Everything equine - from horse trailers to diamond-studded horseshoe earrings - is on display at Equine Affaire, one of the nation's biggest expositions for horse lovers. The four-day event features 450 retailers; more than 225 classes, seminars, and demonstrations; a breed pavilion; and a "musical celebration of the horse" called
One highlight is the World Championship Blacksmiths Regional Qualifier. About 50 farriers will compete, said Julie Ridley, who helps coordinate the blacksmith exposition. She calls it "fast and furious forging." "They take a straight piece of steel and make it into whatever is asked of them."
Equine Affaire, Eastern States Exposition, West Springfield, equineaffaire.com. Nov. 8-11; adults $13, children 7-13 $8, under 6 free.
HISTORY OF TURKEY
Want to celebrate Thanksgiving as in days of yore? Begin at Old Sturbridge Village, which re-creates 1830s-era hearth-cooked meals. "They start with a fresh turkey at 9:30 [and] they'll be cooking throughout the day," said Deb Friedman, head of interpretation. Also on Thanksgiving Day, Plimoth Plantation has its Victorian Thanksgiving Dinner. On Nov. 17 the town of Plymouth throws its annual America's Hometown Thanksgiving Parade, with marching bands, folks in costumes, music, floats, and a food festival.
In Vermont, the Thanksgiving Weekend (Nov. 23-25) at Billings Farm & Museum includes a visit with costumed guides preparing turkey and the fixings. History buffs can visit the Museum of New Hampshire History, where displays on the life of native Sarah Josepha Hale explain how she helped persuade President Lincoln to first designate that national day of Thanksgiving in 1863.
Old Sturbridge Village, Sturbridge, 508-347-3362, osv.org. Plimoth Plantation, Plymouth, 508-746-1622, plimoth.org. America's Hometown Thanksgiving Parade, Plymouth, 800-532-1621, americashometown.org. Bllings Farm & Museum, Route 12 north, Woodstock, Vt., 802-457-2355, billingsfarm.org. Museum of New Hampshire History, 6 Eagle Square, Concord, N.H., 603-228-6688, nhhis tory.org.
For almost as long as New England farmers have been growing apples, they've been pressing them. That sweet-tart juice is a true harbinger of autumn. Since 1912, Hogan's Cider Mill has made cider in its period barn; today visitors can sample mulled varieties, hard cider, and ciders mixed with strawberries and cranberries.
"The best cider is made from a blend of apples and the blend changes from season to season and year to year, and also week to week," said Theresa Clifford Dunlop, who owns Hogan's with her husband, Chet. "We're like a little oasis of what used to be in Connecticut."
In New Hampshire, White Mountain Cider Co. offers cider pressing demonstrations from Labor Day to Christmas, plus live jazz and dinner at its restaurant.
November ushers in the busy auction season, said 50-year veteran auctioneer Kit Martin, who runs the Townshend Auction Gallery in southern Vermont. "The winter months tend to be better for us," said Martin, whose auction house liquidates estates: china and pottery, jelly cupboards, clocks, oil portraits, and more.
Advice for first-time attendees? "Bring a lot of money," Martin chuckled. Once bidders find an item they really like, they should "decide what their top dollar is," he said. Visitors can inspect items during the auction preview. "If they've never been to an auction before, they better let someone else start the bidding, and before the hammer comes down jump right in."
Townshend Auction Gallery, Route 30, Townshend, Vt., 802-365-4388, townshendauctions.com. Auction Saturday 8:30 a.m.; preview Friday 2-5 p.m. Bob Arbuckle Auctions, 2350 Route 10, Chester, Vt., 802-875-5777, www.bobarbuckleauctions.com. Auction Saturday 6 p.m.; preview 4 p.m. Alburg Auction House, Lake Street, Alburg, Vt., 802-796-3572. Auction Saturday 2 p.m.-midnight; admission $1.
5 For one-of-a-kind gifts, search no further than Maine crafts shows. From 50 to 125 artisans sell their wares at three upcoming events in Augusta, Brewer, and Portland.
"A lot of shows are people from other states," said Laurie Kelley, administrator for the United Maine Craftsmen. "Because [ours has] all Maine craftspeople, [it's] all handcrafted Maine products." The 700-strong organization has been around since 1969, and some of the members have belonged for three decades. That means that the potters, jewelers, quilters, woodworkers, furniture makers, bird carvers, basket makers, and specialty food producers (who make pickles, jams, salsa, and fudge) know what they're doing.
