Let The Good Times Roll, With Two Types of Horsepower
There are two ways to think about vehicles: as purely functional modes of transportation, or as beautiful, even sensual, means of conveyance that get you from here to there in style. Lucky are those who adhere to the latter sentiment, as this weekend they can enjoy two neighboring events that celebrate horsepower, both literal and the four-cylinder engine variety.
In a serendipitous fluke of scheduling, Orleton Farm in Stockbridge holds its 14th Annual Pleasure Driving Show on Friday, June 15 through Sunday, June 17, the same dates as the 2nd Annual Berkshire British Motorcar Festival rolls into the Lenox campus of Shakespeare & Company. Aficionados of classic cars and antique carriages will already have these dates marked on their calendars but the casual spectator is also in for a treat.
History goes hand-in-hand with sport at Orleton Farm. The estate was built in 1901 by Mary Stokes Waller’s great-grandfather, and while the house is imposing enough, it is the barns, horses, and carriage collection that are spectacular. Mary and her husband, Harvey Waller, are not only caretakers of an unrivaled carriage collection; they keep the tradition of carriage driving, and the carriages themselves, alive by regularly participating in competitions.
Mary (taking a spin, above) has spent her life around horses, at first competing in jumpers. After she had her children, she changed course. “I’d done it all,” she says. “And the horse world was changing. The true horseman was obsolete, and it wasn’t good for the horse.” She abandoned the show world and took up carriage driving.
“Open the doors!” she commands during a tour of the barns. “Climb in! Sit in the carriage! Feel this leather! Look at the detail!”
During the weekend, visitors can do just that as they tour multiple barns that house a collection of more than 40 historic and meticulously maintained carriages: phaetons, breaks, park drags, rumble seat baskets and sleighs, even two rare Bugattis. Some she inherited from her family, but, she explains, “A lot of very special carriages happened to come on the market at the time I started to build the collection.”
Not to be missed is Old Times, a public road coach built in London in 1886. Peas Pottage, Crawley, Friars Oak, Cuckfield: the names on the door panels indicate the towns and inns where the coach would dispatch or pick up travelers. Today Old Times is used in driving competitions.
In addition, more than 70 competitors from as far away as Canada and Virginia will arrive with their own carriages to compete in a range of classes including dressage, cones, and cross-country. During the dressage and cones classes on Friday, drivers will attempt to thread the horses and carriage around a course defined by cones placed just slightly farther apart than the wheels of the carriage. The cross-country phase puts the horse, carriage, and driver through a series of obstacles, including a water hazard. Some of the competition and exhibition driving includes drivers and grooms in full livery dress.
In Lenox, Britannia rules, as the 2nd Annual Berkshire British Motorcar Festival celebrates Jaguars, Rolls, Bentleys, and Morgans, to name just a few of the many models that will be on display and on the roads as they tour the country byways over the course of the weekend.
Michael Gaetano, organizer of the Berkshire British Motorcar Festival, expects more than 300 vintage British-made automobiles, including some “really exceptional cars.” Gaetano is particularly excited about an Aston MartinDB4 and a Jaguar SS100 from the collection of Jim Taylor of Gloversville, NY.
While some participants may trailer their vintage automobiles to the show grounds at Shakespeare & Co., many will drive them to Lenox, giving fellow motorists and pedestrians a chance to ogle and admire. Gaetano envisions the weekend as “a complete British lifestyle event, complete with food, music, jewelry and clothes” – a nod to the wives, in what, for reasons unknown, remains a male-dominated hobby.
The motorcar festival is not a sport, but the cars sure are sporty, steeped in a longing for times past. Genteel pleasures such as a drive in the country (an experience jeopardized by today’s gas prices) will be re-created as a caravan of cars will tour the area on Sunday morning, followed by a tailgate picnic in which entrants will compete for the most creative themed-meal scenarios.
Historic, rare, and valuable, but not moldering away in a garage somewhere, and not gathering dust; anachronistic as they may be, all these vehicles, horse-drawn or motorized, are the ideal blend of form and function. One need not be in the driver’s seat to appreciate their beauty. — Tara Kelly
Orleton Farm Pleasure Driving Show
31 Prospect Hill Road, Stockbridge
Friday – Sunday, June 15 – 17
Admission: $5; free for children under 5
Family wagon rides and tours of the carriage collection on Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Berkshire British Motorcar Festival
Shakespeare & Co., 70 Kemble St., Lenox
Friday – Sunday, June 15 -17
General admission: $15 for a two-day pass
Both events will happen rain or shine.
Motorcar photos by Dr. Robert Doyle.