From fair to fantastic: Memorial Hall Museum exhibit shows how Green River Festival blossomed over 37 years

Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and Signature Sounds are presenting a history of Green River Festival, the region’s largest and most popular musical event. The exhibit is on display through June 16. An opening celebration on Saturday, May 11, from noon to 2 p.m. will include music, food trucks, beer and door prizes.

Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and Signature Sounds are presenting a history of Green River Festival, the region’s largest and most popular musical event. The exhibit is on display through June 16. An opening celebration on Saturday, May 11, from noon to 2 p.m. will include music, food trucks, beer and door prizes. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and Signature Sounds are presenting a history of Green River Festival, the region’s largest and most popular musical event. The exhibit is on display through June 16. An opening celebration on Saturday, May 11, from noon to 2 p.m. will include music, food trucks, beer and door prizes.

Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and Signature Sounds are presenting a history of Green River Festival, the region’s largest and most popular musical event. The exhibit is on display through June 16. An opening celebration on Saturday, May 11, from noon to 2 p.m. will include music, food trucks, beer and door prizes. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

A view of the display at Memorial Hall.

A view of the display at Memorial Hall. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

The Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and Signature Sounds are presenting a history of Green River Festival, the region’s largest and most popular musical event. The exhibit is on display through June 16. An opening celebration on Saturday, May 11, from noon to 2 p.m. will include music, food trucks, beer and door prizes.

The Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and Signature Sounds are presenting a history of Green River Festival, the region’s largest and most popular musical event. The exhibit is on display through June 16. An opening celebration on Saturday, May 11, from noon to 2 p.m. will include music, food trucks, beer and door prizes. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and Signature Sounds are presenting a history of Green River Festival, the region’s largest and most popular musical event. The exhibit is on display through June 16. An opening celebration on Saturday, May 11, from noon to 2 p.m. will include music, food trucks, beer and door prizes.

Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association and Signature Sounds are presenting a history of Green River Festival, the region’s largest and most popular musical event. The exhibit is on display through June 16. An opening celebration on Saturday, May 11, from noon to 2 p.m. will include music, food trucks, beer and door prizes. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 05-10-2024 3:15 PM

In anticipation of Green River Festival in June, the Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association (PVMA) and former festival operator Signature Sounds are presenting a history of the region’s largest and most popular musical event.

With a trove of photographs, posters from every year of the show, videos, music and more, folks are invited to experience the history of Green River Festival and watch its evolution from a small fair to the huge spectacle it is today. An opening celebration is slated for Saturday, May 11 from noon to 2 p.m.

The exhibition is open from May 11 through June 16 at Memorial Hall Museum, 8 Memorial St., when it will then be moved to its final location at the 38th annual Green River Festival from June 21 through 23. 

Memorial Hall Museum is open on weekends in May and then every day, except for Mondays, in June from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission to Memorial Hall is free.

“History doesn’t stop, it keeps going,” Memorial Hall Museum Curator Ray Radigan said, adding the museum has several items from the modern era, such as a COVID-19 vaccine vial, in its collection. “Even though things like the Green River Festival are largely contemporary, they are still a significant part of our regional history.”

For the exhibit, Radigan said they’ve broken up the major aspects of the festival – the music/artists, the non-musical performances, arts and craft vendors and, of course, the weather – and examined how those things have changed as the festival, and eventually, the venue changed.

“We looked at how the festival has changed over time … and blossomed into the premiere arts and music festival of New England,” Radigan said. “The origins were very humble and uncertain.”

Adding on to the idea of covering contemporary history alongside PVMA’s vast array of historical artifacts, Radigan said items such as festival posters, memorabilia, and Greenfield Recorder articles will one day become historical artifacts of their own, and PVMA’s goal in gathering modern items is to preserve them before their stories are lost.

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Art and music, he added, are an integral part of interesting history.

“I’m always trying to get things before they’ve been in someone’s basement or attic for 100 years,” Radigan said. “It’s a challenge to get people to see things from their own lives or the previous generation’s lives as historical … we are living through as significant a time as anyone else.”

“The objects of our lives will be collected one day, so why wait?” he added.

For the opening celebration on May 11, Radigan said the museum is trying to “capture a bit of that festival atmosphere.” The museum welcomes the public for a free event featuring live music from the Fiddle Orchestra of Western Mass., Berkshire Brewing Company beer and a food truck. 

Folks are invited, weather permitting, to bring blankets and lawn furniture and enjoy a nice, free day outside in the sun. If it rains, the celebration will be moved indoors.

Along with the music, food and beer, door prizes will also be given away with the top prize being weekend passes to this year’s Green River Festival. Local businesses, including Richardson’s Candy Kitchen, Green Fields Market and Tree House Brewing Co. have also donated gift cards and items to be given away.

For more information about PVMA, visit its website at deerfield-ma.org. For more information about Green River Festival, visit Greenriverfestival.com.

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com or 413-930-4081.