United Maine Craftsmen, 207-621-2818, unitedmainecraftsmen.com. Nov. 10-11: 26th Augusta Arts & Crafts Show; Nov. 23-25: 33d Annual Thanksgiving Arts & Crafts Show (Brewer); Dec. 1-2: 30th Annual Holiday Arts & Crafts Show (Portland). Admission $1-$2.
6 "Established before you were born," reads the slogan on a sign outside Durgin Park, one of Boston's venerable institutions. For more than 130 years, diners have been served corn bread, Boston baked beans, broiled scrod, lobster, New England boiled dinners, and Indian pudding.
The unpretentious dining room with its tin ceiling and red-and-white checkered tablecloths attracts hordes of Faneuil Hall-bound tourists and locals looking for an informal bite. "How we doing here, kids?" asked a waitress in a Red Sox T-shirt on a recent visit. "What about dessert?"
But the coming cold weather calls loudest for clam and fish chowders - and Durgin Park's are made with half-and-half, butter, and (unlike New York-style chowders) nary a tomato in sight.
Durgin Park, 340 Faneuil Hall Market Place, 617-227-2038, durgin-park.com.
7 With shops open late, a window decorating contest, a live nativity scene, a cappella singing, Morris dancers, and an explosion of white lights adorning the seaport of Wickford, this Rhode Island village does its part to usher in Christmas for adults.
But the kids come for Santa, who shows up by neither air nor land, but by water. "Santa arrives on a boat surrounded by kayaks and a kayak parade," said Karla Driscoll, executive director of the North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce. "It's a different event. [It's] not going to the mall." Other activities include a tree lighting, hayrides, music, and breakfast with Santa.
8 Site of four old greenhouses, the Roger Williams Park Botanical Center opened in March. With a 45-foot-high conservatory and greenhouses stretching over 12,000 square feet, the complex is New England's largest public indoor display garden.
"The woman who did the design really thought about the diverse population in Providence," said Alix Ogden, Providence Parks superintendent, "so people have a personal connection to it." Amid the palms, bananas, lemon trees, carnivorous plants, cacti, and vanilla orchids, visitors from the Caribbean and South and Central America should feel right at home. For others, as the green fades outside, the center provides a welcome infusion of heat, steam, and chlorophyll.
Roger Williams Park Botanical Center, Elmwood Avenue, Providence, providenceri.com/botanical-center/; 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday- Sunday; adults $3, children $1.
9 Wintertime is prime time for the Snowflake Express, a one-hour excursion ascending Mount Washington to Upper Waumbek (elevation 4,000 feet). The cog railway is powered by a coal-fired steam engine, and the coaches are fully enclosed and heated. The views of the frosty mountainsides, with evergreens crusted with snow, can only be described as otherworldly.
Meanwhile, the Blackstone Valley Polar Express does its best to re-create Chris Van Allsburg's famed children's book. The 90-minute journey includes hot chocolate and cookies, a Christmas sing-a-long, and a visit from Mr. and Mrs. Claus.
Mount Washington Cog Railway Snowflake Express, Base Road off Route 302, Bretton Woods, N.H., 800-922-8825, thecog.com/winter_train. Weekends 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.; adults $31, children $26. Blackstone Valley Polar Express, Ann & Hope Outlet, Broad Street, Cumberland, R.I., 401-724-2200, tourblack stone.com/rail.htm. Nov. 4, 10, 11, 18; 10:45 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.; $29.50.
LET IT SNOW 10 "I don't care what the weather is," said Lou Grimaldi, president of the Connecticut Trolley Museum. "They come year after year after year."
What they come for is Winterfest, a holiday tradition since 1970: railroad fans riding six restored, century-old trolleys along a 1 1/2-mile stretch of the old Hartford and Springfield line, through a tunnel of some 6,000 colored lights. The "Sleigh" trolley is the most popular, Grimaldi said. It's one of only four built, with canted seating for alpine ascents. After the ride, visitors can check out the museum's model train and trolley displays, live music, refreshments, and gifts from Santa for the children.
Connecticut Trolley Museum, Route 140, East Windsor, Conn., 860-627-6540, ceraonline.org. Winterfest Nov. 23-Dec. 29, 5-9 p.m. Friday-Sunday only; adults $10, children $3-$6.
Ethan Gilsdorf, a freelance writer in Somerville, can be reached at ethan@ethan gilsdorf.com.