What To Do: More attractions begin to open

By Denny Dyroff, Entertainment Editor, The Times

Wharton Esherick Museum

Like tulip bulbs that sit dormant for months and then start to emerge with renewed life each spring, events and attractions around the area are slowly starting to emerge after pandemic-required dormancy.

After being closed for several months because of the COVID-19 shutdowns, the Wharton Esherick Museum (1520 Horse Shoe Trail, Malvern, https://whartonesherickmuseum.org/) re-opened on September 17.

The Wharton Esherick Museum, which is located atop Valley Forge Mountain, is the home and studio of famed American artist Wharton Esherick.

The museum’s website posted this message –

“It is our mission to preserve, maintain, and exhibit the artistic creations of the late Wharton Esherick so that the general public may gain enjoyment, education, and inspiration from Esherick’s life work. We seek to act dynamically, connecting contemporary audiences to Esherick’s legacy and brilliant creations through diverse public programs and community partnerships.”

Esherick (1887-1970) was an internationally significant figure in the landscape of art history and American modern design. As a sculptor, Esherick worked primarily in wood and extended his unique forms to furniture, furnishings, interiors, buildings, and more. His motto, “If it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing,” is evident in the joyful expression of his work.

Now recognized as a leader of the Studio Furniture Movement, Esherick saw himself as an artist, not a craftsman, and his concern was with form, not technique. He pursued his artistic vision in forms that might turn to furniture or other sculptural furnishings. More importantly, these were but one aspect of his art complemented by the paintings, prints, drawings, poetry, and sculpture he also created.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Esherick studied drawing and printmaking at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art and painting at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. At the height of American Impressionism he and his wife, Letty, joined the flight of painters from the city to the countryside. They settled in an old farmhouse near semi-rural Paoli – with enough level land to grow their own food in the event the paintings didn’t sell.

His interest in wood began in 1920 with the carving of simple representational designs on frames for his paintings. This led to carving woodcuts – some 350 blocks and nine illustrated books – and carving on furniture. In the early 1920s he began sculpting in wood, then considered solely a craft medium. Gravitating towards direct carving and interior furnishings, Esherick had begun his lifelong exploration of the nature of wood and its dynamic material quality. By 1926 his sculpture was being exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and he turned to the construction, the expression in space, of his Studio.

Spanning the 50-year period from 1920 until his death in 1970, Esherick evolved from the organic forms of the Arts and Crafts period, through the sharp-edged crystalline shapes of Expressionism, to the curvilinear free-forms for which he is best known. He created furniture that would pass as sculpture, and sculpture that functioned as furniture, bridging the gap between art and craft. He welcomed commissions for one-of-a-kind furniture and interiors, not just for the income, but for the joy of creating new, exciting forms for everyday uses and developed long-lasting relationships with dedicated patrons along the way.

In 1940, Esherick presented a room of his work and furnishings at the New York World’s Fair, his first major exhibition. During his lifetime, Esherick was also honored with a Gold Medal from the New York Architectural League and, in 1958, the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York (now the Museum of Arts and Design) held a major retrospective of his work.

In 1972, not long after his passing, the Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. featured many Esherick pieces in the exhibition Woodenworks, introducing his work to a new generation of artists.

In addition to private commissions, Esherick’s work is represented nationally in the permanent collections of more than 20 major museums and galleries, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Art, Boston, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

The Wharton Esherick Museum, which is set on 12 wooded acres, features multiple buildings including Esherick’s Studio, which is now the centerpiece of the Museum. Esherick’s highly individual, hand-built Studio was constructed over a 40-year period beginning in 1926, incorporating Arts and Crafts, Expressionist, and organic designs.

Two years later, Esherick began his 1928 Expressionist garage, which is now the museum’s Visitor Center. In 1973, just one year after its official opening as a museum, the Studio was added to the National Register of Historic Places. In 1993, the Museum was designated a National Historic Landmark for Architecture.

Though not currently available for regular tours, Esherick’s 1956 Workshop, designed in collaboration with Louis Kahn, is also a part of our campus and a treasured piece of our landmark status. Additionally, Sunekrest, the 19th-century farmhouse where the Eshericks first lived on Valley Forge Mountain, was reacquired in 2014. The Museum is currently in the early stages of a campus planning process to explore how the farmhouse can be incorporated into the Museum experience.

The most recent addition to the museum’s campus is the Diamond Rock Schoolhouse. A Chester County landmark, this historic octagonal one-room schoolhouse located at the base of Diamond Rock Hill was an early painting studio for Esherick and is open to the public during select events.

