On a recent sunny Saturday I headed to central New Hampshire for the Canterbury Artisan Festival at Canterbury Shaker Village. Celebrating its second year, the festival was a day-long event featuring demonstrations, hands-on activities, guided tours, live music, a farmers market, craft booths, delicious food, and the opportunity to stroll among the village buildings while taking in the stunning backdrop of the surrounding scenery. All in all, not a bad way to spend a Saturday.
If you aren’t familiar with the Shakers, head over to our first Explore New England post on Canterbury Shaker Village for a bit more background information. At its height in the 1850s, 300 Shakers lived and worked in over 100 buildings on 3,000 acres in Canterbury. In 1992, when its last resident Shaker Ethel Johnson died, the village became a museum, and in 1993 it was declared a National Historic Landmark. Today, 25 original Shaker building and 4 reconstructed buildings are spread throughout its nearly 700 acres of forests, fields, gardens, nature trails, and mill ponds in the beautiful town of Canterbury.
A visit to Canterbury Shaker Village starts at the Visitor Center and Museum Store, where after you pay your admission you’re given a sticker to wear that allows you into the village. I made a quick stop at the Shaker Box Lunch and Farm Stand next door (formerly the House Barn), where I found baked goods, snacks, sandwiches, salads, a variety of soups, and (of course) a basket of signature shaker squash rolls. If you eat inside you’ll also enjoy sitting on a classic Shaker-style chair with fabric rush seat.
I picked up a coffee and then crossed the street to check out the fair (I’d stop in again later for a Maple Crème soda to have with my lunch). Guided tours of the village take place throughout the day, but visitors are also encouraged to wander through the village at their leisure, following along on a helpful map from the visitor’s center.
After heading up the slight incline in the photo above, the fair came into view along with the notes of fiddle, guitar, and upright bass from the Celtic-inspired (and lots of fun) Jordan Tirrell-Wysocki Trio.
Throughout the grounds artisans were demonstrating talents like rug braiding, weaving, spinning, coopering, wood turning, letterpress printing, broom making, and more.
Among the tents, artisans and food producers joined forces in a “craft fair meets farmers’ market,” selling everything from cupcakes, maple syrup, and mushrooms to pottery, jewelry, woolen scarves, and even fresh flowers.
After picking up a few items I followed the music (and my nose) to the eating area, where outfits like Ian’s Granite State Grille, Stone Oven Wood Fired Pizza, and the Lakes Region Culinary Arts Program refreshment tent (the latter has a terrific and interesting partnership with CSV) offered up a hot dogs, pizza, chowder, grilled cheese, donuts, and more (much more).
Fair-goers filled the picnic tables and spread out on the grass to eat and enjoy the music (which sometimes called for crowd participation), but as I waited for my pizza I got another idea.
I headed across the village to the Shaker Meeting House. Built in 1792, it has the classic “two door” entrance (one for men, one for women) and overlooks the sloping lawn alongside Shaker Road.
A low stone made the perfect makeshift table.
Then it was time to stroll the grounds and admire the scenery. Unfortunately, they do not allow photography inside the buildings, but needless to say the beautiful and practical Shaker aesthetic is carried throughout the village.
This included many fine gardens, scarecrows dressed up for the fair, and craft demonstrations.
Finally, I made a stop at the museum store in the visitor center to admire the many Shaker crafts, books, toys, and more for sale. The traditional Shaker oval box is especially famous, and comes in a variety of sizes and colors.
Tired and full, it was time to head back to my car and leave the Shakers behind, but I was comforted to know that whenever I need an escape to a time of simplicity and beauty, it will only be an hour’s drive away.
The village is open daily from May through October, on weekends in November, and for special events during the Christmas season and at other times throughout the year. They also offer numerous workshops on traditional Shaker crafts such as broom making and letterpress, woodworking, cooking, and more.