Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Rocks Estate volunteer Sam Chase: Sharing sugaring secrets and history for 19 years

Hands-on maple learning with a Rocks Estate volunteer.
During any trip to The Rocks Estate – whether to find a perfect Christmas tree in December, discover the secrets of maple sugaring in March, or simply walk along the trails in any season – visitors are bound to learn something new. And if you visit during one of our programs, like the New Hampshire Maple Experience, our dedicated corps of volunteers will be there to guide your discovery.

One of our volunteers is Sam Chase, of Whitefield, NH. Sam discovered The Rocks in his retirement, and for the past 19 years he’s been sharing his knowledge about the history and process of maple sugaring, along with tidbits about the intriguing history of The Rocks Estate, and the Glessner family who built the Estate back in the late 1800s.

What keeps a volunteer coming back each season for nearly two decades? Read on to find out, in Sam’s words.

How did you get started as a volunteer at The Rocks?
I’ve been a guide at The Rocks since about 1994. During Christmas tree season, I’m a guide on the wagons. For the Maple Experience, I do the inside presentation on the history of maple sugaring.
There was a course offered at The Rocks back then, a general science course offered by The Rocks and Fish & Game. I’d retired and didn’t have much to do, and I was interested in the outdoors. If you agreed to volunteer for so many programs, they didn’t charge for the course. I’ve been volunteering ever since with The Rocks, and also with Fish & Game to do a series of programs they have aimed at 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders in the area.

What has inspired you to keep coming back to The Rocks year after year?
I think The Rocks is just a great place to begin with. The whole setting is a lot of fun – the volunteers that work there, and Nigel (Manley, who manages the Estate). I guess that’s a big a part of going back.
One fun part about being involved as a volunteer is being able to tell people about the history of The Rocks. I think the whole thing and the way it got started in the late 1800s by the Glessner family and how it’s still going today is just really interesting.
I went to Chicago a few years back, and we saw Glessner’s place there and could tie it into here. His house is still there, on Prairie Avenue, which used to be “Millionaires’ Row.” They saved a lot of the furnishings and they had mapped it all and so could put it back the way it was when the Glessners lived there.

(To learn more about the history of The Rocks and the Glessner family, check out the history page of our website.)

Do you see return visitors at the Maple Experience each season?
Yes, and during the winter, too. I have people who have been coming back for 10 or 15 years, lots of family groups. We go through and test them to see how much they remember from their last visit.

What do you do when you’re not sharing stories and information with visitors at The Rocks?
I worked for a gas and electric company headquartered out in Syracuse, New York. My great grandfather left Whitefield with his two brothers and headed west in 1860 and got as far as Syracuse. My family kept a place up here – the family still owns the farm. It was divided up amongst the family. So, we came up here summers and in the late 1980s built a house here. When I retired, we decided to move here.
We have a lot of land, which I manage. I work in the garden, play with our two golden retrievers, do income taxes during the winter for the AARP program, and I’m on the board at Weeks State Park.
The crew of Rocks volunteers - Sam is the tall guy in the back.

To enjoy the hands-on New Hampshire Maple Experience and learn a bit about sugaring and The Rocks from our corps of volunteers, come for a visit this spring! The Maple Experience runs weekends through April 5th. For more information, please visit the New Hampshire Maple Experience website

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