On Wednesday, July 10, 2019, the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association (DBA Visit North Central Massachusetts) and over seventy-five local dignitaries and community leaders officially unveiled the “Big Apple of New England” outside the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center on Route 2 in Lancaster, Massachusetts. This giant red apple structure, which stands at 10 feet tall, is the largest apple sculpture of its kind in all of New England. The apple was installed outside the visitor center to honor the region’s strong agricultural heritage and connection to apples and that icon of American folk history – Johnny Appleseed. American pioneer and folk hero John Chapman (AKA Johnny Appleseed) was born locally in Leominster, Massachusetts. He is the official state folk hero for Massachusetts. The Big Apple of New England is part of an effort to promote North Central Massachusetts to travelers and visitors.
The Big Apple of New England joins a growing collection of unique items at the center that showcase the twenty seven communities of North Central Massachusetts. These include the bronze sculpture of the young Johnny Appleseed that greets visitors outside the doors of the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center and 91 apple trees located on the premises, including three Rambo trees that are direct descendants of the last remaining tree known to be planted by Johnny Appleseed. These three trees were planted from saplings from a 200+ year old tree in Nova, Ohio that is the last known tree planted by Johnny Appleseed. The American Historical Forestry provided the saplings from the tree in 2003.
The Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center also includes a hand-painted mural of the four seasons in its interior, as well as a large collection of historical items that showcase the region’s heritage. Unique historical items in the center’s collection include a vintage Iver Johnson Bicycle, pieces of equipment from the region’s agricultural past, old Wachusett Mountain Ski Area items, and a large collection of Johnny Appleseed memorabilia. In addition, the grounds of the center feature a plaque honoring Johnny Appleseed and a unique commemorative bench made from a ski chair contributed by Wachusett Mountain Ski Area. The chair was donated in 2014 and refurbished and hand painted with a Johnny Appleseed mural by local students.
The center also features a popular gift shop that carries many local products including jams, jellies, honey, maple syrup, fudge, chocolates, cheese, sparkling cider, donuts and that local icon of American kitsch – the pink plastic flamingo! Visitors to the center can also find a wide selection of books highlighting the history of the region, plus good-quality logo merchandise and souvenir items.
“We are blessed to live in an area steeped in heritage, culture and the great outdoors. We hope this apple serves as a beacon for travelers looking to explore the wonderful communities we call North Central Massachusetts for many years to come. It’s location at the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center solidifies its destination status and local landmark for Route 2 travelers,” said Al Rose, Owner of Red Apple Farm in Phillipston, Massachusetts and Chair of the Board of Visit North Central Massachusetts. “Stop in, take a picture with the biggest apple in New England!”
“The Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center is not your run of the mill rest stop! The center has evolved into a one of a kind destination that helps to welcome, engage and promote the twenty seven communities that comprise North Central Massachusetts,” said Roy M. Nascimento, President and CEO of Visit North Central Massachusetts. “We are excited to unveil this new attraction at the center that helps to tell the story of this dynamic and beautiful region. We are very grateful for the strong partnerships that we have with our local communities, businesses and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation that helped to make this project a reality.”
“The Big Apple of New England is a great addition to North Central Massachusetts!” said Mayor Dean Mazzarella of the City of Leominster, Massachusetts. “We are very excited to have this incredible monument that connects back to our heritage as the birthplace of Johnny Appleseed and that welcomes visitors to our region. We wholeheartedly support the efforts of Visit North Central Massachusetts and think this will be a fun and unique addition to the visitors center.”
“As Mayor of Fitchburg, our City takes great pride in our North Central Massachusetts culture. The revealing of The Big Apple of New England is a symbol of our pride, promotes our region, and is a welcoming addition to the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center!” said Mayor Stephen DiNatale of the City of Fitchburg, Massachusetts. “Fitchburg is thankful to have a partner like Visit North Central Massachusetts to showcase all the wonderful attributes our region has to offer.”
“All across America the roadsides are dotted with interesting attractions, oddities and draws. As the home of the Big Chair, I am excited that our area will also be home to the Big Apple,” said Mayor Mark Hawke of the City of Gardner, Massachusetts. “This adds another reason to stop in and see all the wonderful offerings of North Central Massachusetts showcased at the Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center.”
The Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center, considered by many the gateway to North Central Massachusetts, opened in 1997 as a way to welcome people traveling through the region and give them a place to stop, stretch their legs, and learn more about the twenty-seven communities in North Central Massachusetts and what they have to offer for visitors and families. Over 165,000 people walk through the visitor center doors every year.
The Johnny Appleseed Visitors Center is located at 1000 Rte. 2 Westbound, between exit 34 & 35, in Lancaster, MA. It is open 361 days a year. Normal business hours are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information, please call 978.353.7604 ext. 225 or visit www.visitnorthcentral.com.