2024 Calendar of Events

Welcome to Wethersfield Historical Society’s 2024 Calendar of Events page. The following list is essentially a “save the date” guide for 2024. Check back often as information about specific events will be updated as it becomes available. We look forward to seeing you at many, if not all, of our program events this year.

ON VIEW NOW
Wet Your Whistle: A History of Wethersfield Through Beverage

Through many periods of history, beverages played an important role in the lives of Wethersfield residents. Agriculture and trade played a role in both the production of drinks and the economy of the Wethersfield area. A variety of beverages influenced the social life of residents, as more families chose to entertain their guests and bought into consumerism. As social as drinking was, it led to the exchange of ideas and information, and held influence over current events, fashion, politics and debates. This would lead to reform movements, such as temperance and prohibition. Immigration and migration played a large role in the popularity of certain beverages as new residents brought with them new drink preferences. The influence of national and international politics and economics on Wethersfield beverage consumption had a lasting effect on our community. A special thank you to Glastonbury Historical Society for loaning objects for the exhibit, and to Bob Herron, Rocky Hill Historian, for providing research materials to the project.
This exhibit is supported in part by a grant from the Robert Allan Keeney Memorial Fund, and the Wethersfield Community Fund at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, and from the generous support of Mike and Joan Munroe.
The Wethersfield Museum is located in the the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center (200 Main Street, Wethersfield, CT) and is open Tues. – Sat., 10-4, Sun. 1-4. Gallery admission is free to all, but donations are gratefully accepted.

MARCH

Friday, March 1, 7pm, Wet Your Whistle Lecture Series
The Spell of Alcohol: Witches, Women, and the Curious History of Brewing in Wethersfield and Beyond with Stephen Olbrys Gencarella

The Wet Your Whistle Lecture Series continues with Dr. Stephen Gencarella presenting The Spell of Alcohol: Witches, Women, and the Curious History of Brewing in Wethersfield and Beyond. This public lecture examines the rich folklore of alcohol and witchcraft, with a special emphasis on the relationship between witches and women in beer brewing. It explains—and debunks—a recent popular notion that witches and alewives had a very close historical connection in Europe, and explore the roots of that erroneous claim here in New England. The talk also introduces the strangely intertwined notions of witchcraft, brewing, and the traditional role of women in the region, especially during the Connecticut witchcraft panic, which included Wethersfield and the surrounding area. Finally, this talk provides an overview of the changes regarding gender following shifting immigration patterns and the involvement of local women in movements for social reform.

Stephen Olbrys Gencarella is a professor of folklore studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where his research focuses on the culture and legends of New England. Dr. Gencarella received a joint Ph.D. from the Departments of Folklore and Communication and Culture from Indiana University. He has written three books and several articles on regional folklore. He also teaches a class on the global folklore of alcohol and is a lifetime member of the Alcohol and Drugs History Society. He has served as the resident folklorist of the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, CT, and researched and wrote the script for an exhibit in 2018 entitled The Thirsty River: 400 Years of Drink, Life, and Reform in the Connecticut River Valley. He is the secretary of the CT Eastern Regional Tourism District and lives in Lyme,

The lecture will be held in the ballroom of The Keeney Memorial Cultural Center (200 Main Street, Wethersfield). Admission is $10 for the general public and free to current members of Wethersfield Historical Society.

 

Friday, March 15, 7pm, Wet Your Whistle Lecture Series
Gossip, Slander, and Rumors:
Coffeehouses, Coffee, and Global Empires
with Dr. Tyler Kynn

Coffee has a unique history for its place as initially a non-colonial product from the Ottoman Middle East and its role in transforming Middle Eastern and European culture as coffeehouses became centers of politics and revolutions. This talk outlines the history of coffee and its origins in the Middle East, the rise of the Coffeehouse, and the eventual colonization of the coffee plant as the popularity of the drink transformed the world in the 17thand 18th centuries.

Dr. Tyler Kynn is an assistant professor in the History Department at Central Connecticut State University with a specialty in the history of the Ottoman Empire, the Islamic World, and Digital History. Dr. Kynn received his Ph.D. in History from Yale University and his MA in History from Central European University. He is also the co-creator of the educational game, The Hajj Trail, which introduces students to the cultural history of the seventeenth-century Ottoman Empire.

The lecture will be held in the ballroom of The Keeney Memorial Cultural Center (200 Main Street, Wethersfield). Admission is $10 for the general public and free to current members of Wethersfield Historical Society.