Advance tickets are required, and tours are limited to a maximum of four people. Ticket prices are: $15, adults; $13, seniors 65+; $12, students; $8, children 5-12.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary (2027 Fairmount Ave, Philadelphia, www.easternstate.org) is always a spooky place to visit. Now, it has become even spookier with its new “Night Tour.”

Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, but stands today in ruin, a haunting world of crumbling cellblocks and empty guard towers.

Known for its grand architecture and strict discipline, this was the world’s first true “penitentiary,” a prison designed to inspire penitence, or true regret, in the hearts of prisoners.

A common link between Alcatraz and Eastern State is “Scarface.”

Eastern State Penitentiary’s vaulted, sky-lit cells once held many of America’s most notorious lawbreakers, including bank robber “Slick Willie” Sutton and Al Capone.

Alphonse “Scarface” Capone got his first taste of prison life in Philadelphia.

Capone stopped in Philadelphia while traveling from Atlantic City back to his home in Chicago in May 1929. He was arrested outside a movie theater for carrying a concealed, unlicensed .38 caliber revolver. The Philadelphia courts were tough.

They handed Capone the maximum sentence — one year in prison. Capone served seven months of that sentence in this cell.

But while the Philadelphia courts tried to make an example of Chicago’s famous bootlegger, the officials at Eastern State Penitentiary were very nice to Al Capone.

Philadelphia newspapers noted that Capone’s cell contained fine furniture, beautiful rugs, tasteful paintings, and a fancy radio. He liked to listen to waltzes in his cell.

The “Night Tour,” which is being presented from September 18-November 15, includes everything offered by day – and a lot more.

At night, the cell blocks fall into darkness and the penitentiary takes on a different energy — its imposing architecture emphasized by dramatic uplighting, its quiet stillness even more striking.

Even if you have visited Eastern State before, you’ve never had an experience like this.

Many of the programs available during the day are also offered at night, including “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, award-winning exhibits, and artist installations.

Additionally, some new activities will be available exclusively for the “Night Tour,” including two large-scale video projections on the interior of the penitentiary’s 30-foot-high perimeter walls.

A silent film shot at Eastern State Penitentiary in 1929, with flickering images of prisoners in the mess halls and officers patrolling the corridors, will play in the Cellblock 3 courtyard. In the Cellblock 7 courtyard, 20 animated short films that were created by incarcerated artists for Eastern State’s 2019 project Hidden Lives Illuminated will also be on view.

The lighting design for Night Tours will highlight the prison’s iconic, gothic architecture. Searchlights will sweep from the guard towers over the cellblocks and yards, just as they did when Eastern State was an active correctional facility.

At the moment, all tours are self-guided.

Visitors can pick up an audio guide and disposable earbuds on their way into the penitentiary. Once they have their audio guides, they will follow a linear, one-way path through the site to help ensure physical distancing.

First, they will learn about the penitentiary’s history with “The Voices of Eastern State” Audio Tour, which is narrated by actor Steve Buscemi. The main audio tour ends at The Big Graph and its climate-controlled companion exhibit “Prisons Today,” where visitors learn more about modern-day mass incarceration.

From there, participants can end their tour or continue to explore other one-way paths that feature additional audio stops, artist installations, and exhibits including large video projections exclusive to the “Night Tour.”

Tickets are $19 for Wednesday and Thursday nights, $26 for Fridays and Sundays and $32 for Saturdays.

If you want to expand your knowledge of 18th-century medicine and learn about the life of Jonathan Potts, you should check out the current exhibit at Pottsgrove Manor (100 West King Street, Pottstown, 610-326-4014, www.historicsites.montcopa.org) — but you better hurry.

Pottsgrove Manor’s exhibit “Physician, Patriot, Potts: An Exhibit on Dr. Jonathan Potts” is running now through September 27.

Pottsgrove Manor exemplifies the restrained elegance of early Georgian architecture popular with wealthy English gentry during the mid-18th century. Built in 1752 for John Potts, ironmaster and founder of Pottstown, the mansion was situated on a nearly 1,000 acre plantation, which by 1762 included the town of “Pottsgrove.”

As a successful ironmaster and merchant, John Potts, was appointed Justice of the Peace and Judge on the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas. He was elected to the Pennsylvania General Assembly from both Berks and Philadelphia Counties.
Although only four acres of original property remain today, Pottsgrove Manor has lost none of its original charm and architectural beauty. The sandstone exterior, elegant interior and fine furnishings reflect the eminence that the Potts family had attained before selling the property in 1783.

For this exhibit, Pottsgrove Manor has been transformed to tell the life story of Jonathan Potts, who was born in 1745 to John and Ruth Potts.

Potts dedicated his career to the study and practice of medicine.

