Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Horse-drawn wagon rides at The Rocks: A conversation with guide Nancy Czarny

One of the most-loved Christmastime activities at The Rocks Estate is the horse-drawn wagon rides through the farm. Teams of huge draft horses pull the wagons, visitors nestle under warm blankets, and a Rocks guide shares stories about the Estate's history, the Forest Society’s mission, and the work that goes into growing those neat rows of perfect Christmas trees.

Nancy Czarny has been volunteering as a Rocks guide for 19 years. Here’s her take on what makes The Rocks a magical place, and why she keeps coming back year after year…

How did you get started volunteering at The Rocks?
I had moved up from Connecticut and was looking for an outreach program of some sort. I saw an ad in the paper looking for people who wanted to go through volunteer training. I signed up, and it was great. I met a lot of new people. And working at The Rocks, with its conservation mission and education work, was a cause that I could really put my heart behind.

Nancy leads a tour with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen aboard.
Have you always been a wagon guide, or have you done other volunteer work, too?
When I started, we were doing lots of educational programs about Christmas trees with the local school kids, and I was involved in that. The children were so responsive, and I just loved the programs we were teaching. I’ve also done the educational piece of the Maple Experience program we do in the spring.

But my favorite thing to do at The Rocks is to be on the wagons during the holiday season. At first, I was a little shy about doing the tours, but once I got started, it was just really fun.

Do you have a script to follow, or does each guide have his or her own routine?
I think we all go off on our own little tangents. I have my own routine I’ve developed over the years.

I have people who have been on my wagon every Christmas season for years and years. So sometimes I ask them questions to see if they can remember the spiel. Or I ask if they’d rather sing Christmas carols, since they’ve heard it all before. But they always want to hear the wagon dialogue again.

One of the things I tell people, beyond the history of the Estate and how Christmas trees are grown, is how The Rocks ships mail order Christmas trees. Each tree is shipped in a seemingly ordinary cardboard box, but it’s lined to keep the tree fresh, and then you open the box and – spring! – there’s your Christmas tree. I send my sister in Florida a Rocks tree each year, and it’s like a little bit of Christmas magic.

What is the question you get asked most often by wagon riders?
Mostly, it’s the children who want to ask the teamsters questions about the horses. The teamsters are fabulous, and the horses are amazing!

Any wagon rides that stand out after 19 years of guiding?
Once I had a very small group, just two or three couples. We usually don’t let people off the wagon during the ride, but I’d been clued in ahead of time that something special was in the works. One couple asked if they could get down at the Sawmill/Pigpen building, which now houses the Maple Experience. They got down, and the man asked his girlfriend to marry him. She said yes. The other couples were their family and friends, so they popped out the champagne. And on the way back, the script went out the window!

I found out later the couple ended up getting married at The Rocks.

What keeps you coming back each year as a guide at The Rocks?
I think it’s just the happiness on the wagons. It gets me in the Christmas spirit. People are there to get the tree. It’s a happy family experience. It’s a time that they just enjoy. Along the way, they learn something about the Forest Society, about how Christmas trees are grown, what life was like back at the turn of the last century.

People are just happy on those wagons!

To find out more about what's happening at The Rocks this season, please visit us online, and stay tuned to our Blog... Our shops are now open daily, and the farm opens for cut-your-own and retail Christmas tree sales THIS weekend, Nov. 22!

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