructing the train platform with the help of Greg and Ali Kane, Executive & Advancement Assistant.
Once the railroad was complete, the fairies moved in from their autumn home in the Inner Park to the Education Center. As the story goes, the fairies, who do not like the cold, come indoors for the winter, harvesting fairy dust from the sparkle of Winter Reimagined. The train ships the magical fairy dust around the world to other fairies just in time for the holidays.
(Fairy house designed by Tower Hill staff member Lynn Chaput.)
Lynn Chaput, Private Events Coordinator, has quickly become a staff celebrity for her intricate, adorable, and carefully crafted fairy houses, donating seven of the twelve fairy houses. Wedding Coordinator Brittni Menard, HR Assistant Jen Kilcoyne, Director of Institutional Advancement Thaddeus Thompson, and Ali Kane also contributed their talents to create the fairy village.
“I get the ideas from nature first,” Lynn explains of her fairy creations. “I’ll see the natural product and see how I can make that into something fairies would like. My joy comes from people’s reactions and creating magic.”
(Live plants set the scene.)
The Horticulture Team brought their talents to the miniature scene, establishing a forest of both native and unique plants with Monterey cypress, American Wintergreen, Ponytail palm and other favorites. With precision and care, they created a landscape of Castilla stone, pinecone trees, and a variety of mosses. The finishing touches of sand and stone pathways connected the fairy houses to this magical world.
“It’s moving,” says Jessica Lang, Membership Coordinator. “I couldn’t completely picture it when we were all talking about the plan. When I walked in and finally saw it all planted, I thought that is was truly something magical.”
The woodland fairy train will be running throughout Winter Reimagined. Pre-sale tickets are required to evening hours of the event. Please be careful not to touch the live plants, delicate fairy houses, and fragile trains during your visit.