Educated at some of the top medical schools of the 18th century, Potts graduated as valedictorian from the College of Philadelphia and set up his practice and apothecary shop in Reading. His convictions eventually lead him to join the patriot cause, which sent him to Fort Ticonderoga.

Potts organized the military army hospitals to prevent the spread of smallpox. Eventually, his leadership brought him back to Pennsylvania and the Valley Forge winter encampment in 1777-1778 as the Director of Hospitals in the Middle Department.

Interactive components in the exhibit will help connect everyone to Potts’ life and turning points for his journey.

Visitors can find Potts in a London coffeehouse as his educational path is disrupted. They can visit his busy doctor’s office and see original 18th-century medical objects on display. They will be able to join in the arguments in the Pennsylvania Assembly on the outbreak of war and discover the conditions faced while treating soldiers in military hospitals.

Participants can learn how Potts’ military experience impacted the rest of his short life and, with the help of immersive displays, reflect on his legacy. Documents and artifacts from Jonathan’s life—on loan from Fort Ticonderoga, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, the College of Physicians, a private collection, and more—will be on display throughout the museum. Also on display are letters, a hand-drawn map of Fort Ticonderoga, Potts’ dissertation, and the original daybook from his practice to connect with the struggles and triumphs that shaped his life.

Pottsgrove Manor is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. on Sundays. Admission fee is a suggested $2 donation.

The West Chester Railroad

The West Chester Railroad (Market Street Station, West Chester, 610-430-2233, www.westchesterrr.net) is running its special “Soldiers and Trains” excursion trips on September 20 at noon and 2:30 p.m.
Guests are invited to ride the rail line’s vintage train to Glen Mills where they can see reenactors showcasing soldiers in uniform from various eras and conflicts.

Riders will also be able to take a closer look at the different types of guns and equipment and how these items evolved through the years.

Billed as “a fun and informative trip for all ages,” the excursion is approximately two hours long.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for children (ages 2-12).

The Wilmington & Western Railroad (2201 Newport Gap Pike, Wilmington, Delaware, www.wwrr.com) is back up and running with the Mount Cuba Meteor excursion.

You can take a leisurely 1.5-hour round-trip ride up the Red Clay Valley to the Mt. Cuba Picnic Grove, where you’ll enjoy a 30-minute layover to have a picnic or simply admire the natural surroundings. The Mt. Cuba Meteor excursion is a relaxing way to spend an afternoon outside with family or friends.

This event is powered by one of the railroad’s historic first-generation diesel locomotives.

The New Hope & Ivyland Railroad (32 West Bridge St, New Hope, 215- 862-2332, www.newhoperailroad.com) officially re-opened on September 4.

Riders can enjoy a traditional American railroad experience on a heritage train, departing from the 1891 Witch’s Hat Train Station in New Hope, Pennsylvania. On the “Traditional Excursion,” passengers will take part in a 45-minute, round-trip train ride through scenic Bucks County on the “New Hope Branch” route, which was originally part of the North-East Pennsylvania Railroad, later the Reading Railroad.

Passengers will ride aboard beautifully restored vintage (early 1900’s) passenger coaches while a narrator will provide them with interesting historical facts and stories of significant cultural locations along the route. The train will travel to Lahaska, Pennsylvania where it will then change direction and return to New Hope.

A variety of seating options are available on the “Tradition Excursions” — “First Class Bar Car,” “Antique Seat Coach” or “Open Air Car.”

Coach tickets are $23.99 for adults, $21.99 for children (ages 2-11) and $4.99 for toddlers.

This is a big weekend at the Strasburg Railroad (Route 741, Strasburg, 717-687-7522, www.strasburgrailroad.com).

The tourist rail line is running its regular trains as it has been since the beginning of August. More importantly, it is hosting its “Day Out With Thomas” event on September 18.

There is a mutual love affair between kids and Thomas the Tank Engine which is especially evident when Thomas gets up-close and personal with his fans during his visits to the Strasburg Railroad.

Every year, the steam locomotive named Thomas makes several visits to Lancaster County where he entertains enthusiastic children and their parents.

For more than 50 years, Thomas the Tank Engine and his Island of Sodor friends have been favorites of preschoolers and their parents. Based on “The Railway Series” (classic stories authored by a father who loved trains and wanted a shared experience with his son), “Thomas & Friends” has evolved into a rite of passage that inspires imagination.

Fans will be able to get personal with Thomas the Tank Engine, a full-sized operating steam locomotive who will be talking for the first time ever. And, they will also be able to ride a train pulled by Thomas and meet the locomotive’s buddy Percy.

