North Central Mass.—Local officials and community leaders joined members of Visit North Central Massachusetts, the official destination marketing organization representing the 27 communities of North Central Massachusetts, yesterday to celebrate recent renovations and upgrades to the Johnny Appleseed Visitors’ Center.
The renovations and upgrades are designed to modernize the facility and showcase the region to the more than 165,000 annual visitors to the center. Exterior upgrades included adding handicapped accessible doors, a dog walking station, a shaded area for picnic tables, new security cameras, new seasonal banners on the lampposts, fresh landscaping and new interpretive displays that help tell the story of North Central Massachusetts. Additionally, the famous “Big Apple of New England” sculpture was repaired. Inside the center, the layout was reconfigured and new floors, rugs, office furniture, signage, a water bottle refilling station, and rustic wall paneling were added. Upgrades to the electronic screens inside the center are currently being completed.
The renovations and upgrades cost $162,455 and were partially funded through a matching Destination Development Grant from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism. Matching funds came from a grant from the City of Leominster and from the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association (DBA Visit North Central Massachusetts). Donations of the office furniture were provided by AIS, Inc. in Leominster.
More than 100 local dignitaries and community leaders were on hand at today’s event. State Senator John. J. Cronin; State Representative Meghan Kilcoyne; State Representative Natalie Higgins; State Representative Michael P. Kushmerek; Mayor Dean J. Mazzarella, City of Leominster; Mayor Stephen L. DiNatale, City of Fitchburg; Mayor Michael Nicholson, City of Gardner; Keiko Orrall, Executive Director, Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism; Stephen Kerrigan, Chair of the Select Board in the Town of Lancaster; and Henry Tessman, General Manager of Great Wolf Lodge and Chair of the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association/Visit North Central Massachusetts provided remarks. Also in attendance wereWorcester Country Sheriff Lew Evangelidis; Register of Deeds for Northern Worcester County Kathleen Reynolds Daigneault; representatives from Mass Highway; and numerous other municipal, community and business leaders.
“Today is a great day for the region as we recognize the many improvements to the Johnny Appleseed Visitors’ Center,” said Tessman, General Manager of Great Wolf Lodge and Chair of Visit North Central Massachusetts. “From the ‘Big Apple of New England’ to the many amenities these improvements now provide to visitors, North Central Massachusetts is now on display for all to see!”
The Johnny Appleseed Visitors’ Center, considered by many the gateway to North Central Massachusetts, officially opened on June 14, 1997, as a way to welcome people traveling through the region and providing a place to stop, stretch their legs, and learn more about the region’s communities. Named after American pioneer and folk hero, John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) the 2,000 sq.ft. center is operated by the Johnny Appleseed Trail Association which does business under the name Visit North Central Massachusetts. In addition to the popular “Big Apple of New England” sculpture, the center also features a bronze sculpture of the young Johnny Appleseed that greets visitors outside the doors of the Johnny Appleseed Visitors’ Center. There are also 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. The center also houses a collection of historical and cultural 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, vintage Wachusett Mountain Ski Area items, and a large collection of Johnny Appleseed memorabilia.
In 2021, the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce announced a new regional economic development plan, One North Central, which recommended new ways to expand the existing center, and showcase the history and heritage of the region while adding amenities to modernize the facility.
“Through One North Central, we learned a lot about how to upgrade the center in an effort to provide a unique experience for visitors,” said Roy Nascimento, President and CEO, North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and Visit North Central Massachusetts. “The upgrades and renovations to the visitor center will create an experience to link visitors to destinations in the region while providing a modern facility to rest and recharge before continuing on their journey through North Central and beyond.”
The center is open seven days a week, 361 days a year from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. It only closes on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Independence Day and early on Christmas Eve.