Friday, March 22, 7pm, Wet Your Whistle Lecture Series
What the Wangunk drank: A history of beverages among the Indigenous people of Wethersfield with Katherine Hermes

This lecture will focus on the various liquids Native people drank, from water to teas, to alcohol. The importance of the natural environment in providing sustenance and medicine will be discussed. The European introduction of alcohol into Native communities, conflicts with the colonists over alcohol, and temperance movements that emerged in the 18th century among Indigenous people will also be explored.

Katherine Hermes is the publisher and executive director of Connecticut Explored, Inc. She received her J.D. from Duke University School of Law, and her Ph.D. in Colonial American history from Yale University. She is professor emerita at Central Connecticut State University in the History Department, where she served as department chair and taught courses on Anglo-American legal history and Native Americans of the Eastern Woodlands, as well as other courses in Early America. She is the co-author of several articles and book chapters on Native American history in New England and the author of book chapters on Native legal history.

The lecture will be held in the ballroom of The Keeney Memorial Cultural Center (200 Main Street, Wethersfield). Admission is $10 for the general public and free to current members of Wethersfield Historical Society.

 

APRIL

Artwork courtesy of Phil Lohman

Saturday, April 6, 7:00 pm, (Patron Hour 6:00 pm)
XVI Annual Taste of Wethersfield

Photo by Ben Jordan

The XVI Annual Taste of Wethersfield benefit returns on Saturday, April 6th from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at The Keeney Memorial Cultural Center, 200 Main Street, Wethersfield. The Keeney Center comes alive with the flavors and aromas of the area’s finest food and drink.

Long-time “Taste” favorites, the Hot Cat Jazz Band, are again on hand to provide the evening’s soundtrack. The process of “Taste” remains the same: Attendees pay one admission and can try offerings from several local restaurants, caterers, breweries, and wine vendors, all under one roof. Samples of signature dishes and beverages are available at every station. All your local favorites will be there with many more additions arriving daily. Throughout the evening, a silent auction is conducted, offering guests the opportunity to bid on unique goods and services from local vendors.

“Taste” is a party for those 21 and over only. Tickets go on sale March 1 online and in-person at the Old Academy. Purchased in advance, tickets are $35. At the door on the night of the event, the price jumps to $40. A $75 “Patron” ticket entitles the bearer to early admission (6:00 pm) with full access to all food and drink, as well as entry in an exclusive Patron drawing. ($35 of each “Patron” ticket purchased is tax deductible).

Friday, April 12, 7pm, Wet Your Whistle Lecture Series
Wine in America:
Cultivating New Vines and Palates with Dr. Rachel Black

For many European colonists and missionaries in North America, wine was an important part of their cultural identity. It was part of religious ceremonies, it was seen as beneficial to health, and it was considered a nourishing part of a meal. However, bringing wine to America and cultivating European grapes was not a simple matter. The harsh climate in many areas and diseases such as phylloxera decimated imported grape stock.  Colonists deemed early attempts to make wine from native grapes a failure. Imported fortified wines such as Madeira were considered the first ‘American Wines’. It was not until the development of vineyards in the nineteenth century in California that the American wine began to take root. This history tells a complex story of ongoing relations with Europe, European identities, and a developing American taste for wine. Beginning with how wine became a part of agriculture in the United States, this talk looks at wine’s current place at the American table.

Rachel E. Black is an associate professor of Anthropology and chair of the Anthropology Department at Connecticut College. Her research focuses on issues of food and wine in Italian and French culture. Prof. Black co-edited a collection of essays on the Anthropology of wine, Wine and Culture: From Vineyard to Glass (Bloomsbury, 2013). Her last book Cheffes de Cuisine: Women and Work in the Professional French Kitchen (University of Illinois Press, 2021) is an investigation of the challenges that women face in the male-dominated field of French cuisine. Black is currently writing an ethnographic novel about the impacts of climate change and the power of cooperative agriculture and love to save a way of life in a wine-producing village in Northern Italy.

MAY

Tuesday, May 14, 5:30 pm Reception,
6:30 pm Dinner, 7:30 pm Meeting
WHS Annual Meeting

This year’s Annual Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 14 at 7:30pm. Traditionally, this meeting is preceded by a reception at 5:30 pm and a catered dinner at 6:30 pm. The costs are covered by ticket sales and will be posted as they become available. Members hear reports on the state of the society and its future plans as well as elect Governing and Advisory Board members. Also, inductees to the WHS Volunteer Hall of Fame are recognized.

