Salem’s first Spice Festival celebrates city’s rich history

Photos and Story By Kali Platt 

Pictured, (left) Larry Young- Massachusetts Historical Society, John Berry Green- Boston Tea Party, and Scott Harris- Pioneer Village and The Witch House. 

Pictured, (left) Larry Young- Massachusetts Historical Society, John Berry Green- Boston Tea Party, and Scott Harris- Pioneer Village and The Witch House. 

SALEM, Mass- Salem Spice Festival was celebrated over the weekend at Pioneer Village, commemorating the spice trade that made Salem widely successful over 200 years ago. Nestled in Salem’s Forest River Park, Pioneer Village provided a beautiful and historic backdrop for this unique occasion. Among the visitors was an array of vendors ranging in talent from hand-made jewelry, soaps, fresh coffee, spices, and a favorite amongst the crowd, Ed’s Popcorn Wagon. The festival was sprinkled with professional historians, re-enactors and a violinist that helped support the location’s ambiance and help tell a story.

Upon arriving the Salem Spice Festival visitors were met with a concise pamphlet that informed them of the days events. Sunday morning allowed for Derby Square Tours founder, Jim McAllister, to discuss the wonderful history of the events location, Pioneer Village: 1630. The small village reenacting a scene that you’d once have seen when the first settlers arrived in Salem, was actually built in 1930 to celebrate 300 years of Salem. While temporary in thought, the Salem community was very receptive to its charm and voted to keep it. In doing so, it became the very first live museum. It has seen several restorations over the course of those 84 years, but is beaming with beauty and historic charm. 

A variety of spices from Salem Spice located on Pickering Wharf

A variety of spices from Salem Spice located on Pickering Wharf

Salem Spice Company, who’s name gives way to their specialty, shared a wonderful historical account of the Salem spice trade and just how fortunate the city became because of it. In 1797 Capt. Jonathan Carnes arrived to Salem Harbor with peppercorns from Sumatra. His cargo was said to have sold from 700-900% profit, and rather quickly. This booming industry lead Salem to become the center of spice trade in the world. Due to supply and demand, more ships were built, harbors were lengthened, and Salem became, at one point, the richest city in the U.S. Salem also boasted the worlds first millionaire, William Derby.  

The festival provided more than just vendors, with live cooking demonstration of historic dishes, such as curd cakes. A simple recipe with basic preparation created a subtly sweet cake that appeared much like a pancake. The Green Witch School of Herbalism also made wonderful demonstrations of burdock tinctures, soap in colonial America, and herbal liqueurs; showcasing how we can use these same products today for our health and well being. The goal of the Green Witch School of Herbalism classes range from providing basic knowledge of herbs, creating remedies and first aid kits, and even making hand crafted soaps. 

Debbie Millette thoroughly enjoyed her time at the 1st annual Salem Spice Festival

Debbie Millette thoroughly enjoyed her time at the 1st annual Salem Spice Festival

In response to how her expierence had been at the event, Amesbury native, Debbie Millette shared that it was her first time at Pioneer Village. “I have lived in Mass most of my life and until this weekend I never knew this little gem existed. I was transformed to a time in history where I could actually see myself living. What a wonderful asset to an already historic city. This setting juxtaposed to the event of the Spice Festival was a perfect marriage.” Throwing a lucky penny into the stream that flows perfectly through the historic village she finished, “I will definitely be back.”


All images by Kali Platt