Once a simple stagecoach stop, Historic Smithville is now a center of nostalgia, shopping and family-oriented fun. October is an especially good time to visit, with special events planned for every weekend.
On almost any day throughout the warm-weather months, hundreds of visitors mill through Historic Smithville’s cobblestone and wood-plank streets (pedestrians only), past 90 shops and a dozen eating places, most in restored or period-style structures. The shops offer toys, gifts, crafts, jewelry, clothing and collectibles. There are candy shops, specialty food shops, even a peanut butter shop (with a free sampling station). Kids flock to the narrow-gauge train ride, a carousel and paddleboats on Lake Meone, at the center of the village.
Originally developed by Fred and Ethel Noyes (later the founders of the Noyes Museum) after they noticed the original Smithville Inn in disrepair, the village became a popular attraction in the 1950s and 1960s. After the Noyeses retired and sold Smithville, it dwindled in care and popularity. Then in 1997, Tony and Fran Coppola and their longtime friends Laura and Charles Bushar began resurrecting part of Smithville. Retired firefighter Ed Fitzgerald and his wife, Wendie, took on another section.
“It didn’t take long before people started coming back,” says Laura Bushar. “Soon after we opened, a woman hugged me crying and said, ‘My grandparents brought me here; now I can bring my grandchildren.’” It’s that kind of place.
This month’s events include Oktoberfest (October 5-6), the Irish Festival (October 12-13), a Costume Pet Parade (October 19), and Witch’s Day Out (October 27). The shops and eateries are open daily year-round except Christmas. The eating places range from the Smithville Inn, with fancy fare, to the midrange Fred and Ethel’s, to Scoop’s Place, an ice-cream parlor. Tomasello, the state’s second-oldest active winery, has a tasting room just off the lake.
The nostalgia should last, since all of the families have the next generation working at Smithville and Tony Coppola Jr. is also the mayor of Galloway Township, in which Smithville is located.
“Smithville, we hope,” says Bushar, “will be around for a long time.”Click here to leave a comment