KENT—It could have been a wash-out, but it wasn’t. Predicted rain did little to deter visitors to last weekend’s Touch-a-Trade presentation on the grounds of the Connecticut Antique Machinery Association. By early afternoon, 300 persons had flowed through the gates to learn more about the everyday trades that keep the wheels of society turning.
Curious kids banged nails, sawed timber, wondered at the workings of a septic tank pump and clambered up trees, secured by an arborist’s harnesses.
“This is our second year,” said Hossana Fox, a member of the planning team for the event. “It was originally the idea of Mason Lord, who owns Hudson Valley Preservation. The idea is to give kids a chance to experience the trades in a way they couldn’t otherwise. This year, there are a lot of younger kids here, but it is our intention to extend the experience to middle school and high school. We’re trying to spark their curiosity here, but training workshops will have a longer focus.”
The initiative hopes to support the development of the next generation of trades and craftspeople. To do this, the organizers have three main goals: establishing a community of like-minded individuals and organizations; reinvigorating interest in historic trades and crafts and building a different impression of what people engaged in trades look like, whether they be immigrants, people of color or women.
“Through our community outreach program, we want to help people understand how important the trades are and how we rely on them every day,” Fox said. “A lot of tradespeople are going to retire in the next five to 10 years and we are having a hard time finding replacements.”
She said that one of the group’s missions is to create an atmosphere that values the contributions of tradespeople, where they will be treated with respect. “We value our buildings, why wouldn’t we value the thousand-year-old traditions that sustain them,” she said. “There can be a stigma around the trades as a secondary career, but there is a feeling when you create something with your hands that you can’t replace with an iPad.”
It is hoped that the Touch-a-Trade experience will someday spread across the country, but that is not the end to the vision. “We hope to have a summer camp for young people in 2025,” said Fox. That ambition would be followed by a “regional maker space” for Litchfield communities in 2027, immigrant labor advocacy, an online tradesperson marketplace, professional training for future trades people, and education for homeowners interested in self-sufficiency.