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Big Moose Community Church Balsam Bee
Volunteers explain how they grind fresh cedar boughs at the annual balsam bee. Listen (Real 1:38)

Longtime bee organizer Ida Winter recalls helping her mother make balsam pillows at home. Listen (Real 1:29)

The The Big Moose Community Church Balsam Bee was the subject of this April 3, 2000 profile jointly produced for radio by Traditional Arts in Upstate New York and North Country Public Radio. Listen (Real 4:43)

As long as 100 years ago, balsam products were marketed in the Adirondacks to tourists who wanted to take a reminder of their vacation experience home with them. At that time, churches began to hold work bees to make souvenir balsam pillows to sell as fundraisers. This Adirondack tradition is still alive in Big Moose Lake. The Big Moose Community Chapel began holding balsam bees in the 1930s and they continue to do so today. The pillows are still produced mostly the way they have been for over 60 years: the men collect and shred the balsam which is then stuffed into the covers individually cut and sewn by the women. The balsam pillows are then sold to raise operating funds for the church at their annual bazaar in August. Besides being a source of revenue, the two bees each year are an opportunity for members and friends to work together and socialize.

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