The tourist rail line’s regular excursion train rides are 45-minutes in length (4.5 miles east and 4.5 miles returning west on the same track).

Tickets are $15.50 for adults and $8.50 for children (ages 2-11). Tickets for “Ride With Thomas” are $13.50 for everyone.

While in Strasburg, rail enthusiasts can also visit Choo Choo Barn – Traintown U.S.A. (226 Gap Rd, Route 741 East, Strasburg, https://www.choochoobarn.com/).

Visitors to Choo Choo Barn – Traintown U.S.A. can observe one of America’s largest custom model train displays. Choo Choo Barn features more than 1,700 square feet of special model train displays with more than 150 hand-built animated figures and vehicles, and 22 operating trains.

The layout represents many Lancaster sights and sounds, such as an authentic Amish barn raising, Dutch Wonderland and the Strasburg Railroad.

During peak periods, the staff may need to limit the number of families inside the layout. This may require you to wait outside until enough space clears. Our sidewalk is covered in the event of rain. During peak periods, the site may limit the number of trips around the layout to one.

Admission is $8.50 for adults and $5 for children (ages 3-11).

This weekend, it’s time for the Tailgating Festival at Kitchen Kettle Village (3529 Old Philadelphia Pike, Intercourse, 800-732-3538, http://www.kitchenkettle.com) and the focus will be on food with a variety of homemade tailgate foods — salsas, pickles, burgers, dips, salads and delectable drinks.

On September 18 and 19, Kitchen Kettle Village will come alive with themed scarecrows, pumpkins and corn shocks. Every year Kitchen Kettle Village pays tribute to tailgating season with a two-day food festival filled with delicious and fun events.

This year, there will be “Frontline Heros” themed scarecrows throughout the village and visitors will be able to vote for their favorites.

The schedule for September 18 is:

10am-3pm – Enjoy a selection of locally grown fruits & vegetables from Cherry Hill Orchards

10am-2pm – Pumpkin Painting & Pumpkin Succulent Planting for kids & adults at Perfect Pots ($)

11am-1pm – Nick DiSanto, the One-Man Band, performing at the top of the Village

Noon-2pm – Enjoy the antics of strolling entertainer Geist

11:30am-2:30pm – The Rampart Street Ramblers performing at the stage area

All Day – Find a delicious selection of tailgate themed foods and beverages at the food shops & eateries in the Village

All Day – Discover our many First Responders & Frontline Heroes themed scarecrows displayed throughout the Village created by local shops in the Village. Vote for your favorite as part of our annual scarecrow competition!

All Day – Purchase a special gift certificate for a frontline hero as part of our September promotion with 10% of the gift certificate sales going to the Gordonville Fire & EMS

The schedule for September 19 is:

10am-3pm – Enjoy a selection of locally grown fruits & vegetables from Cherry Hill Orchards

10am-2pm – Pumpkin Painting & Pumpkin Succulent Planting for kids & adults at Perfect Pots ($)

10:30am-4pm – Coffee and cider station outside The Harvest Cafe. Purchase coffee & Kauffman’s locally made apple cider

11am-1pm – Enjoy the sounds of the Dixieland Band performing at the stage area

11am-1pm – Nick DiSanto, the One Man Band, performing at the top of the Village

1pm-3pm – Balloon twisting for the kids with the “Balunguy”

2pm-5pm – Summit Hill Bluegrass Band performing at the stage area

All Day – Find a delicious selection of tailgate themed foods and beverages at the food shops & eateries in the Village

All Day – Discover our many First Responders & Frontline Heroes themed scarecrows displayed throughout the Village created by local shops in the Village. Vote for your favorite as part of our annual scarecrow competition!

All Day – Purchase a special gift certificate for a frontline hero as part of our September promotion with 10% of the gift certificate sales going to the Gordonville Fire & EMS.

Admission to the festival is free.

Another interesting event in Lancaster County this weekend will be the RV Show at Clipper Magazine Stadium (650 North Prince Street, Lancaster, https://www.lancasterbarnstormers.com/rv-show/) which is running through September 20.

RV dealers from around the state will have exhibits at the annual show, which runs from 10 a.m.-7 p.m. each day. There will be 11 manufacturers with over 50 brands. More than 250 RV units will be on display.

Guests are required to purchase tickets in advance and choose a date and time slot to ensure appropriate social distancing.

Admission is $5 and with each ticket purchased you will receive a $5 concessions voucher good for food/drink at the event.

Your ticket will be assigned for a three-hour time period and you should plan to arrive during the first hour of your time period. You do not need to leave during the final hour of your timed ticket if you are still enjoying the RV Show.

