STOCKBRIDGE — I spent the final eve of September atop the Choates’ steep slope in Stockbridge, ingesting the annual autumnal magic on display there and learning something new in the process: the Naumkeag were a tribe of Indigenous people who inhabited the area now part of northeastern Massachusetts, primarily Essex County. Their moniker is said to refer to a “fishing place,” derived from a pair of native words: namaas (fish) and ki (place). In the eastern part of the state, modern usage of Naumkeag refers to the original name for Salem (although the Native American use largely applied to the people and not the place). In the Berkshires, Naumkeag is synonymous with the Gilded Age, The Trustees of Reservations, and — come October — pumpkins.
The hundreds, if not thousands, of pumpkins on display at The Incredible Naumkeag Pumpkin Show have become something of a tradition in these parts. Thankfully, no lingering pandemic or increasing Delta variant have put a stop to the outdoor adventure trail that invites visitors to wend their way through a portion of the property’s eight acres of landscaped gardens. Last Thursday, at a press preview of the event, the dusky silhouette of cows grazing on summer’s waning grass were visible as the sun slipped behind the hills. As night fell, the surrounding canopy of trees was instantly illuminated with laser lights, beckoning all to explore the famous gardens which have been transformed into a celebration of autumn with over 1,500 jack-o-lanterns, hundreds of mums, pumpkins, and countless gourds — most of which were grown on the premises.
“We’re thrilled to bring back our extremely popular pumpkin show at Naumkeag while also introducing a new event at Long Hill, meaning people across the Commonwealth now have easier access to our pumpkin events,” Kristen Swanberg, managing director of engagement, education, and visitor analytics for The Trustees, said in a statement.
“Nature puts on a show during fall in New England, and there are no better backdrops than our special outdoor places,” she said of these safe options for enjoying the season and being in nature. Advanced tickets are required for the event; no tickets will be sold on site. For more complete information, including plans for inclement weather, parking, and shuttle service (both being staged from the lower parking lot located in the Stockbridge Town Cemetery), visit this site. Hot cider and fall treats will be available for sale on site.
To complement the outdoor portions of the event, visitors are given a glimpse inside the architectural masterpiece that is Naumkeag — a 44-room summer retreat built in 1885 for the Choate Family (of New York City), situated on 48 sprawling acres — which boasts, if only for the moment, a Harry Potter-themed library (complete with floating candles) and a trio of period-turned-spooky scenes to entice one’s imagination. This year’s entrance and exit — along Naumkeag’s famed allée of linden trees, which hugs the eastern edge of the Stockbridge Center Cemetery — is fittingly dramatic. The Naumkeag property was bequeathed by Mabel Choate to the Trustees in 1959; additional land was given by J. Graham and Margaret Parsons in 1985.
Inspired to ingest all the region has to offer before the snow flies? There’s still time to take part in HikeTrustees, a free monthly challenge to hike and explore the more than 120 Trustees properties throughout the state. So far in 2021, 1,009 participants have logged 26,700 miles hiked; 119 places visited; and 9,284 hikes taken. The Trustees of Reservations, Massachusetts’ largest conservation and preservation trust, has been protecting property in the Bay State for over a century; their mission is “to preserve, for public use and enjoyment, properties of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts.” A complete list of properties, including more than a dozen in the Berkshires, is available here.