Saturday, May 25, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm
Heritage Weekend: History Day for Families

Watch the Memorial Day Parade from the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center and stick around to see the Second Continental Light Dragoons, Sheldon’s Horse return for demonstrations of horsemanship and 18th century military training. The Hurlbut-Dunham House opens early at 10:00 am on Saturday and our Cove Warehouse Maritime Museum at Cove Park will be open 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.

JULY

Originally in jeopardy due to insufficient grant funding, this year’s Keeney Koolers Concert Series will take place as usual thanks to the generosity of two magnanimous donors. While disaster was narrowly averted this year, it only serves to highlight the society’s need for generous community support if it’s to continue its mission  to “preserve and promote Wethersfield’s history and culture to inspire people today and tomorrow”. If you haven’t done so already, please consider becoming a member or making a donation in support of the society’s educational and cultural programming. Please visit the Donations page on the society’s website here and give electronically. If you’d prefer to give by check, make it payable to Wethersfield Historical Society and mail to:

Wethersfield Historical Society
150 Main Street
Wethersfield, CT 06109

Corporate sponsorship opportunities are available for all three shows. Email the office at society@wethersfieldhistory.org for more information.

Past performers have included Mass-Conn-Fusion, Ed Fast & Conga Bop, The Patty Tuite Group, and everybody’s favorite Beatles tribute Band Number Nine.

Tuesday, July 16, 6:30 pm
Keeney Koolers I: Mass-Conn-Fusion

Mass-Conn-Fusion performing at 2022’s Keeney Koolers

Tuesday, July 23, 6:30 pm
Keeney Koolers II: TBA

Tuesday, July 30, 6:30 pm
Keeney Koolers III: Number Nine

Number Nine performing on Keeney Koolers

 

OCTOBER

Saturday, October 5, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
42nd Annual Old Wethersfield Arts & Crafts Fair

The Old Wethersfield Arts & Crafts Fair returns to Cove Park for the 42nd time on Saturday, October 5 from 10 am to 4 pm. Join over 90 juried artisans and vendors for a unique shopping experience! All proceeds from this event directly support Wethersfield Historical Society and its mission. Advanced tickets: $7 and go on sale September 1, 2024. Purchased at the gate, admission is $10. Current members of Wethersfield Historical Society and children under 12 accompanied by an adult are admitted free of charge.

 

Friday, October 11 & Saturday, October 12, 6:30 pm
(Third evening of performances to be announced)
15th Annual Old Wethersfield Lantern Light Tours

Old Wethersfield Lantern Light Tours return for the 15th time on Friday, October 11, Saturday, October 12, and this year due to popular demand, the society will be adding a third evening of performances, the date of which has yet to be determined. Tours start at 6:30 pm and depart every 15 minutes from the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center (200 Main Street, Wethersfield) until 8:00 pm. Tours progress through the historic Hurlbut-Dunham House, First Church, and the Ancient Burying Ground and meet fascinating figures from Wethersfield’s past along the route. This year’s theme is “Drinks” and features stories of Wethersfield families who produced, sold, or opposed the sale of beverages.

Tickets are $25 per person and go on sale September 8. They can be purchased on line or at the society’s offices in the Old Academy.

Saturday, October 26, 7:00 pm – 10:30 pm (Patron Hour 6 pm) 3rd Annual Witch of Blackbird Pond Ball

The Witch of Blackbird Pond Ball magically reappears in the Keeney Memorial Cultural Center on Saturday, October 26 from 7 pm – 10:30 pm. A 21-and-over event, the Ball features local refreshments, music, dancing, cocktails, potions, and other spellbinding activities!  This year opens with a patron hour at 6:00 pm. Tickets go on sale September 15th. Patrons: $100 per person. General admission: $75. All proceeds support WHS’ educational programming.

DECEMBER

Saturday, December 7 & Sunday, December 8, 1 pm – 4 pm
Saturday, December 14 & Sunday, December 15, 1 pm – 4 pm
Hurlbut-Dunham House Decorated for the Holidays

Wethersfield Historical Society opens the Hurlbut-Dunham House for free tours the first two weekends in December. The house has been festively decorated for the holidays and ready to celebrate a Victorian Christmas. The house will be open from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm on Saturdays (December 7 and 14) and Sundays (December 8 and 15). The historic Hurlbut-Dunham House is located at 212 Main Street in Wethersfield.