Purchasing tickets in advance is the only way to guarantee entrance to the event. If you choose to wait to purchase a ticket until the day of your visit, you will likely have to wait until the show’s management is able to admit more individuals into the event.

The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire (Mount Hope Estate and Winery grounds, Route 72, Cornwall, 717-665-7021, www.parenfaire.com) has found a way to open despite the restrictions caused by dangers posed by the coronavirus.

The Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire

This year’s 40th annual staging of the event, which bills itself as “the most wondrous event in all the Knowne World”, is being staged – COVID-19 pandemic or not. It is running now through November 1.

The 2020 Faire, which features “Admission By Advance Tickets Only,” posted this message –

Capacity restrictions will be in place and all event tickets will be by reservation only in advance through the Online Box Office and will be date specific. No tickets will be sold on site the day of the event. No exceptions.

The Faire’s “Safety Care Measures” are the standard – wear masks, maintain social distancing, wash your hands every 20 minutes, use disposable food utensils, and no smoking in the audience areas.

Every summer, the Faire, which takes place at Mount Hope Estate and Winery’s authentic 35-acre recreation of a 16th-century village in Olde England, features a new story from a different year of England’s past.

Without a doubt, the most popular attraction is the Jousting Arena. Visitors to the Faire flock to Bosworth Field whenever it’s time for the Ultimate Joust. Peasants lead cheers for their favorite knights while musicians pound out a heart-thumping beat. The Master of the List announces the combatants and soon an encounter of royal proportions ensues.

The Faire offers a wide variety of activities for visitors, including listening to bagpipe music, checking out handsome Lords in their colorful silks, watching a jester’s acrobatics, learning how to juggle, being the recipient of a gypsy woman’s flirtations and watching the march of Beefeater Guards.

Guildsmen’s Way is the area that features a large variety of merchants and artisans, including jewelers, candle makers, potters, herbalists, leather smiths, clothiers, and pewter makers — all offering for sale and demonstrating their ancient wares.

The Faire also featured themed weekends.

This weekend’s theme is “Wizarding & Time Travelers,” which is scheduled for September 19 and 20 from 11 a.m.-8 p.m. both days.

The soothsayers have foreseen a chronological convergence of time travelers, magicians, doctors, wizards, treckers of the stars, the steam-punkified, slayers and many more fictions of science as this weekend enchants all visitors to the Shire.

Featured events for “Wizarding & Time Travelers” weekend are “Nipperkins Costume Exhibition,” “Adult Costume Competition,” “Adult Horcrux Hunt” (Ages 18+), “Kids Horcrux Scavenger Hunt,” and “Tardis Reveal.”

Tickets are $29.95 General Admission; $15.95 Children (5-11); Children 4 and Under Free, No Ticket Required.

Back in February, the Wells Fargo Center (3601 South Broad Street, Philadelphia, https://www.wellsfargocenterphilly.com) hosted the “Jurassic World Live Tour.”

Now, the prehistoric animals are returning to Philadelphia – returning to the Wells Fargo Center…almost.

Jurassic Quest’s Philadelphia event was originally scheduled to be held in the parking lot at the Greater Philadelphia Expo Center in Oaks. Then, the promoters opted for a change.

As a result, “Jurassic Quest Drive-Thru” has been relocated to the parking lot of the Wells Fargo Center. The “Drive-Thru” is being held now through September 20.

Jurassic Quest is North America’s largest and most realistic Dinosaur event. Jurassic Quest is the only interactive dinosaur event that has true to life-size animatronic dinosaurs. In collaboration with leading paleontologists, each dinosaur has been painstakingly replicated in every detail. Whether their prehistoric counterpart had skin that was scaly, had feathers or fur, Jurassic Quest has spared no expense in bringing the dinosaurs to life.

The new JQ Drive-Thru version of the show features more than 70 life-like dinosaurs including the very popular T. rex, Spinosaurus and Triceratops. Jurassic Quest’s herd of animatronic dinos are displayed in realistic scenes that allow guests to experience them roaring and moving from their own vehicles as they drive their way through the tour.

Baby dinosaurs greet guests and bring big smiles to explorers of all ages. During the Drive-Thru experience, guests are guided by an engaging and informative digital audio tour featuring show entertainers and dino wranglers that lasts about an hour. Guests stay in their cars throughout the tour with limited contact, if any, with staff who wear masks, social distance, and follow all state and local guidelines regarding health and safety.

To further ensure the safety of patrons and staff, all equipment and workstations undergo regular sanitization throughout the show. All attendees receive a free, safari-style family photo in their vehicles set against a dinosaur backdrop as a memento of their experience.

Ticket prices start at $49 per vehicle.

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